back to article Western Digital My Passport Essential portable HDD

We approve of the ongoing miniaturisation of external hard drives, but the process has its limits. Western Digital's latest My Passport Essential is among the smallest drives of its class, but WD's choice of a tiny connector could be the product's downfall. WD My Passport Essential WD's My Passport Essential: quirky, …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Micro USB

    When these standards are developed don't they do basic testing of the mechanical suitability and reliability of the connectors? Seems like pure madness to me.

  2. Wibbly Wobbly


    You might as well get used to it - MicroUSB is becoming the defacto standard for phones, replacing MiniUSB, so that will be the standard for cables, PSUs, etc as we have now for MiniUSB.

    I have a MicroUSB phone and suffer none of the connector issues you describe, though perversely I *do* have loose connector problems on a MiniUSB device I own.

    So I think the issue is NOT the connector type so much as the quality control on the connector/cable maufacturing process and chouce of supplier. Maybe you got a bad sample?

  3. My Alter Ego

    Micro USB, why why why?

    I've had previous versions of this drive, and never had issues with the mini USB port. That said, a micro USB port is just plain stupid. The first time I came across one of those was a couple of weeks ago when I realised the standard USB cable plugged into my computer couldn't charge my company Blackberry Curve. So now I need two USB cables in my computer, car and house to charge my phones, grr.

    How many of us have a micro USB cable kicking around? It's like Nokia changing their charger jack. You used to be able to go anywhere and charge your Nokia mobile, not any more.

    As for the "unremovable" partition, surely a techie would be capable of repartitioning the drive to remove the read-only partition. I've done this before with U3 USB sticks.

  4. Stuart Duel

    Not just dodgy USB connectors with WD

    I have a Western Digital My Passport Studio triple interface (USB2, FW400 & 800) and when I'm using the FW800 cable for highest speed transfers, god forbid if I should slightly move the drive! I'm not sure if it is the socket on the device itself, or the connectors on the cable, but it there is a lot of movement at the drive end. The connection at the Mac end is solid and holds tight.

    Seriously though, why would anyone use USB2 to transfer great gobs of data about? Masochists, are we?

  5. bluefoxx

    Disable autorun before you plug in this drive.

    A Friend of mine bought one of these drives just the other day after failing to find a Seagate equivalent at the store, and I had the (mis)fortune of watching her wrestle to get it installed on her video editing machine.

    First thing she did was try to plug in a standard mini-b USB cable.

    Oh whats this? We can't fit the nice normal cable in, we have to use this new cable from WD, adding +1 cable to the tangle.

    We plug it in, it spins up, machine detects it. Great! Brilliant! Wonderful!

    Oh no, wait another second, now some software is installing! (Cue her freaking out about viruses, hackers and spyware on her machine, which she routinely unplugs from the internet when she's using it for work related things).

    So, now we've gotten the drive to install on her machine, and along with it, WD's software.

    Oh well, no harm done right? Not like she's going to use it or anything.

    Except now Photoshop, Flash and all her usual software aren't loading.

    Open up task manager, and find that the WD software is eating up all out RAM. And we can't tell it to close. Or uninstall it from Add/Remove programs.

    So, now she's got a drive she intended to use to trade media between her desktop workstation and her mobile workstation, and her desktop's just been put out of commission by this drive.

    We were fortunately able to remedy the situation, but installing a simple hard disk should not render a machine unable to do it's main tasks.

    We also attempted to to reinitilize the disk, or reformat it in hopes of removing the software, but quickly found that we were unable to do this either. We all quickly agreed that this was a load of bull, if you paid for the storage you should most definately be able to define what data goes on it. And in no situation should you be forced to install software you didn't agree to install. And I don't recall seeing any EULA signed for the purchase of this drive.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Hmm, one of the main reasons for standardising on MicroUSB (aside from being smaller) was the fact that it "guaranteed" 10,000 insertion/removals, whereas miniUSB only "guarantees" 1K or so.

    Sounds like WD's MicroUSB socket isn't up to scratch?

