Seagate is taking a different approach to portable storage with the FreeAgent Pro. Rather that offering a drive designed to function as a portable backup device for your notebook, the FreeAgent is designed for people who use multiple PCs, and want a portable “pseudo computer” that lets them take apps, games, and files to each PC. It’s a slick drive and the software works very well, though the file syncing utility leaves a bit to be desired, and some rudimentary backup software would be appreciated.
Features and Design
The FreeAgent Pro is a wedge-shaped portable hard drive that features a plastic case with an orange activity light on the bottom. Inside lies the hard drive, which ranges in size from 80GB to 320GB.
It’s a USB 2.0 drive that comes with a Y-cable. If you have an older PC that doesn’t put out enough juice from a single USB port, you just plug in the second cable and it’ll power the drive.
The software package that comes with the drive includes some Seagate tools as well as the primary package, which is named Ceedo. The Seagate tools just show you the drive is connected, let you adjust the sleep timer and even let you turn off the bright orange activity light if it bothers you.
Ceedo is the star of the show here, and if you use the drive as intended, you’ll be using it almost the entire time you’re using the FreeAgent Go. Ceedo is basically a program that runs off the drive that gives you a Windows-like interface to launch programs, manage files, and so forth. When you connect the drive to the PC, Ceedo launches a little taskbar in the center of your screen that looks like this.
The Ceedo start menu is organized just like the XP start menu.
Clicking the central button opens up the start menu, which looks very similar to the one found on Windows XP. Programs you use show up on the left, and you can even browse “all programs” to look at all installed programs. By default there are no programs installed aside from Internet Explorer, but Ceedo has a large online database of programs that are free to download and use, including very awesome software like VLC player, Winrar, FireFox and Thunderbird, and much, much more.
The idea is to put any files you want in My Documents, My Pictures, etc, and then you have them with you when you move from computer to computer. You can even browse the web from the FreeAgent, and keep all your bookmarks on it as well.
In terms of security, you can password-protect the drive but there’s no encryption utility or anything like that.
Aside from Ceedo, the FreeAgent Go has a built-in syncing tool that lets you sync folders from several different computers to the drive. You can set the drive to automatically sync upon detection or to manually sync your files.
Use and Testing
We connected the FreeAgent Pro to both our desktop and our notebook for testing. The FreeAgent software is on the drive itself, so you can install it on whatever computer you are using.
We first decided to make a sync folder of our music on both PCs, thinking that we could use the drive to sync both of them. As in, we could sync the “music” folder between the PC and notebook. As it t turns out, this was not the case and that’s not how the drive works. You tell the drive what you want to be sync’d, and it copies it to the drive. Then every time you connect the drive to that PC it will sync the contents on the drive with what is on your PC. All in all this works very well and we did not have any real problems, with one exception.
The only control you have over the sync process is what to sync, and whether the sync will occur automatically, or manually. That’s it. So here’s what we found: if you delete a folder on your PC that is in the sync zone, plugging in the Seagate drive will restore the folder. If you delete a folder on the Seagate, and then re-attach the drive, it’ll restore that folder. This is obviously a pain in the butt, because what if you actually wanted to delete that folder? You have to delete it from both locations to make it permanent, which is lame. A simple option that says “if it’s deleted in source, delete in target” would be appreciated, or some way to prioritize the process.”
We’ve used Ceedo before, back in the day, and are happy to say it’s improved a lot since the last time we saw it. The sheer amount of programs you can put on it is incredible, and includes all the programs we use most such as Firefox, VLC media player, WinRar, Thunderbird, and a lot more.
Even better, the process of adding new applications is extremely intuitive and worked flawlessly for us. You click the Ceedo button, then “add programs,” and a webpage opens listing the apps you can download by category. You click download, and it downloads and begins installing.
You can download a wide-range of free utilities, apps and games to keep on the FreeAgent.
Once installed, it shows up under “All Programs,” and Ceedo even puts a little shortcut to it on the bar so you can access them without clicking the Ceedo button. We think this software is fantastic, especially since it runs from the drive itself, so you can surf the net on a strange computer without worrying about leaving any incriminating evidence behind in the form of browser history or cookies.
The only downside is there’s an option to install programs you already have on your computer to the FreeAgent, but to do so you have to purchase a program named Argo, which cost $30 USD. Nothing like forking out money after the product is purchased.
We found that on our test unit the drive automatically put links to Microsoft Office in the Ceedo menu even though the applications were running from our hard drive, which is a cool feature.
Yes, we had one issue with the drive. When we went to the Ceedo website to get new programs we were informed that the version of Ceedo we had on our drive was too old, and that we needed a newer version.
The version of Ceedo that shipped with the drive was too old to be compatible with many of the available add-on programs.
We checked the “automatically download” updates button in the Seagate tools, but it wouldn’t update. We used Google to find a discussion about this on Ceedo’s forum, where Ceedo says it’s up to Seagate to push the newer version of the software onto its servers, and Ceedo has no control over that. The workaround is to download the software from Ceedo, which we did, but then that removes all the Seagate branding and changes the color of the Ceedo bar from Black to blue.
In order to update Ceedo we had to download it from Ceedo since Seagate hadn’t released the updated software. The update removed all Seagate branding from the software.
We like the FreeAgent Go a lot; it totally fulfills its promise of being a mobile central repository for all of your files, folders, bookmarks, and so forth. The Ceedo software is brilliant and has everything you could want including mail programs, image viewers, IM clients and more – lots more. The syncing utility has some issues though, as it mindlessly syncs folders and will restore files you deleted, even if you wanted to delete them. We also didn’t like that we couldn’t download several apps because the version of Ceedo that shipped with the drive was outdated. The updating process needs to be simplified, plain and simple. Quibbles aside, the FreeAgent Pro is a great portable office that has an amazing five-year warranty and looks cool to boot.
• Neat software
• Decent capacity
• File syncing needs more options
• Ceedo software is outdated