Review: Clickfree Transformer SE

Back up your Mac to your iPhone or iPod Touch. (December 15th, 2009)

Innovative product that backs up files to iPhone or iPod touch, but doesnít always work as expected.

MacNN Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: Clickfree (Storage Appliance Corp.)

Price: $89.99

The Good

  • Simple, intuitive interface.
    Backs up multiple computers to multiple devices.
    Easy to use once itís configured.

The Bad

  • iPhone backup didnít work.
    Did not work reliably.
    Had to restart program to access options.
    Over-priced.

From the I-never-knew-I-needed-one category, the folks at Clickfree upgraded the Transformer with the Transformer SE (Special Edition). The Transformer SE uses the excess storage space of any external USB hard drive, iPod, or iPhone to automatically backup your files. It also imports music and playlists from any iPod or iPhone to any computer, Mac or Windows. While it looks like it may be a great contender for a holiday present, the MacNN staff thinks it's more useful for a PC user than a Mac user.

Let's face it, no one likes to backup his or her computer files. For most of us it's a task that we know we should do but we put it off until someday, and for most of us that someday never comes. Clickfree's new Transformer SE is designed to take the hassle and worry out of the backup process so that more of us actually do it!

I'm what you'd call a hands-on type of guy when it comes to backing up my important files. I clone my boot drive and my data drive to an external drive and I use an online backup service. I decided to approach the Transformer backup test with the mindset of someone a little less geeky. So, with that in mind, I opened the package, which claims that this is" Easier than making toast."

The clear packaging contains the Transformer SE and a Quickstart Guide booklet, nothing else needed. I like that. A look through the guide assures me that this is easy to use, with nothing to install or to setup. The back of the package includes the simple instructions:

  1. Connect the Clickfree Transformer SE to your computer.
  2. Connect your iPod/iPhone or your external hard drive to the Clickfree Transformer SE.
  3. Watch it backup your important files, you're done!
Could it possibly be that easy? Let's see.

I connect the Transformer SE to my iMac's USB port and a window opens and requests me to double-click the icon to start the Clickfree backup. Eight clicks later I'd read through an end user license agreement, a software update, and was finally ready to backup my files.

transformerse front


The main backup window informs you that the application is searching your hard drive in preparation for a complete backup. It shows you a neat little countdown timer that ticks off the seconds until your backup begins. If you want to do the full backup, you can skip ahead and click the green Start button or if you want to configure your backup, you can click the Options button.

The backup application defaults to backing up your entire Home folder, which in my case is 33GB. As a general rule, backing up your Home folder is the easiest way to grab most of your files, because your Home folder holds your Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, Movies, and Pictures folders. If you want to complete the automatic backup, you need to make sure the drive you connect has enough free space.

 transformerse-fullbackup


Clickfree Backup Start Screen


I aborted the backup initially, because I didn't want to watch 33 GB of data being copied. I decided to check out the Options button to see if I could customize the backup. Unfortunately, I had to quit the application in order to get back to the window with the Options button, because the interface isn't laid out for navigating back and forth. There goes a half star in the rating right there. In addition, when another user tested this aspect of the application, it simply quit in Leopard (Mac OS X 10.5) and refused to run. I restarted the program and clicked the Options tab, which includes two radio buttons to choose the type of backup you want.

 transformerse-fullbackup


Clickfree Backup Start Screen


The first button selects the Recommended full backup, which grabs your entire Home folder. The Advanced button lets you choose which folder or folders to backup.

clickfree-advanced.jpg


Clickfree Backup Advanced Screen


The bottom button lets you select individual file types to backup with options that include Office Documents, Music, Videos, Photos, Emails and Messages, and Favorite Websites. The Advanced button lets you choose which folders are searched for the different file types. After I made my choices, the backup ran without a problem. A window tells you when the backup is finished and shows you a nice summary of what was backed up.

transformerse-summary.jpg


Clickfree Backup Completed


I ran Clickfree Backup again after I deleted a file from my iMac to see if the program would also delete the file from the backup drive. It wasn't deleted, which means that this is a one-way backup and not synchronized. Next, I added a few new files to the iMac's drive and ran Clickfree Backup a third time. I did this to see if Transformer SE would just backup the new files or if it would backup all the files again. It backed up only the new files, which is a nice feature.

Any backup solution is only as good as its ability to restore your files and Clickfree Backup handles that easily. The restore screen lets you choose which user's files to restore, in the event that you have multiple user files backed up. It also lets you choose which file types to restore and on the next screen it lets you choose where to copy the files.

transformerse-restore.jpg


Clickfree Backup Restore Selection


The only difference between the Clickfree Transformer and the Transformer SE is the ability of the SE to use any external USB hard drive or flash drive or an iPod or iPhone as a backup device. This is a bigger deal than you think, because unlike all other iPods, the iPhone and the iPod Touch aren't designed to be used as external drives. I was excited by this feature, but it didn't work with my iPhone 3G.

I tried several times, but could not make the Transformer SE see my iPhone or backup to it. Clickfree Backup showed a dialog that it was initializing and then it quit. I sent an email to Clickfree support and asked if the Transformer SE was compatible with Snow Leopard, thinking that might be the problem, but the prompt reply was that yes, the SE is Snow Leopard compatible.

In the interest of fairness, I contacted support once more to tell them the exact issue I was having and see if they could suggest a solution. After several emails, they agreed to send a replacement unit. The new unit didn't fare any better. The unit worked fine with USB drives but quit each time I tried to backup to my iPhone 3G. I tried on my iMac running Mac OS X 10.6.1 and on a MacBook Pro running 10.5.8, but the Transformer SE would not work with my iPhone 3G on either computer. I also tried it with a different iPhone 3G, and it still didn't work. Editor's Note: I also tested the Clickfree Transformer SE with a new iPod touch. The backup worked ok, but when I tested the advertised feature to copy a music library off the iPod touch, it wasn't smooth sailing. I encountered two problems. First, the chosen options were ignored and no matter what I checked, all of the files were copied. Second, files that downloaded directly from the Apple store to a computer and then copied over to the iPod copied fine, but anything that downloaded directly from the store to the iPod touch itself, would not copy.

transformerse-copymusic.jpg


Clickfree Import Music


I'm torn on my final thoughts about the Clickfree Transformer SE. While it worked well with USB drives, it just did not work with the iPhone 3G. I think the $89.99 price tag is a bit steep for what you get. There are many backup applications that are comparable for a much lower price, such as Time Machine which is installed on all Macs running Mac OS X 10.5 or newer, plus Carbon Copy Cloner and Super Duper! work flawlessly. These applications do not require any additional hardware, other than some medium upon which you save the backup. Other shareware applications found on MacUpdate.com let you copy files from your iPod to your computer too. The only feature you give up with these other solutions is the ability to backup your computer to your iPhone, which didn't work reliably for me anyway.

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