Someone on Clickfree's design team obviously likes piano-black plastic, as the Clickfree Wireless sports the same fingerprint magnet plastic design of the C2 Portable Backup Drive we reviewed recently. Like the C2, the Wireless also features an embedded USB 2.0 cable, a feature we've never been particularly fond of, simply because if the cable snaps or breaks, there's no easy way to access the data within. Unlike the C2, you don't get an optional mini-USB port, however. What you do get is an AC adapter port, used for powering the drive when it's in stand-alone wireless mode.
As the name suggests, the Clickfree Wireless' party piece is that it performs wireless backup to any wirelessly connected computer on your local network. It's not a process of plugging it into power and forgetting about it, however; firstly, you've got to directly connect it via the USB cable to each system you want to backup and allow the same backup software that the C2 uses to perform a backup and install a system utility. The Clickfree Wireless only works at a document level, and won't backup system files or executables, but in most cases you should be able to reinstall those in case of a backup disaster anyway.
The Wireless drive — we tested the AU$199 500GB version, with a AU$299 1TB version due soon — is NTFS formatted but offers cross compatibility between PC and Mac systems via an NTFS driver. That's not exactly a flawless proposition, though, as we discovered during our testing.
Like the C2, the whole promise of the Clickfree Wireless is simplicity. You plug it into each computer on your wireless network in turn, create a backup and then just plug it into a power source, at which point it'll perform scheduled backups from each system, or can be set to run manually from a system tray icon at will. It's exactly the sort of fire and forget backup that most users could really utilise, simply because again and again we hit tales of woe from people who don't think about hard drive failure until all their data is gone.
There are a few catches. Over USB 2.0, backups are rather slow. One of our test systems took around 24 hours to complete a full backup, and restoring over wireless is even slower.
We also hit issues with the Mac implementation of NTFS. On one system, the backup process crashed entirely, and when we re-plugged the drive (as per Clickfree's own instructions), it informed us there was an NTFS error, and that we'd have to go into the drive via Windows Explorer to fix it. A step that's a touch tricky on a Mac, and in the end we had to connect it up to a Windows system to run Clickfree's drive fixing software, which also cleared all backup data on the drive. After that we were able to backup the test Mac successfully, and it worked over wireless from then on, but a system that can crash and take your backups with it leaves us nervous. When we first plugged the Clickfree in it did perform a software update over the internet, so hopefully that's a bug that'll be squashed sooner rather than later.
Like the C2, the Clickfree Wireless does offer nicely idiot-proof backup for the most part. The most obvious competitor in this space would be Apple's Time Capsule solution, and indeed the two drives share more than a passing physical resemblance. They're not the only backup solutions in town, however, and you could do quite a bit more with a fully fledged NAS for example. We'd prefer a slightly less buggy software package — hopefully that's something Clickfree will deal with rather quickly — but as simple backup solutions go, especially if you're working in a PC-only environment, the Clickfree Wireless is recommended.