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We know where you can stick it . . . your data, we mean. A hard drive just isn't enough anymore. You need to back up your data, transfer files and store information. The best solution is usually a removable storage drive-you can't beat the portability and convenience. It's just a matter of which kind.
The three options we investigated are SuperDisk, CD-RW and Orb. We've been using a $130 parallel port external SuperDisk drive (www.superdisk.com) from Imation Corp. (www.imation.com) for some time now with no complaints. Each SuperDisk holds 120MB of information and looks reassuringly like a regular floppy. Think of it as retro computer fashion with updated, chic technology.
The SuperDisk drive also reads regular floppy disks, so it's a good choice as a floppy-drive replacement. Just remember that SuperDisks can't be read by regular floppy drives.
While 120MB doesn't sound like much compared to the 2.2GB Orb we look at later, the media is convenient, and SuperDisks sell for about $10 apiece. The drives themselves are relatively inexpensive as well. A cross-platform Imation external USB version is available for $149.
A CD-RW drive gives you access to one of the most widely used forms of computer media: the CD-ROM. Each CD-R or CD-RW disk holds 650MB of data, putting it between SuperDisk and Orb in the capacity category.
We decided to try out the fastest CD-RW we could get our hands on, the $329 Plextor (www.plextor.com) PlexWriter 12/10/32-Internal EIDE. That name translates to 12x write, 10x rewrite and 32x read speeds. Vrooom.
We rolled up our sleeves and prepared for desktop surgery. All told, just 27 minutes passed from the moment we opened the box until we had all the computer cables plugged back in. The instructions were easy to follow as we removed our old CD-ROM drive and replaced it with the Plextor. If opening up your computer makes you nervous, you can hire someone to do it for you or purchase an external CD-RW drive that doesn't require a screwdriver.
After start-up, it took just a few minutes to install Adaptec Easy CD Creator, Adaptec Direct CD and the Plextor Manager 2000 software. We satisfied our every burnin' desire. It helps to have disks that are rated for the high burn speeds to cut down on errors. We didn't have any trouble zooming through writing the included CD-R and CD-RW disks. The PlexWriter can also burn at 1x, 4x and 8x.
Everybody knows what a Zip disk looks like, but you may not be as familiar with an Orb. We got our grubby hands on a Castlewood Systems (www.castlewood.com) 2.2GB Orb USB drive. Duded up in the inescapable iMac translucent blue, the Orb drive is pretty slick-looking, and it's also cross-compatible with PCs and Macs. The disks resemble Zip disks and come at a street price of $30 a pop. We installed it on a PC-and it took a blazing 15 minutes, from opening the packaging to restarting the computer after software installation.
The $200 Orb USB drive is actually a SCSI drive with a convenient USB adapter cable included. It's nice to have the SCSI option if you want it. We went for the no-hassle USB approach and found exactly that: no hassles. Each Orb disk holds 2.2GB of data. We backed up everything one writer had written in the past year and still had 1.98GB left.
The one major drawback to the Orb is that your friends and other co-workers probably don't have one. You can't take your Orb disk to an office across town and expect to find a drive there that can read it. But the capacity and cost are ideal for regular back-up and storage chores. We won't say it makes backing up fun, but whatever you want to tell yourself is fine with us.