PROS / The My Passport from Western Digital delivers maximum storage in a tiny, lightweight design, with speedy data transfer via its USB 3.0 port.
CONS / The proprietary software it comes with isn't Mac-compatible, and the plastic casing can attract smudges and fingerprints.
VERDICT / With a low cost-per-gigabyte ratio and notable high performance, My Passport is the best external hard drive available.
Western Digital is a long-time pioneer in hard drive technology, offering an impressive line of cutting-edge portable external hard drives. The manufacturer’s My Passport is one such drive, which earns our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award in our review of the best portable hard drives. This device delivers maximum storage capacity and ultra-fast backup in a compact and durable chassis – all at a price that won’t give you sticker shock.
The My Passport boasts outstanding performance that rivals that of more expensive portable hard drives. A 3.0 USB port enables speedy data transfer between the external drive and your computer's built-in hard drive. Considered the new standard in computer connectivity, USB 3.0 supersedes USB 2.0 and supports high-speed data transfers. The My Passport has a maximum transfer speed of 5,120 megabits per second – a rate that surpasses those of the external hard drives with a USB 2.0 port.
The standard storage capacity of the My Passport drive is 500GB, but Western Digital also offers 750GB and 1TB versions. As such, the drive offers one of the lowest cost-per-gigabyte ratios of any portable hard drive on our lineup, making it a good option if you’re seeking maximum storage space for the lowest cost possible.
The My Passport is aptly named, considering that the drive itself is roughly the same size as an actual passport. Weighing approximately 8 ounces and measuring mere inches in depth and width, the My Passport is the smallest and one of the lightest portable hard drives on our lineup. Further enhancing the drive's overall portability is the fact that it is bus-powered, meaning the external hard drive uses a single cable for both data transfer and power supply – a convenient feature found on most portable hard drives.
The drive also has a single blue LED that illuminates whenever activity is occurring within the drive, and four small rubber feet that enable the drive to sit securely on angled surfaces. The latter is a minor but useful design feature that ensures that the external hard drive will stay put when it's in use.
In an effort to lessen its carbon footprint, Western Digital opted to use recycled materials for the portable hard drive's casing. While plastic may seem less than solid, the device is surprisingly durable and is built to withstand some minor abuse, despite not having any built-in drop protection like some of the other external hard drives on our lineup do. Our biggest complaint with the drive's design is that the high-gloss plastic seems to attract fingerprints and smudges. However, this cosmetic concern is insignificant and isn't likely to be much of an issue for most potential buyers.
With a focus on compact design and high performance, additional features can often seem like an afterthought on many external hard drives – not so with the My Passport . The drive's various features are useful, versatile and tailored for simplicity. The My Passport model comes pre-loaded with the company's proprietary WD SmartWare software.
When plugged into a computer, the drive is presented as two separate devices: a standard external hard drive with designated storage space and a 450MB drive containing the factory-loaded software. This dual configuration gives the drive easy plug-and-play operation and helps prevent you from inadvertently erasing or losing the accompanying software.
WD SmartWare is essentially three applications bundled into one convenient package, with an easy-to-use and intuitive visual interface. The bundle contains the essential drive software that allows you to install the device and manage various drive settings. Additionally, there is data backup and file retrieval software.
Data backup can certainly be a chore, but we love how easy and convenient the SmartWare software makes backing up your data. You simply select the files (e.g., music, photos, word documents, etc.) on your PC that you want to back up to the portable hard drive. Once a full backup is created, you don't have to worry about performing additional backups because the software will automatically perform incremental backups every time you connect the portable hard drive to your computer. This means that the software will only back up files that are new or have been modified since the last time it was connected.
In addition, the software provides a file retrieval function, which can restore files and entire folders that have been accidently deleted from the drive. This function also allows you to retrieve older or archived file versions. For tech-savvy users, the software's advanced settings can be used to set specific directories and file extensions to sync each time the portable hard drive is plugged in. These software utilities are only compatible with Windows machines; however, the drive itself works with both Windows and Mac computers.
The My Passport drive also shines when it comes to security features, which are imperative for portable hard drives that contain sensitive or personal information. We like that the drive boasts password protection and 256-bit hardware-based encryption to limit unauthorized access to the drive. This type of encryption protects data using a key that contains 256 bits, which makes it highly difficult – if not impossible – to decrypt the data without proper authorization.
Help & Support
The My Passport portable hard drive and its included software are extremely easy to use, but if you experience any technical issues or manufacturing defects, Western Digital offers an array of useful help and support options. For starters, the external hard drive comes with a two-year warranty. While it's definitely superior to a one-year warranty, we are a bit disappointed with the warranty because many portable hard drive manufacturers offer warranties spanning three or more years. For the warranty to be valid, you must register the portable hard drive through the product registration section on the Western Digital website. The two-year warranty begins on the date of purchase, regardless of when you register your external hard drive.
The warranty for this external hard drive may be mediocre, but Western Digital's customer service fortunately is not. The manufacturer's website hosts an abundance of beneficial resources, including a knowledgebase and FAQs specific to each of its products, including the My Passport . There are also user forums (called discussions), and the company provides direct customer support via email and telephone.
The Western Digital My Passport reigns supreme among the products on our external hard drive review. The portable hard drive offers impressive speed and universal compatibility through a backwards-compatible USB 3.0 port. Furthermore, this external hard drive seamlessly blends into any environment, and its sleek, minimalist lines and compact build make it an attractive and pragmatic device for on-the-go users.