So, you want to enjoy the speed of this new thing called USB 3.0, but you're stuck with an older notebook and it's not worth the major outlay of moolah to buy a new laptop just to get access to a new port. I completely understand and I feel your pain. As it turns out, the guys and gals at Seagate feel the same way. So they came up with something to help you out with your need for speed.
The Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Upgrade Cable Kit gives your notebook the power of USB 3.0 and up to "10x" the speed. It carries a suggested retail price of $79.99 US but street prices are much lower. The question though is whether the USB 3.0 upgrade is worth the cash? Let's find out!
Bumping Up the Speed with USB 3.0
Before we dive into the upgrade cable kit itself, it would be prudent to briefly discuss the Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex system in the first place. The idea is that you can buy one portable hard drive (or other related devices) and simply stick in different connectors for when you need different ports.
For the purposes of this review, we're using the Seagate 500GB FreeAgent GoFlex portable hard drive which retails by itself for about $99.99 US. Out of the box, it comes with a cable for USB 2.0. When you pair it with the upgrade kit, though, you effectively transform that USB 2.0 drive into a USB 3.0 drive. Because the GoFlex cable kit does use a standard SATA connector, you can essentially upgrade ANY 2.5 inch hard drive, which we'll get into in a bit.
The bottom part of the drive comes out completely, allowing you to swap out the different cables while only showing a single connector at a time. There are similar cable kits for FireWire 800 ($39.99 US), powered eSATA ($29.99 US) and even a USB 3.0 cable that does not come with the USB 3.0 adapter. This is for cases where your computer already has a USB 3.0 port and saves you a bit in costs at an MSRP of $49.99 US or less.
Some Nice Piece of Kit?
Cracking open the box for the GoFlex USB 3.0 upgrade cable kit, we discover just about everything you need to embark on this USB 3.0 journey on your existing notebook.
Beyond the quick start guide and warranty information sheet, you get a USB 3.0 ExpressCard 2.0 adapter, a USB 3.0 upgrade cable for a GoFlex (or GoFlex Pro) portable drive, and a USB power cable. As mentioned earlier, you can buy the GoFlex USB 3.0 cable on its own for $29.99 US if you don't need the ExpressCard adapter and already have a USB 3.0 port on your system.
Setup, Installation, and Configuration
The good new is that the upgrade process is reasonably straightforward, even for people who aren't particularly tech-savvy. To get started, you access the USB 3.0 driver that comes preloaded on a GoFlex portable hard drive. You can probably find that on the Seagate website too.
The driver installation is wizard-based, so you'll just need to click on "next" a few times to get through the process. When that's done, you can insert the ExpressCard adapter into your notebook's ExpressCard slot. You will also need to use the USB 2.0 power cable that comes included in the box if the port is not supplying enough power on your system.
This connects on one end to the ExpressCard adapter and the other end to an available USB 2.0 port. I found this configuration to be a little curious, as you would think that the ExpressCard adapter could work on its lonesome. This is a little cumbersome and takes away from a "clean" appearance, but at least it's easy to understand.
One final note though is that while the USB 2.0, Firewire 400/800 and eSATA kits do support Macs, this USB 3.0 kit does not as Apple has not written drivers for it and neither has Seagate. Hopefully native USB 3.0 support will come with OSX 10.7, which will be announced later this month.