Review: Seagate GoFlex for Mac portable hard drive

I have been trying Seagate’s GoFlex for Mac portable drive, which packs 1TB of storage into a small, light, USB-powered package.

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The drive measures around 120x88x22mm – small enough to fit easily in a pocket or bag. Spin speed is 5400 RPM which is a little disappointing.

But what makes it a “Mac” drive? Mainly that it comes pre-formatted with Apple’s HFS + (Hierarchical File System Plus) file system, which is ideal for performance and reliability under OS X. A possible snag is that HFS+ is not readable from Windows by default, though Seagate has a solution, of which more in a moment.

It is worth noting that you can easily reformat the drive for Windows NTFS if you want.

There is a GoFlex app for the Mac which includes an information tab, a drive test, and the ability to disable the activity lights on the drive. I cannot imagine why you would want to do that.

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Seagate’s GoFlex series has a few extra tricks. The most distinctive is that the interface is removable, which means you are not restricted to the usual USB 2.0. This GoFlex for Mac drive come with two, one for USB 2.0 and the other for FireWire 800, which is substantially faster: up to 786Mbps vs 480 Mbps. USB 3.0 and eSATA interfaces are available separately.

Currently the MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac mini and Mac Pro have FireWire 800 ports. It does make sense to use the faster port when available, especially with a drive of this size, though I cannot help thinking it would have been even handier if Seagate had managed to build the two ports into the main case, rather than having them as clip-on extras.

Still, the fact that you can remove the interface enables another GoFlex trick, the ability to slot the drive into a Media Sharing Dock. I’ve reviewed this dock here; it is a handy device though I have some usability concerns. I tried this with the GoFlex Mac and it worked well, an advantage being that you can access the files over a network irrespective of whether your operating system understands HFS+. Trivial point: the GoFlex drive is silver whereas the dock is black, a slight visual mismatch.

But what if you want to direct-attach your GoFlex for Mac drive to a Windows machine? Seagate has done a deal with Paragon to bundle its HFS for Windows driver. This normally costs around $40.00. It works too; though installation was not quite seamless. The problem is that the drive has to be attached for the install to work, presumably to protect Paragon from unauthorised installs. But when you attach the drive, both Windows and the Seagate Manager for Windows (if installed) prompt you to format it.

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If you agree to format the drive, you will lose any files already on it, so I clicked Cancel. However, while installing the drive software I got this dialog *again* – I suppose the thing to do is to check “don’t show again”. Seagate should update its Windows manager software to be HFS-aware. Once I had the Paragon HFS+ driver installed, and restarted Windows, everything was fine.

I would guess though that most customers for this drive will be using it with Macs and will not run into this issue. It is nice to have a drive designed with the Apple Mac in mind, and with generous 1TB or 1.5TB capacity this is a solid product.

Disclosure: Kudos to Seagate for asking me to mention in my review that that the review sample does not have to be returned.

Related posts:

  1. Review: Seagate GoFlex portable hard drive
  2. Review: Seagate GoFlex media sharing dock – Pogoplug in disguise