Tech Microsoft Review of the HP SimpleSave SD320A Portable Hard Drive

Review of the HP SimpleSave SD320A Portable Hard Drive

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As you may know, we have reviewed both desktop hard drives and portable hard drives here at Using Windows Home Server, and we have our hands on one of the new HP SimpleSave SD320A portable hard drives and its time for the review.

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HP say “the HP SimpleSave external hard drive series for customers needing a simple and automatic back up for photos, video, music and data. “

The new SimpleSave hard drive family consists of two products, SimpleSave Portable, available in 320 and 500 GB capacities, and SimpleSave Desktop, available in 1 and 2 TB capacities. Both devices feature pre-installed backup software. SimpleSave is so simple that anyone can use it. The software automatically finds and backs up the data on the PC, and after the first backup, automatically updates the backup with file changes whenever the computer is idle.

A single SimpleSave drive can be used to backup all the PCs in the home, with data from each PC clearly identified by name on the drive to make finding and restoring a specific PC’s data is a snap.

The SimpleSave hard drives are designed with heat-dissipating cases that stay cool and run quietly without a fan.  The SimpleSave Portable is powered by the PC’s USB 2.0 port and does not require an external power supply. In addition, the 2.5-inch portable model is designed with a shock-resistant case to protect the drive from the bumps and jolts of everyday usage.

Other features include:

· Generous storage space:  The ultra portable 2.5-inch SimpleSave portable is available in 320GB and 500GB. The 3.5-inch SimpleSave Desktop ships with 1TB or 2TB of storage.

· Hundreds of file formats supported:  Supports the most common file types for photo, music and documents including, jpg, mpeg, bmp, gif, tif, mp3, aac, xls, ppt, doc, pdf, tax, qdf and many more.

· Frequent backup update: Backs up new and changed files every time the PC is idle for five minutes.

· Plug-and-play storage: Connect it to a USB port and it’s ready to use.

· Support for large files: NTFS file system offers improved support for metadata and use of advanced data structures, improving performance, reliability and disk space.

· Two-year warranty

The SD320A drive is small, quiet, and has the same glossy black look about it as the HP MediaSmart servers. In fact, if it wasn’t for the HP SimpleSave logo on the front you would think it was just any other portable hard drive.

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The only connector on the whole of the drive is the USB connector on the back. It is completely powered by USB so there are no extra power cables to have to carry along with you.

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INSIDE (AND OUTSIDE) THE BOX

The box itself is small and only contains the SD320A drive, and USB cable and a quick installation guide.

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USING THE SD320A

Connecting up the SD320A was a breeze – well it should be really, it’s only a single USB cable connected to the SD320A and the other end into the computer you want use with it.

If this is the first time you have connected the SD320A to a computer, Windows will automatically install the relevant drivers for you.

Driver installation

At this point, two separate AutoPlay boxes pop up, one for the HP software and one for the drive itself.

CD Drive autoplay HP SimpleSave autoplay

While some may find this a little confusing, this is the norm on most USB storage devices these days. Effectively you have a virtual CD (that contains the relevant software) and then the drive itself (which also contains the HP software and the documentation).

Ignoring the HP SimpleSave drive itself for the moment, we shall start up the software by running the HPLauncher software offered to us via the virtual CD drive (the N drive in my case).

HP SimpleSave logo

The first thing that comes up after the pretty HP SimpleSave logo screen is the licence agreement.

Licence Agreement

This is a nice feature, after you have accepted the agreement, you are presented with the Welcome Screen, and a countdown clock telling you that the backup will automatically begin.

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Because I wanted to be specific about what I wanted backed up, I clicked on My Options. From here you can select the file types and locations that will be backed up.

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You can leave the defaults, which is just about everything everywhere, or you can be very specific. In my case I want to back up all my music.

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Once I have selected what I want backed up and from where, I just need to click the Start button.

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The backup is prepared for me – basically this is the program going and checking my drives for the chosen files.

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I can then see a summary of what will be backed up.

