Mini-Review of the TrekStor 500 GB maxi m.u External Hard Drive

Written by Geoff Mottram (geoff at minaret dot biz).

Placed in the public domain on May 22, 2008 by the author.

This document is provided "as is", without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to the warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose and noninfringement. In no event shall the author be liable for any claim, damages or other liability, whether in an action of contract, tort or otherwise, arising from, out of or in connection with this document or the use or other dealings in this document.

Physical Description
How to Use
Formatting the Drive
Linux Backup Tips
Windows Backup Tips

When shopping for an external hard disk to backup my Windows and Linux computers, I came across the TrekStor 500 GB maxi m.u in an ad from J & R Electronics for the impressively low price of $89. Since I was not able to find any reviews online about this product, I thought I would help others with this brief description of the product and my experiences with it.

I purchased two TrekStor 500 GB drives for backup purposes. One drive will always be kept off site and the two will switch places after each backup. After using them for over a month, I can recommend this hard disk to anyone without reservation. This is a really attractive and well made external hard dive that works like a charm.

However, I strongly suggest you do not use the Nero BackItUp2 software for Windows that is included with the drives. In addition to finding the software overly complex, while testing the product, I lost the majority of an existing full backup when performing an update backup of my Windows computer. An update backup is supposed to update an existing full backup. If done correctly, you make a full backup once and then perform update backups to the same drive after that. After you run an update backup, the source drive and backup drive should be identical without the need for every file to be copied from the source to the target hard drives (it saves a lot of time).

Not only is the Nero software really slow at performing an update backup (it seems to perform a full directory scan the source hard disk at least twice) but on one occassion, the TrekStor ending up with just those files that had changed since the previous backup and any files that had not changed got deleted from the external drive. I also don't like how the update backup works. Every backup made by Nero is written to a new directory on the target hard disk with a directory name that consists of the date and time the backup was started. To perform an update backup, all modified files are written to the new directory and once that has been done, all existing files that have not been changed since the last backup are moved from the old backup directory to the new backup directory. This is a real time waster and it turns out has a bug that occassionally deletes the files from the old backup directory instead of moving them over. An alternate backup strategy for Windows is recommended below.

Physical Description
The hard drive is an attractive book-sized brick of brushed black aluminum with a plastic grill on the front end and a plastic back panel where the cables plug in and the power switch is located. The dimensions are 8 x 4.5 x 1.5 inches or 20.5 x 11.5 x 3.5 cm. The drive can be laid flat or set on its edge (a plastic base piece is included that can be attached to the side of the drive for this purpose). The drive includes a USB cable and external power supply that can handle both 110 or 220 V. There is a power switch at the back of the unit for turning it on and off (a number of external drives from major manufacturers do not have power switches).

While I have only been using my pair of drives for backups and do not leave them running all of the time, I have not had any problems with them at all. The case does get warm to the touch when the drive is used heavily (like during a multi-hour backup) but it has never felt overheated.

How to Use

  1. Your computer should already be turned on and running.
  2. Make sure the drive is turned off (the on/off switch should be set such that the O symbol is depressed).
  3. Plug the power cord into the drive and an electrical outlet.
  4. Plug the USB cord into drive and the computer.
  5. Turn on the drive.
Both Windows and recent versions of Linux will detect the drive, allowing you to use it right away. However, you must perform an extra step with both Windows and Linux when you want to turn off or disconnect any external drive. Both systems require that you right click on the icon for the drive and click on the menu item to remove or unmount the drive from your computer (check your operating system documentation for the exact procedure).

Formatting the Drive
Like most external hard drives, the TrekStor comes preformatted using the old MS-DOS FAT32 file system. Unless you want to be able to plug the drive into a computer system that cannot support anything else, I would recommend reformatting the drive or even repartioning it.

For a Windows-only configuration, re-format the drive using the NTFS file system (see the directions from Microsoft). For a Linux-only setup, repartion the drive to drop the Windows partition and create a Linux-only partion with either the EXT or XFS file systems (I prefer XFS). To use the drive for both types of operating systems, repartion the drive under windows, creating an NTFS partition that is smaller than the entire hard drive and then later, under Linux, add an EXT or XFS Linux partition using the remainder of the disk space.

Linux Backup Tips
A simple and comprehensive backup solution can be easily implemented using the rsync program. More recent versions of Linux will automatically detect the drive when you turn it on and will mount it automatically. Under Ubuntu, for example, the drive will mount as /media/disk. The following command can then be used to backup the entire hard disk or update an existing backup (you must be root to run this):

rsync -av --delete / /media/disk --exclude /media --exclude /proc --exclude /sys
It's important to exclude the /proc and /sys file systems as they represent the running state of your operating system and are not real disk files. You also want to exclude any external drives mounted under the /media directory.

Remember to unmount the drive when you are finished, either by right clicking on the icon representing the external drive or by issuing the umount command:

umount /media/disk

Windows Backup Tips
If you want a free backup solution that works, you should look into getting a copy of rsync for Windows. I have installed CygWin (a free implementation of Linux for Windows) on my Windows machines which includes the rsync program. Alternately, if you Google rsync windows you will find instructions for installing the minimum subset of CygWin required to run rsync. There is also a Windows port of rsync called DeltaCopy which I have no experience with but appears to be recommended by others.

Assuming that Windows mounts your external hard drive as E, you can backup your entire hard disk using CygWin like this:

rsync -av --delete /cygdrive/c/ /cygdrive/e
Notice the trailing slash on the c directory. This tells rsync to copy the files within c and not create a c directory on your external drive. Also note that rsync cannot copy certain system files and may have problems with files that are currently in use but will generally do an excellent job of backing up just about everything else. In general, exit all programs that are running before starting your backup.

Technical Tips