In Pictures: New Looks in Portable Hard Drives

These spacious new hard drives can come in colorful cases and may include extras like one-touch backup buttons, built-in cables, and sophisticated software.

Small, Easy to Use, and With a Wealth of Extras

There's an abundance of new small hard drives on the market this season, many refusing to dress in basic black. But these beauties aren't just good-looking--many of them sport solid software features as well.

Customize Your Color with Memorex

Fall foliage hot spots aren't the only place you can find color: Portable hard drives are now splashed with vibrant hues, too. Memorex's Ultra TravelDrives come in gray but offer swappable, snap-on faceplates so you can customize the drive. Each model comes in two different colors. The $100 80GB drive has Desert Orange and Arctic White faceplates; the $120 120GB drive comes in Ocean Blue and Onyx Black; and the $150 160GB drive comes in Sagebrush Green and Arctic White. The Ultra TravelDrive also has a button for initiating backups via the bundled ArcSoft TotalMedia Backup software. The drive's sloping design is curved to fit in the cradle of your hand, while rubberized grips along the sides keep the drive securely in place.

Maxtor's One-Button Backup on a Small Drive

Maxtor originated the button-based backup trend with its OneTouch line. Now, the Seagate Maxtor OneTouch 4 Mini continues to feature a button on the front in the 80GB, 120GB, and 160GB capacities (selling for $100, $100, and $140, respectively). The drive features a brushed-aluminum top surface, like its predecessor; but now the bottom is made of a rubberized, nonslip surface on the bottom, and the sides have reinforced plastic around the edges. The mini-USB connector is on the left side, near the front--a potentially inconvenient location if you want to keep the drive's backup button at the front. The button can be programmed to initiate file synchronization or file backup using the included Maxtor Manager software. Maxtor Manager is Windows and Mac compatible.

Color Is Clue to Capacity for SimpleTech Drives

Each of the four colors of SimpleTech's SimpleDrive Portable Hard Drives represents a different capacity: 80GB for the $100 blue drive, 120GB for the $120 black drive, 160GB for the $140 red drive, and 250GB for the $200 gray drive. Italian design firm Pininfarina designed the stylish USB 2.0 drives. In the center of each is a one-click backup button (the drive comes with ArcSoft TotalMedia Backup software). The ring around that button serves as a capacity meter. These drives also come with 2GB of free online storage via the SimpleTech parent company's Web site.

Western Digital's Slim Passport

Western Digital also gets in on the colors game, moving beyond its signature piano black Passport Portable USB Hard Drive to add several varietals: bright green (120GB, $120), metallic red (160GB, $140, pictured here), and glossy white (250GB, $250). The black model comes in those capacities as well as in 60GB ($80) and 80GB ($100); where they overlap, the color models cost the same as the black, but are sold only via Western Digital's Web site or Best Buy. The Passport drive is slim, with a small status light indicator on the side. The drive comes with utilities, including WD Sync synchronization software with 128-bit AES encryption and Google's Toolbar, Desktop, and Picasa software; the utilities are stored on the drive itself.

End Cable Clutter With Buffalo's MiniStation

The Buffalo MiniStation TurboUSB Portable Hard Drive has a unique design. The detachable USB cable is designed to wrap around the drive's outer rim; the USB connector stays in place via a groove at the top. The lightweight drive has a shock-resistant design, according to Buffalo: Inside its plastic case, the drive floats in a way that absorbs shock and mitigates vibration. The drive includes Memeo's convenient real-time AutoBackup and Buffalo's SecureLockWare file- and drive-level AES 256-bit encryption software; both programs work only on Windows PCs. The drive comes in 80GB, 120GB, 160GB, and 250GB capacities (prices range from $100 to $180); a 300GB model has been announced, but is not yet shipping.

Toshiba's Basic Black Drive May Be Hard to Shock

Toshiba's USB 2.0 Portable External Hard Drive may not carry an original-sounding name, but its black, gracefully rounded design is distinctive nonetheless. The 1-pound, 1-ounce drive has a nice heft and a more solid feel than many other portables. Ventilation ports at back, coupled with the aluminum chassis, help dissipate heat. The drive itself is mounted inside the chassis using Toshiba's patent-pending six-point suspension system that's designed to dampen an impact; Toshiba rates the drive as able to withstand a drop from a desk-height surface. The drive includes NTI's Shadow software for real-time file backup and comes in 100GB, 120GB, 160GB, and 200GB flavors (priced from $100 to $170).