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I can look a little bit deeper if I want and even exclude items if I wish.

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Then again, it’s just a case of clicking the Start button and waiting while it performs the backup. You can see the status along the way.

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So just sit back and relax – you will be told when the backup is complete.

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If you do want to see the report, clicking the View Report button will fire up Notepad and show you some information.

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Now the backup part is only the beginning. You will at some point want to recover something from the backup. You will notice next time the software starts that you have two extra buttons there were not there before – Explore and Restore.

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Explore is useful for finding the file you want to restore before going into the restore function – although to be honest, it it just as quick, if not quicker to just fire up the restore process, and then look that way, although the explore option does allow you to access the file if you want to play them back for example.

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When you click on Restore you just have to pick the backup you want to use, what you want to restore (you can restore everything or just a single file, or any combination in between).

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Then you just need to decide where you want to restore to – the original location or somewhere else. This is very useful as you may not want to overwrite what is already there.

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Then you just wait while the restore takes place.

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And as with the backup, you can see a report at the end if you wish.

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CONCLUSION AND FINAL THOUGHTS

Well it is so simple to use that even my Dad could use it. Just plug it in, select what you want to back up, and just wait while it backs up for you. So, it actually does exactly what it says on the tin – Saves Simply!!!

It is really easy to select or rather unselect what you don’t want to backup with a simple few clicks. The software is easy to use and is clean and simple to understand. It tells you how much space you need and how much is remaining, so no worries about getting half way through and it running out of space, then the pain of having to manually clean up files so that you can start the backup again.

If you want to gain access to anything that you have backed up it is easy as well, just open the folder on the drive and hey presto! It really is a dream to use.

You don’t have to use the software either, if you just want to copy and paste something to the drive you can. But obviously you have to go find the bits you want to copy yourself, where as the software will search all your drives to find “music” or “photos” or whatever you want.

The retail prices are as follows (for the US): SimpleSave Portable:  320GB, $119.99; 2.5-inch hard drive, 500GB, $149 and the SimpleSave Desktop:  1TB hard drive , $149.99; 2TB hard drive, $329.99.

Amazon have some good deals already on the drives, the 320GB is $75.95 and the 500GB is $119.99 at the time of writing.

So what are you waiting for? Go get one now! This is highly recommended.

Andrew Edneyhttp://moviesgamesandtech.com
I am the owner and editor of this site. I have been interested in gadgets and tech since I was a little kid. I have also written a number of books on various tech subjects. I also blog for The Huffington Post and for FHM. And I am honoured to be a Microsoft MVP since January 2008 - again this year as an Xbox MVP.

168 COMMENTS

    • Thanks Orchmid 🙂

      I think the answer to that would depend on if you already had any portable drives. If you didnt, then I would go for these and then you could use them for multiple tasks. If you already have drives, then I suppose its a judgement call and would also depend on how "technical" you were in the sense of having to do more yourself without the HP drives.

      Hope that helps?

      Andrew

  1. If you want to use the Simplesave as a simple external hard disk you're in for a rude surprise. The backup software is installed on a "Virtual CD-ROM" partition that is installed on the drive in some very low level manner so that you can't get rid of the 500M of wasted "virtual CD-ROM" partition. Why didn't HP just put the software in the root drive of the data partition? Unfortunately, it's another typical "in your face" HP product.

    • Well if you actually take this drive apart you will find a wdc wd10eads which is an internal sata, just download a western digital low level format program like wdclear an virtual cdrom drive taken care of(You need to take it out of the external sleeve though) Have fun

  2. Hello,

    I just purchased a new computer and I was going to back up my old computer, but will the information transfer to my new one when I back up my new one?

    Thanks!

    • Well if you mean can you back up your old files to the drive and then restore them to your new computer, then yes. You will have to install all your software to your new computer though. Only your data will be copied using the drive.

      Andrew

  3. Wondering if you can remove the drive from the housing and format the drive in the PC to get rid of the virtual CD drive….otherwise, off to the store to return this drive.

