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VINE VOICEon 22 March 2010
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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.
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on 5 January 2010
I have older versions of WD HDs and been very satisfied. I wanted bigger portable hard disk space for backing up data on my Terastation so I purchased two of these new HDs about a month ago. Unfortunately, these come pre-installed with its own backup software which you cannot remmove. Tried everything. WD Tech support say they are still working on a fix to remove this software. No news yet. I cannot understand how this passed QA during manufacturing. If all you want is a 'clean' hard drive drive, then this is not for you. I am giving this a single star as this was not made clear to me before purchase. Hope this review helps others.
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on 17 October 2009
Bought this drive as it was the biggest capacity available without a mains lead, intending to back up lots of files from various PC's.

Agree with the previous reviewer in that:

1. The non standard USB lead is irritating - if it gets lost then none of my other leads bought with previous WD drives will work.

2. The drive does definitely want to run as a back up drive and the non-removeable software is intrusive.

3. It crashed and would not work with some of my (presume older) PC's, insisting on installing a version of the .NET framework, which would not then install and caused blue-screen crashes. Hardly convenient on a simple drive bought to make back up easy.

Regret buying this one - posting review so others can be aware.
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on 4 November 2009
I own four other WD passport drives ranging from 120-320gb, all are simple 'plug and play' and worked from the outset with no problems. This one breaks the mould however, causing 'blue screen of death' crashes of my otherwise very stable XP system when I removed the drive, even using the 'safely remove hardware' system. In addition it caused intermittent 'blue screen of death' crashes at other times, possibly related to the drive side non-standard USB connector that is woefully wobbly. why WD want to ruin a loyal customer base is beyond me.

Sorry WD, but I'm off to Seagate and this monstrosity is crawling shamefaced back to amazon condemned to an eternity of torment.
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on 23 December 2009
Purchased this item a few months ago from Amazon. Arrived in good time, worked out of the box. Within a couple of weeks started having connection problems with the drive. Cable for drive is different from most USB cables i have encountered, and mine wouldnt lock into the drive and there lies the problem. If i could have just used another USB A/B cable it would have been fine. Not with this drive it is specific to WD i presume. Contacted the support line via email after finding nothing in their FAQ's that covered my problem. 10 days later still nothing from WD. I dont reckon i will get anywhere here either. So i will bite the bullet and buy a 2.5" external case myself with normal usb conectivity. Yes i could have returned it but i work abroad and will not be home for quite a few months. I buy many of these drives for work purposes and normally buy Freecom tough drives. My company, myself included will never buy another WD product. Back to Freecom tough drives it is, with built in cable for less hassle.
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on 11 October 2009
This is a great unit but I will cut to the chase and go in with the issues.

1) This drive does not use a standard USB B plug (as 99% of other drives do) That means you will have to carry the cable with you and also if it gets damaged then you cannot use another you may have.

2) No external power socket - or double power lead. This applies to older laptops, the USB power will not be enough to run this unit, it will sit there and click at you. If you have an older laptop (or one with low USB power) this is not the unit for you, the usual way to get round this issue is to use a double head lead to USB B - as this is a different connector you cannot.

3) The software! you cannot remove it, it will try and install itself on to every computer you plug it into, this means it is not a drag and drop drive, it wants to run as a backup drive- if that is what you want it for then it really is great, but to use as a simple drag and drop drive give this one a miss.

It really is a small great drive but unfortunately let down by stupid design flaws, I would rather buy the blank hard drive and put it into an enclosure (gets rid of the software and power issues
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on 8 December 2009
As some have mentioned, this (My Passport Essential 750GB) external USB drive from Western Digital suffers from frequent disconnects. Which is very annoying indeed. Apparently this is due to loose connection of the supplied USB cable. I contacted WD support with this issue and they offered to ship a replacement Micro-USB cable. This actually did the trick. I haven't had any issues with new cable.
So, to all those who have experienced unstable bahavior - contact WD support and I am sure they will be glad to help you.
one more thing, the virtual CD-ROM provided with this portable drive can be disables if it annoys you, check WD support page for the solution!
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on 20 October 2010
The most important thing to keep in mind this is NOT 750GB. It is in fact 700GB (or 698GB to be accurate). I really don't know how Western Digital are able to advertise these with 50 phantom GBs - can I at least have a gift certificate for a 50GB hard drive or USB stick? (Actually, I do know: they're counting a MB as 1000KBs, where in reality 1MB=1024KBs. So it has 750GB of 1000KB MBs, but in reality will show up as having around 700GB on your computer. Very sneaky, and most manufactures do this.)

Anyway, you still get a lot for your buck. 700GB on a device this small without the need for an external power source is a godsend for those who require lots of space and portability. The usual complaints I see are the cable it is supplied with falls out easily and is hard to replace, and the firmware pre-installed is annoying (it is). The cable is simply a regular USB to micro USB and can be easily found on Amazon. Also, these new models are supplied with a cable that will not fall out easily, and can hold the weight of the device (though I wouldn't advise you do this often, ESPECIALLY when being used). The firmware, which is admittedly rather annoying, can easily be avoided; simply format the hard drive. If you are not sure how to do this, do a search on google for 'format external hard drive x' ('x' being whatever operating system you are using: be it Windows, Mac, Linux etc.) Once you've done this, no more annoying firmware will pop up each time you use the hard drive. It's a completely blank hard drive.

Also, speaking from experience, avoid moving it when it is in use as this may, over time, damage the internal components.

Apart from a few problems (which can be overcome), these are great little devices.
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I liked the drive itself - it's small, well designed and I had no problem with the micro-USB connector. There's a small LED to indicate power and activity and four pads that held keep it from sliding around on your table. Capacity of 750GB is probably more than enough for most people and should be big enough to allow multiple backups.

The drive shows up as both a mass storage device and as a "virtual CD". This contains software and documentation. The software is for making backups and also encrypting your drive. I didn't have to install it to use the drive on windows 7.

First thing to do: download the updates to the firmware and the software. This allows the "virtual CD" to be switched off.

Two main problems:

The supplied USB cable is way too short. I had to use another one I had lying around.

The backup software is, like most of the software that comes with these drives, aimed at novice users. I looked in vain for some sort of "advanced" mode that would let me backup only certain types of files, but couldn't. You can choose from about six "categories" of files and you can't even choose at a directory level what you want to back up. On the other hand, if you just want a simple "one press" backup of "documents", "Music", "photos", etc then it's easy to use and quite intuitive and will do the job. You can specify how many versions of the file you want backing up, which is a nice feature.

If you want a compact drive that you can use to do a simple backup then this is fine, although I did find it rather too slow at backing up. I like the concept of the drive coming complete with a suite of software built in, but to be honest think it needs improving to be of use to more advanced users.
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on 25 October 2009
The main problem I have with the new passport is that it causes my computer to crash every time I remove the drive. So I have to switch off my PC first if I want to remove the drive. This probably will not affect you but be aware that it might happen.
The drive essentially consists of two parts. The hard drive and a flash memory that appears as a separate drive on My computer. The flash memory contains the Smart-ware backup software. If you don't install it it's not going to cause any trouble and it will remain inactive.You can continue to use the hard-drive as normal. If you do install it however, as I did, you will be prompted to select a password that will be required to access the whole drive not only the part where the backup files are stored. As a result you will not be able to use the drive for playing movies through a Western Digital TV for instance. So don't install the software if you intend to use the device with a media player. The new cable is not a proprietary but will be a future standard.
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