There's no shame in admitting you've lost important data. We've all had pictures, music and documents disappear thanks to damaged hardware, malware and careless tech support specialists. However, it can only happen so many times before you need to begin shouldering some of the blame, especially when a backup solution as simple as is available.
Made by Richmond Hill, ON-based ClickFree, this wireless automatic backup drive can be set up by anyone with even a modicum of computer experience. Just plug the compact black box's pop-out USB connector into a wirelessly networked computer. You'll see a window appear on your screen with a timer counting down. Once the countdown hits zero, the drive will begin locating files of specific types - photos, videos, emails, spreadsheets, text documents, drawings, favourite websites, and more - and backing them up.
When this process is complete you are free to remove the drive. You can follow the same procedure with other computers on your network, both Mac and PC. Then just jack the drive into a power outlet and you're done. It will wirelessly back up files on each machine at regular intervals (daily at 3:00 a.m., unless you change it) without the need for you to do anything else.
When it comes time to restore these files, simply plug the drive back into the computer, click the restore button on the window that comes up, and select which PC you'd like to restore. All of your files will be placed back in their original locations.
It's almost sinfully simple.
That said, the click-free slogan is a bit misleading. Setup is so straightforward that it almost seems petty to call out the fact that I had to click my mouse a total of around 25 times while backing up three Windows PCs, but given the company's bold moniker - and what it might lead consumers to expect - a description of these clicks seems prudent.
Backup didn't begin automatically on two of my computers. I plugged the drive in and nothing happened, save the appearance of a window showing that a new storage device had been attached. The problem was easily resolved by following the troubleshooting instructions found in the quick start insert that comes in the box. All I had to do was click on the drive to begin exploring its files, then double-click one called FixMyClickFreeBackUp. A message appeared that said a problem had been found and fixed. I unplugged the drive, restarted my computer, plugged it back in, and the ClickFree backup program launched automatically. That took a total of five or six clicks on each computer.
I was also prompted to download the latest ClickFree firmware the first time I connected it to a PC, which took a few more clicks, and I had to close the windows that announced that initial backup had completed and that a connection had been established between the ClickFree drive and my router, which entailed a couple more.
So, technically, a few clicks are required. But the overall setup process was far simpler than any other multiple-PC backup solution I've ever tried. I can't imagine how it could possibly be more automated without involving magic.
But more advanced users needn't worry; they won't be chained to this automation. Click the "Do More" button while the backup timer counts down and you'll be taken to a menu where you can fiddle with the backup schedule, back up your files on DVD, manage file types that the drive backs up, and even backup songs and playlists residing on your iPhone or iPod. You can also view photos and play music stored on the drive from this menu.
The only issue keeping me from recommending ClickFree Wireless Backup to everyone is the device's limited capacity. Right now it only comes in one flavour: 500GB for $190 (though I found it on sale online at Staples for $149 while writing this review).
That's not nearly enough space for me to back up my family's complete library of digital photos, videos, music, and other files. A ClickFree rep told me that larger drives up to 3TB in size will arrive in the new year, but that doesn't do much good for consumers looking to back up larger amounts of data over the holidays.
However, if 500GB meets your needs, ClickFree's hassle-free Wireless Backup earns our enthusiastic endorsement. It might involve a few more clicks than its name suggests, but a handful of finger wiggles isn't a bad price to pay for peace of mind.