Thursday, November 4, 2010

Iomega Professional 2 TB External Drive Review

It works! With eSATA and USB 2.0 ports, this drive connected easily to six different computers ranging from 7 years old to less than a month, and running operating systems from Windows XP up to Windows 7, some 32 bit and some 64 bit. Every computer saw it as an external hard drive and was able to use it.

I have other ways of doing day-to-day backup, but was about to send a computer in to HP for repair and bought this drive (from TigerDirect, $130) to make an image backup first. That went so well that I started on the other computers, backing them up with Microsoft's image writer, Windows Complete PC Backup (WCPCB) where it was available (Win 7 and Vista Ultimate only). I also used Macrium Reflect Free Edition on all six computers, with success on all but one, and tried Paragon Backup & Recovery Free 2010 on that one, with uncertain success.

Hardware & Performance:
  • Iomega Professional Hard Drive 2 terabytes (2,000 GB), P/N 31853000, Model LDHD-UPS, eSATA and USB 2.0.
  • Capacity as displayed on a Windows Vista system: 1.81 TB, or 2,000,396,288,000 bytes.
  • Maximum transfer rates (advertised): eSATA 3,000 megabits/second (Mb/s), USB 2.0 480 Mb/s. Those are peak rates, not achievable in large transfers.
  • Actual average data transfer rates for complete image backup: As high as 475 megabits/second (Mb/s) writing through the eSATA port from a new computer, and as low as 93 Mb/s writing through USB 2.0 from a 4-year-old Toshiba laptop running Windows XP (a 7-year-old Gateway laptop with XP did better than that lame Toshiba!).
  • In its search for image backup devices, WCPCB did not "find" the drive on a Vista Ultimate system when the drive was connected by USB 2.0, though it was mounted as a "local disk" and files were visible. Therefore, the drive was not usable for WCPCB backup via USB. It did find the drive when connected by eSATA.
  • On Windows 7 computers, WCPCB did find the drive when connected either by USB or by eSATA.
  • Macrium always found the drive and was able to write to it. Unfortunately, though, I was unable to boot their linux rescue CD on one of the Windows 7 systems. They claim to have a fix if you buy the "full" edition, $40 per computer. I may blog about Macrium Reflect later - I do like their software best, except for this problem.
  • The Iomega Professional Hard Drive box indicates compatibility with Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 (32-bit). Does anyone even make a 32-bit Windows 7 system? I suppose, but anyway the drive seems to work just fine on two different 64-bit Windows 7 HP laptops, using either the eSATA or the USB connection and the drivers already in Windows 7.
  • The drive is very quiet, and I'm fussy about noise. It's quiet.
  • In Device Manager: The drive is listed as a "Samsung HD204UI USB Device", or just a "Samsung HD204UI" when connected by eSATA.
  • According to the box label, the drive was assembled in Korea, Sept 20, 2010. I wonder if the entire system is made for Iomega in Korea by Samsung. That's OK.

I would expect any external drive to come with software for backing up the computer, both for drive-image backups and for incremental backups. Indeed, the box containing this drive touts their "Iomega NeverDown Software," which, unfortunately, was not in the box and is not to be found anywhere on the Iomega web site. Apparently, it has been discontinued. The box does contain a brief manual, in seven different languages, telling how to get started with NeverDown, but alas, no software (oops). They do offer the downloadable "Iomega Protection Suite," including:
  • Iomega's v.Clone, which allows you to run YOUR OWN computer on anyone else's hardware. It's a "virtual image" - is that an image backup? Their own user manual advises that v.Clone is not backup software.
  • Roxio Retrospect Express, which appears to protect exactly one computer on one external drive, no more. I'm not interested - my 2TB Iomega drive now has ten compressed system images on it from six fully-competent computers, and is barely half full.
  • Hence, Iomega apparently does not offer an image backup solution. Ouch.
Happily, though, many other companies do offer image backup software, some for free, such as Macrium and Paragon.

A caution: I have not yet attempted to restore an image to any computer's hard drive. That's a risk I won't take unless I have to, and the repaired computer came back from HP with the internal drive intact. Where possible I do make at least two different images, one by WCPCB and one by Macrium or Paragon or both, in the hope that one will work if the other fails.

For your consideration: Universal Serial Bus. USB 2.0 followed USB 1.0, and has been around for at least seven years now. USB 3.0 is a recently-approved standard, and manufacturers are working hard to implement it in new computers and drives. It is about 10 times as fast as USB 2.0, a little faster even than eSATA, so computers with USB 3.0 may no longer need an an eSATA port. Therefore, future computers might have to talk to this particular drive using only USB 2.0.

That's not too bad, though - Macrium backed up a complete Windows 7 computer in 32 minutes via eSATA and 59 minutes via USB 2.0. In both cases, 105 GB "used" space on the computer's drive was compressed to one 78 GB file on the Iomega drive. Actual average data transfer rates, therefore, were 349 Mb/s and 189 Mb/s respectively, so the eSATA image backup was not even twice as fast as the USB 2.0 backup even though burst speed is six times higher.

Copyright (c) 2010

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