Seagate FreeAgent Pro 750GB

ajmatson - 2007-07-27 10:39:39 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: ajmatson   
Reviewed on: August 19, 2007
Price: $249.99


We have all been there; spent hours downloading all that music, transfering all those cute photos, or typing up many important documents. However, many people never think "what if something happens to my computer or hard drive?" Well, what then? You think all your data is safe, but is it? Say your hard drive fails, you get a very bad virus, or your operating system crashes and is un-recoverable. Now you lost all that important data, or did you? Not if you have a backup drive to have another copy of them, like the Seagate FreeAgent Pro External Hard Drive.

Seagate, based out of Scotts Valley, California, was founded in 1979 for producing disk drives and built the industry's first 5.25 inch hard drive in 1980. Since then, Seagate has passed many milestones while becoming one of the largest storage manufacturers in the world. Since acquiring Maxtor in May 2006, they have increased the ability to produce and remain a strong competitor. Many OEM items, including the original XBOX, were sold with Seagate drives installed in them.


Closer Look:

The drive comes packaged in a sturdy box with a handle on it, which comes in handy if you need to transport the drive and want to protect it. It was packaged securely so that the items would not rattle around.




One you get inside, you can get a better look at what is included. In the box is the hard drive unit, manual, power adapter, USB 2.0 cable, FireWire cable, USB/eSata cartridge, and Dual FireWire module The modules are interchangeable depending on which connection is desired to hook up the drive, which will be explained more in the review. The drive sent to us for this review was the 750GB version with USB2.0/eSata/FireWire connections. Also available are a 750GB with only USB2.0/eSata, a 500GB with USB2.0/eSata, and a 320GB with USB2.0/eSata.



Here we get a closer look at the modules. The module on the left houses the eSata port and the USB 2.0 port. Notice it is the Mini USB type. The module on the right is the Dual FireWire module. The module design is to allow for future expansion when new modules for any type of connection may come available. This gives it the flexibility to stay on the cutting edge of technology.


Now that we have everything out of the bag, let's move in and get a better look at the modules and the hard drive unit itself.  

Closer Look:

Now we get into the goods. The drive is encased in a brushed aluminum housing with see-thru plastic material sandwiched in between. This external drive is a standing drive.  It is nice to see a break from the "brick style," as it gives a more executive flare to your desk. The tower of the drive connects to a base made of a hard plastic. The base is what houses the modules for the different types of interfaces, as well as the touch sensitive power button.





Looking at these pics you see what the drive looks like, but when I first saw it on Seagate's site, I wanted to know how much space it would take on my desk. I have a lot there now and didn't want to clutter it. To give you an idea, I took some pics next to a standard CD jewel case. You can get a better idea of how slim and compact the unit is. You could have two drives side by side and still be the same footprint of most brick style drives.





Installation has two parts. The physical installation of the drive and the software installation. All of the software is pre-loaded on the drive, so there are no CD's to mess with. To set up the drive to transfer data, you first need to decide what interface to use. In this case, we have USB 2.0, eSata, and FireWire available. Since most motherboards do not have eSata and/or FireWire, USB will be the method of choice for most users, but for this review we will show you how to set up all three connections. Now that you have what connection you want to use, we have to install the correct module for that connection. lay the drive flat on one side and line up the module next to the drive to make sure it lines up with the space on the bottom of the drive. Then place it into the bottom of the drive and push it gently into the socket until it is seated.



Next take a coin and turn the module's holding screw clockwise until it is secure. Do not tighten too hard or you can damage the module and/or the drive. Once done, sit the drive back up on its base and you can see the module is seated in the correct position and ready for use. For this example we used the eSata/USB 2.0 module. The eSata connection is in the middle and the USB 2.0 is on the right. 



Now that we have the module set in to place, we can plug the wires in to get the drive started. First plug the AC adapter into the wall. Then take the other end of the plug and plug it into the left circular hole on the back of the drive. The drives lights will begin to glow so you know it is plugged in correctly.







