The Seagate Replica Drive is a good looking external USB hard disk drive that makes data backup a worry of the past and allows for data restore including the OS.

When all external hard drives are clones for all practical purposes, manufacturers see unique functionality as a differentiator and value add.

To this end, Seagate has come up with what they can call an appliance - the "Replica Complete PC Backup System". It is an external hard drive that connects to your laptop/desktop PC over a USB 2.0 cable. Our Seagate Replica Drive unit was coloured grey, with rounded edges on two sides, and a blinking blue activity indicator on top. You can use it as a normal USB hard drive, with file-transfer speeds on par with any other USB drive. The fun starts once you allow it to install Seagate Replica software on your PC.

The software allows for restoring deleted files or even your entire operating system and all folders. It does its work quietly, does not ask you any complex questions or lead you through wizards to setup itself. All files on the laptop/desktop hard disk are backed up automatically, and on a continuous basis as long as the machine is switched on and the Replica drive is connected.

You don't need to remember to backup, or be subject to losing files that were created between backup schedules. With the Replica you have a backup copy of all your files, which can be restored if you accidentally delete them, or your OS is corrupted, or your main hard drive fails. Note that the backup functionality is implemented as a Windows application, so you need Windows XP or a later version of Windows to use it.

Before installing the software, the Replica drive shows up like any other. But once installed, it ties in to your "My Computer" window as a special object, not as a normal drive. Clicking on this object starts up the integrated browsing feature - you can see a list of names of PCs that are backed up, and then navigate through to the folder or file you want to retrieve.

Restoring all the data of a backed up machine is simple. Connect the Replica drive via USB, boot from the provided Recovery CD, and click through the step-by-step graphical wizard to restore the system to its former state. Those who have installed Ubuntu or Fedora Linux will recognize the GUI. The Recovery CD is only 65 MB, and uses the IsoLinux bootloader to boot into a LiveCD-like interface.

Our favourite grudges with this backup solution? It is not possible to choose what you backup, absolutely everything on all partitions of your system hard drive is backed up. There is actually no graphical interface to configure the software, other than the system tray it offers.

Also, since it does not wait for schedules to backup, be ready to suffer a slow system for the first day or so, while all your data gets "replicated" for the first time, with heavy disk activity (took about 6 hours for us with 200GB of data to be backed up).

The "multi-PC" label for a 500GB drive induces humour, considering the software insists on copying the entire hard drive as-is, and that one Terabyte desktop drives have been common since a long time. Seagate could probably have still got away lightly if they had labelled it "multi-laptop" instead. Lastly, while it does help cut down on time spent backing up with its software, there is a price premium for this feature as you will see below. However it still manages to come out looking better than the offering by ClickFree.

The Replica drive is available in two variants, the single-PC 250GB model and a 500GB model. The 500GB model is labelled the multi-PC variant and includes a "Dock" that can hold the drive vertically to save desk space. Admittedly, the dock makes it look quite stylish.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

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Seagate Replica Drive: Specs

  • 2.5in hard disk
  • 500GB
  • 5400rpm
  • USB 2.0 Cable: 60MB/s
  • USB 2.0 Interface Type(s) USB
  • External Enclosure
  • 142.6x18.2x101.3mm
  • 0.26kg
  • 2.5in hard disk
  • 500GB
  • 5400rpm
  • USB 2.0 Cable: 60MB/s
  • USB 2.0 Interface Type(s) USB
  • External Enclosure
  • 142.6x18.2x101.3mm
  • 0.26kg

OUR VERDICT

The Seagate Replica Drive drive looks good, and can be a great time saver. The no-nonsense backup and easy restoration of all data make it an attractive tool in the kit of those who need to maintain systems (albeit systems with relatively low-capacity HDDs). It is also useful for home users who don't want to keep bothering about data backups or about software that may be complex to understand. However, functionality of the Replica drive comes at a price premium (30 percent) compared to normal external drives, and only you can decide if that is worth the extra cost.

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