Western Digital My Book Essential 250GB External Hard Drive Review

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Introduction

Like most notebook owners, I recently became aware of a need for more storage space. The proliferation in digital media such as video, music & high resolution images has resulted in a corresponding increase in demand for storage space. Notebook computers often come equipped with smaller hard drives than their desktop cousins, and their closed chassis makes upgrading the existing drive a task few owners wish to consider. We therefore turn to external means such as USB flash keys, optical media, online backup or, as we look at here: external hard-drives.

I was limited to external hard-drives since I needed to also backup my 100GB internal drive, in addition to using it as storage for extra (non-critical) files. My critical data is still backed up onto DVD-RW once a week, as a redundant means should both hard-drives die. And so began the (very short) search. Amazon.co.uk immediately alerted me to the My Book Essential at 65 for 250GB, and I read the reviews which seemed almost wholly positive. At this price, no other drive on any other site could do better!


(view large image)

Other Options

Western Digital’s My Book range has several tiers catering for different users, from home to professional. They differ in price and capacity quite substantially.


Western Digital My Book standing vertically (view large image)

The main alternative option to the Essential is the Premium which is slightly more expensive and includes Firewire in addition to USB2. For my basic needs, USB2 was fine.

The My Book


What you get in the box with the My Book external hard drive (view large image)

  • Weight: 1.32kg (2.9lbs)
  • Height: 17cm (6.6”)
  • Width: 5.7cm (2.3”)
  • Depth: 14cm (5.6”)
  • Power Brick Dimensions:
    • Length: 8.5cm (3.3”)
    • Width: 5.5cm (2.2”)
    • Depth: 3cm (1.2”)
    • Weight: ~100g (3.5oz) [I estimated this weight versus my mobile-phone]
  • Cable Dimensions:
    • USB Cable: 120cm (4’)
    • Drive/Brick: 160cm (5’ 3”)
    • Brick/Plug: 140cm (4’ 8”)

The name "My Book" derives from the (apparent) likeness of the drive to a book. I have to say I cannot see this resemblance too much since it looks like a vaguely book-shaped black plastic box with a green LED ring. Still, versus other external drives in this price bracket, it is undeniably stylish (though I would rather say it was “visually inoffensive”).


Rear connections on the My Book external hard drive (view large image)

The green circle is used to indicate drive activity. Solid green indicates the drive is on, and flashing green shows the drive is being read to/accessed. The centre of the LED ring is a button for manually starting/shutting down the unit. There are no other buttons on the device.

Video demonstration of Western Digital MyBook hard drive being accessed as indicated by green light

The My Book can be stood vertically or horizontally, and includes self-adhesive rubber feet which can be fixed to either side. There are rubber strips on the narrow base for those wishing to stand it vertically. I assume these are to dampen sound as well as prevent slippage.

The My Book comes with extremely long cabling, enabling you to put the unit out of sight with ease. The power brick is also small and light, though clearly the main unit is something intended to be left on a desk, especially since it requires an external power supply.

There is a Kensington Lock slot on the rear, providing security whilst deskbound.

Disk Performance

The disk spins at 7200rpm and uses a USB 2.0 interface. HDTune gives the results versus my 4200rpm 100GB internal drive. The actual capacity is 232GB, and initially comes FAT32 formatted, though I changed this to NTFS.


Western Digital My Book 250GB hard drive performance via USB 2.0 (view large image)


Notebook internal 100GB 4200RPM hard drive (view large image)

In general use the drive feels snappy, with no noticeable delay versus my internal. In fact, the only reason I can tell I am using the external is due to the sound it makes when writing/reading data. My general use consists of merely copying and saving files, not disk-intensive activities such as streaming HD media/video encoding and the like, which is something to bear in mind when choosing this drive. The Firewire equipped Premium model may be more suitable for that purpose

Noise and Heat

The drive is encased in thick plastic, and has plenty of free space around the drive itself. This helps muffle sound as well as allow heat to dissipate. It is passively cooled, with no fans which also helps keep noise low. There is a series of perforations along the perimeter to allow heat-escape which works well in practice. After a sustained 2 hour write operation the case was only mild to the touch.


Cooling grid on the My Book external hard drive (view large image)

The My Book switches itself off after a period of inactivity which is around 10 minutes, then spins back up again when required. You can of course manually switch it off if needed. When spinning, the drive is audible but not loud enough to hear over system fans in general. When there is a read/write operation occurring, the sound is substantially louder, akin to a “clicking”. This is slightly louder than an internal desktop drive, meaning if noise bothers you a lot this may not be the drive for you. For most people however, the sound will be fine (I should add I abhor extraneous sound from fans etc, so I am quite picky in this matter).

Installation and Software

Befitting its “Essential” moniker, the drive includes absolutely zero software for backup. I believe the Premium version does, so either choose that or have alternative arrangements ready. For my purposes, drag and drop through explorer is fine. Western Digital also includes Google Desktop on the drive to install if you wish. No drivers are included, nor required for use in Windows XP/2000. Those with previous versions or Mac users will need to download them from the Western Digital website.

Conclusion

The Western Digital My Book Essential is a great piece of kit. I believe it fully achieves all the desires the everyday consumer requires. That is, cheap plentiful storage with an attractive design. For backing up important data, or extending your storage capacity this device is ideal. One caveat is the lack of included backup software, though that helps contribute towards the low cost. The fact they include a US and UK adaptor is a nice touch too. Those looking for Firewire and software can upgrade to the Premium edition for a fair amount, for all other users this is a great purchase.

Pros

  • Excellent capacity for price
  • Generally quiet in operation
  • Runs cool
  • Attractively designed
  • Satisfactory performance
  • US/UK Plugs included

Cons

  • Heavy, making it unsuitable for portable use
  • Requires external power
  • Uses a power brick
  • Can be quite noisy under read/write
  • No included backup software
  • No Firewire connectivity

 


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