Next take the correct cable for the connection you chose. Remember, only one one port of the eSata/USB module is to be used; do not plug both into the computer. Plug in the connector to the drive first, then plug in the other end to the computer. Now you are done and ready to configure the software.

For the users who selected eSata as their connection, use the eSata cable seen here instead of the USB cable.


For FireWire, use the dual FireWire Module insead of the eSata/USB and install it the same way. Then plug in the FireWire into any one of the two ports on the module and the other end into the computer.


Now that everything is connected, a box will pop up that the drive is recognized. Click on "Install FreeAgent Tools" to begin the installation process.


First thing that comes up to install is the FreeAgent Drive Tools, then comes the Seagate-branded Memeo AutoBackup software. The drive can be used on as many computers that you want, but the AutoBackup software will only work on one computer unless you purchase multiple licenses, so make sure you install it on the one you want to use it on. After installation, reboot your computer when it tells you to.




Now that everything is connected and installed, let's get on to setting it up for use. After the installation is done and you run the AutoBackup for the first time, you will be presented to set it up. The software is actually a 30-day trial that you need to activate to use beyond that point. Just enter your product key, email address, and usage intentions and it is activated for full use.





Now that we are all activated, let's continue configuring the AutoBackup software. For the first step, you want to select where you want to back up to. In this case, select the FreeAgent Drive and set up a folder to save the backup files to, if you wish. With the AutoBackup, you can choose to save the files to a hard drive, Seagate Internet Drive, a network drive, a flash drive, or an iPod, making your important data Address and email movable. Click next and it will bring you to a page to select what you want to back up. You can choose its "smart picks," which are pre-selected folders and files most-used, or select your own folders to backup. After you select them, it will present you with a summary verifying your choices.




Now that you have the files selected, give it a name for the backup plan you chose. In this case, we choose "OCC Test Backup Plan." Once you click "Done" the AutoBackup program will start the backup software, and begin to transfer the files to the backup drive until it is completed.




To recover files, you can simply navigate to the FreeAgent drive's folders (they are setup exactly as on your computer) and copy the file back. You can also choose the One-Click backup icon in the same folder tree and it will bring up a restore screen with a folder tree. Just navigate to the file or files you want to recover and check them off. You can also check off the tree's main folder to recover all files in that tree. Click next and it will copy the selected files back to the original locations or to where you specify.


Now that we have the AutoBackup to save us from any future disasters, let's take a look at the drive's FreeAgent Tools configuration. The FreeAgent Tools let's you montitor and setup the drive and its features. The first thing you see when you start the tools is the FreeAgent drives list. This will let you view what FreeAgent drives are connected to the computer, the partitions that they are assigned to, the capacity of the drive and the firmware version.




Next tab is the backup that we covered before, so we will skip to the System Rollback Tab. This works just like Windows Restore. In the rollback section, you can set automattic rollback points, manually create restore points, and recover by restoring from a point. You can set restore points in intervals of 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, and 24 hours. This is nice for those that change a lot on your computer, as you can have a point as little as 4 hours apart.



Manually creating restore points are as easy as typing the name of the restore point and pressing next. The drive will do all of the rest. If you want to restore from a point, it is just as easy. Click on the date you want to restore, pick the point or action, and click next. The drive will shutdown your computer, restore the settings and files, and reboot your computer to the saved state. Simple as 1, 2, 3.



Moving on down the line is the Internet Drive tab. This will launch the Seagate Internet Drive, which is an online storage space that allows you to backup critical files so in the event of a disaster you can recover them from this off-site location. The Internet Drive is not free, however you do get a trial. For purchasing the Memeo software when you bought the drive, you will recieve six months free for 500MB of storage space and then it is $2.95/month ($29.95/year) from then on. You can also upgrade to 1GB and 5GB for $5.95/month ($49.95/year) and $11.95/month ($119.95/year), respectively. To get the six month trial, enter your product code from the AutoBackup software and it will let you sign up. No credit card was needed for the trial period.


The last tab is the Utilities tab. This is where you take care of the drive itself. Here you can run a diagnostics on the drive, change the sleep interval, and turn on/off the drive light. The utilities feature is only available with the USB connection, not eSata and FireWire. To some this would pose a big deal, but the utilities is just a basic simple control center that can be bypassed by using the Windows built-in diagnostics for the other connections.







