Just a click of the mouse is all it takes to back up a PC to the Seagate Replica, a new external model from the hard drive maker. Seagate thus joins a number of other companies in trying to radically simplify back ups. They're trying to stir us from our dangerous lethargy of computing without a safety net.
Just plug the Replica into the USB port on a PC and it automatically loads its own software. The ever-cautious Seagate requires you to click once on a license agreement, and then the software quietly does its thing in the background. It backs up the PC's main hard drive, and updates the backup as files change.
That's one more click than other products, notably Clickfree. I've found Clickfree and a similar online service from Backblaze to be among the simplest backup products out there. The Replica is basically as simple, and more comprehensive.
Where Clickfree and Backblaze only protect data, such as music files and digital photos, Replica, er, replicates the entire main hard drive of a PC. That would enable a computer user to recover from a crash of the operating system. At least in theory. I didn't take time to restore an entire system.
The drive appears to work as advertised. But I did run into an unexpected bump. The Replica wouldn't even install its software when I plugged it into a PC that had a 1TB main drive. Replica told me "There is not enough space to protect your PC" in a box that looked like a Windows error message.
In fact, there wasn't enough space because the drive was only 500 GB. But the message was rather abrupt and unhelpful for what is otherwise well-crafted software that accompanies the Replica.
On other PCs, the Replica worked smoothly. It's also attractive in a slim, rounded case, and sells for a reasonable $200 for 500 GB ($130 for 250 GB). It won't work with Macs, or even some older PCs (it requires drives formatted in the NTFS file system).