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Home > June 2003 > Reviews
ABSplus Automatic Backup System 40GB Portable

When offered a chance to review one of CMS's nice backup systems, I heartily agreed. I have an older firewire drive and an iPod which I have used to backup to on occasion, although this usually involved just dragging and dropping some of my larger files to them just to clear off my internal hard drive. What I was doing was not a real "backup" and I have to say, I don't really believe in backups. Then again, Windows never was my cup of tea, so why would I need a backup system?

At first glance, the ABSplus looks like any other FireWire hard drive. However, the key to this drive is the software that accompanies it. The ABSBackup application that it comes with is quite slick. After installation, all I had to do was plug the drive into my FIreWire port and I was backing up. It did take quite a while to do my first backup, but that's understandable as I have about 30 GB of "stuff" on my hard drive. First it scans your entire drive looking for changed files, then it copies them. My first backup took 130 minutes (2 hours, 10 minutes) and copied at a rate of 185MB/second.

The wonderful thing about the backup software is that later, when you do a second backup, the software just backs up the files that actually changed and any new files, so the process is much quicker. The software still has to scan your entire drive looking for new and/or changed files, but then the actual backing up of those files is fast. The ABS software disappointed me in its method of backing up files. It does not keep a "mirror" of your drive. If a file has changed since last backup, the software does not delete the old version from the ABSplus drive and replace it with the newer one. It adds the newer one along side the older one on the ABSplus drive. Although this process seems neat in that you will have preivous versions of files in case your most recent version is damaged or something, this process will eventually fill the ABSplus drive to capacity forcing you to either erase it and start over with your backup, or to manually go through and throw things away. Since the backup you make is bootable, this process leaves me wondering if multiple copies of changed system files will, over time, make the system unbootable. I would also think that your browser cache files and your preferences files would grow exponentially and take up serious amounts of disk space on the ABSplus drive.

The ABSplus is a very rugged device, the drive inside the case is shock mounted to prevent accidental drops and such from damaging the drive itself. Being required to return the device to CMS, I was reluctant to put it to the test myself. If stored inside the included carrying case, I bet it would survive almost any butterfingers moment (though I don't recommend you try).

Restoring my backup a was little tricky though not hard. I looked through the software for a restore button or menu item which I didn't find. I finally resorted to booting up my computer from the ABSplus drive. I then used Apple's Disk Utility to erase and reformat my internal hard drive. Next I had to set up the ABSBackup application to do a backup from the ABSplus drive to my internal hard drive. Basically doing a reverse backup. This worked, and everything was fine afterward.

As someone who usually doesn't worry about backing up, at least as anything more than drag and drop to my iPod, I found the ABSplus system to be very refreshing. Simple to use, easy to setup. If you are tired of the more complicated backup systems and ease of use is important to you, then look no further. If price is your main concern, you can get a comparable FireWire hard drive for nearly half the price of the ABSplus, but remember, you'll have to buy more complicated backup software like Retrospect to do complete backups. Convenience versus cost.

CMS Peripherals


PRICE: $299-$549 depending on size. Size reviewed, 40 GB, $399

Mac OS 9.1 and up or X 10.1 and up


Extremely easy to use backup software included, nice portable size, bootable.


SExpensive, no restore feature, "dumb" backup system makes multiple copies of changed files resulting in extra spacing being used.