Monday, October 22, 2007

New Gadget #13

My latest gadget is an update on a previously reported gadget.

This week I bought the latest and greatest Western Digital Passport external hard drive. A drive with a honking 250GB of space on it in the same packaging that my older 120GB and later 160GB drive used. In fact side by side with my prior 160GB drive you can't tell which is which:

Interestingly, they came out with this quick enough that they are still using the 160GB retail packaging with just a sticker over the 16GB on the front of the package. When I first looked at the back of the package (which listed only 120GB and 160GB) I was worried about a bait/switch from the retailer. However, that wasn't the case, it was a real deal.

The drive comes formatted with a FAT filesystem and has software for doing automated backups and synchronization with your primary hard drive. I immediately reformatted it for NTFS so I could use encryption and such on the drive. I don't need the backup or synchronization stuff as I use this drive as an extended primary drive rather than a backup drive. I use rsync to backup my system (including the WD drive) to my server regardless of my location (remote or at home).

Some who have used this device have complained about the fact that it sometimes won't work in their USB port. WD does document that it requires a full power USB port (though I can't find any documentation on exactly what is a full power USB port and how do you know you have one). I have had problems when I plug this device into some ports and found that on my laptop only one of the ports works reliably. Even the ports on my external powered hub are not sufficient to power the device alone. So when at home using the hub, I use a Y cable that grabs power from a second USB port to power the WD drive. I'm not sure where I got the cable, it was lying about in my USB cables collection, but WD does sell one.

The only other thing is that I suggest you buy the slipcase sold by WD to protect the drive when on the road. I had one lying about from my 160GB drive, so I just used that one.

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Anonymous said...

Do you know the power consumption, in watts, when at idle and when performing a full rsync?

Conor P. Cahill said...

No, I don't. Nor was I able to find good numbers on what to expect out of USB ports or how to identify which were "full power" or not.

I would have thought that all the ports on an externally powered USB hub would be full power, but mine clearly were not.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how to check the status of the USB port. But, to check on the watts the devices uses, you can grab a "kill-a-watt" and measure the watts at idle and full load. The older WD MySchoolBooks use <1 watt at idle and only 4 watts at full write (measured while doing a copy of some large 4GB files).

Conor P. Cahill said...

I have a few Kill-a-Watt's, but they don't measure USB power. This disk drive is powered totally by the USB port and not by an external power supply.

Anonymous said...

Not sure why I didn't catch the "powered by USB port" piece. :( My guess why it works on some ports and not others would be that some ports are USB 2.0 and the other are 1.0. USB devices should draw between 4.75 V and 5.25 V. I can't tell if that's just for the 2.0 spec or for both the 1 and 2 spec. I did find this link interesting while I searched for the USB specifications: