Thursday, November 3, 2011

Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Desk 2 TB USB 3.0 Hard Drive

Rating: 4 out of 5
Pros: Lots of space, fast transfer with USB 3.0, Mameo Instant Backup isn't terrible
Cons: Annoying trial versions of stuff in the installer, at least not installed by default


The Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 2 TB USB 3.0 External Hard Drive is pretty good as far as external hard drives go. It was picked up at Wal-Mart for $99 so we could back up other computers onto it. When I was in Wal-Mart again the other day, I seen they were down to only $89 now. Terrific good price for a 2 TB external hard drive, let alone one with USB 3.0 support. The other choice would have been a Western Digital MyBook sitting on the shelf beside the GoFlex, but for the same 2 TB of space the MyBook would have been $15 more expensive.

My other two external hard drives were just enclosures that I had purchased separately and placed internal 3.5" desktop hard drives into. One of the internal drives is a Western Digital and the other is a Maxtor. They're still holding up well after many years, but they're both much smaller drives, and neither is USB 3.0, so it was time for an upgrade. While not all of the computers I would be backing up have USB 3.0 ports, some do, and the ones that do are the ones that have the most data to backup anyway. The drive had to be backwards compatible with USB 2.0 for the other computers though, and this one fit the bill nicely.

Cutting the tape from the fully recyclable retail box, the hard drive itself was enclosed in a plastic bag and encased in two pieces of cardboard that formed around each side to leave empty space around the drive for padding. A folded piece of cardboard folded around the 4 foot USB 3.0 cable and the power adapter kept them in a corner away from the drive so they didn't bang into it. There was a tiny quick start guide tucked into the side to round out the package's contents.

GoFlex Desk

The hard drive enclosure weighs about 2.4 pounds. It's approximately 6.22 inches tall, 1.73 inches wide and 4.88 inches deep when standing vertically; the drive can also be placed horizontally. It houses a regular 3.5" desktop hard drive inside a thin enclosure, with the power and data cords plugging into the base portion. The whole base portion can be swapped out for one that works with FireWire instead of USB, but it's pretty expensive and probably not worth it.

There's an activity light on the base, as well as 4 LEDs that give you a visual gauge as to how much of the drive's capacity is available. The drive is pre-loaded with encrypted backup software from Memeo, as well as an NTFS driver for Mac. It contradicts itself by saying you can share movies, photos, music and more between PC and Mac without reformatting, and then saying in small print that reformatting may be required for some Mac applications.

The drive is Plug-and-Play with any modern operating system. The box says it works with PC and Mac; I've had it plugged into a 64-bit Windows 7 machine and an old 32-bit version of Linux Mint and it was immediately recognized and available in both operating systems. Backing up my computers was no trouble, and there's a ton of space left over. 2 TB of hard drive space is enough to store around 33,000 hours of digital music, 640,000 digital photos, 2,000 hours of digital video, or 500 DVD quality movies.


When I ran the installer in Windows 7, it installed the Seagate Dashboard program and gave me the choice of installing Memeo Instant Backup or an Extended Trial of Memeo Premium Backup. Then it wanted me to install an extended trial of Memeo Sync, which I declined. I did install the Instant Backup to test it out, and it's pretty straight-forward. It has a drop down box to pick which drive you want to back up to, and a bar displaying how much space is required and how much is available on the selected drive. There's a Start Backup button, along with a Restore button.

There's also a break-down of what type of stuff is going to be backed up, and it's reflected in the bar. Mine, for example, lists 80.7 MB of documents and displays that portion in purple on the bar. 83.7 MB of pictures displayed in blue, 3.1 GB of music in orange, 6.7 GB of videos in green and 81.3 GB in yellow labeled "other", totalling 91.3 GB. This barely puts a dent in the total capacity bar, leaving plenty of room to back up the other computers onto the drive as well.

There's also a button labeled Advanced Options. This acts as a list of specific things you want to back up instead of backing up the whole computer. It's easy to use, you can even drag folders into the list to select them for backing up. There's also a check box here to encrypt your backup with a password.

Seagate Dashboard - Powered by Memeo

There's not a whole lot to the Dashboard, it's just a small window with a few options in it. At the top it has a stock picture of the hard drive, a drop down box to select your drive in case you have more than one supported drive installed, and a clickable link for drive settings. In the drive settings you have four tabs, the first of which is Power Settings. The only option here is to choose one of 12 options to set how long your drive must be inactive before it goes into power saving mode. The options range from 3, 4, 5, 15 or 30 minutes, to 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 hours, or never. The next tab is LED Settings, which again only has one option. Toggle the drive activity and status lights on and off.

