WD Elements for Mac, Is it Great for the Money?

By Paul Gregory / February 15, 2019
WD Elements for Mac

You need to take that first step and sort out the log jam of documents and pictures you have on your Macbook Pro, or Air or iMac …

WD Elements for Mac – is it a hard drive that will work on your Mac?

And is it worth the money?

No matter what flavor of Mac you have there comes that day when you’re tight on space or you realize you must get a back up sorted.

– Macs only have internal disks of a certain size

If you put the WD Elements Portable on your Mac will it solve your problem?

Let me help you decide.

Here is what the Elements Portable external hard drive looks like;

Take a look at the price of the WD Elements Portable on Amazon

It may not be the most glamorous looking of external hard drives – not compared to your Mac, which is of course stylish and beautifully formed. That said what the Elements Portable does, it does with elegance and yes you can have the WD Elements work on your Mac.

Read on and I’ll untangle that maze of thoughts on

  • How do you connect it up?
  • How do I format my WD Elements for Mac?
  • Will you get an external hard drive that’ll solve your hard disk space issue and
  • secure the files on your Mac with a back up or
  • have a place you can copy files off to take with you or share with a friend who has a Windows PC.

Is it great for the money?

First Let’s Look at The Company

Be assured, Western Digital (WD) had been around since 1970 and has been selling storage products since 1980. It is one of the largest disk manufacturers in the market with their main competitor being Seagate Technologies.

You can take a look at what I say on Seagate’s comparable external hard drive on the site.

WD manufactures good products and has sold thousands of the Elements drives and a lot of them are connected to Macs.

Now Let’s Look at the WD Elements Hard Drive Options

The WD Elements Portable external drive comes in several capacities.

Portable Capacity
1TB and 2TB
4.35 in by 3.2 in by 0.6 in
0.29 lb.
Portable Capacity
3TB and 4TB
4.4 in by 3.2 in by 0.82 in
0.52 lb.

Not sure which size to choose, take a look at the main page on this site because towards the bottom there is an article that guides you through in six steps how to choose an external hard drive.

The WD Elements Portable is often considered along side the WD My Passport hard drive. If you are considering both then check out my article that compares the two hard drives point by point and save yourself some research.

Feel secure that the WD Elements Portable has over 3,500 customer reviews on Amazon with nearly 80% of those who reviewed the drive rated it as excellent to very good. Click on the picture of the Elements drive above because you can scroll down to the reviews and you can take a look.

Desirable Features of the WD Elements Portable External Hard Drive

Convenient size makes it perfect for those who study or businessmen or women who want a hard drive that is easy to use and handy.

It is worth bearing in mind that this drive is basic (it even says so on the box).

WD Elements In Box

Even says basic on the box.

With none of the frills you’ll see on some premium hard drives, including those from Western Digital.

Frills like password protection or on drive encryption but you really don’t need them. You have a Mac and Mac OS has you covered. Disk Utility and Time Machine allows you to encrypt your data and assign a password.

One thing,

The Mac software is one of the most secure pieces of software on the market – just ask the FBI – lose your password and you’ll be crying, cause there aint any way of getting it back.

USB Support

The WD hard drive supports USB 3.0 and is provided with a cable that is also backward compatible with USB 2.0 for the older Macs you may have.

WD Elements USB Port

WD Elements USB Port

Ok you say, is that important?

Well what it really means is that the hard drive will not be the fastest drive on the block but it will be decent. If you are using it on an older Mac with a USB 2.0 port you’ll be getting about 30 Mbps data transfer speed, compared to 110 Mbps on a Mac with a USB 3.0 port.

What if you have the latest and greatest Macbook with a Thunderbolt port?

There is no Thunderbolt protocol or USB-C connections on this Elements Portable drive.

You’ll be able to use the Elements drive on your new Mac but you will need an adaptor cable – easy enough to get from Amazon,

Once connected the drive will perform at USB 3.0 speed. Oh, you think disappointed.

Yes, you can get a Thunderbolt based drive but you do pay a premium for that faster speed. If you are a video editor or heavy photoshopper and want to work directly off the Elements drive, then this hard drive will not be for you.

You can go take a look at the Thunderbolt drives I’ve highlighted as great on this page.

The Elements Portable is a basic drive that’ll do your backups at a great price and that’s why it has been selling so fantastically well.

ok with that? Read on …

WD Elements Portable is convenient to carry about in your messenger bag or briefcase, remember though that this drive has moving components and is not a rugged drive.

Just as you wouldn’t drop your laptop on the floor and expect it to be fine, a drop or a fall could damage this drive so consider buying a robust carrying case.

What is in the box?