    The only MicroUSB device I have is a [Nokia] phone, and certainly the plug on that is tighter than the proverbial crab's @ss at 40 fathoms; I have more than once moved my laptop, dragging the phone along for the ride... so far without mishap.

  7. Tony Smith (Written by Reg staff)

    Re. Bad Sample

    Could be a bad sample, but it's not the only WD My Passport Essential I have seen the problem on.

  8. Bod
    Dead Vulture

    Seems harsh

    20% seems harsh because of the cable and a grumble that the installed software isn't to your liking because you're a techie (not the product's target audience).

    Is the opinion of Micro USB based on actual experience or just an opinion that a tiny connector must therefore be wobbly and unreliable? Did it actually result in failed transfers with the WD and did the cable actually come out or was it just a fear that it might?

    Micro USB is small but well designed to ensure a good connection, and in my experience stays put far better than Mini USB which can easily be knocked out. They don't look like they are up to the job, but generally they are.

    As for having to have another cable, well that's the idea with standardising with Micro USB. Okay it's another cable initially, but all mobile manufacturers have signed up to it (ignoring Apple of course) so soon enough everyone will have one and they can chuck away the other cables.

    Anyway at least they aren't using mini firewire connectors. They never stay in and *do* lose your data as I've found.

  9. Peter 39

    power draw, anyone?

    I *do* wish that reviews for bus-powered devices such as these would include mention of the power draw. I don't want to buy one just to check - that's what reviews are for. And all the manufacturers omit this from their packaging and website info.

    Some hosts (usually laptops) limit available power to the 500ma specified by the USB standard (I understand that's where the restriction is, but don't have a copy myself to check). So a drive needing, say, 600ma just doesn't work. The blurb on one vendor's package condescendingly mentions that a special cable is available (extra cost) for "those few machines that limit bus power"

    Cobblers !!

    So, Reg reviewers, when you get one of these to test, please PLEASE ask the supplier what the power demand is, and tell us. If they won't tell you then please PLEASE just try to start the thing using a 500ma-limited power supply. If it starts and comes ready just bare on that then it should be OK on an actual computer with power limits.

    Thank you, and keep up the reviews.

  10. Tony Smith (Written by Reg staff)


    All of this was experienced at first hand. The software aspect is minor - it would have lost the product a few points, not a lot. But it's impossible to rate highly a product where there's a substantial risk that nudging your desk, your computer, the cable or the drive will cause the latter to dismount.

  11. john taramas


    i have the 160gb previous essential model for 2 years.Never had a problem with the microusb port.are you exaggerating?

  12. Tom 35

    No micro here.

    "Interestingly, WD's promo shots for the MPE show a mini USB port, suggesting a last-minute change"

    I bought a 500 GB (Blue) drive last week (In Canada) and it has a mini USB port. I have not even used the cable that came in the box as I have a mini USB cable sitting on my desk both at home and work. The connector holds fine, I can't see it coming unplugged by mistake.

  13. My Alter Ego

    Just had a look at the software

    Am looking for a simple to use backup device for a friend, so I decided to install WD Smartware. At first glance it looked like it was exactly what I was looking for, keeps multiple versions of files, continuous backup, etc. However I did notice the following issues:

    Can't close the software once it's running. I had to kill WS*.exe from the Task Manager

    Uses 100MB+ before I even plugged in a drive. I've written a .Net CRM system that uses far less than that.

    Doesn't appear to let you choose which files to backup (I could be wrong, but I could find the option)

    All new WD devices appear to have the software embedded in the firmware, so my previous comment about simply partitioning the disk may not hold. Be worth a try to use a linux box use fdisk, dd & mkfs to flatten the drive.

    I think I'll stick with an older version, and find some kind of rsync app for Windows.

  14. Neil Stansbury
    Thumb Down

    This is such a shame

    I own one and it would be a great drive - but I have annoyingly bad, intermittant connections issues with the MicroUSB.

    The really annoying thing is the original version I saw, and the reason I bought it was the cable was bult into the drive - not any more.

    Now I have a full back with a dodgy unreliable connection - Grrrrr!

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