Cleverly, the software required for installation is pre-installed on the drive itself, making the process very automatic, though only suitable for Windows users. While we found that the drive was recognised by Linux and other systems, there was no extensive testing done and none of the supplied software would work for a system other than Windows.
Installation under Windows XP is a breeze, with the system automatically recognising the drive and installing the required software from the drive itself. You simply plug the provided USB cable into the drive and your computer, with an additional USB connector available if you need to draw more power from the system.
After a quick restart, operation is simple, with the option of either just treating the drive as a regular external unit, where you can transfer files through any of the usual drag-and-drop Windows methods, or you can use the Maxtor software for organised backups. As the name suggests, the drive still has the single-button backup switch on the front of the unit, which gives you easy access to backing up files. The installed software allows you to setup regular backup times for each day, and to specify which files or folders are to be backed up.
Other functions include Restore (recovery after some kind of system failure or crash), Sync (automatic synchronisation of the same files between two or more computer systems sharing the backups), and Rollback (restoring your system to a previously safe version, while retaining application files). Each choice has several clear options that are easy to setup, allowing you to use as many or as few of the features as you need. The system also comes with two different kinds of encryption -- a software based tool that restricts data access to authorised users, and Maxtor's special DriveLock firmware that restricts improper access to the drive, even if the internal hard drive itself was removed and attached to another computer.
In testing, the drive worked at various speeds, depending on the file types and sizes in question. Transferring a 350MB AVI video file from a local hard disk to the OneTouch Mini took about 12 seconds, indicating a speed of 29MB/s, close to the rated speed of 33MB/s. A large 487MB folder of MP3s from emusic.com took about 22 seconds to transfer between the same two drives, indicating a slower speed of about 22MB/s, but this was to be expected with dozens of smaller files.
The drive comes with a one year warranty, and online support can be found at the Maxtor Web site. The Maxtor OneTouch III Mini is a quality drive that is easy to operate, and an excellent tool for data storage and backup no matter what kind of user you are.