  • You will find the WD Elements Portable hard drive
  • Approximately 12 inch USB 3.0 cable
  • The Quick Start Guide.

You can take a look at the Quick Start Guide here.

Want to see a video unboxing the WD Elements Portable?
Check it out;

Credits to: Raul R Lupescu

With the WD Elements drive is a 30 day trial of WD’s Smartware Pro back up software from Western Digital. This software is designed for PC only. It is not for use on your Mac so don’t be tempted to try it.

Backup Software Trial On Box

If you plan to share the Elements Portable between your Mac and a PC it may be useful for you to use Smartware Pro for the Windows PC.

The Elements Portable Warranty

The WD Elements Portable is sold with 2 years limited warranty, which is reasonable and good value for the money for a basic hard drive of its type.

How do I Use my WD Elements Portable On a Mac?

The drive is bus powered. This means that you only need to plug the drive into the Mac with its USB cable and the cable acts to both transfer the files and to supply power to the portable USB drive.

The drive is low powered and you won’t have to be concerned with having a separate power adaptor.

Depending on where and how you want to use this portable you may find the USB 3.0 cable supplied in the box too short for your use at around 12 inches in length.

WD Elements USB Cable

WD Elements USB Cable

The USB cable is a standard USB 3.0 cable so there should be no problem getting a longer replacement cable on Amazon.

For us Mac users wanting this portable hard drive for Mac, there is not much to it. You power up your Mac and then plug in the drive and the computer recognizes the hard drive attached as it would a USB stick.

The Elements Portable drive is formatted to NTFS which means it will plug straight onto a Windows PC and be seen straightaway. For a Mac the hard drive will be recognized but you will need to reformat the Elements Portable hard drive before you can use it.

How do You do this?

How do I Format my WD Elements for Mac?

And how do I format WD Elements for Mac High Sierra, the latest version of the Mac operating system?

Whether you are using Mac OS Sierra or High Sierra the procedure is the same:

Once plugged in your Mac will see that the Western Digital hard drive is connected and the drive will appear on the main screen as an icon.

External Drive Icon On Desktop

External Drive Icon On Desktop

After that it is just a simple matter of formatting the drive on your Mac. To do that you need to use a piece of software on the Mac called Disk Utility.

Here are the six steps to format your WD Elements for Mac.

1. Disk Utility can be found within a folder called Utilities. The Utilities folder is within the Application folder on your Mac.

or go to a finder window to search for Disk Utility or you can find it by clicking on the spot light search (the magnifying glass icon on your screen) and search for Disk Utility there.

Disk Utility In Spotlight Search

Disk Utility In Spotlight Search

2. Double click to start up the software.

Disk Utility will list all the drives connected to your Mac on the left hand side of its screen. They are grouped by internal disks first, external disks next.

Don’t select your internal drives.

Click on the WD Elements drive on the external drives list. Disk Utility will now show you all the options you can use.

3. Select the Erase button. This is what you use to format the drive. Give the hard drive a name and select Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system as the format.

This is the format the Mac uses. Click the erase button to start the format of the WD Elements hard drive and away you go.

The whole format process only takes a few minutes.

4. Now you can use the hard drive as you could your internal hard drive.

5. Open up a finder window and you’ll see the drive listed in the left of the window, and you can click on it to move onto it. See it’s lovely and empty. or

you can double click on the hard drive icon on your desktop. Create folders and drag and drop files to it as you would on your internal hard drive.

6. Once you have finished with the drive don’t forget to right click on the drive icon to eject the drive before pulling out your USB cable. If you don’t do that you risk corrupting the files on your disk.

Right Click to Eject External Drive

Right Click to Eject External Drive

Format WD Elements for Mac Video

For anyone feeling technically challenged I suggest watching this YouTube video.

Western Digital and Time Machine Set Up

Video Credit : Acquevara

Acquevara explains the process really well and shows you how easy it is to do.

As is the case with the way drive capacities in the industry are generally sold and described, a 2TB drive formatted with a file system lowers the capacity down to 1.9 TB or so.

While a Mac specific portable hard drive out of the box is slightly more convenient – as it comes ready to plug in – you do pay extra in your pocket for that feature.

And sometimes your Mac will be sensitive and not accept the ‘formatted for Mac’ drive and then you have paid the extra and will have to format on your Mac anyway.

For a few minutes of setup you get the job done at a good price compared to Mac branded products.

How to Make the WD Elements Compatible With Mac and PC

For Windows only users, the drive comes preformatted in NTFS out of the box. You simply plug in and go. The drive is recognized by the PC straightaway.

So what if you want to use with both Mac and PC Computers?

No issue, you can share the WD Elements Portable it’s fully flexible. Use for your Mac only, or for Windows only or share between both Mac and Windows.

