WD Elements VS My Passport Which is Best for Your Mac?

By Paul Gregory / September 11, 2018
WD Elements VS My Passport

You've been looking at external hard drives for your Mac and you quite fancy the two from Western Digital.

The decision has come down to the WD Elements versus My Passport and which one would be the best.

Which is the best external drive for you?

​Let me outline the head to head similarities and differences so that you can choose which is the best external hard drive for you and your Mac between the WD Elements and the WD My Passport.

Pros

​WD Elements

  • A great basic drive
  • Many happy user reports
  • Drive appears reliable apart from occasional, in the field failures

​WD My Passport

  • A good looking premium drive, available in six fun colors
  • Better performance over the basic Elements Portable drive
  • Security features inbuilt
  • check
    the 3 years Limited warranty supports the fact that this drive is generally reliable

Cons

​WD Elements

  • ​A basic drive … is this really a problem?
  • ​No USB-C/Thunderbolt direct connectivity

WD My Passport

  • ​​Generally a higher price is sought for the purchase of this external hard drive but does the extra features make it worth it?
  • ​No USB-C/Thunderbolt direct connectivity

The Verdict

​The WD Elements vs My Passport - It is close to call on which is the best. Though I would say if there is much of a price premium when you head out to buy and you are not bothered about the snappy colors or more jazzy look then the ​WD Elements external hard drive would win out.

If the greater performance is important for you and there is not much in it on the price then for sure head for the ​My Passport drive. The better performance and longer warranty is worth a small premium.


​Best of the Two for Mac

​WD Elements


Features Versus

​The WD Elements and the WD My Passport external hard drives are targeted at the portable drive, on the go market place. The WD Elements is positioned as their entry-level drive for the portable consumer and Western Digital is quite open in saying it is a basic drive.

The WD My Passport drive is aimed at the market above the Elements drive and classed as the start of their premium external hard drive range.

​And the WD My Passport comes in a 'for Mac' guise, but more on that later.

Then the questions you may have in mind are;

If there isn't a special offer on at the moment is it worth paying the extra to move up to the My Passport drive?

And when there is a price premium. Is the My Passport drive worth it?

Let's dig in deep and find out.

Comparison At a Glance

​My Passport is generally priced higher than the WD Elements portable.

You may well get lucky with a check on Amazon or elsewhere and find that there is an offer that brings the My Passport drive close to the price of the WD Elements.

WD Elements VS My Passport

​Product

​Available Colors

​Warranty

View On Amazon

WD Elements

​​Black

2 Years

WD My Passport

Black,

Blue, Red, Orange,

White,

Yellow

​3 Years

Available Hard Drive Capacities

What's the skinny here?

Can they be separated based on the storage you can have for your Mac?

WD Elements Capacities

WD My Passport Capacities

1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB

1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB

Nope they come in identical drive sizes, we'll have to look elsewhere other than drive capacity to separate the two.

The important thing to remember when you are planning to buy an external hard drive is to work out how much capacity you need for your Mac and not to scrimp.
For example …
If you are planning on using the drive as a backup for Time Machine then calculate how much disk you are backing up and times by two and that way you will have the capacity you'll need as a minimum for use with Time Machine.

Time in the Market

​In some cases it pays to have a product that has been on the market a while. In the case of the Elements Portable this drive was released to the market in 2013. It is a strong seller and has been consistently amongst Amazon's best sellers in the portable external drive market.
Why?
It's well priced, reliable and flexible in that you can attach it to a Mac, PC or connect the drive to a games console.
Yes, it's basic and that means there are no frills that come with the drive.
And the painful truth is that sometimes those frills can look attractive but they can get you into trouble. More on that later.
The My Passport drive is the newer product, released to the market in 2016, positioned by WD to be the next step up compared to the basic Elements drive. The product has also sold well, has proven to be reliable and has the same flexibility in that you can also plug the external drive into a Mac, PC or a games console.
What is it about the WD My Passport drive that justifies the higher price? Well let us see.

WD Elements Box

View WD Elements on Amazon

Available Connections to your Mac

​The Elements Portable and the My Passport drive are each supplied with a single USB 3.0 connection. The USB cables provided are USB A at the end that plugs into the Mac and USB B Micro at the end that plugs into the external hard drive.

WD Elements and My Passport USB Cable

WD Elements and My Passport USB Cable

Why is this relevant?

Newer Macs with Thunderbolt Ports

​The USB standard is backwards compatible, thanks be. This means that if you have a newer Mac, say a Macbook Air or Macbook Pro with Thunderbolt connections you will need to purchase for yourself a USB C to USB A adaptor, or a USB cable that is USB C at one end and USB B Micro at the other end.

Neither the WD Elements nor the My Passport drives are Thunderbolt drives and won't read and write at Thunderbolt speeds.
But Hey,
you do pay a price premium for Thunderbolt drives and if you are not a power user - and you would know if you are one. A Thunderbolt drives speed isn't needed for backup or for storage of normal everyday files, pictures or music.

Armed with your adaptor USB cable you plug into your new Mac and due to backwards compatibility your Mac will send the information down to the Elements or the My Passport at USB 3.0 speed.

WD Elements YouTube Video

​Let's take a break for a few minutes.  I found a good YouTube video you may find useful to take a look at.

Title: WD Elements 2TB USB 3.0 Hard Disk

Video Credit: AndroRat

Older Macs with USB Ports

​You have an older Mac with a USB A port? Then plug right in. Whether your Mac supports USB 3.0 or 2.0 plug the USB cable in and your Mac will talk to the drive at the speed the Mac or Macbook Pro can handle.

