Tag Archives: seagate

Review: Seagate Wireless Plus combines hard drive and wi-fi for storage on the go

Need more storage for your tablet or smartphone? If so, the Seagate Wireless Plus could be just the thing. In a nutshell, this is a 1TB USB 3.0 external drive with battery power and a wi-fi access point built in. Attach it to your PC or Mac and fill it with stuff: a zillion MP3s, or a pile of videos, or pictures, or boring business presentations, or whatever you need. On the road, you power up the drive, connect your mobile device to the built-in wi-fi, and play what you want – though note there are a few complications, of which more below.


In the box you get the drive, a USB mains adaptor, a USB port that attaches to the drive, a USB 3.0 cable, and a brief getting started manual.

To be clear, there is a protective cover on the end of the drive which pops off to reveal what looks like Seagate’s GoFlex port. Another piece plugs into this, converting it to a USB port. Slightly awkward, because you may well lose the protective cover and end up having the USB adaptor permanently attached.


Setup is a matter of charging the battery and then connecting your mobile device to the drive’s integrated wi-fi access point. By default this is an unencrypted open connection, and if you intend to travel with the unit I recommend setting a password, which converts it into a secure encrypted connection.

Next, you download the free Seagate media app for iOS or Android, at which point you can view the contents and playback media such as music and video. What if you have a mobile device other than iOS or Android? Hang on, all is not lost.

The inherent problem here is that connecting storage to a mobile device is not as simple as on a computer, where it just appears as another drive, especially on Apple’s iOS which does not directly expose a file system to the user. This is the reason for the Seagate Media app.

Second, the obvious problem with connecting to a dedicated wi-fi access point on the Seagate drive is that you will no longer be connected to any other wi-fi network and therefore may be disconnected from the internet, or forced to use your data connection.

Fortunately Seagate has a solution, called “concurrent mode”. You use Seagate’s app to connect your drive to a second wi-fi network, such as your home wi-fi, and then your internet connectivity is restored.

While this mostly works, it is an inconvenience, since if you are out and about you will need to do this for any new wi-fi connection point you want to use. Further, as soon as you turn the drive off (or the battery runs out) you will have to connect your mobile device separately. If you then later want to reconnect to the Seagate, you have to change the wi-fi settings on the mobile again, so it is a little bit of hassle.

I used the drive on both an iPad and an Android phone, and found the setup fairly straightforward, though the Android mysteriously needed restarting before it worked properly. Playing media from the drive via the app works fine for video, images and music.

If you have a device that is neither Apple nor Android, you can still use it by connecting the wifi on the device to the Seagate, and then browsing to a mini web server on the drive. The question is: where to point the browser? Help was not helpful on this point, suggesting a wirelessplus URL that did not work at all for me, but I noticed that the network was in the 172.25.0 range, took a stab at and found that it worked. Using a Nokia Windows Phone, for which there is no Seagate app, I could connect to the device, stay on the internet, and still easily play the media. Here is the browser view on Windows Phone:


You can also access settings from the browser and check status:


That said, as I connected various devices to the Seagate I found its behaviour increasingly unpredictable. On the iPad I got a mysterious message saying I was connecting through another device and should connect directly, even when I was connected directly as far as I could tell. Sometimes you lose internet connectivity and the second network connection needed to be kicked back into life through settings. You are meant to be able to have up to eight devices connected, with up to three streaming media simultaneously, but maybe this is optimistic.

The wi-fi complications are not Seagate’s fault, but inherent to providing additional storage for mobile devices, though I wonder if the firmware could be improved a bit.
Connecting the drive to a computer over USB disables the network connectivity but is otherwise straightforward. The drive is formatted with the Windows NTFS format, and a read-write NTFS driver is supplied for Mac users. Apparently you can also convert the drive to Mac HFS+ format though I did not try it. It uses a fast USB 3.0 connection when available, which is a big plus since it is much faster than USB 2.0.

There is some sync software for Windows supplied but I do not really see the point of it; personally I prefer simply to copy stuff across as needed.

According to the manual, the drive takes 3 hours to charge fully, and then has about 10 hours battery life streaming, or 25 hours standby, which is enough for most journeys. If you fancy using this on a flight, note that some airlines may not allow wi-fi to be enabled which would prevent use of the drive, other than via a laptop and USB.

Despite the fact that it is not hassle-free, I rate this drive highly based on its generous 1TB capacity and the fact that it also works fine as a standard USB 3.0 external drive, making all the mobile and battery-powered capability a nice bonus. If you need serious extra local storage for a tablet or smartphone, I cannot think of any better option.

That is the question though: do you need extra local storage for a mobile device? Internet-based storage like Dropbox, Skydrive or Google Music is more convenient, provided of course that you can connect. Most mobile devices come with built-in storage that is enough for a few videos or a fair amount of MP3 music.

