Pros: * I’ll admit I had slight bias coming into this review as Western Digital is my favorite storage manufacturer. When buying one of their products, you can usually be assured of their quality. The same applies to this drive. *
- Though I usually prefer Black, the WD My Passport Ultra “Blue” edition is appealing. The top has a glossy finish and looks more purple than blue, especially in the light. The sides are a black matte. On the bottom are rubber grommets that hold the drive in place. There’s a single LED indicator light on the side near the port. It’s understated but can be noticed without any annoyance. While running, the drive is practically inaudible, only heard when you press your ear against it.
- Included on the drive (usable 1.82TB) are a couple folders, a user manual and a few programs for mac and Windows. Installing the .EXE WD Apps Setup will install WD Backup, WD Security, WD Drive Utilities and WD Quick View; these free programs lead to all the extended features that the Ultra touts. Of course, if you want to simply use the drive as a storage drive with no frills, you can do that, but I recommend buying a different Hard Drive then, for the Ultra shines because of its extra features. Once installed, there are a few software updates to follow. I’ll outline the three programs’ cool options in the following paragraphs.
- The WD Drive Utility program has a few tests you can run to ensure the Ultra’s health status. From here you can check if SMART is enabled and running properly. You can also scan for bad sectors on the Ultra, much like the Error-Checking in My Computer. Another handy feature is a Sleep Timer to set a certain time after which passes the Ultra would sleep–as opposed to running 24/7, diminishing its life. A Secure Drive Erase is also included in the Utilities to reformat and start fresh easily.
- To use a tiresome (and inane) cliché, the meat and potatoes of the Ultra is the WD Backup Program and WD Security it is bundled with. The Backup App includes a Dropbox backup as well, which is somewhat redundant since Dropbox can do the same thing within its own program. Most importantly, here you can select the source disk(s) you want to backup continually and schedule Daily (specific days of the month), Hourly or Monthly backups. The backup will run in the background unobtrusively and automatically per your settings (see Cons). To illustrate the program’s flexibility, I currently have it backing up my RAID Game SSD drives and my main Boot SSD every other day at 6:00PM. The WD Security app allows you to assign a password that must be entered to access the drive.
- The Read and Write speeds are decent enough and very close to each other. It isn’t a significant difference, but the Ultra is slightly faster than other USB 3.0 External HDDs I’ve tested. By slightly faster I mean anywhere from one MB to 10MB/s. I’ve included some benchmarks in Other Thoughts for reference.
Cons: - This is a common shortcoming concerning portable external hard drives and even WD–quite literally–fell short. The included USB 3.0 cable is short, 18” long. It’s not terribly short, and since External Hard Drives are meant to be portable, it’s hard to find a good balance when it comes to cable length. The cable will be fine for use with laptops and portable situations, but placement of the drive will be more limited in a desktop scenario.
- The WD Backup App will run in the background and you can maximize it if you want, but doing this doesn’t provide much information. The only information on the status of your running backup that’s available is to right-click on the toolbar icon. It would be nice if the WD Backup provided some more information when maximized; rather than just an icon.
- To be honest, there are plenty of programs out there, including free ones, that will accomplish the same tasks as the WD programs bundled with this drive. What WD did here with the included apps is more a matter of convenience than an intuitive stroke of genius.
Overall Review: * Overall, the WD My Passport Ultra is a well-performing, bells and whistles external hard drive. If you’re looking for some included apps to make your life a little easier for security or backup reasons, the Ultra is a good choice. *
- Below are some subjective benchmarks I observed and documented using real-usage scenarios, as well as ATTO Disk and CrystalDiskMark.
* Real Usage *
USB 3.0-- Moving a 8.24GB Video file from PC's HDD (WD Caviar Black) onto drive.
Time: 2 minutes 1 seconds. Peak: 70MB/sec. Average: 69.15MB/sec.
USB 3.0-- Moving 2.09GB to HDD from 3.0 drive.
Time: 17 seconds. Peak 150MB/sec.
* ATTO Disk Benchmark *
With a QD of 8, at 32KB to 8MB, the Read/Write speed was consistent and negligible.
32KB – 8MB Write: 111.7MB/sec.
