Western Digital Passport vs Elements. These external hard drives are well known as great value and low cost options for data storage. An external hard drive allows you to increase the available storage space of your device.

If your main drive is large enough for everything you need, an external storage device allows you to back up important files and documents. Partnered with Western Digital’s backup software: SmartWare, your new external drive will contain copies of your data you can recover in the event your main drive fails.

Many external hard drives exist on the market today, and this post examines the similarities and differences in specifications, pricing, and features between these two offerings from Western Digital: Elements and My Passport.

Western Digital Elements vs Western Digital My Passport Specifications

Western Digital Elements

Western Digital My Passport

Storage capacity options (Current sizes available from Amazon) ·         1 TB

·         2 TB

·         3 TB

·         4 TB

·         5 TB

·         1 TB

·         2 TB

·         4 TB

·         5 TB

Physical Dimensions 4.4 in x 3.2 in x 0.8 in
(11.2 cm x 8.1 cm x 2.0 cm)
4.33 in x 3.21 in x 0.64 in
(11.1 cm x 8.2 cm x 1.6 cm)
Available security features ·         No encryption

·         No password protection

·         256-bit AES Encryption

·         Password Protection

Type of Drive ·         Spinning Disk ·         Spinning Disk
Cloud Storage No cloud storage included No cloud storage included
Automatic Backup Software No automatic backup software included with drive SmartWare automatic backup software included with drive
Shape Rectangular with round corners Rectangular with square corners
Design ·         Smooth surface with matte finish ·         Half smooth surface with glossy finish.

·         Half textured surface with matte finish.

Operating Temperature ·         41 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit

·         5 to 35 degrees Celsius

·         41 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit

·         5 to 35 degrees Celsius

Non-Operating Temperature ·         -4 to 149 degrees Fahrenheit

·         -20 to 65 degrees Celsius

·         -4 to 149 degrees Fahrenheit

·         -20 to 65 degrees Celsius

Maximum Serial Transfer Rate over USB 2.0 480 Mb per second 480 Mb per second
Maximum Serial Transfer Rate over USB 3.0 5 Gb per second 5 Gb per second
Power Source USB cable to computer USB cable to computer
Connector Type Micro USB Micro USB
Available colors ·         Black ·         Black

·         Blue (2 TB and 4 TB sizes only)

·         Red (2 TB and 4 TB sizes only)

Western Digital Elements

Advantages of the Western Digital Elements Drive:

  • Inexpensive
  • Small form-factor ideal for portability
  • Simple design
  • Many different sizes of storage capacity available
  • Compatible with USB 3.0

Disadvantages of the Western Digital Elements Drive:

  • Warranty is only for 1 year
  • No pre-installed backup software
  • No security features
  • Spinning disk, not solid state
  • Drive is slow, especially with the larger sizes

Price:

WD Elements is a compact, high-capacity external drive available at an accessible price point. The cost per GB of storage is only four cents. It is one of the least expensive portable storage devices on the market today.

Physical Size and Storage size:

  • The physical size of the drive is 4.4 inches x 3.2 inches x 0.8 inches (11.2 cm x 8.1 cm x 2.0 cm), small enough to fit in a pocket.
  • Available storage sizes for the Elements drive are 500 GB, 750 GB, 1 TB, 1.5 TB, 2 TB, 3 TB, 4 TB, and 5TB. 1 TB, 2 TB, 3 TB, 4 TB, and 5 TB are available from Amazon.

Disk Type and Speed:

The Western Digital Elements is a spinning disk drive. This lowers its relative cost on the market due to the rising popularity of solid state drives. It spins at the rate of an average, low-power laptop drive, around 5400 revolutions per minute. This revolution speed dictates how fast your data can be accessed by the computer, and this will have a slower rate of recall than a drive spinning at 7200 rpm.

Resilience:

The spinning disk design means that sudden shocks from hard handling or dropping can damage the disk inside the drive. Make sure when you take this drive with you that it is secured well inside your bag to prevent this damage.

Security Features:

The Western Digital Elements hard drive does not have the ability to add disk encryption, password protection, or other security. Make sure you don’t store anything like passwords, banking information or your social security number on the drive. Anyone who has access to the drive can plug it in and view what is on it.

Design:

Simple and streamlined, the shroud of the Western Digital Elements resembles that of higher quality drives also available from Western Digital. It has rounded corners and a smooth surface for a clean, modern appearance.

The simple, plug and play design of the Western Digital Elements means it works well with both computers and gaming consoles as either added storage or a backup device.

Bottom Line for Western Digital Elements:

If you are searching for an easy way to carry your (not sensitive) data on the go, the Elements is a good choice for you. If you need to increase the storage of your gaming console such as the Xbox One, the Elements is a good choice for you.

Western Digital My Passport

Advantages of the Western Digital My Passport Drive

  • Inexpensive
  • Compact and easily portable
  • Many different sizes of storage capacity available
  • Compatible with USB 3.0
  • 256-Bit AES Encryption and Password Protection available
  • SSD version available at higher cost
  • Comes with SmartWare backup software

Disadvantages of the Western Digital My Passport Drive:

  • Spinning Disk technology, not a solid state drive
  • More expensive than the Western Digital Elements external hard drive competitor product from the same line.
  • Design aesthetics will not appeal to everyone

Price:

WD My Passport is a small drive with a large storage capacity at a cost the average consumer can easily afford. The cost per GB of storage is only five cents. It is one of the least expensive portable storage devices on the market today.

