When it comes to digital home recording, one fact is sad but true: if you create something on a computer, you’re going to need to make a backup for it. Whatever your project, you don’t want an accidental keystroke or a power surge to destroy weeks or months of work in a single second. There’s also portability to consider: it’s usually easier to put everything into an external backup rather than packing up your computer if you need to move files. For these reasons, many people opt for an external hard drive, which gives them an enormous storage capacity in an easy-to-carry package.
The Maxtor OneTouch III Turbo Edition is one of a new breed of external hard drives that includes a RAID array, giving you the option of increased data security or increased capacity in the same device. Housed in a functional, utilitarian container with a single button (whose instant-access feature gives the OneTouch its name) and a white power and activity LED, the OneTouch has ports in the back for the power, USB 2.0 and FireWire 400 and 800 connections – plenty of connection options for both Windows and Macintosh users.
Installing the drive is simple: install the included software, connect the drive and the operating system takes care of the rest. Post-installation, Maxtor’s excellent drive administration software, called Maxtor OneTouch Manager, handles anything related to drive configuration, including setting the OneTouch to use RAID 0 (1 TB capacity) or RAID 1 (500 GB, automatically doubled, giving additional backup protection). You can also password-protect your data, assign functions like "backup now" to the OneTouch button and set up the drive to operate in synchronize mode, allow you to have the most current version of a file located on two different computers.
I ran some speed tests on the drive using SiSoft Sandra 2007 SP1’s Physical Disks test, which tests the abilities of the drive itself. Using both RAID 0 and RAID 1 configurations, the read test averaged a drive index speed of 32 MB/s with a Random Access Time of 16 ms when testing via USB 2.0 in Windows. Using FireWire 400, the average index speed increases to 40.5 MB/s, with the same Random Access Time of 16 ms. As a real-world complement, I backed up the entire contents of my hard drive (about 161 GB) to the drive via FireWire 400 in about 5 hours, a speed of about 9 MB/s. The variety of connection options available on the OneTouch III is an advantage; if your computer has a FireWire connection, you can make use of the higher transfer speed. If USB 2.0 is the only option available, you’ll still be able to connect to the drive.
Problem with Retrospect Express HD Backup Software
The one problem I had with the OneTouch III was the included backup software: Retrospect Express HD. Buggy at best, downright useless at worse, the 1.1.127 version of Express HD offered a lot of interesting features, but failed over 50% of the time to complete scheduled backups or to update correctly when in the midst of a forced backup. I could not get the software to operate in duplicate mode (where Express HD copies the files over directly to the drive instead of storing them in a backup file) and there were times when evening opening the software would cause programs to crash. Fortunately, if you have other backup software options available (I switched to the backup application provided by Microsoft with Windows XP) you can still use this drive, but Maxtor should either update the included software to the 2.0 version (which costs $20 when purchased from Retrospect-maker EMC Insignia) or include another backup solution with their drive.
Despite the problems with the included backup software, the Maxtor OneTouch III Turbo Edition is a strong backup solution with a good number of options. If you’ve got a large number of projects that take up a lot of space, the OneTouch’s 1 TB capacity should fit the bill nicely, while the option to convert it into a 500 GB drive and gain the benefit of automatic mirroring on two drives will those more nervous about data loss sleep a little easier at night. Maxtor’s drive administration utility makes it simple to make changes to the drive itself and although the included backup software has numerous problems, other options are available to make this drive worthwhile. If you've got another piece of backup software available, this drive is definitely recommended.