32KB – 8MB Read: 111.9MB/sec.
* CrystalDiskMark *
At 6 runs, 4000MB.
Sequential Read: 112.9MB/sec. -- Write: 112.3MB/sec.
512k Read: 41.4MB/sec. -- Write: 51.54MB/sec.
4K Read: 0.515MB/sec. -- Write: 1.168MB/sec.
Pros: The drive is very small - about the size of a laptop hard drive - which is probably the base component inside.
No unusual heat was produced while copying 100 GB of data to it. It was just slightly warm. Also, it was very quiet. Could not hear anything from it.
The included cord is USB 3.0 compatible, with the micro USB connection that is the same as the Samsung S5 phone that I have. That's a plus, for me.
Cons: Hard drive activity light is on the side with the plug. Might be better if it was on the front.
Nothing else to complain about, really. It would be awesome if it was SSD-based, but certainly fine for a backup or transporting video, music or other large files
Overall Review: Not sure how rugged it would be, but I'll definitely be careful with it, since it is a traditional spinning drive and not SSD.
Here are the results from CrystalDiskMark:
CrystalDiskMark 5.0.2 x64 (C) 2007-2015 hiyohiyo
Crystal Dew World : http://crystalmark.info/
* MB/s = 1,000,000 bytes/s [SATA/600 = 600,000,000 bytes/s]
* KB = 1000 bytes, KiB = 1024 bytes
Sequential Read (Q= 32,T= 1) : 114.708 MB/s
Sequential Write (Q= 32,T= 1) : 113.365 MB/s
Random Read 4KiB (Q= 32,T= 1) : 0.579 MB/s [ 141.4 IOPS]
Random Write 4KiB (Q= 32,T= 1) : 1.400 MB/s [ 341.8 IOPS]
Sequential Read (T= 1) : 113.887 MB/s
Sequential Write (T= 1) : 113.662 MB/s
Random Read 4KiB (Q= 1,T= 1) : 0.544 MB/s [ 132.8 IOPS]
Random Write 4KiB (Q= 1,T= 1) : 1.390 MB/s [ 339.4 IOPS]
Test : 1024 MiB [K: 0.0% (0.3/1863.0 GiB)] (x3) [Interval=5 sec]
Date : 2015/09/15 10:39:00
OS : Windows 7 Professional SP1 [6.1 Build 7601] (x64)
Real life data copy of over 100 GB of music averaged 30MB per second, reading from Samsung 840 Evo SSD. Took around 70 minutes for ~108GB of songs. So not incredibly fast, but still decent for an external drive. Copied 20GB of HD home movies averaged about 58MB per second, which is what I expected for larger files.
Pros: +Compact - This is barely larger than a 2.5" laptop hard drive, which I suspect is what is housed within.
+Extremely Easy to Use - Just plug it in and you're ready to go. If you choose to install the associated software it is located on the drive itself and is easily installed from there, albeit entirely optional if you just want to store files on it. The software is also very simple to setup and use.
+Responsive USB 3.0 Interface - My PC's recognize this drive very quickly and file transfers initialize instantly. Overall performance is still limited by the mechanical nature of the drive, but it is otherwise very responsive.
+Storage Size - For the price and physical dimensions of the device it's amazing how much storage capacity it has.
+Sleek, Simple Appearance - The top is gloss white with a matte white/gray placard. The sides and bottom both have a light gray matte finish, the sides being slightly less matte than the bottom. There is a tiny white LED that shares a side with the USB port and blinks to indicate drive activity. Personally, I would prefer the LED to be on the opposite side, as the 'port' side naturally points away from me.
+Vibration Reduction Feet - 4 rubber feat should keep vibration from transferring to/from the drive. The feet also do a good job of keeping the drive from sliding around on slick surfaces.
+Quiet - Only with my ear pressed up against it was I able to hear a slight hum as data was being transferred.
+Western Digital - I have more experience with Western Digital than probably any other computer component manufacturer. My first hard drive was a 3.5GB WD back in the mid 90's, and in total I have owned 19 WD drives over the years. I have only experienced premature problems with 2 of them and WD's warranty process was one of the simplest and most painless I have experienced.
