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Clickfree Takes the Hassle from Data Backup

By Jim Bray
November 29, 2008

Do you back up your data religiously? I didn't either for a while, but losing everything on your computer is a powerful incentive to starting backup up your data on a regular basis.

It was in about 1982 that I learned the importance the hard way. My partners and I had computerized our chain of video stores with a Radio Shack PC we'd upgraded to a massive 64K of RAM and two 5.25 inch floppy disk drives. Then, advances in technology let us buy a massive four megabyte hard disk drive on which to store our data, one of the most valuable pieces of which was a custom-built point of purchase program. That hard drive alone cost us four grand (and was about the size of the entire PC I use today) and we were proud to the point of smugness about it.

Then there was a power spike one night and when we arrived to open the store the next day we discovered our state-of-the-art system was now so much meat. We lost everything and had to start again from scratch.

You don't forget lessons such as that. Now I have so many backup CD's and DVD's that I don't know where to begin looking for any particular piece of data – and it's organized as well as the rest of my office: I can never find anything. But it's all there, backed up safely on some disc somewhere in my home office.

Everyone pays lip service to backing up, but it seems few people actually do it, whether through absent-mindedness, laziness, or from not knowing how.

And that's the idea behind Clickfree, a nifty little device that backs up your data to its built in hard drive virtually as soon as you plug it into your USB port. The device is about the size of an iPhone and is so easy to use even I could make my 160 gigabyte sample work right out of the box.

There's no setup or training, and once you connect the Clickfree it seeks out documents and media files on your hard drive and copies them over.  It's like having a plagiarist in a box!

If you keep your My Documents folder on your C: drive Clickfree will sniff it out and go right to work. I don't: My Documents resides on my E: drive, which drives Windows Vista bonkers (though XP didn't mind), but it was easy to point Clickfree there anyway, and it went right to work without further ado, copying my stuff to itself.

It's pretty cool, and once your files are stored safely on the Clickfree thingy the only thing you have to do is remember where you put the Clickfree thingy. Which in my office puts me back to square one.

Clickfree also makes blank four and a half gig DVD's with backup software built into them. You just choose whether you want a music, photo, or Office files backup, pick the appropriate package, and stick one of the discs into your DVD burner. Once you set it loose, it searches out the appropriate files automatically and goes to work.

If you have enough files to fill more than one disc, it tells you how many you need – in my case twice as many as I had (and doesn't that just figure?) - and then performs the backup without making you expend another conscious thought. You need a DVD burner, of course, but they're very common.

Disks are available in three, five or 10 pack units.

ClickfreeI like the standalone solution best because it means I only have to keep track of one device instead of yet another bunch of disks, but either should do the job. Of course the standalone unit's downfall could come if its internal hard drive crashes, which is always a possibility.

Perhaps you should have a second Clickfree around just in case. I'm sure the folks that make the device wouldn't mind…

The company says you can use the unit to back up data from more than one PC, depending on how much space you need. Clickfree offers drives ranging in capacity of from 120 to 320 gigabytes right now, the biggest unit selling on the company's site ( for $180 U.S..

Once you've performed the backup or, more accurately, watched it being performed for you, you can use the Clickfree device's interface to surf through or search the backed up files.

Coming in January, 2009, is the HD525, with 500 gigabytes capacity. The company says it can store 110,000 songs, more than 200,000 photos and 1,000,000 digital documents, depending of course on the size of the individual files. The HD525 will come in a pearl finish, is said to handle the latest digital file extensions and will back up as many as 25 different PCs.

The manufacturer claims the new models feature an improved interface, though the one I tried was such a no brainer I'm not sure how much simpler it needs to be. 

The first time you use the Clickfree you get a complete backup, but the product only backs up new or changed files subsequently, which speeds things up.

Clickfree doesn't back up program files, just your data, which should also make it easier to keep track of what's what on the backup drive. And when you restore files from the Clickfree, they go to a folder called "Restored Files", which should also help make them easy to get at while cutting down on the risk of overwriting anything in your "My Documents" folder.

Sounds like heaven, doesn't it? 

The Clickfree Portable Backup HD525 retails for $199, the and the smaller versions go down from there. The product works with Windows 2000, XP and Vista.

I can't stress enough the importance of backing up your data. If you've been lucky so far, it's only a matter of time before Murphy's Law catches up with you and you lose a lot of stuff that may be very important to you.

Copyright 2008 Jim Bray

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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