If Western Digital had made its new Digital My Passport Studio USB 3.0 compatible, it would make the most versatile pocket-size external hard drive on the market. Instead, it only supports FireWire 400, FireWire 800, and USB 2.0 connections. Still, it's a handy portable drive that offers up to 640GB of storage and has a cool electronic label that works even when the drive is unplugged.
The drive performed well when connected via USB 2.0, but its FireWire connections' speeds were much slower than we expected, at least with Windows. Nonetheless, if you need a sleek-looking portable external hard drive for about $200, the 640GB My Passport Studio is a decent storage device. The drive also comes in smaller capacities, 500GB and 320GB, that cost about $180 and $150, respectively.
|Drive type||External hard drive|
|Connector options||FireWire 800, FireWire 400, USB 2.0|
|Available capacities||320GB. 500GB, 640GB|
|Capacity of test unit||640GB|
|Dimensions (LWH)||4.88x3.27x0.73 inches|
|Notable design features||Sleek aluminum casing with a customizable e-label|
|OSes supported||Windows XP, Vista, 7; Mac OS X|
|Software included||Western Digital SmartWare software|
|Service and support||Three-year warranty|
Design and features
The new My Passport Studio, which is not to be confused with the old version of the same name, probably is the most full-featured portable external hard drive that Western Digital has ever created.
First off, the drive comes with a cool customizable electric label that shows text even if the drive isn't plugged in. The label can display any message up to 12 characters long, enough for labeling the content of the drive or the name of the owner. Apart from that, the label also shows a storage gauge and the amount of storage currently available on the drive.
In order to change this label, you'll need to install the WD SmartWare software, which is included with the drive on a separate read-only partition. The first time you plug the drive into a computer, you'll be prompted to install this application. If you don't, you still can use the drive, but you won't be able to change the label or take advantage of its additional features, including backup and security.
The WD SmartWare takes about 2 minutes to install. After that it will run automatically each time you plug in the drive. The software lets you change the label and enter a password to lock the drive. Once changed, the label will remain visible even when the drive is powered off; make sure that you remember this password because if you forget it, there's no way you can reset it without losing all the data stored on the drive.
The WD SmartWare has a nifty backup feature for novice users. As it loads, it quickly categorizes all user data on the computer's main hard drive into Documents, Mail, Movies, Music, Picture, and Others, each with the total amount of occupied storage. You then can select what categories you want to back up (by default, all are selected). Unfortunately, this is the only customization available. The software doesn't lets you manually choose a folder or to further customize the documents you want to back up. For example, there's no way to back up just photos taken in April and skip the rest, or back up just Word files and leave Excel files alone. You can't schedule an automatic backup, either.
When you need to recover files, you can conveniently recover them to the original location or copy them to a new location to avoid accidentally overwriting important files. All things considered, we found that the backup software is only useful for novice PC home users. Mac users are better off using the drive with OS X's built-in Time Machine.