The ioSafe Solo external USB drives, which are available in 500GB, 1TB, 1.5TB and 2TB models, are touted by ioSafe as being ‘fireproof and waterproof’. While it is beyond the scope of this review to test those claims, some have and their reviews (see ‘horror stories’) will be linked to at the end of this article. In the article that follows I will give my impression of the new 500GB Solo USB drive ioSafe provided for the review.*
Receiving the Drive
The drive was shipped from California to my home here in New Brunswick Canada. It arrived well packed in foam, the drive and the accompanying materials in a plastic sleeve.
Figure 1: Fresh out of the box!
I unpacked the drive and examined all the contents, which were, aside from the drive itself, the USB cable, the AC power module, a user’s guide and an ‘attention notice’ regarding the fine white powder that may be found on the outside of the drive. (It is a harmless, non-toxic dust the fireproof insulation gives off in shipping. It can seen in Figure 4 below. It is easily removed with a damp cloth.)
I titled this review “Big Metal Backup Drive” because this impressive bit of kit made me think back to the ‘old days’ of computing when it took rooms to house the most basic of computers and their storage needs. One was said to work with the ‘big metal’ then. The ioSafe is one sturdy unit, weighing 15lbs (6.8kg), of steel alloy construction and about the size of my kitchen toaster:
Figure 2: You want toast with that?
Right away, you are thinking that if this drive is not indestructible, then nothing is! Let’s plug this baby in!
Lock & Load!
On the back of the Solo are connections for the AC plug, USB cable, an on/off toggle switch and a brass(?) plate with the unit’s serial number on it as well as a cooling vent.
ioSafe also provides a small card with the unit’s P/N and S/N printed on it.
There is also a bolt plate that extends out from the base so that the Solo can be bolted and/or locked down:
Figure 3: Batten down the hatches! Source: ioSafe
The Solo already comes formatted with the NTFS file system (the default FS for XP, Vista and Windows 7), so it is ready to go. There is no proprietary backup software included, so you can use any program capable of backing up to an external drive. My personal favourites are Acronis True Image 2010 and the free SyncToy v2.0 from Microsoft. See “What is Your Backup Strategy?” and “Microsoft SyncToy v2.0″ here at WindowsTalk.
So, I cleared a space on my desk and placed it beside my Vantec external drive which I have been using for a few years now to store my data and backup images of Windows.
Figure 4: Move over Rover!
On starting the ioSafe (flipping the switch on the rear of the unit), you hear a very faint noise which is the internal fan starting up. This is patented technology called ‘FloSafe’ active air cooling. The waterproofing is also patented as ‘HydroSafe’ water barrier technology.
The Solo is very quiet, even when transferring hundreds of files (all that insulation!).
ioSafe has put a light source on the front of the unit so you know when it is working. Otherwise, will not even know it is there and working, especially so if you have it under your desk (you can’t miss it if it is on top of your desk).
You may also get this pop up (I am using Windows 7 Professional):
Figure 5 Ready to set sail, Captain!
Aside from telling me that the Solo is ready to be used by Windows, I see that the drive secured deep inside is a Hitachi as well as the Hitachi product number.
So I began by creating a system image of my C: and D: drive using Acronis true Image 2010, then I used SyncToy v2.0 copy all of documents, pictures and music files to a separate folder on the Solo. This is basically the same setup I was using on my Vantec drive. It works for me, is easy to run and still allows me access to files without opening (mounting) one of the images created by Acronis True Image 2010 to extract a file. Best of both worlds, I think.
All of the files transferred quietly and quickly, the max transfer rate according to the user’s guide is 480Mbps with a USB 2.0 connection.
The unit stays very cool, even after being left on all day. It is not warm to the touch, even.
Recommended! As I have mentioned above, this is one impressive drive, especially when considering the construction and technology inherent in this unit. The price too is quite fair, more than what you would pay for a so-called unprotected drive, but if your data is valuable to you as a home or small business user, then the Solo is for you. It would be an especially good investment for those living in hurricane/flood/fire areas of the world. The ioSafe Solo is rated to protect data in fires (up to 1550° F for 1/2 hour per ASTM E119) and from water damage (up to 10′ submersion, 72 hours in salt water or fresh water). ioSafe also provides a Data Recovery Service for its drives, and you can read more about it here.
External Drive Horror Stories
OK, I promised some links to those that tried to abuse the ioSafe drives to see if their claims were valid:
- Gear Diary did the ultimate stress test – they had the local fire department incinerate it in a car prior to dousing the flames with a hose:
- Macworld hit it with a fire cannon: http://www.macworld.com/article/142801/2009/09/iosafe_solo.html
- TestFreaks chucked it in a stream: http://www.testfreaks.com/blog/review/iosafe-solo-500gb-rugged-usb-external-hard-drive/
- Gadgeteer heated it up and then fried eggs on it: http://the-gadgeteer.com/2009/09/01/iosafe-solo-usb-hard-drive-with-disaster-protection-review/
(*full disclaimer: ioSafe provided a 500GB Solo drive for the purposes of this review in addition to running a small advertisement here at WindowsTalk. I had heard so many good things about this drive from a trusted associate that I agreed to run the banner ad before I had written the review, but not before I had tested the drive.)