The Seagate FreeAgent Pro combines a sleek external design with a solid, reliable drive inside. But the FreeAgentâ€™s feature set doesnâ€™t end there. Hereâ€™s a look at what makes the Seagate FreeAgent Pro such an attractive solution for anyone looking to add external storage to their system.
The included software with the FreeAgent Pro is Windows-only, and the drive comes pre-formatted with NTFS. You can still format and use the drive on any operating system, but you won’t get the automated backup functionality, or additional controls for tweaking things like the ‘sleep mode’ delay time. For the most seamless installation experience, the FreeAgent Pro should be plugged in for the first time to a running PC, instead of one that is turned off.
Upon connecting the drive, the Windows XP Autorun dialog appears for the FreeAgent. Select the option at the top of the window (whose icon looks like the FreeAgent) to begin installing the software for the FreeAgent. This installs two items, the Seagate FreeAgent Pro Tools utility, and the Seagate AutoBackup program. Both programs will install icons into your system tray, and the installation sequence will ask you to restart your machine.
Upon restarting your machine, the AutoBackup Configuration wizard will start, and allow you to define a backup plan for your machine. AutoBackup supports multiple backup plans, allowing you to back up different sets of files to different devices; this is especially useful if you want to sync a particular set of files to your USB key every time you insert it, for example. The first step in setting up your backup plan is choosing a destination. Seagate even offers 500MB of offsite backup space through Memeo, AutoBackup’s developer, for a monthly or annual fee (though you get 6 months free, and can upgrade to 1GB or 5GB for an additional charge). You can even choose how many previous versions of your files to hang on to, as part of each backup cycle.
The next step is selecting files to back up. You can select each folder manually, or use SmartPicks to automatically search your computer for groups of related files to be backed up, whether they’re all located in the same folder or not. In addition, this frame of the wizard allows you to set exclusions â€“ that is, specific files and locations to ignore. If a file or folder appears as "0 KB" in the Backup Items list, then it’s probably excluded in the list below. Once you’ve completed and named your backup plan, the main AutoBackup window appears, and asks you to enter the product key. Remember that booklet that said "This won’t take long"? The AutoBackup product key is inside it, so it’s a good idea to hang onto that booklet.
Once you’ve entered the product key, your backup begins. You don’t need to leave the AutoBackup window open; in fact, AutoBackup notifies you that your backup can run faster with the window closed. Tiny notification windows open to keep you apprised of the status of your backup, though you can make these go away as well by closing one notification. If you close one, no more will appear.
Seagate’s FreeAgent Pro Tools offers a way to manage the FreeAgent drive’s settings, create a ‘system rollback’ point (much like System Restore), and run drive diagnostics, as well as access the AutoBackup and Internet Drive solutions.
The "Your Drives" pane allows you to view the FreeAgent drives connected to your computer, as well as their serial number and the version of firmware that they’re running. There’s not much you can change here.
Clicking on the Backup & Restore button displays this pane, and starts the AutoBackup program, allowing you to view the status of your backups and modify settings. You can’t change anything in this pane, either, so let’s move on.
This pane contains functionality that lets you set a restore point, much like Windows’ own System Restore, but more regular, and the data is stored on the FreeAgent Pro. You can set the time interval between restore points; the maximum is 24 hours, and the minimum is 4 hours. If you can manage to somehow break your computer every 4 hours, then that would be the setting for you. The ‘restore’ function is also located within this pane.
Clicking on the Internet Drive button displays this pane, and launches your default web browser with the Seagate Internet Drive login screen. You can’t change anything on this pane.
In the Utilities pane, you can run a diagnostic procedure to determine the cause of any problems with your FreeAgent drive. You can also adjust the time delay before which your drive goes to sleep, and deactivate the drive’s illumination and activity light if they bother you.
Another thing I stumbled randomly upon is that if you hover your mouse cursor over a button, a witty saying appears in the tooltip. For example, hovering over the Internet Drive button displays a tooltip that reads "Stash it in the cloud".
Next stop: Performance measurements.