Cons: -Speed Bound by Mechanical Drive - In the first moments of a file transfer you will see the potential speed of the USB 3.0 interface. I saw transfer rates over 300MB/s for the first second or so. This, of course, is information being transferred over the USB 3.0 interface (fast) and between buffers (very fast, volatile type memory, like RAM). As soon as the data reaches the mechanical drive mechanisms (slow) you will be bound by the mechanical drive performance. Most of my file transfers averaged around 35MB/s, which is about what I would expect from an average 2.5" mechanical laptop drive. This is normal and should be expected from this type of drive, but it should be pointed out that the USB 3.0 branding is not an indication of overall performance, although it does help and successfully removes the bottleneck that would be USB 2.0.
-Tiny USB cable - Measuring roughly 18 inches long, the cable is just long enough to plug the drive in under normal circumstances. This might actually be preferable for use as a travel drive to not have a long tangled cable to fuss with on the road. For my home use, however, it would be nice for it to be longer.
Overall Review: I transferred a variety of media files to and from the drive (about 100GB total) and experienced very consistent performance. Transfers to and from the drive both averaged almost exactly 35MB/s. Playback of HD Media content on the drive was responsive and I was able to scan, skip chapters, fast forward, etc.. without any noticeable delay.
Between cloud storage, seemingly endless web-mail inbox capacity, USB 'thumb' drives, various NAS solutions, and massive internal PC hard drives, there is simply no shortage of modern data storage options these days. Given all of those options, the role of the trusty external hard drive has not diminished. If you require secure, portable, offline, massive storage, then this is precisely the type of product to fulfill those requirements. Nothing else currently accomplishes those tasks as well as a drive like this one.
I have experienced no issues with this model and would gladly recommend it to anyone who is in the market for an external drive.
Pros: sleek simple design
Comes with a very short 19" USB 3.0 cable
USB 2.0 compatible
LED light which indicates on, and flickers when drive is being accessed
The drive comes with a user manual in pdf, and a WD Software Installer which includes Backup (backs up your files to the drive or the cloud), Security (set a password on your drive using 256-bit AES encryption), Drive Utilites (configure and diagnose the drive), and Drive Status Tool (view the status of your drive). The drive stays pretty cool even though there is no ventilation.
Cons: The cable could be longer. It's not even 2' in length.
Overall Review: One reviewer mentioned the USB cable is proprietary. The cable is NOT proprietary. It is a standard USB 3.0 cable that you can buy anywhere. And any standard USB 3.0 cable will work with this drive.
The drive speed is 5400RPM. Using ATTO Benchmark and plugged into a USB 3.0 port of an Intel i5 core processor with 32GB of RAM, a 1GB file read speed averaged 113MB/s, write speed averaged 110MB/s. Plugged into a USB 2.0 port, a 1GB file read speed averaged 34MB/s, write speed averaged 27MB/s.
Western Digital has always made decent products. I would definitely recommend this drive.
Pros: This is a 2.5" external hard drive from Western Digital, arguably the best hard drive manufacturer there is. This drive supports a very high level of encryption so if you're storing sensitive data where security is a big concern this is what you want to look for.
If security isn't a realistic concern for you, or you know you won't want to enter a password every time you want to access your device, then you can get similar drives without the encryption and save yourself some money.
It's small, looks modern and is easy to use. WD includes free software and diagnostic tools for their drives which can be very helpful.
3 year warranty, much longer than most external hard drives.
Cons: In order to make the enclosure as small as possible they remove the standard I/O board from the hard drive. What this means is, basically, that you can't take the hard drive out of it's case and put it in a computer. Now, it's an external drive so that's fine, right? Wrong. If anything happens to the drive, if it fails in any way you won't be able to recover the data off the drive. If the USB port gets damaged in any way, you won't be able to access the information on the drive. Could be from falling
or something as simple as accidentally leaning on the USB cable damaging the pins.
When external hard drives fail what you do to recover the data is remove it from the case and connect it to a computer with a SATA to USB adapter and then run your
recovery suite. This is also how you recover data from an external drive with broken USB port. This lack of ability to troubleshoot is a big problem and a deal breaker for me.