Physical Size and Storage Size:

  • The physical size of the drive is 4.33 inches x 3.21 inches x 0.64 inches (11.1 cm x 8.2 cm x 1.6 cm), which is small enough to fit in your hand and great for portability.
  • Available storage sizes for the My Passport drive are 500 GB, 750 GB, 1 TB, 1.5 TB, 2 TB, 3 TB, 4 TB, and 5TB. 1 TB, 2 TB, 4 TB, and 5 TB are available from Amazon.

Disk Type and Speed:

The Western Digital My Passport is a spinning disk drive. This lowers its relative cost on the market due to the rising popularity of solid state drives and makes the hard disk comparison between the two similar as they are both spinning disk.

It spins at the rate of an average low power laptop drive, around 5400 revolutions per minute.

This revolution speed dictates how fast your data can be accessed by the computer, will affect the transfer rate of your data to the drive from your computer, and this will have a slower rate of recall than many modern drives which spin at 7200 rpm.

Resilience:

The spinning disk design means that sudden shocks from hard handling or dropping can damage the disk inside the drive.

Anti shock cases are available for purchase for the My Passport and other Western Digital drives which can help mitigate some of the damage from accidental bumping and jarring.

The Western Digital My Passport has additional models with added features. They do have an offering with a solid state drive inside, but that adds $100 to the cost.

If you need the speed offered by a drive that does not rely on revolutions per minute for read and write speed, you may want to consider the solid state version of the My Passport drive.

Installed Software on the Device:

The WD My Passport drive comes with Western Digital’s automatic backup software: SmartWare. If you are using the external drive to back up your main hard drive, you can schedule SmartWare to automatically make copies of your data.

If you regularly update your files and need them to be accessible in the event of your main drive failure, you can create a backup schedule every week or month, however often you need the security that your data will not be lost due to an unexpected failure of your computer’s primary hard drive.

If you are constantly on the go and do not have reliable internet access to use cloud storage, you can back it up however often you need to take your files and documents with you.

Security Features:

Unlike the Western Digital Elements drive, the My Passport external hard drive comes with 256 bit AES Encryption and the ability to add a password to protect the data on your drive.

You have the ability to protect your device from someone just plugging it into their own computer and accessing the information you have by creating encrypted volumes on the drive.

This does mean, however, you will have to enter the password every time you want to access the encrypted volume. This is not ideal for data you need to access daily for your work or hobbies. It should be used primarily for sensitive information you don’t want to fall into the wrong hands if your drive were to be lost or stolen.

This is merely an added layer of protection for your data, it is not a magical solution to keeping people from getting into your drive.

Remember that encryption is only as good as its implementation. If you have a weak or easily guessed password, someone who wants to get in and access your information will have an easier time doing it than if you make sure you have a complex passphrase necessary for getting to the information.

Any encryption you have on your My Passport drive will be based on a software solution. It is rare in external hard drives to find a device with hardware accelerated encryption support. Software encryption support is much lower in performance than hardware encryption support, and may not be compatible with every device you plug your drive into.

Design:

The design of the My Passport will not appeal to everyone. The Western Digital My Passport drive is not the simple rectangular shape with rounded corners the Elements drive has.

The rectangle has sharp corners and half of it is smooth and glossy, while the other half is textured with a matte finish. Depending on when the drive was made, the divide between with two finishes looks different.

The older drives are equal halves along the length of drive, while the newer ones have the divide in a diagonal pattern.

Bottom Line for Western Digital My Passport:

For $0.05 per gigabyte of storage, the Western Digital My Passport drive is a small, easily portable drive which allows you to create password protected files and documents. If you need a way to take your data with you and use a password to access it so that not just anyone can plug and play, then the My Passport is right for you.

The USB Cable

Both the Western Digital Elements and the Western Digital My Passport drive use the 3.0 version of the micro USB B cable, and the cable that comes in the box are only one foot long. With either drive, you need to keep it very close to the device you are working with due to the short length of the cable.

The cable itself is a low quality cable, and this connector specifically is of inferior construction. It is extremely easy to damage either the connector or the port when using this cable. When using a USB cable to power an external device, it is very important to make sure you use a shielded cable.

Neither the Western Digital Elements nor the Western Digital My Passport drive uses the USB C cable which is increasing in popularity, though the more expensive version of the My Passport, the My Passport: Ultra, does offer USB C capability.

Differences Between WD Elements and WD My Passport:

  • The design aesthetic is not the same between the Western Digital Elements and the Western Digital My Passport
    • WD Elements has sleek, unobtrusive design
    • WD My Passport has a half sleek, half textured design that will not appeal to everyone
  • No software already installed on the Western Digital Elements
  • SmartWare software comes installed on Western Digital My Passport

The biggest difference between the WD Elements and My Passport drives is the ability to create volumes that are protected by a password. The Western Digital Elements drive will not let you do this and the Western Digital My Passport will.

As far as the SmartWare backup software offered by Western Digital, it comes with the purchase of the My Passport drive and is ready for you to use. If you purchase the Elements drive, you can still make use of this software by Western Digital, but you must go to their website to get a copy of the software.

Once you download SmartWare from the Western Digital website, you can set it up to make automatic backups like the My Passport, but you have to put in the time and the effort to figure out how to use it instead of having it already there for you.

Conclusion

The prices for the two hard drives are very close to each other for 1 TB of storage space, and the Elements is only a repository for information. Unless you are only interested in having a place to offload your data to make extra space, the Elements drive is not an ideal solution for making backups of files and documents.

The Western Digital My Passport drive is only marginally more expensive than the competitor model of the Elements by the same brand. It offers the ability to password protect your information. It comes with the SmartWare software preinstalled to schedule automatic backups of your information. If you can get past the design aesthetic (or if that appeals to your personal style) then the My Passport is the better drive for you.

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