To run the diagnostics, select the option and click next. The diagnostics will run and report back if everything is normal or if there is a problem. This takes about 2 minuites to run to 100%.



The sleep interval is the amount of time of inactivity before the drive goes into a low power state to conserve energy and drive life. You can set from three minutes to never. Lastly, the drive light selection will simply allow you to turn on or off the drive light.



One other option the drive has is the ability to upload your photos to Shutterfly. I could not get registered with because I was having too many problems. It would have been nice to be able to upload it to Flixter or other photo sites as well, and not just Shutterfly.








So after all the goodies that came with this external drive, I find myself wondering how well it performs. Will it stand up with the best of them or will I sit there for hours transferring data? To find this out I am going to run a couple of tests, including a real world transfer. I will also use HD Tune to compare the speeds and times with an internal Western Digital 80GB 7200RPM Sata drive and the Seagate FreeAgent Go 160GB. Then I will test how the software works while using it on a daily basis and a simulated disaster.

Testing Setup


First up, we will start with HD Tune. For HD Tune I will compare several speed tests and compare them to the other drives, testing for each interface the FreeAgent Pro 750GB has. Let's take a look at the drive information in HD Tune for the Seagate FreeAgent Pro. This displays the features available with the drive including S.M.A.R.T. monitoring technology and Native Command Queuing (NCQ). It will also give you detail of the drive, like capacity, formating type (in this case the drive shipped NTFS), and if the drive is bootable, which the FreeAgent is not.


For all the scores, lower is better, except for Average Transfer Rate and Burst Rate, where higher is better.




Now let's take a look at real world transfer speeds. Here we are going to take a 10MB, 100MB, and 500MB compressed file and calculate the time it takes to complete the transfer to the target drive. It will then be compared against the internal drive and the FreeAgent Go. For all scores here, lower is better.



Now that we have seen how the drive performs hardware wise, I couldn't help but test the backup software as well. I do not reccomend intentionally performing what I am about to do because it may harm your system beyond repair, but I wanted to see how well the backup software really took care of business. Since the backup software runs on its own in the background, I went for a whole day letting it backup and restore on its own without touching it. During the day, I created, modified, and "accidently" deleted files that were needed. I then used the drive to copy the files back to see if they were stored on the FreeAgent just 2 hours after the file was saved. Suprisingly the file was automatically transfered to the FreeAgent drive and all I had to do was navigate to the exact same folder on the drive to recover it. That would mean the difference of a lot of time for someone who now does not have to re-type it.

I also wanted to see how well the computer restore worked. I went through and deleted critical files from some programs like Photoshop CS3, Microsoft Office Suite, and Microsoft Flight Simulator X to the point that they would not start and the computer was crashing when I ran them. I selected a restore point from earlier that day and after the shutdown and restore sequence was done, my computer automatically rebooted. After it was back up, I ran each of the three programs and voila, all three started up without a hitch, and all the files were back in their rightful places. It was fast too, as it only took 4.5 minuites from the point it started to restore until my computer was up and running again.


The software included with the drive is simple, yet impressive. The AutoBackup software works great. It runs in the background and is there for anything I may need to recover. The Internet Drive enticed me but I cannot justify paying for that little amount of storage when I am already backing up to an expensive hard drive. The hardware was nothing that I would lose sleep over. The eSata despite getting low scores in HD Tune rose above the rest in the real world file transfer. The USB came in second and then the FireWire crawling in with the slowest transfer speeds. I was in love with the blazing fast transfer of the eSata almost matching the speed of the internal hard drive. The modules are a nice touch allowing for future expansion. This drive really shines thru for the large amount of storage space and the fast transfers making those long backups not so agonizing.

One thing of note is the On/Off Button has a sensor to control the power of the unit. It took me several tries holding my finger there for up to 20 seconds each time before it would turn on or off. It would have been better to just place a switch on the unit instead, as this is to finicky to be used on a regular basis.