It's an external hard drive, it's primary purpose is to BACKUP data. If the backup isn't reliable then it's useless. If it can't be recovered in a failure then it isn't reliable.
In fairness, as long as the USB port is undamaged you can still attempt to recover data from a failed drive. However recovery of data from a crashed hard drive is an inconsistent procedure, it's less reliable over USB than it is over SATA. Those internal headers are really important!
Let me be very clear, if anything happens to that USB port EVERYTHING on that drive is gone forever. That is an unacceptable risk.
Overall Review: Performance of this drive isn't spectacular but it isn't bad either, it's exactly average.
My average read speeds were 78MB/s. Average write speeds were 62MB/s transferring 138GB consisting of every file type imaginable.
There are faster drives out there.
Seagate still makes external drives with the internal headers intact, so I strongly recommend looking at their product offerings.
I want to give this drive 1 star because of the removal of internal headers, but the likelihood of one of these "catastrophic failures" is low enough that doesn't seem fair.
I'm giving it 3 stars because this drive is incredibly average. The company, support and software is spectacular, which would make it 5 stars. But then the lack of internal headers brings us back down to 3 stars, wiping out the advantage WD brings just by being WD.
Pros: I chose to use this drive purely as a media and data backup device - simple needs to which the drive performed admirably. The housing is light plastic with tiny rubber feet but it seems solid enough.
I kept the drive in the plastic clamshell casing and the box it came in and padded it between clothing when I traveled overseas and back and sure enough the drive came through just fine, though some of my luggage did not.
USB 3 for the win. Copied from older laptops and systems for photos and video backup at (expected) USB 2.0 speeds since old equipment is well, old, and maintained about 35MB/sec as again, expected.
Held closer to 90-110 MB/sec on USB 3 enabled devices with the SS port or blue USB 3 port.
Male part of the cable is a USB plug and a traditional SS design cable for the drive itself.
Plugged it in, had 1.8TB of usable space or so and was good to go. Nice and well, portable.
This drive is not serving as a drive image, nor has any overly sensitive information on it so I did not test out the security and encryption options.
I always prefer to copy what data I do need to drives manually so again, I did not utilize WD's suite of tools that were on the HDD by default. An oversight for testing perhaps, but I used the drive how I use any others and it performed fantastically.
Power is pushed through the cable so there is no need for an AC adapter. The drive remained incredibly quiet and fairly cool to the touch when in operation.
Cons: I could find no cons for the span of time I used the drive over several different vacation days to backup data.
Overall Review: I tested dumping to the drive from a Dell Studio 1505, a Lenovo AIO business machine, a small form factor HP desktop, and (attempted a copy but failed due to Mac OS X and NTFS) hooking the drive to a Retina 5K Mac. All machines recognized the drive perfectly fine and had no issue copying either from a card reader or the C drive to the portable HDD.
Likewise upon return home, it had no problems hooking up to any USB 2 or 3 ports on my EVGA Dark X79 board. It's a nice and simple HDD, what more other than perhaps rotational speed could one ask for?
Pros: It's a small 1TB drive that works on USB 2.0 and 3.0, requires no external power, looks stylish, and runs cool.
For typical use-case scenarios, this drive is wonderful. I keep the drive in my laptop back, and keep it pre-loaded with computer maintenance/administration software so I don't have to worry about downloading it or having to transfer it to my laptop ahead of time. It's also great at LAN parties for transferring games to one another.
Cons: Doing a low-level format with hdparm will brick this drive, and is not easy (if at all) to recover from. Because of this note, doing a hardware/manufacturer-based drive erase isn't possible, and you'll have to rely on other methods (zeroing out or randoming all sectors).
The actual hard drive is also using a USB PCB, which limits technical flexibility a bit.
To a typical user, the above doesn't mean anything, and on that note, has no other downsides that I can think of.
