Executive Summary: The Toshiba 320GB USB 2.0 Portable 2.5" External Hard Drive has some deficiencies as a backup device, including its marginally adequate NTI Shadow software and its slow write speeds. However, you might find the Toshiba 320GB USB 2.0 Portable 2.5" External Hard Drive useful as a USB storage device or a Windows Home Server (WHS) backup solution.

If you’re an administrator of a small IT shop, you’re probably well aware of the advantages of portable, external USB hard drives. Large enterprises can also benefit from such drives—for example, by using them to transport virtual machines (VMs) from network to network. Whether your business is small or large, you should check out Toshiba’s 320GB USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive.

Putting It to the Test
At 3.2” × 0.65” × 5”, weighing just 5.4 ounces, the Toshiba 320GB hard drive struck me as a neat little gadget a bit larger— although lighter—than a BlackBerry. The device has no buttons, removable panels, or visible screws, and the only output is the tiny USB port on top. The hard drive’s build quality and internal shock sensor give you confidence in its ability to keep your data safe.

Toshiba 320GB USB 2.0 Portable 2.5" External Hard Drive

PROS: Large capacity in exceedingly small, lightweight form factor gives this drive huge potential in many business scenarios; a bargain considering its storage capacity

CONS: Included NTI Shadow software is merely adequate; relatively slow write speeds; no FireWire port

RATING: 3½ out of 5

PRICE: $179

RECOMMENDATION: Recommended for both small and large businesses—although for separate purposes—despite a couple reservations.

CONTACT: Toshiba • 800-316-0920 • www.toshiba.com

According to the information card included with the hard drive, the device is compatible with Windows Vista, Windows XP, and Mac OS 10.3.9 and later. To test the Toshiba hard drive, I used the included footlong USB 2.0 cable to connect the drive to my computer. Immediately, the drive opened the preloaded NTI Shadow backup software, simultaneously with a Creating Your First Backup PDF guide that offered easy-to-follow steps for accomplishing manual and automatic scheduled backups to the drive.

If backup is your goal with the Toshiba drive, the NTI Shadow software is merely adequate. Although my test backup proceeded fairly smoothly (a tiny blue LED at the unit’s upper right corner flickers during data transfer), the software provides only very basic functionality. In addition, I received strange individual backup failures of certain files during my tests. For example, at one point, NTI Shadow’s backup-completion notice indicated that the target 320GB drive didn’t have sufficient space to back up a small video file (although the drive actually had 280GB of remaining space). I also found the backup process to be somewhat sluggish. The slow write speeds left me wishing that the 5400rpm drive included a FireWire port.

For IT use, you might find yourself deleting NTI Shadow and either replacing it with another backup solution of your choice or using the drive for a completely different purpose. As a monstrous USB storage device, the Toshiba hard drive is absolutely top-notch and lends itself to many business purposes—cheap backup scenarios, convenient storage, VM migration, you name it. The short USB cable seems tailor-made for laptop users who need to drag and drop large chunks of data and get going. In situations in which a 1GB USB stick just doesn’t cut it, Toshiba’s 320GB external hard drive is nice to have.

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