Notebook users would be wise to keep a portable backup of their drive’s contents, as they are prone to dying at a young age from being moved around so much. Western Digital’s solution to this conundrum is the WD Passport – a USB-powered, portable hard drive that includes backup and synchronization software and even a tool that lets you take your desktop wallpaper, email, and internet favorites, to any computer you want. Let’s find out how it compares to the recently reviewed Maxtor OneTouch 4 Mini.
Features and Design
The Passport chassis has evolved from a slab of elongated rubber into a smaller shell with a hard, glossy exterior. We think the new design is a big improvement over the old rubber shell, as the drive now looks cool and sleek. The unit we received for review is white, but we think the black version is the cat’s meow.
The drive has just a single blue light to show the drive is plugged in, and aside from that there is just a single USB port that lies behind a small, rubber flap. The flap prevents dust from getting into the USB port when the drive is not in use.
A USB cable is included and it’s very short (about seven inches or so). We actually like the short cable, and prefer it over the unnecessarily long cables we have found with other USB drives. It’s also important to note the USB cable has just a single port, unlike the Y cables with two USB ports that are sold with most of these drives. The Y cable is a necessity on older computers because a single USB port doesn’t output enough power, so you need the second cable to power the drive. If you have an older computer, WD sells an optional Y cable for $10 USD on its website.
WD shipped us the drive in a neat hard-shell case, which is optional ($25 USD). The enclosure includes an elastic strap to keep the drive secure during travel. It’s a great idea to offer a case, but it’s too bad it’s not included with the drive.
WD offers a swank hard-shell carrying case for the Passport as an option and we highly recommend it
An elastic strap keeps the drive secure inside the carrying case.
In terms of size, it’s a very small drive that easily fits into the palm of your hand. If you compare it to the recently reviewed Maxtor One Touch 4 Mini, you’ll see the two are comparable in size.
The Maxtor OneTouch 4 Mini (left) and WD Passport (right)
Every backup drive needs backup software, and WD’s solution is named WD Sync.
The software lets you sync folders between your computer and the drive, so you always have a backup on the drive in case something happens to your PC’s hard drive. It also lets you bring your web browser’s bookmarks, and Outlook email, to any PC, and you can even have your desktop wallpaper on whatever computer you connect to as well.
In addition to the features just mention, the WD Passport also lets you initiate a “secure” browsing environment on whatever computer you plug it into, so you could theoretically plug it into a coffee shop PC, surf the net, and then disconnect, and nobody would know what you did (except your conscience).
Use and Testing
We pulled the Passport out of its carrying case and plugged it into our notebook’s USB port. We then ran the “WDsetup” file that is on the drive itself to install the synchronization software. The software always runs directly from the drive, and you never have to install it, which is great since most public PCs would not allow you to do this. The setup was relatively painless, but it was not without a few hitches.
We set up a backup profile and then created a password for the profile (all backup data is encrypted with 128-bit AES). There is also an option to input Lost and Found information. If you lose the drive, hopefully a Good Samaritan will find it, look at this info, and then return it to you.
Once we had set up a profile, we then went about selecting which files to sync. You can sync your email, but the only option is Outlook. You can also sync your favorites too, from either Firefox or Internet Explorer. And finally, you can sync data. If you’re lazy, you can just click “office” and it’ll sync documents, spreadsheets, etc. You can also go into “advanced” settings and specify which folder to sync, which is what we did, and we ran into a problem.
The folder we set to sync was a folder of videos, and by default the application just syncs files with the extension of .doc, .xls and presentations, but we didn’t catch this at first. We thought to ourselves, “We clicked the folder, so it’ll be backed up.” Once we finished, we “synced” the folder, and it said it was synced. We looked for the data and could not find it. As it turns out, we had to enable “all file extensions” in order for it to work. The odd part is the Sync software said “sync operation completed successfully,” even though no files were copied. One would think the software would just sync whatever folder you tell it to sync.
We then selected the option to import our desktop wallpaper. We then plugged the drive into another PC, activated the WD Sync, and boom – it changed our wallpaper to what we had on the other computer.
Once we had our profile up and running we decided to test the secure browsing feature. Once the WD Sync utility loaded and we entered our password, we got a message saying it was setting up the secure browsing, and then….nothing. We waited a few minutes and nothing happened. We were expecting a web browser to open, or maybe a pop-up window to say “secure browsing is enabled, open your web browser” or something, anything. Instead, nothing happens. So maybe it was working or maybe it wasn’t. We’re still not sure if it actually did anything.
The WD software tells you its enabling secure browsing, but then never tells you if it’s working or not.
The WD Sync interface resembles Outlook, in that the lower left-hand corner has links to email, favorites, documents, etc. You click the link there to actually use whatever category of files you want. We clicked the Favorites link and our Internet bookmarks from the main PC opened, which is great. When we clicked a link, they opened in IE. Our only complaint is we like to use Firefox, and imported our bookmarks from that application. We then opened the utility on a computer with Firefox installed, but when we clicked the links in WD Sync, they opened in Internet Explorer for some reason.
The WD Sync interface will be familiar to anyone who has used Microsoft Outlook.
We also performed a rudimentary file copy test to see how the drive performed when compared to its rival, the Maxtor One Touch 4 Mini. Not surprisingly, it performed exactly the same, copying a 740MB file in a pleasing 27 seconds.
The WD Passport is a decent product, with flourishes of greatness. We love being able to have our bookmarks and files synced all the time, and to be able to essentially take “our PC” with us to any computer. The WD Sync software works rather well, though it has a few glitches and isn’t quite as user friendly as it should be. It’s also a shame the hard-shell case isn’t included with the drive.
• Sexy design
• Huge capacity
• Works with Macs and PCs
• Hard-shell case is optional
• Software can be confusing
• Y cable costs an extra $10 USD