500GB Western Digital My Passport Essential full review

It’s not the fastest drive in this group, but Western Digital’s My PassPort Essential is neatly designed and includes some useful software features.

The slim, glossy drive is very light and easy to carry, and is also available in a variety of colours. It’s only available in 500GB size – although WD does make other portable drives in 750GB and 1TB capacities too.

Western Digital always pays close attention to detail with its products, and that shows in the Smartware software that comes bundled with the drive. As well as providing password and encryption features to protect your data, Smartware performs continuous incremental backups of all your files. This includes a ‘history’ option that can save multiple versions of files as well.

Its performance was a little disappointing, though. Its sequential read and write speeds of 78.39MBps and 77.42MBps make it the slowest overall performer in this group. Oddly, though, its perks up quite a bit when writing small files and reaches 48.47MBps, which could be handy if you’re using the continuous backup option. Performance when reading smaller files isn’t quite as good, at 32.99MBps, but is still acceptable.

See also: Group test: what's the best portable hard drive?

Review from 18/8/11

Mauricio Grijalva

Shaped like an Apple iPod classic and with rounded corners for a clean look, the WD My Passport Essential device measures 110x83x15mm and weighs just 140g. Only three clues let you know you're dealing with an external drive: the Western Digital logo on the bottom right corner, a pinhole-sized activity light on the left, and the USB 3.0 port on the bottom.

While I like the shiny plastic casing that houses the drive inside the Western Digital My Passport Essential, it's unfortunately prone to smudges and scratches. A variety of cases are available for the drive, including the WD Nomad Rugged Case. Western Digital offers the drive in five colours (black, blue, red, silver, and white), but only in a 500GB capacity. Western Digital also includes a USB 3.0 cable (which you can plug into a USB 2.0 port), a two-year limited warranty, and technical support and warranty information.

A PDF user manual for the Western Digital My Passport Essential drive comes loaded on to the drive itself, along with software that's actually useful. Testing it on a Mac, the WD Quick Formatter program prepped the Windows-formatted My Passport Essential for the Mac use in just a few clicks. The drive also ships with WD SmartWare, a utility that lets you choose the types of files to backup, password-protect the drive, run simple diagnostics tools to check the health of your drive, and control when the drive goes into idle mode. The software was easy to setup and use, but note that it changes the icon of the My Passport Essential drive.

As for the My Passport Essential's performance, it performed admirably, especially in our USB 2.0 file reading tests. It read a 2GB folder at speeds of 37.2MBps, close to the 37.7MBps by the G-Drive Mobile USB ( Macworld rated 4 out of 5 mice ), and copied a 2GB file back to our test bed at 39.4MBps, once again close to matching the G-Drive, which had a score of 40.0MBps.

In the AJA system tests, the 38.2MBps speed it obtained in the read portion pushed it near the top of the class of drives that we've tested. As previously mentioned, the My Passport Essential offers USB 3.0, which is unfortunately not supported by the Mac, but will work with the Mac's USB 2.0 ports.

If you're sensitive to noise, you'll be happy to know that the My Passport Essential is one of the quietest hard drives we've tested. Only when I held it up to my ear (when is anyone really going to do that?) could I hear the drive working.


The My Passport Essential gives you plenty of hard drive space in a compact and lightweight device, making it much more convenient to keep your important information as close as your pocket.


500GB Western Digital My Passport Essential: Specs

  • Hard drive - external
  • 110x83x15mm
  • 140g
  • 500GB
  • SuperSpeed USB
  • Password authentication
  • Interface Transfer Rate 5.0 Gbps (SuperSpeed USB)
  • USB cable - external
  • RoHS
  • Power Source: USB bus
  • Smartware
  • OS Required: Microsoft Windows XP, Microsoft Windows 7, Microsoft Windows Vista, Apple MacOS X 10.6, Apple MacOS X 10.5

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