    • I just returned mine. Tried to do a low level format but that stupid virtual cd drive was still there.

      The guy at the store told me that I wasn't the first one to return one of those drives with the same complaint.

      Now I have a Iomega eGo, should have bought it the first time.

  4. Can you use this device as an external hard disk rather than a back up drive? I am looking for some additional hard disk space to add to my pc.

  5. 1. Does it work with a USB 1.1 or 1.0 port on an older laptop?

    2. Is the 'virtual CD ROM' mentioned in previous replies an issue in any way?

    3. Are the ones that are sold at COSTCO older model or out-of-production models, and if so is that of any concern?

    • Neal

      1 – it is designed for USB 2.0, primarily because of the power issues

      2 – no, the virtual cd drive is what starts the software for you so there are no problems I have found

      3 – I have no idea Im afraid what model is sold at Costco – if it is the SD320A then it is the current model.

      Andrew

  6. I am using Windows XP Home Edition on a Dell desktop that is 4 or 5 years old. When I plug the HP Simplesave into a USB port…the blue light comes on but nothing happens beyond that. No pop up screen…nothing. I exchanged it for another and the same problem. Nothing happens.

    • Mike

      I dont know why it is not working for you on XP as I have tried it on XP and it works.

      Are you using the USB cable that came with the drive or your own? I found that when I tried mine with a cable I already had it didnt work.

      If that isnt the case with you my advice would be for you to contact HP support.

      Andrew

  7. Andrew,

    Just purchased this a few days ago because I am very much in need of disk space on my laptop. With the memory nearly full i finally broke down and bought the drive. I really like it but is there a way to delete unwanted folders such as a music folder or old picture folder? If so please explain. I've been racking my brain all day and the people at HP are no help

    Thanks!

    Dan

    • Dan

      Do you mean delete it from the HP drive after it has backed up or stop it from being backing up at all?

      Andrew

  8. Andrew

    I want to delete a few things off of the HP drive itself. The files i want to delete have been backed up off of my computer and on to the drive.Like it's Almost as if it was a larger gig version of a thumb drive. Just want to delete a few things and leave the rest on there. I'm fairly new to external hard drives. Thanks

    Dan

    • Dan

      To remove files from the drive itself is simple (no pun intended) 🙂

      Just plug it in, open the HP SimpleSave drive in Windows Explorer, open Backup Files and then just work your way through the folders until you find the files you want to remove.

      and yes, just think of it as a larger version of a thumb drive 🙂

      Andrew

  9. I have a separate external hard drive I wanted a mirror copy of. Can I still use this and just create a folder on this drive and move the other external folder over?

  10. Andrew

    If I backup my mp3 files to my HP drive and then delete them from my PC,then I do another backup will the mp3's still be on my HP drive or will the empty music file overwrite them as an update to the file?

    • I think from memory they will still be there.

      I seem to recall it creating a new folder per backup.

      Andrew

  11. Hi can anyone tell me why my simple save 320gB wont work with my xbox i wanted to watch movies through it but its not picking it up as a portable hard drive!? please help:)

    • Carls situation is similar to mine. When I start my computer the SimpleSave drive does not start although it shows in device manager and 'Computer'. I have to manually start the drive each time. HP says go to knowledgebase in HP.com/support to override autostart but I cannot find that anywhere on their site.

      Any suggestions before I take the unit back to the store and get something that does automatic backups properly?

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  13. Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for the review. Two questions:

    1. Can you really use this on more than one computer? If you read the licence agreement it says that the software can only be loaded onto one computer and indicates that if you load it onto more than one then it won't work within 30 days. But the box states you can use it to backup more than one computer.

    2. Is the software permanently loaded onto the computer? I cannot find it under 'programs' or on the desktop.

    Thanks.

    Lisa

    • Hi Lisa

      To answer your questions:

      1 – yes, I have it currently backing up 3 computers with no problem at all

      2 – no, the software launches from the drive itself when it is connected.

      Andrew

    • Hi Alex

      I dont know how to do a factory reset on the drive – sorry.