To format WD Elements Portable for Mac and PC.

1. Follow the procedure above to open up Disk Utility.

2. Select the hard drive, click erase.

3. Give the hard drive a name and instead of selecting Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system you select ExFAT.

Selecting ExFAT in Disk Uitility

Selecting ExFAT in Disk Uitility

4. Click to erase and in a few minute the drive is formatted ready to use.

Now the whole drive is formatted to a format both types of computers can see. Mac and PC. You can create folders, move files to the hard drive and when the drive is plugged into the Mac the Mac can see those files and vice versa with the PC.

What if you want to create separate areas on the hard drive for Mac and PC?

You do this by creating partitions on the hard drive.

Think of partitions as slicing a cake into different size pieces and you give each piece of your cake to one function.

A good example is you may want three partitions.

  • A partition for storing all your photo’s or music.
  • A second for your Time Machine back up
  • and another for both Mac and the PC to share files.

The partitions that you want the Mac to use you partition and format as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system, A PC will not be able to see those partitions when you plug the hard drive in.

The partition you want to share with Windows you partition as ExFAT.
To do;

  1. Go to Disk Utility and format the whole drive first as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system as per the instructions above. Once formatted.
  2. In Disk Utility, click on partition and create the number of partitions you want, 2 or more. You do this by clicking on the + button under the large circle that represents the disk.
  3. For each partition it is best to give it a name representing what you plan to use it for. You do this on the right hand side of the Disk Utility screen. For the Mac only partitions format as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system. The partition you plan to use and share with Windows format as ExFAT.
  4. Either type in the size you want each partition to be or move the little circles on the outside of the large circle representing the disk to size.
  5. When you are ready press apply to make the changes.
  6. After a short while it is done.

YouTube Video Format WD Elements for Mac and PC

Watching this Acquevara’s YouTube video shows you how easy this is.

How to Use Mac OS Sierra Disk Utility to Partition an External Hard Drive

Video Credit : Acquevara

Having an Elements drive large enough to partition for both the Macs and Windows machines in your household means that a 2tb external hard disk drive can act as a central backup and or file storage for both.

You could also transfer files from one operating system to the other by setting up an ExFAT file system partition on the drive if you wish to.

Using the WD Elements for Time Machine

To use the Elements drive with Time Machine either the whole drive or a partition must be formatted as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system.

Mac OS High Sierra uses by default the new Apple File System (AFS). Time Machine is not compatible with AFS and must be formatted to Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system.

It is important that the drive is or the partition is at least as big as the data you are backing up, ideally at least twice the size so that you can grow into the backup drive.

Then you.

1. Go to the settings menu select Time Machine.

2. If the big button for Time Machine is off turn it to On.

3. Select the Elements drive as your Time Machine destination and any time the drive is physically connected to your Mac, Time Machine will do a back up.

4. To kick a back up off straight away click on the Time Machine icon at the top of your screen. It looks like a clock with an anti clockwise arrow on it. Then select backup now and away Time Machine will go creating your backup.

Still unsure how to do this? The first Acquvera’s video: ‘Western Digital and Time Machine Setup’ above shows how.

Just remember, as you would if you were using a USB stick, you need to eject the WD Elements drive from the Mac when the Time Machine backup is finished to prevent file corruption.

What about Passwords and Data Encryption?

With the Elements hard drive what you see is what you get. No fancy bells and whistles like password protection or encryption.

But the standard features of Mac OS are right there for you.

Disk Utility can format and set up encryption for your hard drive if you select that option when you format.

or your Time Machine backup can be encrypted within Time Machine.

When you choose your backup drive you’ll see a tick button that once selected encrypts the back up.

But remember the Mac’s Operating System allows you to encrypt your data on a hard drive, so you do have a good software solution on the Mac. Just don’t forget your password or you’ll never see your data again.

If you are looking for a hard drive with password and data encryption you may want to take a look at the WD My Passport drive. I have an article that compares the two.

WD Elements for Mac Verdict


  • Compact Design
  • Great price for the disk capacity
  • Good WD reputation with solid customer feedback
  • Flexible – compatible with Mac, Windows and other devices.


  • Basic, no frills, no security features
  • No USB 3.1 or Thunderbolt connectivity
  • A small number of failures of this drive in the field so keep your limited 2 years warranty to hand and have extra copies of your most sensitive files.
  • USB cable supplied by default is short


WD Elements for Mac – is it a good idea? I think the answer is a resounding yes!

Use the Elements Portable external hard drive to store files or use it as a portable backup device with Time Machine or to support other platforms as well as your Mac. A great drive, a best seller it is great for the money.

See where the WD Elements features on our list of the Best External Hard Drives for Mac.


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