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ClickFree C2N leaves no excuse for not backing up

ClickFree unveils a new way to back up your network's computers that's flexible and completely effortless.

The ClickFree C2N is just a bus-powered USB external hard drive with a great software solution built-in. Dong Ngo/CNET

LAS VEGAS--If you're looking for an effortless way to back up your computer, yet aren't happy with the HP SimpleSave for some reason, an alternative was announced at CES 2010.

The ClickFree C2N from ClickFree, which is the original developer of the backup mechanism that HP implemented in the SimpleSave, can do everything the SimpleSave does but better, plus it works with networked computers, too.

The ClickFree works similarly to the HP SimpleSave on a single computer. All you need to do is connect it to a computer using a USB port via the device's single USB cable. The hard drive is bus-powered and the first time you plug it into a computer, you will be greeted with an End User License Agreement that you will need to click "OK" on to agree before continuing. And most of the time, that's the only click you need to make for that computer.

The included software that resides on the hard drive will launch automatically after that click (and every subsequent time) to take care of backing up all the important data based on preselected categories that include photos, documents, music, e-mail archives, and so on. The majority of users will just need to use the default settings and get their data protected. Savvy users, however, can further customize the software to better suit their backup needs.

In addition, ClickFree C2N also features a major advancement called BackupLink technology that allows for backing up other networked computers. To make this happen, you just need to connect the ClickFree USB drive to all the networked computers that need backing up. After the first time plugging in (and agreeing with the EULA), the software on the device will remember that computer via a unique hardware signature and will automatically look for it each time it is plugged in any of the networked computers.

The result: now you can back up all the computers in the network without doing anything more than connecting the ClickFree C2N to one of them and waiting for the backup process to finish.

I tried out the ClickFree C2N at a demo and was very impressed. The solution doesn't install any software, which is very nice, as backup software generally slows down your computer. All software resides on the ClickFree C2N itself. If you want, however, you can choose to install the Backup Assistant application that helps with scheduling the backup jobs and shows the progress of a backup.

As convenient as it is, the C2N has a major shortcoming: the capacity of the external hard drive, which is the same as that of a 25-inch laptop hard drive and currently caps at only 640GB. ClickFree also unveiled at CES the Transformer Network Edition Adapter with BackupLink technology.

The Transformer, which is as tiny as a USB extender, adds the same backup functionality as the ClickFree C2N to any USB external storage device that connects to a computer through it. Now you can have a great backup solution with an almost unlimited amount of storage.

The ClickFree C2N and Transformer Network Edition work with Windows PCs and Intel Macs running OS 10.5 or later. They will be available in February at ClickFree's Web site. The price of the C2N ranges from $160 for the 250GB version to $220 for the 640GB version. The Transformer Network Edition will cost $100 without any storage.