      As for deleting a backup, I think if you just plug the drive in and open the drive in Explorer, find the folder that contains the backup you want to delete you should be able to just delete it. I dont know for sure as I havent tried, but I would imagine that would work.

      Andrew

  14. I too am having problems with this device. It ran the first time perfectly on my PC with XP and then on my Netbook with XP, and then on the second installation of the usb, i found it prompted me for an upgrade, which i did, then it just stopped working. Blue light on but nobody home….? I can open up all the files within explore and windows, but the executable files dont work and for some reason it wont run. I wonder if my Norton Antivirus has anything to do with not allowing this to work? I called customer support and the only advice they could give me was to update Adobe Flash? Did that, but still no sign of working. I then plugged it into a third laptop, and again no luck….? Its incredibly frustrating! Can anybody help here?

    • Peter

      I did the update on my device only a few days ago, and today I have successfully backed up 3 different machines (2 Win 7 and a Vista machine).

      Maybe Norton deleted a file?

      I would contact HP support again and find out how to reset the device and try again (copying off you backups first)

      Andrew

  15. Thanks Andrew, I will call support again. It really isnt executing the files, and seems to just freeze. Funny that, as my pc runs everything else just fine. I will keep you posted on what support says. The other really disturbing thing is that when I spoke to support earlier on today, I asked if there was an encryption capability on this drive to manage a password, I mean G-d forbid I lose this drive or it gets stolen, they said there is no such support on the HDD. Why produce such a storage device without the option of protecting your work? It just doesnt add up? This is truly looking like the biggest waste of money I have spent in a long time. Not only that, Tesco in the UK have a non return policy, which I only just found out. Should have bought it from Costco!

    • Peter, I have the identical problem as you have, and I also have XP. I have called HP and received the same advise (update Adobe Flash), which I did and it also did not work. I am wondering if you were able to reach someone at HP with a different solution? I am guessing I need to take back to where I purchased and see if they can figure it out.

  16. Does the 500 gb simplesave drive have a buffer… and what is it? Typcially, drives of this type have 8 or 16MB buffers.

    • Mike

      I dont know – sorry.

      Have you looked on the HP website or contacted HP with the question?

      Andrew

  17. can this drive be used to mirror an internal hardrive? I have had hard drive crashes and would like to create a mirror so my system can be restored to a new hard drive in the event of a failure.

    • Chris,

      This drive is designed to be plugged into a computer and used for simple backups using its in built software.

      If you want to do mirroring of drives you should probably just look for a "normal" drive to do it rather than this one.

      Andrew

      • Andrew,

        Related to the threads for mirroring, I think that is what I am looking for….ie something that can back up all of my PC hard drive, data and programs.

        What products or class of products would you consider?

        Thanks

        David

        • David

          What you are actually looking for is Windows Home Server! And this is the right site! Click on the link at the top of the page that says What is Windows Home Server?

          Andrew

    • This device cannot be used for 'mirror' drives per se.

      Maybe e.g. Norton could be used to automate a full backup, however this would duplicate what SimpleSave has done.

      The SimpleSave does exactly what it says on the tin: Backups

  18. I have the simple save TB 1 but my ps3 doesn't read my external hard drive I don't know what do I have to do????

    • Francis

      I dont know if it works with a PS3 – the whole point of this particular drive is that you connect it to a computer (XP, Vista, Windows 7) and it uses its own built in software to backup files on that computer.

      Try contacting HP support to find out why it isnt working with a PS3.

      Andrew

  19. Peter,Joyce;

    The problem about the executable files not working is strange. Do you mean that if you click on HP Launcher nothing happens, the backup software doesn't run? Or do you mean other executable files don't run, files that you copied to the SimpleSave drive? Is it possible that there is some type of virus on your drive and either the virus or your AV software is preventing the executables from running?

    As for the lack of password protection, I don't think it's a big deal. If security is an issue, there are independent software products available that you can use. SimpleSave isn't marketed as a security solution, it is just a backup for everyday items where security is not a concern.

