Sexy Portable Storage

James A. Martin
PC World
Wednesday, September 5, 2007; 4:19 AM

The subject of portable data storage for mobile professionals is hardly exciting. But in recent years, makers of portable hard drives, including Iomega and Seagate, have made a concerted effort to make storage sexy. They've added capacity (a LaCie drive now holds 250GB), color (such as bright red), and convenient backup/synchronization features.

Why should you care? Two reasons: First, internal laptop hard drives are usually much smaller in capacity than those in desktop PCs, so you could probably use the additional storage space that a portable drive offers. Second, notebook hard drives--at least in my experience--can be more likely to fail than desktop PC drives, which makes backing up to an external drive (oronline backup service) essential.

Here's a look at some of the latest, sleekest portable hard drives.

FreeAgentGo "data movers" don't look like your typical hard drive. They're brown and orange, or rather, according to Seagate's marketing department, "espresso brown" and "molten amber." The amber is "molten" because it glows to indicate activity on the drive. Take a peek at my video onTraveler 2.0to see the glow in action.

Nor do FreeAgent Go drives act like typical portable hard drives. The drives ship preloaded with software that synchronizes selected files on your PC to the drive. You can also store some applications, as well as browser favorites, passwords, cookies, and other settings. You can then access your files, settings, and applications on any borrowed PC by connecting the drive via the USB port.

In my informal tests of a 120GB FreeAgent Go, the drive and its software worked as advertised. One nit: Every time I boot my Windows Vista PC, Vista's User Account Control asks permission to load the installed FreeAgent Go software. (Vista doesn't make a similar request with any other software installed on my computer.) A Seagate spokesperson says this is not a bug: It's caused by Vista's heightened security procedures.

Worth noting: The drive's cable has two USB connectors. But the Seagate spokesperson says you don't have to plug both cables into your laptop unless your notebook's USB port doesn't provide sufficient power. When a single USB connection isn't providing the necessary power, you hear a beep and an amber warning light flickers.

FreeAgent Go drives come in 80GB, 120GB, and 160GB capacities, ranging in prices from about $90 to $161. I've seen the 160GB drive foras little as $115.

Iomega's new 160GBeGo portable driveis candy-apple red, with rounded corners. It's less than an inch thick, and its DropGuard technology can help protect data if the eGo is dropped. (I didn't test the product.) You'll get EMC Retrospect Express HD software for backup (Windows only). I've found eGo online foras little as $125.

If you're looking for style and substance, theLaCie Mobile Hard Drive, Design by F.A. Porsche is for you. It offers up to a whopping 250GB--that's a lot for a portable hard drive. The drive is available in a USB 2.0 model, or one that lets you connect via USB 2.0 or FireWire 400--a nice option if your laptop's USB ports are all taken. (I haven't tested the product.) The sleek, silver drives are available online forabout $70 and up.

Recharging Cell Phones Is a Breeze: Orange, the UK-based telecommunications firm, announcedThe Orange Mobile Wind Charger, a miniature turbine that harnesses wind and converts it into power for mobile phones. The turbine, which weighs about one-third of a pound and fits in a backpack, latches onto the top of a tent and stores power in a separate "control box." No official release date or pricing details are available at this writing.

The 300-Page iPhone Bill: The Apple iPhone may be sleek and trim--but the bills that early buyers receivedwere anything but. Justine Ezarik, a graphic designer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, posted a 1-minute video on her blog that shows her opening up a 300-page iPhone bill from AT&T--which was mailed in a box. Others iPhone owners complained of bills running 125 pages or more. A week after the complaints started rolling in, AT&T said it would start mailing outthinner simplified bills.

Strange iPhone Tales: Did you know Karl Rove has an iPhone? How about this fun fact: Blogger Adam Aronson recently received what is probably the world's largest iPhone bill thus far: $5087. How did Aronson rack up such a huge bill? Find out in "Weird, Scary, and Bizarre iPhone Tales."

Is there a particularly cool mobile computing product or service I've missed? Got a spare story idea in your back pocket?Tell me about it. However, I regret that I'm unable to respond to tech-support questions, due to the volume of e-mail I receive.


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