The HP Portable Hard Drive is an upgrade to the HP SimpleSave drive that was announced a few years ago. The new drive offers up to 1TB of storage space and supports USB 3.0. It, too, comes with the SimpleSave backup software that makes backing up a no-brainer for anybody. It's not perfect, however, as the performance, though quite fast with USB 3.0, was slow compared with others we've reviewed. The backup software is also limited in terms of features. Still, for its street price of around $90, the 1TB HP Portable Hard Drive is definitely worth the peace of mind. You can also find the 750GB and 500GB versions of the drive for around $85 and $80 respectively.
|Drive type||2.5-inch external USB hard drive|
|Connector options||USB 3.0, USB 2.0|
|Available capacities||500GB, 750GB, 1TB|
|Capacity of test unit||1TB|
|Dimensions (LWH)||4.47 inches by 3.15 inches by 0.75 inch|
|OSes supported||Windows XP, Vista, 7|
|Software included||SimpleSave auto backup software|
|Service and support||2-year warranty|
Design and features
The HP Portable Hard Drive looks like a typical external hard drive that's based on a 2.5-inch internal hard drive. The drive is compact and comes with just one Mini-USB 3.0 port and one standard Mini-USB 3.0 cable. The drive is bus-powered, meaning the only cable works both as a power and data connection. It works with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports; for better performance, USB 3.0 is recommended.
On the bottom, the drive has four little rubber feet to make it stay put on any surface. And you do want to find a relatively long-term place for it on your desk, as the drive is designed to be plugged in all the time. This is because its built-in SimpleSave backup software, in our testing, didn't automatically run when the drive was plugged in but instead each time the computer stayed idle for 5 minutes. Before that we first had to manually start the software by opening the drive and double-clicking on the HP SimpleSave icon. (On the Clickfree backup drives, or even the HP SimpleSave drive, the software runs by itself each time the drive is connected to a USB port.) With the HP Portable Hard Drive, the idea is you plug it in, run the SimpleSave backup software, and leave it plugged in the whole time. While this works well, it would be better if the software would start by itself each time the drive is plugged in since it's a portable drive and those tend to be moved around. We hope this will be added via a software update.
Once started, the software automatically looks for user data, such as documents, photos, movies, and so on, and backs it up on the drive. By default the SimpleSave software searches the entire hard drive for data of all types, but you can customize where to search and what file types to back up by clicking on My Options. Those are the only options: for example, you can't choose to back up specific folders or schedule backups at certain times.
Since the SimpleSave backup software resides on the only partition of the drive, you'll lose it if you reformat the drive or accidentally delete it. It would be better if the software were put on a separate read-only partition.
Once a backup has been made, you can also use the SimpleSave software to performance a restoration. We found that it's better, however, to browse or search the drive for the backup copies of the files. All backups are saved within a folder called Backup Files on the portable drive.
The HP Portable Hard Drive is preformatted using NTFS to work with Windows, but it can be reformatted to work with Macs. If you do this you won't be able to use it with the SimpleSave backup software anymore, but that won't be a problem since it will work with Apple's Time Machine, which is a much more comprehensive backup program.
While the SimpleSave backup software worked well in our testing, the drive's throughput performance could use some improvement. We tested it with both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 and in both cases, it was among the slowest performers we've seen.
In tests with USB 3.0, the drive averaged 69.4MBps and 83.65MBps for writing and reading, respectively, being the second-slowest on the charts. For comparison, other USB portable drives we've reviewed performed about 25MBps and 35MBps faster in writing and reading, respectively.
In tests with USB 2.0, the drive scored 26MBps for writing and 32.99MBps for reading. These numbers were comparatively better than its USB 3.0 performance, but still really far behind the fastest we've seen.
All in all, though slower than its peers, the HP Portable Hard Drive is still fast enough for most backup jobs, especially since subsequent backups will only involve files that have been changed or added since the last job.
Service and support
HP backs the HP Portable Hard Drive with a two-year warranty, which is standard, although some other drives on the market are covered for three years or even five years. This is disappointing, as with external hard drives, the warranty is the most important factor when it comes to service and support.
The HP Portable Hard Drive is a very good, easy backup option for Windows users. Those who want more advanced backup features, however, should check out other alternatives.