The problem with most laptops is that, inevitably, you'll run out of hard drive space. As we move into the era of digital video downloads, high megapixel cameras, and downloadable music, the amount of space needed to store all of these files is increasing at a rapid pace. Your options for increasing your storage are either upgrading the built-in hard drive or expanding your space with an external one. The Western Digital My Passport 500GB drive for Windows or OS X gives you a huge chunk of storage in a small package that doesn't add too much bulk or weight to your laptop bag.
The USB2 interface provides speedy file transfers, provided you have the appropriate port. The drive (like most USB2 devices) will also work in an older USB port, but the performance will be significantly reduced. The drive is quiet when in use (you won't hear it at all if there's any ambient noise in your home/office), small, and is free of blinking lights except for a single LED on the back side of the case.
Installation is easy--just connect the drive to a computer using the included cable, and you're ready to go! The drive will get power over the USB cable, so a separate power cable isn't necessary. There's a "Quick Start" guide included in the package, but I haven't found a need to read it. Installation and use of device is very straightforward, and shouldn't cause any headaches. Note that the included USB cable is pretty short (approximately 6 inches) which is great for laptop use, but if you are planning on connecting it to a desktop machine that sits on the floor, you'll want to pick up a longer cable.
I've put this drive through a lot of use since I purchased it. It's in my backpack every day for everything from quick file copies to full system backups and restores. I bought a second drive for a friend who needed extra space on an ancient desktop PC, and it's been working well for her as an 'always connected' second hard drive. I plugged it into a USB port in the back of her tower, and then tucked the drive itself out of sight. She now uses this drive to store all of her personal data, so that when her PC (inevitably) gives up the ghost she can just take the drive to her new machine and be back up and running with minimal downtime.
Even if you aren't running out of space on your current hard drive, there are a couple of reasons to consider picking one of these up:
- Backups: You've heard it a million times, but you still aren't doing it. You need to back up your files! All those photos, mp3s, quicken files (this is a big one--think about the agony of having to recreate those), etc. Got a Mac? This would be a perfect drive to use with Time Machine or SuperDuper! If you want to do full backups of your computer, make sure that you buy an external drive that's at least as big as the drive in your machine.
- Easy file transfers between computers: USB thumbdrives are great for small files, but what about those videos, iTunes libraries, and photo collections? With a trusty hard drive, you won't need to burn DVDs just to move files between systems.
If you don't need 500GB of space, Western Digital also sells smaller models, ranging from 400GB to 160GB. Tired of black boxes sitting on your desk? You can also get it in Intense Blue, Cool Silver, or Real Red.
The only downside I can see are a lack of Firewire connections. This isn't really a problem, as any computer with a Firewire port is also going to have USB. It would also have been nice to have some sort of carrying case included, but since it's going to wind up in a bag or purse anyway it's not a huge problem.
I'm struggling to come up with a more thorough review for this product, but in the end it's a hard drive. The fact that I don't have much to say about it other than "it works, and it works well" is a good thing. There are a ton of USB hard drives on the market, but after using this one I can't think of a reason to try anything else.