    JD

      • It does not work on Win98, which I have on a pc that I wanted to backup with the SS. But there should be a driver that would enable use with Win98; does anyone know where I could download one? I emailed HP support and only response was to call them; havn't done that yet.

  20. I have lost the internet adapter on my old laptop and have a new laptop. I want to transfer old files from my old laptop (XP)to my new laptop (Windows 7). Do I understand that to do so I have to upgrade my old laptop's OS first? Can I do this without being able to access the internet with the old one?

    Thank you!

    • Pam

      You dont need to upgrade your old laptop or have access to the Internet to use the Simplesave drive to backup your files and then restore them to your new laptop.

      Just plug the drive in to the old laptop and follow the onscreen instructions, and/or the steps in the review above.

      Andrew

  21. My computer is a Pavillion Slimline s3505f Desktop pc. I have a pocket media drive bay. Would this portable drive work in the bay.

    • Lucas

      It isnt designed to work with your Xbox.

      The packaging clearly states the system requirements for the drive are Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7.

      Andrew

  22. Andrew, thanks for answering all these questions.

    As of Nov-30-2009 Best Buy has the 1TB on sale for $89 although it is backordered.

    I am in the process of evaluating WHS, does the HP drive offer any functionality under WHS?

    I was looking for an external USB drive to do daily backups/syncs in case my WHS dies someone can take the USB drive and use that to access their files.

    • Hi David

      The beauty of this drive is when you dont have something like WHS backing up your computers – this drive will.

      So as long as you plug this drive into each computer it will backup those files as well – so you are covered 🙂

      Andrew

  23. The SS packaging clearly does not include Win98 in its compatibility list, but I have a Win98 pc that I wanted to transfer files with the SS. Is there not a driver that I can load to the old pc, that would enable use with Win98? I emailed HP support and only response was to call them; havn

  24. I have a question. I bought the HP simple save to just back up my pictures and music but when I did the back up it saved EVERYTHING, and I cannot figure out how to delete anything from it! I've searched for answers and can't find anything. I would take it back but I don't want to have my entire computer on there when I do. Can someone please help me with directions to delete stuff off of there?

    • Penny

      If you dont configure the backup, it will backup everything.

      When you first connect the drive instead of just leaving it and the backup starting, from memory there is an options setting where you can choose what you want to backup.

      As for deleting things from it, you just connect it to any computer and open the drive letter that appears with the backups.

      If you cant find out how to do this, or it is not working, I suggest you contact HP Support for assistance.

      Andrew

  25. Hi:

    Two quick questions:

    1. Will these HP drives backup from a network drive (NAS)?

    2. Is the back-up a 1:1 version of the file or is it compressed?

    Thanks a lot. This drive looks great.

    • Harris

      To answer your questions:

      1 – no, it only backs up from the supported versions of Windows

      2 – i think from memory is 1:1

      I would suggest contacting HP if you have specific questions.

      Andrew

      • Hi Andrew:

        Thanks for answering my questions. Just to be clear….you do realize that a network drive has nothing to do with a specific version of Windows, right? I am using one of the supported versions of Windows AND a network drive.

        Costco has a great deal on these so I think I will try it and if it is not able to backup from a network drive, return it. I hate to do that but I can't find much info on this one way or the other. For example, I can't find a page on the HP site with info on their Simple Save drives, other then in their store (which doesn't have too many details).

        Thanks again.

        • Hi Harris

          Yes, I know, but this is a "simple" drive that requires it to be connected directly via USB to the supported version of Windows.

          If you read through some of the comments above you will see that a lot of people seem to think it can do a lot more than its designed to do – for example, it cant backup and Xbox or a PS3, yet people ask!

          You could try calling HP Support and asking them?

          I wish I could give you a definitive answer, but I think my guess of it not working will be correct.

          All the best

          Andrew

  26. Can this drive be plug into the back of my wireless router to backup the 3 computers in my home?…if not then how do you install the SS to accomplish this?