There are certain scenarios where Wireless Plus will be useful, but I am not sure how common they are for most people.

Update: The Wireless Plus can also be used as a DLNA server and I have successfully used this feature both on the iPad (you can download a DNLA client from the app store; I used 8player Lite) and on Windows:


Can you use this then as a standalone music server? Yes, though it is a shame there is no option to join the Wireless Plus to your existing network directly. I am guessing there is a way of hacking this though, if you can figure it out. It is not too bad, since once it is connected to your network using concurrent mode, other devices on your network can see it.

You can also play media from the Wireless Plus to Airplay devices such as Apple TV.

Hard drive shortage, price madness

Now and again in the computer industry there is a shortage of components, everyone panic buys the stock and prices shoot up.

This is happening now with hard drives. Here is what Seagate told its partners:

As has been widely reported, the severe flooding in Thailand is a tragic situation for families and businesses across the region. Currently, all Seagate facilities in Thailand are operational and our production is not constrained by either internal component supply or by our ability to assemble finished products. Rather, we are constrained by the availability of specific externally sourced components. As a result, industry demand will significantly outstrip supply at least for the December quarter and the supply disruption will continue for multiple quarters.

How long the disruption will last is hard to guess, but bearing in mind that manufacturers will be racing to restore production I doubt it will be really long-lived.

In the meantime though, buyer beware. Drives that you could once find for £50 or so in the UK are suddenly three times the price.


The best advice is to postpone that upgrade you were planning. If you cannot wait, it is still worth shopping around.

Review: Seagate GoFlex for Mac portable hard drive

I have been trying Seagate’s GoFlex for Mac portable drive, which packs 1TB of storage into a small, light, USB-powered package.


The drive measures around 120x88x22mm – small enough to fit easily in a pocket or bag. Spin speed is 5400 RPM which is a little disappointing.

But what makes it a “Mac” drive? Mainly that it comes pre-formatted with Apple’s HFS + (Hierarchical File System Plus) file system, which is ideal for performance and reliability under OS X. A possible snag is that HFS+ is not readable from Windows by default, though Seagate has a solution, of which more in a moment.

It is worth noting that you can easily reformat the drive for Windows NTFS if you want.

There is a GoFlex app for the Mac which includes an information tab, a drive test, and the ability to disable the activity lights on the drive. I cannot imagine why you would want to do that.


Seagate’s GoFlex series has a few extra tricks. The most distinctive is that the interface is removable, which means you are not restricted to the usual USB 2.0. This GoFlex for Mac drive come with two, one for USB 2.0 and the other for FireWire 800, which is substantially faster: up to 786Mbps vs 480 Mbps. USB 3.0 and eSATA interfaces are available separately.

Currently the MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac mini and Mac Pro have FireWire 800 ports. It does make sense to use the faster port when available, especially with a drive of this size, though I cannot help thinking it would have been even handier if Seagate had managed to build the two ports into the main case, rather than having them as clip-on extras.

Still, the fact that you can remove the interface enables another GoFlex trick, the ability to slot the drive into a Media Sharing Dock. I’ve reviewed this dock here; it is a handy device though I have some usability concerns. I tried this with the GoFlex Mac and it worked well, an advantage being that you can access the files over a network irrespective of whether your operating system understands HFS+. Trivial point: the GoFlex drive is silver whereas the dock is black, a slight visual mismatch.

But what if you want to direct-attach your GoFlex for Mac drive to a Windows machine? Seagate has done a deal with Paragon to bundle its HFS for Windows driver. This normally costs around $40.00. It works too; though installation was not quite seamless. The problem is that the drive has to be attached for the install to work, presumably to protect Paragon from unauthorised installs. But when you attach the drive, both Windows and the Seagate Manager for Windows (if installed) prompt you to format it.


If you agree to format the drive, you will lose any files already on it, so I clicked Cancel. However, while installing the drive software I got this dialog *again* – I suppose the thing to do is to check “don’t show again”. Seagate should update its Windows manager software to be HFS-aware. Once I had the Paragon HFS+ driver installed, and restarted Windows, everything was fine.

I would guess though that most customers for this drive will be using it with Macs and will not run into this issue. It is nice to have a drive designed with the Apple Mac in mind, and with generous 1TB or 1.5TB capacity this is a solid product.

Disclosure: Kudos to Seagate for asking me to mention in my review that that the review sample does not have to be returned.

Review: Seagate GoFlex media sharing dock – Pogoplug in disguise

Seagate’s GoFlex media sharing device, also called GoFlex Net, is a dock with an ethernet connection. You can either attach a single USB drive – though the port is only USB 2.0, sadly – or else plug a GoFlex portable drive (reviewed here) into one or both of the two slots on top.


