Eight Portable Hard Drives Compared: USB 2.0 Lives On

Western Digital MyPassport Essential SE (1TB)

There are five WD My Passport models. The Essential version offers a USB 2.0 interface, password protection, hardware-based encryption, and a management suite called SmartWare. The Elite edition has an additional USB dock and capacity gauge. The Studio model omits the long feature list but adds additional FireWire connectivity.

We're looking at the My Passwort Essential SE, where SE stands for the high-capacity models at 750GB and 1TB. Both utilize WD’s new 12.5 mm 2.5” hard drives, which won’t fit into most notebooks, but are perfect for portable storage devices.

True, $249.99 is a hefty price tag, but in exchange you’ll receive one of the largest and most portable 2.5” storage products. The device isn’t as small as most of the other 2.5” products here, and it weighs a bit more at 200 g. If this is the price we have to pay for additional storage capacity, then we’d say it’s worth paying, especially when looking at the feature set. The Essential SE's only drawback is its limited two-year warranty.

WD Software: SmartWare

WD's SmartWare suite is comprehensive and starts via Windows AutoPlay once you connect the device to your PC via USB 2.0. WD’s special sauce here is a read-only partition that maps as a virtual CD-ROM drive. This partition includes the SmartWare collection, which includes various maintenance tools—even a sleep timer.

Once executed, you can assign or enter a master password that will then be needed to access the drive. The backup section of SmartWare shows an informative overview of stored files and the required/used capacities on both your system and the My Passport drive. Backup files are selected by file type, and the software keeps you up to date on the exact backup progress, not just giving you percent data, but also visualizing which data has already been copied. However, it's not possible to select individual files or folders. Enthusiasts will disapprove.