Backing up PC and laptop files is a pain. External tape drives are slow and expensive and the backup software somewhat specialised. Dragging and dropping files to external drives requires you to remember which files and folders to drag and drop. Wouldn't it be good if you could combine the idea of fixed backup jobs, external disk speed and windows folder structures?

That's exactly what you can do with Siwara's SW Pocket external drive. It comes with software that provides a backup job structure with Windows folders on the external drive. It also provides a facility for automatically backing up changes only, once a first full backup is done. This means last minute backups on Friday afternoon can be done by merely connecting the SW Pocket drive, letting the SW Backup utility do its automatic thing for a few minutes, and then closing your system down and going off for the week end.

The drive comes with cabling, rubber feet, a data sheet and a SW Suite CD.

On installation of the SW Suite CD, gratifyingly simple and quick, the SW Pocket drive was connected to a USB port. Windows found new hardware and three icons popped up on my desktop: A (D) drive, an (E) drive and a SW_DISK (F).

The SW_DISK (F) revealed an empty folder when clicked. My Computer properties revealed an 18.6GB drive available for use, almost 1.5GB less than the advertised 20GB capacity. (The (D) and (E) drive shortcuts referred to the CD drives on my PC)

The SW Suite installation resulted in two new shortcuts on my desktop: SW Backup and SW Vdcs, a disk and CD tower tool. Running SW Backup by clicking on the shortcut resulted in an error message: 'Unable to open backup destination directory! Please verify the SW disk connection.' I hadn't read the PDF format manual, in the Siwara Systems folder amongst the Windows XP program files, and so hadn't set up any backup job. Obvious really.

I had to create a first backup job by dragging and dropping folders onto a settings window and then click a First Backup button.

When the backup job runs a progress bar shows itself plus a running total of files and directories copied. At the end an Infos button click revealed that '6673823652 octets' - I think there is translated French software being used here - had been copied in just under 22 minutes using a USB 2.0 connection. That's 6.27GB, meaning a rate of 285MB/min. That is 4.75MB/sec, short of the USB 2 maximum.

I can drag and drop folders onto the SW_DISK (F) shortcut as well. The backup job advantage is that changed files can be automatically backed up, secondly, that the backup job remembers which files and folders to back up and, thirdly, it can automatically run incremental backups.

To test this I disconnected the SW Pocket drive, created a new file in a backed-up folder, and re-connected the drive. (The SW Backup settings had an option clicked to automatically start the backup job on drive connection.)

The backup job re-ran and, as only changed files were copied, completed quickly. The Infos button revealed, wrongly, that 6.27GBs had been copied again. In fact a mere kilobyte or two had been copied - the new file.

So the backup functionality is present and works; only it is a little misleadingly presented to users.

The SW VDCS utility is supposed to turn the SW Pocket disk into a CD tower. CD contents can be transferred to the SW Pocket and then played as if the PC had many CD drives. It's easier than physically transferring a stack of CDs from one place to another though.

The hardware and cabling is well made with rubber feet for the disk casing, if you wish, and a nicely firm disk/cable connection. Both USB and FireWire connections are supported and the drive can be formatted either for the PC or the Mac. The PDF manual is useful and explains what the various functions of the software can ado and how to use them.

Maxtor's OneTouch removable backup disk solution is easier to use but files are Retrospect backup format. The Siwara SW Pocket holds them in Windows format so drag-and-drop recovery is a breeze. But do read the manual.

OUR VERDICT

To combine backup job structure, Windows folder access and backup to an external drive, consider this neat Siwara SW Pocket drive.