If I were any good at keeping New Year's resolutions, I'd be 40 pounds lighter, my office would no longer be a junk pile and no toilet seat...

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If I were any good at keeping New Year’s resolutions, I’d be 40 pounds lighter, my office would no longer be a junk pile and no toilet seat in our home would ever be left in the upright position.

But one resolution I can stick to is backing up our computers more often, thanks to a generation of inexpensive portable hard drives that have plenty of room for important stuff.

I tried out Iomega’s 160-gigabyte eGo drive (about $110) and it was a pleasure to use. All I had to do was plug it into my computer’s USB port. It doesn’t require a separate power supply or cord.

I should warn you about my biases here. The days of backing up a system to CDs or even DVDs are gone — there’s just too much stuff on our hard drives. Rewritable CD/DVD drives are still too slow for backup. With an external hard drive, backups are fast and relatively painless — so they’re well worth the investment.

Although it’s possible to set up an external drive as a networked storage device for multiple computers — or to share a drive that’s hooked up to one particular computer — these systems can be a pain to get working.

It’s a lot easier to plug in a portable drive. Also, once you’ve followed the first rule of backups (making one in the first place), a portable drive makes it easy to follow the second rule — keeping your backup somewhere else.

Given those requirements, Iomega’s eGo is about as portable as a drive gets. Measuring 5 ¼ inches long by 3 ½ inches wide by 3/4 of an inch deep — and weighing less than 8 ounces — it’s a shade too large for a shirt pocket but will slip easily into a briefcase, laptop compartment or handbag.

What really makes the eGo portable is that it draws power from the computer’s USB port, so it doesn’t need a separate power cord or adapter.

The downside to this arrangement is that not all USB ports are created equal. Some deliver more power than others — and you may run into one that doesn’t provide enough juice to drive a 5,400-rpm hard drive.

Iomega deals with that possibility by building an extension jack into its USB cable to draw additional power from a second USB port — assuming there’s a free one left on your computer. If not, you’ll need a self-powered USB hub. At $15 to $20 on the street, these are useful accessories to have in any event.

Setting up the eGo was simple. Following the brief instructions, I plugged one end of the cable into a USB port on my PC and the other into the drive. There’s no on-off switch. A few seconds later my computer beeped and the eGo showed up on the device list when I clicked the My Computer icon on the Windows desktop.

At this point, the eGo behaves like any other hard drive — and it will work with both PCs and Macs. For scheduled backups, however, Iomega provides only Windows software — and you have to download that from the company’s Web site. It should have been included on a CD.

The backup program, EMC Retrospect Express HD, made it reasonably easy to schedule regular backups of a whole drive or just specific folders, but took almost three hours to back up my underpopulated C: drive, which contained only 50 gigabytes of data.

That makes larger drives an overnight job for most users, but successive backups are much shorter because they involve only files that are new or have changed. Also, there are plenty of backup programs around if you don’t like the one Iomega supplies.

Ion Audio TTUSB05

Ion Audio, www.ion-audio.com, $99

ION Audio’s versatile turntables add a new spin: Connect an Ion Audio turntable to a stereo to play albums the old-fashioned way. When you’re ready to go digital, connect it to a USB port on a computer.

Using the included EZ Vinyl Converter software, you can then convert your album tracks to iTunes. Each turntable includes playback speeds of 33 1/3, 45 and 78 rpm and built-in pre-amps that eliminate the need for an audio receiver with a phono-in jack.

Designed with a slim chassis and front-facing controls, the TTUSB05 model costs $99. Another new model, the TTUSB10, costs $199 and includes an S-shaped tone arm and tone arm lift lever.

— Deborah Porterfield

Gannett News Service