Western Digital Passport Portable USB 2.0 Hard Drive (160 Gb)

Western Digital Passport Portable USB 2.0 Hard Drive (160 Gb)

Product review
Date 9/30/07

Manufacturer: Western Digital
Model: WD Passport 160 GB/Go

Computer used for test: 1.67 GHz PowerPC G4 Macintosh laptop running 10.4.10 system.

Review summary: Not recommended for computers that cannot support 500 ma or more of power on the USB bus.

As soon as I purchased this hard drive from COSTCO, I plugged this hard drive unit into my iMac laptop USB 2 connector and the hard drive would not mount. It made a clicking noise over and over every 4 seconds. I tried to plug the unit before booting the computer I applied power and after I applied power, still it would not mount. I ran the Macintosh Disk Utility program and the unit would not show up. I gave the hard drive to my son who also has a Macintosh laptop. His Mac is newer with dual core technology and can run Windows. The drive mounted right away.

I hooked the WD drive up to a Belkin USB hub (FSU234) and the hard drive showed up on my computer. The purpose of buying this hard drive is that it gains its power from the laptop so the user can go anywhere with this drive and be able to use it. I tried a no name powered 4 port USB 2.0 hub but the drive would not show. Oddly though the drive stopped clicking when connected through the cheap 4 port hub.

I hooked the drive up to the Belkin USB hub (FSU234) and erased the disk to the Mac format and then rebooted. The drive would not mount directly connected to the computer. This tells me that it possibly is a power problem and not a hard drive format problem.

It is my guess that the amount of power required to power this external hard drive might be too much for my laptop. Going into the specifications for the laptop under “About This Mac” I found that he USB power typically available is 500 mA. The specifications for the drive are 650 mA maximum draw. When a drive starts up, it naturally will draw more current. I was later to find out that the specifications showed 1000 mA draw during start up. I looked over the package that the drive came in and nowhere did it list the current draw of the Western Digital drive. It did state “A special cable is available for the few computers that limit output power”. What does that mean?

Sure enough, plowing into the Western Digital web site I found the following:

The WD Passport drive either does not spin up or tries to spin but clicks when it is connected to a USB port.

There may not be enough power currently supplied to the machine’s USB port. Some computer systems only supply 500mA of power through USB ports. The WD Passport hard drive requires a little over 1000mA of power at spin up.

One solution the web site put forth is as follows:
Title: USB 2.0 Power Booster Cable – WDCA029RNN (Silver or Black Passport™ drive)
The cable gains the power boost by using power from two USB ports on the system. Well, my Mac offers 500 mA per port so two ports should offer 1000mA. The cost is $9.99 which is pretty much the savings I achieved by going to COSTCO instead of any other store. Shipping will drive my cost even higher.

I am wondering why Western Digital failed to offer the Y cable in the package to ensure the user would find their product completely usable. On the front of the package it states, “No separate power supply needed”. Slightly misleading statement when one has to get a second USB power source from the laptop or from a USB hub device.

I called the local Apple Super Store and they do not offer the USB Y cable. I think this rather odd because it is their computer that is limiting the power output. To their credit, Apple did follow the specifications for USB power out being 500 ma.

Because there is NO way to apply external power to this Western Digital drive except by using a really good USB hub or buying the USB Y cable, this drive actually has a distinct disadvantage over a drive one can also plug into the wall when used with computers that fail to offer sufficient power. Ideally one should buy a drive that would self-power off of a computer and if that were to fail, some provision for external power should be provided. Also, because some customers must purchase another device to make the unit work, this detracts from obtaining a good score review.

I am sorry that I purchased this unit. I cannot recommend it for computers that cannot supply the required 1000 mA from a single USB port connection.

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