Like Goldilocks's bears, external hard drives generally come in three sizes: the supercapacious, pro-oriented drive; the average-user desktop drive; and the tiny portable drive. While Maxtor's product lines have been full of the first and second types, they've been lacking in the third category, until now. The newest member of the OneTouch III family is the OneTouch III Mini Edition, a compact and lightweight portable hard drive for users on the go. This USB 2.0 drive is small only in footprint, though; it boasts fast performance, large capacity (60GB or 100GB), and backup and encryption software. The 100GB size is among the largest capacity we've seen for portable hard drives, though Iomega does have a 120GB Silver Edition portable drive. Pricing for the Maxtor OneTouch III Mini Edition is on a par with the Western Digital Passport, but the included backup and encryption software for the former makes it our choice of the two.
The Maxtor OneTouch III Mini Edition isn't the smallest portable hard drive we've seen; both the Apricorn EZ Mini and the Transcend StoreJet are smaller (and include carrying cases, to boot). Still, it's no behemoth. It weighs less than 8 ounces and is about the size of two decks of cards, side by side--definitely small enough to slip into a purse or a laptop bag.
The drive's body is silver-colored plastic and the black side pieces are slightly rubbery, reminiscent of the rest of the OneTouch III family. A single button graces the front edge of the drive and the back features only a mini USB port and a power port. The drive is bus-powered, but some laptop USB hubs may not provide enough power. For this reason, Maxtor ships the drive with a Y-shaped USB cable. Most users will need to plug in only the single data and power connector, but those who need more power for the drive can plug in the second connector as well. (If both ports fail to provide enough power, Maxtor sells an optional power supply.)
Installing the drive and the included software is a snap. Instead of shipping a CD with the drive, Maxtor loads the software onto the drive itself. Simply plug the OneTouch III Mini Edition drive into your PC, and the software installation window will open automatically. Click through the setup wizard, reboot your PC, and you're done. The whole routine takes just a couple of minutes. Maxtor's OneTouch Manager interface lets you manage various components of your drive, including scheduled backup, security, system rollback, and restore (all using Maxtor's software). The interface is clean, intuitive, and easy to use, with six clearly labeled buttons: Home, Settings, Backup, Restore, Sync, and Rollback. All of the utilities are clearly illustrated and simple to use, but should you need more help, clicking the Maxtor help button in the Manager takes you directly to Maxtor's support Web site.