Maxtor OneTouch 4 Plus 500GB Review


  • Simple operation; tons of features; allows total system recovery; works with Macs


Our Score 7.5
User Score 3


  • Have to manually save mail; can't sync between XP and Vista; encryption is difficult to use
The OneTouch 4 has more features than any other backup drive we've tested...


The fourth iteration of Maxtor’s popular OneTouch external backup drives has arrived in a sexy new shell and a brand-new software package. It’s a kitchen sink drive that does everything under the sun, from backing up files to syncing folders to total system recovery in the case of drive failure and more. It’s easily the most full-featured backup drive we’ve ever tested, and though it has a few flaws it is still one of the best backup drives available.

Features and Design

Now that the Maxtor OneTouch line has morphed into its fourth version, it actually looks cool and offers some impressive features that go way beyond pedestrian backup duties. The previous versions of this drive could best be described as a “silver slab,” which then transformed into a “silver brick.” The new design is definitely an improvement over previous versions, and looks pretty slick in our opinion; almost monolithic if you will.

The chassis has a molded design that looks like an enlarged version of the OneTouch 4 Mini. The front of the unit has the infamous “OneTouch” button, which flashes a white light when the drive is being accessed. You can press the drive if you want to manually activate your pre-established backup plan. 

Software Package

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. All backup drives are the same, but what separates them is the software. Maxtor’s software suite is incredibly comprehensive, and offers more features than other backup drives we’ve evaluated.

All the drive’s activities are controlled via the Maxtor Manager software, which includes five tabs that act as control centers for different functions.

My Drives
The first tab shows if you the drive is connected or not, and provides links to Maxtor support and shows you how much free space is on the drive.

Main screenshot
The main window of the Maxtor Manager software.

The backup tab is where you control your backup plan. You can only create one plan, but can change it at any time by adding or removing folders. You can opt for a “simple” backup that copies all files in your personal folder (the folder that is your Windows profile), or you can select custom folders if you wish. Once you select the folders you want backed up, you select the type of files you want including “all files.” Finally, you select when you want the backup routine to run.

Backup screenshot
Here you can tweak your backup routine, restore files or delete the routine and make a new one.

Schedule screenshot
You can schedule the backup routine to run daily at any time you choose.

If you’re like us and have both a desktop and a notebook computer, you can use the Maxtor Manager software to sync folders between two computers to make sure both computers have the same files. Once again you can do a simple sync of your personal folder or a custom sync.

Syn screenshot
You can sync the contents of folders between two computers with the Sync utility.

The Safety tab is where you prepare for disaster. It’s Maxtor’s Safety Drill software that saves images of your entire hard drive to the OneTouch in case of drive failure. You just install a new hard drive, boot off of the included CD, point the software to the image on the OneTouch, and it’ll completely restore your previous installation of Windows along with all your files.

Drill screenshot
The Safety tab lets you set up the SafetyDrill software, which copies an image of your hard drive to the OneTouch in case you suffer drive failure.

Have files you don’t want anyone to see? You can hide them from prying eyes via Maxtor encryption, which is activated via the Security tab. Simply enter a password and the Maxtor encryption application opens up, allowing you to drag and drop files and folders into the app to encrypt them on-the-fly. You can also password protect the drive if you don’t want someone other than yourself seeing what’s on the drive.

Security screenshot
Here you can open the encryption tool or password-protect the drive.

Use and Testing

We’ve sampled the OneTouch 4 Mini previously, which uses the same software package as its big brother. It was still interesting to take it out for a spin the second time, and we came away with some new observations.

First we setup our backup routine, which was quite simple. Maxtor gives you the option of a simple backup that copies your “personal folder” to the drive, but we opted for a custom backup instead. We just checked the folders we wanted to backup and then set it to backup every night at 3:00AM. Every morning we examined our backup folder and sure enough all the files we had added to our backup source were on the OneTouch. Our only grip about the “simple” backup is that it excludes the standard locations for Outlook and Outlook Express mail, which is a hidden directory burrowed deep within Windows.

Next we tried to test the Sync utility, but found that it is not able to sync folders between XP and Vista, which is the same problem we had with the OneTouch 4 Mini. This is a ridiculous situation that we hope Maxtor rectifies at some point in the future.

Sync screenshot
The OneTouch 4 can’t sync folders between XP and Vista, which is silly.

We then turned to the SafetyDrill software, which we tested in the previous evaluation. It’s a fantastic program that provides for full recovery in the case of drive failure. It saves an image of your entire drive to the OneTouch, and if your drive fails, you can restore everything from the image on the drive. It’s a much more preferable than what you’d have to go through if you only had your data. In that scenario you’d have to re-install your OS, re-install all your programs, and even then all you’d have from the previous drive is just data. Having an image of your entire drive makes for a seamless transition from old drive to new drive, and we wished more backup drives had software that allows for full system recovery.

Finally, we checked out the encryption utility, and it works as promised. You just drag and drop files and folders into the program, and then drag them out of the little box to decrypt them. It’s a fine program but we have one gripe, and that is that it’s very inconvenient to have to move the files out of the encryption program to see them. We wish Maxtor would make the program work more like TrueCrypt (link: where you open the encrypted folder as a volume that acts like a hard drive so you can see and use the files without having to decrypt each one of them.

Encryption screenshot
The encryption tool is easy to use since it’s drag-and-drop, but we don’t like having to decrypt a file to look at it.


The OneTouch 4 has more features than any other backup drive we’ve tested, and we’d be hard pressed to decide between it and the WD MyBook. We like how the MyBook does backups instantly, rather than on a schedule, but the MyBook does not provide for a full system recovery, nor does it offer file encryption. The OneTouch certainly has it beat when it comes to features, however we don’t like how the OneTouch doesn’t save your email by default, and how it can’t sync files between XP and Vista though. Though the OneTouch offers more features than the MyBook, these flaws drag it down one notch below the MyBook in our opinion. It’s worth pointing out that the basic MyBook has just USB though, and the OneTouch 4 Plus has both FireWire and USB, plus works on Macs in addition to your standard PC.


• Simple operation
• Tons of features
• Allows total system recovery
• Works with Macs


• Have to manually save mail
• Can’t sync between XP and Vista
• Encryption is difficult to use

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