If you use one of the slots, then a four-position LED gauge at the front indicates how full your drive is. Lots of lights means nearly full.

Now your drive(s) are attached to the network – but how do you access them? The key thing to realise is that this dock is also a Pogoplug. This is an online service that communicates with your local drives and enables you to access your files over the internet, or share them with friends.

This means that you have to register with Pogoplug, starting with a link on Seagate’s site for registering and activating your dock. I ran into a small problem here. First, I am behind a firewall and I had to enable UDP 4365 send and receive in order to enable Pogoplug to communicate with the Pogoplug service. Second, I had to type in the serial number from the device in order to activate, which in my case meant disconnecting it from the network temporarily. This might explain why there was a long delay before I received a confirming email; and until you click the link in this email your Pogoplug is not really activated.

I also found some usability issues in the setup. I looked at the Security Settings in my Pogoplug web dashboard and wanted to know the purpose of Enable SSH access for this Pogoplug device:


As you can see from the screen, there is a help link at top right. However, clicking this takes you to the home page for Seagate support:


Pretty useless in this context.

It turns out there is a story behind this. Each Pogoplug device runs Linux. Cloud Engines, the company which runs Pogoplug, had the bright idea of enabling access to the Linux terminal over SSH, so you could log into your Pogoplug from anywhere and do anything, provided you know Linux. SSH was enabled by default, and with a default password too.

This was a security hole, as bloggers like Rob Pickering observed. So now SSH access is disabled by default, and when you enable it you are prompted to create a new password. Much better.

In fact the security risk was not all that great, because typically Pogoplug is behind a firewall and unless you redirect the SSH port to the device, attempts to access it from the internet would fail anyway.

Anyway, I enabled it for internal access only, and was was able to get to the Linux shell.


I also downloaded the Pogoplug software which enables you to access your attached drives as drive letters in Windows. There is similar software for Linux and the Mac. I was puzzled by the option to Enable multi-drive mode; again there is no help for this.


It is no big deal and you can find it explained here; it makes a small difference to how the drives appear in your file manager, for example Windows Explorer.

Once I had done all this I had a P drive on my desktop:


If you use this on a laptop, you can still see the P drive when out and about, provided you are on the Internet.

The folder called “Files shared with me” is initially perplexing. This refers to files shared with you by other Pogoplug users. It is nothing to do with files you are sharing out.

I thought, “There must be an iPhone app for this”; and there is. I downloaded it. It worked great over home wifi and I could access the drive; but what about when on the go? I turned the wifi off, so I was connecting over 3G only. Sadly the results were poor and I kept getting Error code 5 when I tried to view some images. In the end I created a tiny text file and managed to view it successfully, proving that the system can work:


Note that Pogoplug never copies your stuff to its own drives, and when you access files locally they are not going over the Internet. Nothing is backed up online, even though it appears as if you can see your files on the Web.

But what about the GoFlex dock?

Indeed. This is meant to be a review of Seagate’s GoFlex media sharing device, but it is mostly about Pogoplug.

This is an issue. The front of the GoFlex box does not mention Pogoplug, though it is named on the back. The fact is, someone might buy this expecting a simple NAS (Networked Attached Storage) device, expecting to get immediately to the stage where the attached drives appear in Windows Explorer.

Instead, they find themselves having to agree to Pogoplug terms and conditions, and being handed a bunch of Internet features which may or may not be required. As I discovered, you can also have firewall issues.

It is possible to access the drives over a Windows network without using Pogoplug – but only after enabling Windows File Sharing for each drive, which is done through … the Pogoplug service. See the GoFlex Net User Guide [PDF] for more details.

It is also worth noting that this is a media sharing device and not a media streaming device. Well, that is not quite true; Pogoplus has added some basic media streaming using Upnp; but I had limited success when trying to use it with a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. On the PS3 I could view pictures OK, but even playing an MP3 file stuttered.

More positively, it is also true that the Pogoplug tie-in offers genuinely useful features. In a nutshell, it is file sharing over the Internet. There are other solutions for this, some aimed mainly at businesses, but Pogoplug’s effort is simple and cost-effective. Since the files remain on your own drive, there are no issues about having to purchase more space as there are with Internet synchronisation services like Dropbox. If you have a large amount of files which you want to make available from anywhere, Pogoplug is worth investigating.

Of course you could just buy a Pogoplug rather than Seagate’s GoFlex dock. The most obvious difference is that the basic Pogoplug, which costs much the same as Seagate’s device, has four USB 2.0 ports, whereas the GoFlex has one USB 2.0 port and two of special GoFlex docks which only fit GoFlex portable drives. If you do have GoFlex drives, the Seagate option is more convenient and looks better too.

