CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.
Announced at CES 2010, the Clickfree C2N is the upgrade to the Clickfree Portable Backup Drive with an added function that supports network computers. That said, apart from making backing up a local computer a no-brainer, the device now backs up other networked computers without requiring a direct USB connection. While the Clickfree C2N lacks support for the much-faster USB 3.0 standard and doesn't offer system image backup, it makes up for it by offering a very fast USB 2.0 connection performance.
At street prices of around $120, $130, and $150 for the 250GB, 320GB, and 500GB versions, respectively, the Clickfree C2N is an easy recommendation for any home user who wants to back up their computers without having to get very involved in the process.
Out of the box, the Clickfree C2N drive is good-looking and compact, measuring just 4.52 inches by 2.9 inches by 0.67 inch and weighing a mere 0.38 pound.
The Clickfree C2N has a docking station that features an attached Y-shaped USB cable with two USB connectors on it. Since the drive is bus-powered and draws power from the USB port, a second connector is needed in case a single USB port doesn't provide enough juice to power the hard drive. Together with the docking station, the Clickfree C2N looks good on a desk.
The C2N drive doesn't, however, require the docking station to work. In addition to the mini-USB port on its bottom that connects to the docking station or any other mini-USB cable, the drive has another short, built-in USB cable that can be completely tucked away in a groove on its back. We tried the drive with many computers, and all of them can power the drive via a single USB port.
The Clickfree C2N is preconfigured with two partitions. One is formatted using the NTFS file system to store data, and the other is a read-only CD-ROM emulated partition that contains the ClickFree Backup software. You can do whatever you want with the first partition, including reformatting it to support Mac OS, but you can't make changes to the second one.
There's really nothing to setting up the device. The first time you plug it into a PC computer, the Clickfree Backup software will prompt you to launch it. For security reasons, you'll need to allow it to run. Once launched, you'll be greeted with a 30-second countdown before the software begins the first backup with its default settings. You can skip this countdown by clicking on "Start" or "Options" to further customize the way the software performs the backing up. Subsequent launches will give you the option to perform a restoration or view the backups that have been made.
We tried the Clickfree Backup software with Windows-based computers, but the software also works similarly with Intel-based Macs as long as they run OS 10.5 or later.
The Clickfree Backup software enables a lot of customization. By default, it categorizes data into 10 groups such as Text Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Photos, Music and so on. The software also allows for filtering within each group. For example, you can exclude all JPEG files in the group "Photos," or exclude all Excel files in the group "Spreadsheets." Also, you can also create a customized group with different file extensions of your liking.
The software also allows you to pick folders within the computer's hard drive to back up. When a folder is picked, the software will back up every file stored in that folder, regardless of which groups of data to which they belong.
Unfortunately, while it's highly customizable, the Clickfree Backup software doesn't allow you to create an image of the hard drive in case you want to restore the entire system.
For network computers, you'll need to plug the Clickfree C2N into each of them and allow the Backup software to launch the first time, as mentioned earlier. This process will also install a utility called "Backup Link" that runs in the background. After that, Clickfree C2N can detect and perform backups of all computers within the network that have the Backup Link utility running. This can be done from any networked computer, as though it were plugged into each of them directly.
We found this a very effective yet simple way to manage backups for the entire network. Note however that you can only customize the backup settings of a computer when the Clickfree C2N is connected to it. While we generally don't like having software running in the background, the Backup Link utility seems to use very little system recourses, even when a backup is being created.
Apart from the regular backup functions, the Clickfree Backup Software also offers a few nifty features, such as DVD Backup and Import Music. The DVD Backup, as you might imagine from the name, helps you back up important files on to a DVD similar to how you would back them up to the C2N drive. The Import Music feature supposedly allows you to copy music and playlist from an iPod or iPhone to the computer to which the C2N is connected. Unfortunately, in our trials this feature didn't work; it failed to recognize the connected iPhone 3GS.
While much slower than external hard drives using the new USB 3.0 connection, the Clickfree C2N topped our chart of drives using USB 2.0, including those that support USB 3.0.
In the write test the drive scored 28.2MBps, faster than the 26.1MBps of the Western Digital My Book 3.0. In the read test, the Clickfree C2N performed even better, with 40.1MBps.
Service and support
The Clickfree Web site indicates that the C2N comes with a three-year warranty. However, it seems you need to keep everything that comes with the drive and the proof of purchase in order to qualify. You could also be charged up to $75 (more than half the price of the drive) if you send back a defective product without complete original packing materials. Overall, though the length of the warranty is longer than many other storage products, including the original Clickfree Backup drive, it seems to us that you might be better off not using it all should something happen to your C2N.