An Iomega eGo With FireWire and USB 2.0

Typically, portable hard drives have just a single interface--USB 2.0. Iomega goes against the grain with its eGo Portable Hard Drive (shown at top). First available as USB 2.0 only, the red 250GB eGo drive will soon ship with both USB 2.0 and FireWire 400 ports, and will come with cables for each. You can also buy the drives in your choice of red, dark blue, silver, or black (coming soon) in 160GB capacities with USB 2.0 only. The metallic sheen adds to the curvaceous drives' high style. Iomega says its patent-pending DropGuard foam protection fortifies the drives against impacts. Rather than include a software disc or pre-install software on the drive, Iomega simply includes a license for EMC Retrospect HD software (available as a download for PCs). Iomega also offers the boxy, single-interface Iomega Portable Hard Drive (shown at bottom). The silver USB 2.0 drive ships in 200GB and 250GB versions, as well as 100GB, 120GB, and 160GB.

LaCie Drives Pop Their Tops

For 15 years, LaCie has partnered with boutique designers to achieve unique and distinguished looks for hard drives. The company's latest portable hard drive is no exception--the clean, minimalist Little Disk line of drives comes from UK-based industrial designer Sam Hecht. One of the drive's end caps pops off to reveal its built-in, retractable USB cable, external power port, and two FireWire 400 ports (on the Combo model only); a programmable button can launch any application. The models include the 2.5-inch Little Disk and the 2.5-inch Little Disk Combo (shown here). The 80GB comes with an integrated USB-only cable, while the 120GB, 160GB, and 250GB models come with either USB only or both USB and FireWire. (Prices range from $80 to $230.) The Little Disk includes LaCieSync software for file and personal settings synchronization and encryption on Windows PCs, and LaCie backup software for use with Windows and Mac systems.

Cable Control With Apricorn's Aegis Vault

Integrated cables are catching on: Apricorn's Aegis Vault, shipping soon, also has a built-in USB cable that runs the length of the drive. The cable neatly snaps into the chassis for storage and easy portability; the cable is fairly short, so you may need to use the included USB extension cable, depending upon your system's physical setup. Unlike the competition's software-based encryption, the Aegis Vault offers real-time AES 128-bit hardware encryption. Using the included software, you can create password-protected encrypted partitions, as well as unencrypted public partitions. Apricorn says its unique 16-point omni-directional shock mounting system protects against impacts. The drives come in 80GB, 120GB, 160GB, and 250GB capacities, ranging in price from $139 to $269.

Seagate's Svelte FreeAgent Go

The streamlined Seagate FreeAgent Go is available in 80GB, 120GB, and 160GB capacities ($100-$150). The drive comes with a customized version of Ceedo's Personal Edition virtualization software, which lets you take applications, data, and system settings with you from one PC to another; when you unplug the device, the software wipes out all traces of your presence. In addition to the convenient Ceedo utility, the FreeAgent Go comes with Seagate's FreeAgent Tools, which includes folder synchronization, file encryption, and drive diagnostic utilities. The drive's orange accents light up to show activity and drive status.

Pro Laptop Backup With CMS's ABSplus

Backing up your data can be a chore, which is why automation helps. CMS Products has tied its slim ABSplus Backup System for Notebooks to its preloaded BounceBack Professional backup software. Plug the USB 2.0 drive in, and the ABSplus initiates a full backup on the drive; the drive becomes bootable, convenient in the event of a catastrophic failure. You'll be paying a bit more for this integrated solution--the drive comes in 80GB, 120GB, 160GB, and 250GB flavors, with prices spanning $207 to $329.

Hitachi's Value Drive

The Hitachi Portable USB Storage drive, sold via Best Buy, sets its sights squarely on users who need high capacity. Physically, the compact drive is nondescript. However, what the drive lacks in aesthetic attributes it makes up for in value. The drive comes in 250GB, 200GB, and 160GB capacities, and carries bargain pricing--$180, $170, and $120, respectively (knock more bucks off if you catch the drive on sale). ArcSoft's TotalMedia Backup software comes pre-installed on the drive; the software works with PCs and Macs.