Severals years ago, while finishing a freelance design project of notable effort and importance, I heard that audible death knell of the hard drive we all dread and fear. Click...click...click...my hard drive had gone horribly pear shaped, with a mechanical failure which required the help of data recovery specialists. Sadly, it was too late for my 7200rpm friend and my drive had to be put to rest, alongside all its contents. Fortunately, I was able to salvage enough of my work from some archived CD's I had prudently created, and was only a few days late with my deadline. But that was the last time I ever relied on a single drive...or even two. Hard drives are the digital age equivalent of the attic or storage closet; whether it be personal photos, music, emails, applications or other personal files, it's way too easy to fall into a false sense of security, and many of us just throw it all in there without concern of failure or loss. According to a survey conducted this summer by Harris Interactive, only 31% of people back up their files to an external devices or media. That's a lot of folks risking losing their favourite photos of their cat Pookie yawning or their favourite bootleg mp3s. I'd suspect most people don't back up their files because of two reasons: cost and hassle. Both have become moot points, one more recently than the other. Currently I've got two internal drives, a two-tier system for everyday files where operating system resources and applications reside on one, while personal and work files reside on the other. In addition, two external drives sit courtside for backup purposes. But due to their moderate sizes (120GB and 320GB respectively), one drive is completely filled with essential backed up files, while the other races to the brim under the daily addition of working files.
Cue in the 7200-rpm 500GB Maxtor OneTouch 4 Plus, a brush metal sheathed, monolith-shaped drive whose minimal design hides a fairly elegant backup solution (with a caveat). The previous OneTouch 4 has been improved upon with the addition of FireWire 400 compatibility (with USB 2.0), and SafetyDrill, an application which backs up all NTFS formatted files in case of system failure or virus/spyware infection. Fantastic! Well except this feature is not OS X compatible. The file syncing option is available to Vista/XP and Mac users alike, alongside the Maxtor Manager Backup Plan scheduling system, which allows for users to determine when and how often the drive will backup files; settings are fairly limited (users can choose which days and at the specific hour backing up occurs, but not for unique setting per day), but amply sufficient for the average home or small business owner. And of course, as the drive's name implies, file backup can be initiated by the touch of a front button, which also operate as a glowing indicator of the drive's status. The drive especially shined once paired with OS X Leopard's Time Machine, Apple's OS integrated file backup system, making up for the absence of SafetyDrill. In our opinion, they should sell this drive with Leopard as a package...the aesthetic and utility of the OS and the drive are a complimentary pair. I've sold the idea of upgrading to Leopard a few times thanks to the smooth integration and operation of the OneTouch with OS X Leopard.
Overall, the drive has been one of those products one hardly has to think about. It just does it job, and does it well with little fanfare. The housing has proven to be sturdy (it has become a travel drive and survived some ill abuse) and the drive mechanism is quiet enough we've forgotten it's there hidden behind our dual monitors. CNET Lab tests show a respectable 9 minutes, 1 second to write a 10GB folder, so it's no slouch in performance either. And the inclusion of both FireWire and USB cables with the package and the 5 year warranty sure doesn't hurt. We hate to call something so well designed a practical purchase, but that's the best way to describe the Maxtor OneTouch 4 Plus: a no-brainer that gives you a piece of mind.
Pluses: case design is tastefully unobtrusive and sturdy; inclusion of both FireWire and USB cables; 16MB and 7200-rpm performance impressive; quiet; Manager Backup Plan simple and easy to use. Negatives: Missing SafetyDrill for OS X; front glowing light can be bright for some. *Note: Seagate now owns the Maxtor brand. My personal experience with Seagate customer service has been positive; they replaced an ailing 250GB drive with a 320GB model earlier this year.