The third tab is Test Drive, which says to click the Test button to make sure your drive is functioning properly. It also states that the test will not affect the contents of your drive. I clicked the Test button, which took about 30 seconds, the progress bar got to 100% and it said the testing had completed. "Your external drive is functioning normally." It gave no indication as to what it tested or how, so I can only assume this is useful in some way. The last tab is Drive Information, which simply shows the drive's serial number and firmware version (my firmware is 0D.1.2). It also lists the drive's volume label, capacity, free space and how the file system is formatted.

Below the drop-down and Drive Settings is a small bar showing the total hard drive space, the amount of space that is used and the amount left available. Further below that is a section called My Applications, which for me only has Instant Backup listed. I can only assume if you installed the extended trial of Memeo Premium Backup or Memeo Sync from the software installer, they would be listed here as well.

Finally at the bottom of the Dashboard is an Application Store area, where you can purchase other Memeo products such as Memeo Premium Backup, Memeo Sync, Memeo Send or Memeo Share.

System Requirements

Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP (32-bit and 64-bit) operating system or
Mac OS X operating system 10.4.11, 10.5.8, or 10.6.2 (32-bit kernel only)
SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port (required for USB 3.0 transfer speeds or backwards compatible with USB 2.0 ports at USB 2.0 transfer speeds)


My Seagate GoFlex Desk came with SuperSpeed USB 3.0 support, which claims to be up to 10 times faster than USB 2.0. Obviously it's never as good as the packaging will lead you to believe, so just how much faster is it? Let's find out.

Benchmarking of this hard drive was done using DiskMark from NetworkDLS. The first run was done with the default settings, using many runs with a fairly small set size to simulate copying multiple smaller files. This included 128 files of 64 KB each, and the test was ran 320 times for a total of 2.5 GB. The second run was done with a lot less runs, but a much larger set size to simulate working with a smaller number of much larger files. This included 128 files of 6.25 MB each, and ran 32 times for a total of 25 GB. Each test was completed once with the drive hooked up via USB 3.0, and then again with the drive hooked up to a USB 2.0 port.

Configuration: USB 3.0
Allow Caching: No, Set Size: 64.00 KB, Rounds: 128, Per Set Size: 8.00 MB, Runs: 320, Total Set Size: 2.50 GB
Write Performance: Min: 22.38 MB/s, Max: 94.66 MB/s, Average: 87.28 MB/s
Read Performance: Min: 73.30 MB/s, Max: 117.85 MB/s, Average: 115.38 MB/s

Configuration: USB 3.0
Allow Caching: No, Set Size: 6.25 MB, Rounds: 128, Per Set Size: 800.00 MB, Runs: 32, Total Set Size: 25.00 GB
Write Performance: Min: 71.03 MB/s, Max: 118.26 MB/s, Average: 115.39 MB/s
Read Performance: Min: 111.29 MB/s, Max: 122.10 MB/s, Average: 121.36 MB/s

Configuration: USB 2.0
Allow Caching: No, Set Size: 64.00 KB, Rounds: 128, Per Set Size: 8.00 MB, Runs: 320, Total Set Size: 2.50 GB
Write Performance: Min: 11.57 MB/s, Max: 25.71 MB/s, Average: 23.11 MB/s
Read Performance: Min: 19.01 MB/s, Max: 28.94 MB/s, Average: 28.21 MB/s

Configuration: USB 2.0
Allow Caching: No, Set Size: 6.25 MB, Rounds: 128, Per Set Size: 800.00 MB, Runs: 32, Total Set Size: 25.00 GB
Write Performance: Min: 27.92 MB/s, Max: 31.26 MB/s, Average: 30.98 MB/s
Read Performance: Min: 32.53 MB/s, Max: 33.01 MB/s, Average: 32.96 MB/s

As we can see, it's nowhere near 10 times as fast - but we didn't expect it to be. It does appear to be 3 or 4 times faster with USB 3.0 than it is with USB 2.0, and it's a little faster with fewer large files than with many small files. Overall I'm very happy with it, and the USB 3.0 makes backing up some of the computers around here a breeze.

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