Usually we look quite derisively on software included with any hardware outside of the drivers; it's usually a cavalcade of crap games, pointless poorly coded applications you'll never use and motherboard monitoring or overclocking software that doesn't even work properly with the product it's shipped with.
So imagine our surprise when the Seagate FreeAgent|XTreme's included software which was not only as simple to use as a door knob, but actually served a very useful purpose, all whilst leaving your system resources pleasingly unmolested.
When you first connect the FreeAgent|XTreme to your PC you're prompted, along with the usual windows options, to install the Seagate manager, a system tray based application which uses less than 3MB of memory while running. The software, as well as recognising when the FreeAgent has been connected, allows you to easily arrange a timed back up of any files on your system or to seamlessly synchronise any number of files to the FreeAgent|Xtreme.
The process is as simple as selecting the folders you want to backup/ synchronise and setting the time you want the backups to take place. It really is almost insultingly easy to backup and sync absolutely any file or folder on your PC - you can even backup or sync an entire drive if you want to.
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The Seagate Manager is also used to setup and access the drive’s encrypted folder, a process which first prompts you for a password, and then opens a drag and drop window which automatically encrypts any files dropped in to it. Once encrypted, files don’t appear on the drive and are only accessible using the Seagate manager, although bizarrely we found Windows Vista search doesn’t seem to have any trouble finding them if the drive is indexed, although the saving grace is that you aren’t able to open them. Setting up the encryption, like the backup and synchronisation, is very simple, and requires just a few clicks and the entry of an access password.
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We tested the FreeAgent|XTreme 1TB on a number of motherboards here in the office, and the Seagate manager worked flawlessly on every one, using all three connectivity options. It’s an very powerful, but incredibly simple application which serves an extremely (or should that be XTremely?
) useful purpose.
However, while it it might be easy to use, other drives on the market are much more secure and feature packed. The encryption is easy to use, but there's no ability to password lock or fully encrypt the entire drive, and the lack of any inbuilt RAID functionality (which would require a pair of drives) like the Western Digital MyWorld products is also a little bit of a let down. There's also a lack of any custom partitioning or drive maintenance/monitoring software - if you want to custom configure the FreeAgent|XTreme out of the box, you're out of luck except for using the OS' own partition manager. However, the whole FreeAgent line is being specifically targeted at the mainstream audience, so while the enthusiast might miss such features, most will be happy with what's on offer here.
Segate offer an excellent five year limited warranty on all its hard drives and the FreeAgent|XTreme is no exception, with five years of coverage from material or manufacturing defects. While Seagate won't compensate you for any lost data if your drive does give up the ghost, you can at least rest assured that you'll receive a replacement, although Seagate is very specific about not covering faults caused by accident or knocks.
While these are going to be the leading cause of external drive error, it's fair enough that Seagate doesn't cover them in the warranty - it's not its fault if you used the drive as a doorstop or didn't screw those shelves to the wall correctly. Seagate offers a direct warranty returns program, so you don't have to return the product directly to the retailer, instead either going through the free phone telephone number or Seagate website and returning it to its UK based RMA centres.