capsule review

Maxtor Personal Storage 5000

At a Glance
  • Maxtor Personal Storage 5000

    Macworld Rating

No one expects to lose data because of a fire, burglary, or hard-drive failure. But disasters do happen, and backing up your data is the best way to protect it. Maxtor's Personal Storage 5000 hard drives simplify this daunting task with Maxtor OneTouch, a front-panel button that, when pressed, activates the included version of Dantz Development's Retrospect Express Backup 5.0 ("60 Mac Software Bargains," July 2002), which backs up new and changed files.

CMS Peripherals' ABSplus (Reviews, January 2003), a FireWire hard drive with custom software, also aims to simplify backups by backing up your Mac whenever you connect it. But despite the ABSplus's appealingly small size and easier installation process, Maxtor's solution offers users greater flexibility.

Maxtor Hardware

Maxtor sells three Personal Storage 5000 drives with OneTouch: the 5000LE (80GB, 5,400 rpm, USB only), the 5000DV (120GB, 7,200 rpm, FireWire and USB), and the 5000XT (a whopping 250GB, 5,400 rpm, FireWire and USB).

Maxtor includes an external power adapter and FireWire and USB cables with the drive. Unlike CMS, Maxtor doesn't sell diminutive models that draw power from FireWire; one way around this limitation is to buy additional power adapters for use in multiple locations.

Installation and Setup

Getting started could be easier, since you must first format the Personal Storage 5000; however, this extra step prevents problems we've seen with preformatted drives. And although installation was easy in OS 9 and OS X 10.1.5, the process was marred in Jaguar by the need to download updates to Retrospect Express and to the Maxtor driver. Maxtor plans to remedy this in the near future.

The first time you press the OneTouch button, the Maxtor wizard helps you configure your settings. It gives you two options: Just Documents and Applications And Documents. Just Documents is a poor choice -- it doesn't back up a particularly relevant set of files, and it backs up your operating system and application-support files, saving you relatively little space. We recommend using Applications And Documents, which backs up your entire drive, and we'd like to see Maxtor eliminate the Just Documents option and clarify what will be backed up.

Default and Enhanced Backups

Initiating a backup is merely a matter of pressing the OneTouch button. When you do so, Retrospect Express launches, executes the OneTouch script, and starts copying new and changed files. After the backup finishes, Retrospect Express quits. Users who want additional flexibility can modify or replace the Maxtor OneTouch script in Retrospect Express.

The Maxtor OneTouch feature duplicates your files in their native formats and stores them in a folder structure that matches that of the source. However, the default Maxtor OneTouch script copies files in such a way that you can't boot from your backup, as you can with the ABSplus. You can modify the Maxtor OneTouch script so it duplicates files to the top level of the Personal Storage 5000, which provides a bootable backup.

In its default configuration, the OneTouch feature has the same flaw we found in the ABSplus software: it adds new files and replaces modified files, but it does not remove files from the storage drive if you've deleted, moved, or renamed them on your hard drive. These extra files could fill up the Personal Storage 5000 prematurely, and restoring your entire drive requires removing the duplicates manually. To eliminate the duplicate-files problem, you can modify the Maxtor OneTouch script so that OneTouch uses the Replace Entire Disk option instead of Replace Corresponding Files (this change doesn't require copying any additional files).

In fact, the Personal Storage 5000's OneTouch button executes any script named Maxtor OneTouch, so you could replace the default Duplicate script with a Backup script that adds files to a Retrospect File backup set -- a huge file that contains all your data and stores multiple versions of changed files. (ABSplus can't do this.) Separate backup sets are also the best way to back up mul-tiple Macs to a single Personal Storage 5000, but you should still buy a copy of Retrospect Express for each Mac.

Restoring Your Data

Because the OneTouch feature duplicates your files on the Personal Storage 5000, it's easy to restore a deleted file or folder by copying it from the Personal Storage 5000 to your hard drive, just as you normally would in the Finder. But restoring your entire hard drive from the Personal Storage 5000 by manually invoking the Duplicate function in Retrospect Express is awkward (and undocumented by Maxtor), since you can't boot from your backup by default.

You cannot recover a corrupted file if you've backed up since the corruption occurred, because every backup overwrites changed files. Avoid this problem by replacing the Maxtor OneTouch Duplicate script with a Backup script.

In case of physical damage due to fire, flood, or theft, the only protection against the simultaneous loss of your Mac and your backup is an off-site backup.

To do this, you can use Retrospect Express to make secondary backups to recordable CDs or DVDs, or to an FTP site.

Macworld's Buying Advice

In our backup and restore tests, Maxtor's Personal Storage 5000 performed well, but installation was unnecessarily complicated in Jaguar. We were also disappointed by its default configuration options. But these deficiencies were more than made up for by the product's high storage capacities, its reasonable prices, and the ability to change the Maxtor OneTouch script, all of which will make it more attractive than the ABSplus for most people.

At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Pros

    • Users can modify OneTouch feature
    • Good value
    • Takes advantage of the full power of Retrospect Express
    • Extremely easy to initiate backups

    Cons

    • Minor interface errors
    • Poor default configuration choices
    • Installation process unnecessarily complicated in Jaguar
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