Overall Review: Average read rate is 94MB/s. Average write rate is 89MB/s. Average access time is 18ms. Read/write rates were done with 100 samples of 10MB, and access time was with 1000 samples. This is from Fedora 22 through USB 3.0. On USB 2.0, it goes to 35MB/s read and 30MB/s write (same access time, same amount of samples and same sample size as USB 3.0; tested on the same OS and computer).
secure-erase-enhanced is what will brick the drive specifically if done from hdparm. Regular secure-erase is unknown. The drive's firmware ends up getting corrupted during the process, which renders the drive unusable in any machine. Total disk space may be displayed, but any attempts at formatting will fail. Using any of WD's tools on their support page will also fail (firmware can't flash because the drive's firmware is up-to-date, format claims the drive is locked, etc). dco-restore doesn't fix this either.
WD will also not provide any firmware through email should this scenario occur (policy). I'm not entirely sure if the firmware can be reflashed through hdparm or another tool over USB, but if it can't, then recovery becomes even more difficult.
The PCB the drive itself uses directly uses USB, and does not have the expected SATA-to-USB boards most other portable drives use. So this drive can't be used internally, and on this note, you should probably just stay away from using advanced tools like hdparm because of this. I'm not sure if the PCB can be swapped out.
On Linux, if you wipe out all partitions on the disk (through gnome-disk-utility and do no partition scheme), you'll be able to see the actual hard drive itself show, and you can grab S.M.A.R.T data and test the drive. The drive manages to stick around for a few minutes after unplugging it in this state, so in order to hotplug it and have it detect again, you'll have to wait a bit or just reboot.
The idle start/stop issue known on WD drives and Linux doesn't seem to occur.
The top plastic is also swappable with other Passport Ultra devices, but this isn't recommended to do (and may void warranty).
Also note this is a hard drive (not solid state). WD has taken care to make sure the drive itself is more rugged than a standard internal drive, but it still has spinning platters and a moving read/write head. Just take care not to subject it to hard shocks or anything overly aggressive during use.
The drive doesn't seem to mount in Android (regardless of NTFS or FAT, GUID or MBR, and even from the OS itself or recovery). Tested on a Nexus 7 2013 with CM12.1.
Pros: Pretty small, but slightly larger than other similar portable drives: 4.35" x 3.22" x 0.60" (110.5mm x 82.1mm x 15.1mm)
Runs relatively cool (100 degrees F. after 15 minutes of heavy use).
Included WD Utilities application allows you run diagnostics on the drive (Similar to SeaTools), and configure the sleep times on the drive (never, 10, 15, 30, 45, or 90 minutes).
Simple but effective backup software included. You can select which files to back up, and how often do it (immediate, every hour, every day, every month). Files can then be selected for restore and placed in their original location or a directory of your choice.
Hardware encryption, which doesn't require any software to be installed (except to initially set the password.
Made in Thailand.
It boasts very respectable transfer rates, which do not appear to be affected by having security enabled.
Sequential Read : 111.107 MB/s
Sequential Write : 111.049 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 41.521 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 58.560 MB/s
Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 0.536 MB/s [ 130.9 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 1.372 MB/s [ 334.9 IOPS]
Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 0.583 MB/s [ 142.4 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 1.342 MB/s [ 327.7 IOPS]
Test : 2000 MB [G: 0.2% (1.5/931.5 GB)] (x3)
Date : 2015/06/25 12:28:15
OS : Windows 7 Professional SP1 [6.1 Build 7601] (x64)
Cons: The 18" USB cord is a bit limiting, but all portable disks come with the same length cord, so no points off.
The installer would not download the latest version that it said was available so I had to update after installing the applications. Not sure if this is a bug in the installer or my computer acting up.
Overall Review: While unverifiable, Western Digital claims to be using 256bit AES encryption, which when implement properly is secure, however we know from recent news that several hard hard drive manufacturers (including Western Digital) are working with the NSA on less than honorable things. While I am in no way condoning the storage of something the NSA would find interesting, it is likely that there is a back-door in this encryption implementation that would allow them (and who knows who else) to access encrypted data without having to break the security password.
There are a number of lightweight software based encryption tools available for free in the public domain (you can even download the source code then review it and compile it yourself if you chose). Any drive could arguably be better secured using these tools at no cost.
Having said that, for the average user who is simply trying to secure their data from the prying eyes of a thief, this device will work very well and the extra $10-15 is probably worth not having to deal with other software.