Pros: Network storage is nice if you can get it setup
Cons: Too much trouble to configure, included software not Windows 8 compatible
The Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Home is an external hard drive meant to plug directly into your router (or wireless router) so that it can be shared on your network. It also offers the option of connecting a printer via USB so that it can be shared. While these sound like neat features, they don’t work as well as intended and end up being more trouble than it’s worth. Plus, you can potentially get better performance using a regular USB based drive, which this thing doesn’t even support. The included software is not compatible with Windows 8, either.
These drives are available in either 2TB or 3TB capacity, and this is a review of the 3TB model, which is roughly 3,000 gigabytes. The price difference between the two models is usually around $30-40.
Installation of this drive is pretty weird. First, it uses a proprietary docking base that the drive snaps into, then you connect the power source. It only allows connections via the included Ethernet cable, so you can’t even connect it via USB. You’re supposed to plug it directly into an open port on your wireless router. It will automatically detect your network and pull an IP address. You then install the included software to configure it, or pull open your browser and go to goflex_home to set it up.
I set this drive up on two different laptops – one with Windows 7 32-bit Pro and the other with Windows 8 64-bit. The software gave some kind of error during installation on the Win7 PC, but still completed and seemed to work. It would not work at all on the Win8 computer, even when trying compatibility mode. I was moving the data from the older Win7 laptop to the newer Win8 in order to retire the older machine, which had previously been upgraded from Vista and was on its last leg.
On the Windows 8 laptop, the GoFlex drive would show up under Computer, but double clicking it would pull up a web GUI via Internet Explorer rather than just opening up like a normal drive. Through this web GUI I tried to set up some custom shared folders but they would not even appear when I tried to map a drive letter to the assigned IP address of the drive. I finally just gave up and used what was pre-configured by Seagate. The web interface also forces you to assign a username and password to the drive, rather than just leaving it open.
In their efforts to try and dumb down the process of setting up a NAS (network attached storage), Seagate made it too much trouble to use. Furthermore, enabling File History (the new version of Backup in Windows 8) would not even recognize this drive as a valid backup destination. That’s why I had to map a network drive. Even then I was getting validation errors when trying to create new folders in some places even though I was authenticated with the account I was forced to create during the setup.
Now you should know that I have a Microsoft certification in Windows 8 Configuring. In fact, I just passed the 70-687 exam in March. Couple that with nearly 15 years of experience working in IT, and you’d think I would have breezed through this. If I had this much trouble setting up this damn thing, I would hate to see some novice user try to make it work. Even since my encounter with this drive, I’ve actually warned by IT co-workers about it.
Another thing to consider is that a great many wireless routers are only 10/100, which will greatly reduce the bandwidth used to transfer files to and from this drive. If your router supports a gigabit connection, then you’ll definitely see faster read/write speeds. Otherwise, you’re stuck dealing with slower transfers or you can go buy a new wireless router. Mine is a Netgear N300, which is a mid-level wireless router for home use, and it’s a 10/100. Be sure to look up the exact make and model of your own router.
At the end of the day, you’d do much better just getting a regular USB 3.0 connected external hard drive and sharing it on a network. The overly cumbersome file structure system of this GoFlex Home makes it more hassle than it ought to be. If you have all Windows 7 systems and are able to use the included software, then maybe it’ll work better for you. Otherwise, it’s just not worth the trouble.