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Perfect For Backing Up Your Computer
on 22 March 2010
The WD (Western Digital) My Passport Essential SE is a very compact external hard drive, designed for backing up your computer to. WD actually sell two different My Passport Essential products: the regular My Passport Essential, and this, the My Passport Essential SE. So what's the difference?
- The SE is only available in one colour: Midnight Black
- The SE is available in higher capacities (aka HiCap): 750 GB and 1 TB
- The SE is slightly thicker: 1.7 cm vs 1.4 cm
The hard drive comes in a tiny (12.8 x 16.7 x 4.8 cm), very efficiently packaged, smart green box which contains the following four items:
- Ultra-portable hard drive
- WD SmartWare software (pre-loaded on the hard drive)
- USB cable
- Quick Install Guide
The hard drive itself is very compact (10.8 x 1.7 x 8.3 cm) although slightly chunky because of the high capacity disk inside. It has a glossy black finish that's very similar to the back of the iPhone 3G/3GS. It looks quite sexy and desirable, but feels a bit cheap and plasticky, with a messy seam running along its spine. It only weighs 205 g though, about the same as two DVDs, which makes it very portable and easy to move around.
On the side of the hard drive is a single USB Micro-B socket. On the spine is a single power/activity LED. This little white light isn't particuarly distracting and is actually very Apple-like in it's clean, minimalist style. When the light is on steady it means the hard drive is idle. When the light is flashing quickly it means the hard drive is active (writing data). And when the light is flashing slowly it means your computer is Sleeping.
The hard drive comes packaged with a single, black USB 2.0 cable. Personally I prefer white cables, because they're less obtrusive and look more attractive in a home environment. The cable is very short at just 48.8 cm in length, and is obviously intended to be used with a computer that has USB ports at desk height, such as a laptop. The cable has a regular USB-A plug at one end and a USB Micro-B plug at the other, that snaps firmly into the hard drive. Lots of reviewers have complained that WD are using proprietary plugs, but USB Micro is actually an industry standard connector designed as the replacement for USB Mini. I don't see a problem.
As a Mac user, I backup my computer using Time Machine. So I couldn't care less about the drive's software features, such as WD SmartWare Software with its "visual backup" or Drive Lock. Instead of reviewing those features, what I'd like to talk about is what happens when you connect this hard drive to a Mac.
Out of the box, when you connect this hard drive to a Mac (running Snow Leopard), two volumes will show up on your Desktop: WD SmartWare and My Passport. The hard drive comes NTFS formatted for Windows 7, Vista and XP. Snow Leopard can actually read NTFS drives but it can't write to them, so a reformat is required if you want to use it with a Mac. Remember to use the format "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)" and the partition scheme "GUID Partition Table" for the best Mac compatibility.
Unfortunately, reformatting the hard drive doesn't get rid of the annoying WD SmartWare virtual CD that's mounted on your Desktop. To permanently disable it you'll need to download Virtual CD (VCD) Manager from WD's website. It's fairly easy to do, but it's an extra step that shouldn't be necessary and detracts from the user experience.
Overall I think the My Passport Essential SE is a great product, ideal for backing up your computer to, or carrying 750 GB of data around in your pocket or bag! A white USB cable and the WD SmartWare disabled by default would've been nice, but these are personal preferences rather than problems.