This article first appeared in HWM Jul 2011.
With so much of our lives living on our computers, backing up regularly should be as essential a task as eating. After all, every hard drive will eventually fail at some time. Imagine having your mission critical work files wiped, a lifetime's worth of photographs erased, and your collection of favorite songs disappear – all because your hard drive died and you didn't back up your files.
Yet, most people don't do backups; one reason is because it's a tedious process. Getting an external hard disk to back up to is easy enough, but without software to help you do it automatically, you have to remember to copy and paste your files on a regular basis, not to mention keep track of which files have been changed since your last update. And even when you do get software to help you out, configuring backup rules can be an exercise in confusion.
The Clickfree Wireless Backup Drive promises to solve your backup problems. It's an external hard disk, available in both 500GB and 1TB versions, that comes with backup software so it can backup your data automatically. The key feature is that it connects wirelessly, which means you can leave it plugged to a power source, unplugged from your PC, and it'll still backup your data over the air as long as they're both on the same network. Not only that, it can wirelessly backup multiple PCs, as long as it's been plugged into each machine prior.
The Clickfree comes in the shape of a little black box with rounded corners. It's simple but attractive enough; the upper panel has a clear finish and adds a dash of sophistication. It would be completely unobtrusive but for the fact that the bottom panel emits a glow; orange for when it isn't connected and blue for when it is.
When you first plug it in, the drive will install its backup software into your PC and start the initial backup of your data. Backup is incremental by design, after the initial seeding, it will only backup new files or files that have been changed. That means files which have been previously backed up, then deleted on the PC, remain on the Clickfree during subsequent backups so you can restore accidentally deleted files.
On the flipside, the Clickfree doesn't support versioning so backups aren't redundant. This means that if you edit a document, on the next backup, Clickfree will overwrite the previous version of your document with the latest one, and you won't be able to restore earlier versions of your document.
The Clickfree also doesn't let you select which files to backup and which not to. You can check which files have been backed-up through the software's browser, but you won't be able to change anything. The good thing about that is that the Clickfree makes backup easy; you won't have to fuss and figure out anything. The bad thing is that you risk losing completeness for the sake of simplicity, as you have to work within Clickfree's backup rules rather than have it work for you.
The Clickfree's hardware and software implementation is flawless and easy, but it offers a very basic insurance plan. It makes backup automatic and painless, but sacrifices completeness for simplicity. We'd recommend it for basic users, but not users who need more customizable features, as having a simple backup done regularly is better than having none at all.