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Western Digital is an American Company that was formed in 1970 and since then has built a reputation for manufacturing quality storage systems and with this in mind, and having looked at a number of other manufacturers, I decided to buy the WD My Book Essential with a hard drive capacity of 2TB.
The product is made in Taiwan and comes packaged in a bright green box with a picture of the hard drive on the front, claiming 'Ultra-fast backup and storage' but qualifies this by stating that the Ultra-fast performance is achieved by using USB 3.0. I don't have USB 3.0 ports on my computer and I'm quite happy with the slower USB 2.0 transfer rate.
The reverse of the box gives further details of the transfer speeds:-
By using USB 3.0, 500 photos can be backed up in 41 seconds , 2000 songs in 3 minutes 11 seconds and a 2 hour HD movie in 3 minutes 32 seconds. Using USB 2.0 these times increase to 1 minute 53 seconds, 7 minutes 42 seconds and 13 minutes 28 seconds respectively.
Inside the box is the Hard Drive, USB cable and Power lead with a large 3-pin plug (which also serves as the AC adapter). The reason why the drive is called 'My Book' is because it does resemble a hard-back book. It is quite small - 16 x 13 x 5 cm - and comes in shiny black plastic. The front is curved and apart from the WD logo in silver and black, it is featureless until you turn on the power when a small white light appears.
There are minimal instructions included and basically it is just a question of plugging one end of the USB cable into the back of the hard drive, the other end into a convenient USB port on your computer, connecting to a power point and switching it on using the power button on the back. My computer allocated a drive letter and named it 'My Book', installed the drivers and I was up and running. It is already NTFS formatted so it is compatible with all of the latest Windows operating systems.
The software is stored on the hard drive itself, rather than a separate CD, and although this should auto-run I found that I had to go through My Computer (Windows PC), click on the drive letter and start the software manually. It then presents you with the option of installing the full WD SmartWare, which consists of a Backup and Retrieve program, a Drive Lock and Drive Management software, or alternatively just the latter two items. The hard drive, however, will work completely satisfactorily without installing any of these. The manual is also included on the hard drive - it is very comprehensive but the photos and diagrams are not at all clear - something which I don't find acceptable.
Although the hard drive claims to have a 2TB capacity, as is always the case the actual physical memory available is less - in this instance 1.81TB. I would say that this would be adequate for an average home user, although it is surprising how quickly it can fill up.
The drive is very quiet when transferring data and sits silently when not in use with only the light at the front to show that it is powered on. There is no heat from it to speak of even after transferring a lot of data.
The only issue that I have had with this hard drive is that occasionally when booting my computer, it does not mount the drive and I have to reconnect the USB cable. This is a minor irritation, but an irritation nonetheless.
Aesthetically, this could not be classified as a 'piece of art' - but it does match my shiny black plastic printer and my shiny black plastic computer, and it doesn't look like a brick. It functions well and I do have peace of mind that my data is reasonably safe. As a precaution, I bought a second one shortly after to use to 'backup my backups' (I am a cautious person and would prefer to have my music collection backed up twice in case of a drive failure).
The price of external hard drives has fallen considerably but now seems to have stabilised somewhat. Mine cost £99.99 but I see that Amazon are currently selling them at £79.99. At this price it gets my recommendation.