Could do better

This is a decent product, but as is often the case among vendors other than Apple, strong features are spoilt by poor documentation and presentation.

My suggestion to Seagate: redesign the product slightly so that Pogoplug services are optional rather than required; and have an install application that does the magic of enabling Windows File Sharing without the need to register for Pogoplug at all. Then Pogoplug can be presented as an optional benefit, rather than being something forced upon you.

The packaging should be clearer and more open about the Pogoplug element of the product.

I’d add that both Seagate and Pogoplug need to work on conveying the essence of what the service does clearly, accurately and concisely. Misunderstandings seem to be common.

Nevertheless, this is a clever and capable device. It is just that it is nothing special as a NAS device, and poor as a media streamer.

Disclosure: Kudos to Seagate for asking me to mention in my review that that the review sample does not have to be returned.

Review: Seagate GoFlex portable hard drive

You may think that one portable hard drive is very like another; and that is a problem for manufacturers like Seagate which want to differentiate their range and build customer loyalty.

The trouble is, one portable hard drive really is very like another; so what can it do? The FreeAgent GoFlex range is its answer, and Seagate has sent me the 320GB model for review.

It is billed as the “world’s most upgradeable hard drive,” though you can’t upgrade the thing you might most want to, its capacity.

What you can upgrade is the interface. The GoFlex drive has a detachable interface which in the model supplied to me has a mini USB port on one end, and what looks like a SATA (Serial ATA) connector on the other.


You can replace the interface with FireWire 800, USB 3.0, or eSATA. To give you an idea of the performance implications, this is what each of these interconnects is capable of in theory, though I have not measured the performance of this implementation:

  • USB 2.0: 480 Mbps
  • USB 3.0: 4.8 Gbps
  • FireWire 800 786 Mbps
  • eSATA 3Gbps

You can see from this that USB 3.0 is theoretically the fastest, though if I am right in thinking that the drive itself has a SATA interface, it will not be any faster than eSATA and will likely be a little slower. However, USB 3.0 is the future and will be more commonly found on PCs and laptops – except for Apple fans who now have Thunderbolt at 10Gbps – so that is the pragmatic choice. Currently though, most computers only have USB 2.0, in which case you will need to get a USB 3.0 card for your computer as well as for the hard drive.

I question whether many users will bother to upgrade the interface on a portable hard drive. They are more likely simply to buy another one, especially as capacities steadily increase, making new drives better value in terms of the amount of storage you get. The downside of the GoFlex removable interface is that it makes the drive slightly bigger than it would otherwise be.

That said, it does have an additional benefits. You can plug the drive directly into a GoFlex media dock, which will be the subject of my next review, or into a variety of other docks which Seagate offers.

There are a few other things to mention. I use both Mac and PC, and while the GoFlex drive works fine with a Mac, it comes formatted as NTFS which on most Macs is read-only. However, the drive comes with a Mac installer that offers to install the Paragon NTFS driver, which enables read-write, or to reformat for OS X.


I’d suggest reformatting for the Mac, unless you are likely to use the drive for exchanging files between Mac and PC.

I should also mention that the GoFlex drive comes with some bundled software. Seagate has done a deal with Memeo and offers to install various pieces of free and trial software.


Since you can get all this software easily enough from the Memeo website, I am not greatly impressed, though there is a free copy of Instant Backup which would otherwise cost $29.95. Personally I use Windows 7 and I am happy to use Microsoft’s built-in backup software, though Memeo has a continuous backup system that looks interesting.

Online backup, which is a feature of Memeo’s paid-for Premium Backup, is definitely a step up from what is built in, but in this case you have to buy online storage space as well as the backup software so it is not going to be cheap – especially if, like me, you have ripped a large CD collection to a hard drive.

The big question: do the extra features in GoFlex amount to enough to meet Seagate’s goal of differentiating its range? The ability to dock the drive is handy, and if you plan on using the media dock then yes, but otherwise you may not really notice any benefit, though it is worth getting a USB 3.0 drive if you can use it or expect to be able to soon.

That said, from what I can tell there is little if any price premium for the GoFlex drives and my 320GB sample worked well, though 320GB is rather small these days, and I’d suggest that at least a 500GB model makes more sense if you plan on storing multimedia files or keeping backups.

GoFlex portable drives are also available in 500GB, 750GB, 1TB and 1.5TB capacity. The sizes of 750GB and above have a fatter case: 22mm instead of 14.5mm. The 1.5TB drive is USB 3.0 only.

Disclosure: Kudos to Seagate for asking me to mention in my review that that the review sample does not have to be returned.

Buy from Amazon.co.uk: SEAGATE GoFlex USB 2.0 – 500 GB – black

Buy from Amazon.co.uk: SEAGATE GoFlex STAE104 cable – USB 3.0