HP SimpleSave Portable 320GB Backup Drive
Models in HP's SimpleSave Portable series are external 2.5-inch hard drives (320GB for $120, 500GB for $150, as of August 31, 2009). Nonportable (3.5-inch) desktop models in the SimpleSave series come in 1TB and 2TB capacities. The lightweight SimpleSave Portables use built-in software that is streamlined, straightforward, and easy to navigate. Like the software in Storage Appliance's Clickfree products--the Clickfree Traveler (16GB) and the Clickfree Backup Drive 1TB--the SimpleSave's software helps automate the backup process, achieving mostly positive results. The drives themselves are simple, angular, and pocket-size; the only notable feature on the dark gray case is the HP logo.
I tested the USB 2.0, bus-powered 320GB model. After you plug the drive in, its software will prompt you to specify whether you want to use the drive directly or want to perform a backup. Choose the backup option, and--if you have Windows Auto-play enabled--the drive will automatically scan your hard drive for files (photos, documents, music, and so on) in need of backing up. Once the SimpleSave has completed the scan, you may add or subtract files from the backup, or let the backup automatically continue on its own. You can do different backup sets, too.
The SimpleSave performed admirably in my hands-on tests using a Windows Vista system: The device produced backups easily and speedily. The friendly software makes performing a backup painless; and you can choose to back up specific files and folders or all data files. The drive can't handle full-system backups, however.
On my far more heavily data-laden Windows XP system, though, the backup slowed to a crawl for no discernable reason, with nary an error message. Something similar happened in my testing of the Clickfree Traveler on the same XP computer; but in that case I managed to resolve the problem. An update for the SimpleSave may provide a remedy, but I couldn't find a 'check for updates' option within the program. I discussed the situation with HP and with Western Digital (which manufactures the drive for HP), but neither company could solve the problem.
Though it may not be as svelte as Clickfree's Traveler, the HP SimpleSave--when it works--is as easy to use, has much greater capacity and is still quite portable. Before buying this easy-backup drive, however, I would make sure that the software had been updated from the 126.96.36.199 version I used and had fixed the problems I've mentioned.
(For a detailed discussion of different approaches to data and system backups, see "7 Backup Strategies for Your Data, Multimedia, and System Files.")