Promising to be an easy-to-use complete backup appliance, TakeWare has united its BackupGenius software with a USB hard drive, making the TakeWare BackupMaster: a one-stop portable solution for data backup.

The software is preinstalled on the TakeWare BackupMaster drive, so you need only plug it into an available USB port and launch the JumpStartER program within; after registering the software to a single user, BackupGenius then presents a profile of which files it will backup. Alternate folders and file types can be chosen at this point.

Our first experience with BackupGenius was less than satisfactory, as the software was tuned to the needs of businesses who just need to backup Microsoft Office and sundry account files. We also found it very far from intuitive to access the program preferences, in order to tell it to look for the typical files found in a user's home directory.

With the app tweaked by the maker, we tried the TakeWare BackupMaster again. This time the default backup directories included the My Documents folder, and iTunes music, for example - but still no backup by default of files from folders such as My Music or My Pictures.

We found the necessary checkboxes for these directories, but nothing that would then obviously back up our video files, other than 'Multimedia'. But we did find the whole process of finding the profiles screen to be simpler than with the first TakeWare BackupMaster review sample.

TakeWare makes claims of great compression capability, such that the 120GB TakeWare BackupMaster drive, as we used, would be able to store 'around four times as much as the raw capacity of the unit (eg 500GB on a 120GB unit)'. In our tests this was far from the case, as the advertised compression is based on office text and spreadsheet files, rather than the all-important personal pictures, music and film files that consumers need to protect.

In practice, with JPEG and MPEG files already squeezed down by their formats' tight algorithms, there's practically no further file compression available with the TakeWare BackupMaster.

And counter to the maker's ideals of being suitable for the non-techy, we found the TakeWare BackupMaster's interface and general operation difficult to master. Warning messages would pop up about files not successfully copied - some of these were explicable as belonging to files from open applications (Firefox – but who wants to close a browsing session every time a backup starts?), while other errors related to arcane Windows system files. Presenting a non-techy user with a scary list of long file paths does not inspire confidence in a product designed to assuage users' fears of lost data.

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TakeWare BackupMaster: Specs

  • Freecom ToughDrive Pro 120GB USB hard drive with BackupGenius software
  • requires Windows 2000 or later
  • Freecom ToughDrive Pro 120GB USB hard drive with BackupGenius software
  • requires Windows 2000 or later

OUR VERDICT

This is business software that has been repurposed for consumers, but shows its origins too well. Combined with the hard drive, it is also overpriced: the 120GB Freecom ToughDrive is priced at £79 on TakeWare's own site (£59 elsewhere), and the software is either £39 or £99 for its Exec and Pro versions respectively. However you add it up, the TakeWare BackupMaster is not a package we can recommend for value or ease of use.

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