If you are not sure what the port is you have on your Mac take a look at my article 'How to connect an External Hard drive to a Mac' and I explain with pictures there.

Why not check on the price now for the WD Elements drive on Amazon with this link versus the My Passport drive.

How are they powered?

​The WD Elements and the My Passport are powered by the USB cable that plugs into the Mac. Designed to be portable both drives have done away with an external power cable and the low powered drives they use get their power from the Mac they are plugged into.

This has some relevance later when comparing the extra features on the My Passport drive.

So read on.

WD My Passport YouTube Video

​Time for another YouTube video break? Here is Western Digital's snazzy product overview video.

Title: My Passport Official Product Overview

Video Credit: WD

Are they Portable?

It may sound obvious to state but neither of these drives are classed as rugged in any way. Yes, they are sold as portable but there is little to protect the drive from shakes, drops excessive heat or cold. If you are truly porting these drives around then a protective case is a must to protect the drive and your data.

These are laptop class drives, which is why they are a convenient size and weight to carry around. But they are not the most robust of drives.
This means that when in use place them on a solid surface before powering up.
The My Passport user manual clearly states this.
Knocks or shakes in use are particularly damaging and there is no ramp loading technology as on the Toshiba Canvio Connect II to offer some protection.

Physical Size Comparison

​Marketed as portable, easy to fit in the hand, a pocket or your messenger bag or purse you'll see from the chart below there is little in it in terms of size and weight between the two drives.

WD Elements

1TB & 2TB

WD Elements

3TB

WD My Passport

​1TB

WD My Passport

​2TB, 3TB & 4TB

4.35 in by 3.2 in by 0.6 in

4.4 in by 3.2 in by 0.82 in

4.33 in by 3.21 in by 0.64 in

4.33 in by 3.21 in by 0.85 in

Weight Comparison

​You really wouldn't choose one over the other on weight.

WD Elements

1TB & 2TB

WD Elements

3TB

WD My Passport

 1TB

WD My Passport

 2TB, 3TB & 4TB

​0.29 lb.

​0.52 lb.

​0.37 lb.

​0.54 lb.

Good Looks Catwalk

​Aha, now you're talking, the WD Elements Portable comes in Black. Just that, nothing else. With a small LED light on the front showing the drive is powered and working.

WD Elements LED

​With the My Passport, Western Digital is clearly aiming at a younger more fashion conscious market you have the choice of six colors;
Black yes, Blue, Red, Orange, White and Yellow

WD My Passport Available Colors

WD My Passport Available Colors

Hitting all the primary colors and what's more the USB cable provided matches the drive.

So apart from matching to your other accessories or clothing there is a practical aspect, when you have multiple drives. You can buy a drive color and team it with the function you want it to serve.

  • Spare backup drive - blue.
  • Drive for your music - yellow

A drive color for particular types of projects you're storing on it.

The LED indicator light on the My Passport drive provides indications for;

  • When the drive is being accessed - fast flashing.
  • On standby - Slow flashing
  • Idle - steady constant light
  • Off - the LED is off

Other considerations, the My passport has squared corners, I guess helpful for stacking purposes but some users have disliked the angular sharp corners …

Personally I think it depends on your personal preference here,

The drive comes with a smooth end which some have said shows fingerprints and can look grubby quickly. The other end being patterned.

I think you would have to go some to put scratches on the plastic outer, that said I really wouldn't recommend just putting the drive in a bag loose as the WD advert for the drive seems to suggest. It is not a ruggedized drive, knocks, shakes being tossed about in a bag with no protection will shorten the life of these portable drives.

The WD Elements at the other end of the look spectrum is practical, black, rounded corners - there is little to offend.

WD Elements hard drive

WD Elements hard drive

WD Elements vs My Passport Speed Test

​My favorite site for this data is the usb.userbenchmark.com. Where for this comparison they have over 3,800 User Benchmarks recorded.

The speed test and results are taken as an average of all these tests.

The My passport was 4% faster on USB 3.0 performance

When the My Passport 1TB is compared to the WD Elements 1TB.

The pure read performance was 101 Mb/s. 3% faster, versus 98 Mb/s on the WD Elements Portable.

Write performance was 103 Mb/s 4% faster, versus 99.2 Mb/s

On the random write speed. This test probably more accurately reflects real world use as a typical consumer user would write files of various sizes. The My Passport got the crown

At around 9% faster overall than the WD Elements Portable

Here is a link to the test results page. Take a look.

My Passport White

View the My Passport White on Amazon

What do Users Think?

​Both drives have many happy users on Amazon. Many of them Mac users.

At the time of writing the Elements Portable had over 3,500 reviews versus the My Passport 4,500 reviews. Each with the majority happy or very happy with their external drives.

It is always worth taking a look yourself to find out what the latest users have to say on Amazon. Click on the links, scroll to the bottom of the page to view the Reviews.

What's in the Boxes

​Both the WD Elements and the WD My Passport have of course the respective hard drives in the box.

About a 12 inch USB cable in the WD Elements box

Compared to a 16 inch USB cable in the My Passport box. And of course the My Passport USB cable is color matched to the drive you have purchased.

Each box comes with a Quick start guide.

WD Elements Quick Guide

WD Elements Quick Guide

Using the WD Elements Portable Versus The WD My Passport on a Mac

​The all important question.

Physical Connection

Both are USB powered so this mean's that all you need to do is power up your Mac, Macbook Pro or Macbook Air and plug in the USB cable.

Note that by default the drives come with USB 3.0 cables and an adaptor cable or USB C to Micro USB B cable will be needed for the Mac's with Thunderbolt connections.

After a few seconds your Mac will recognize the drive is connected. The drive will appear as an Icon on your desktop.

So that's it in terms of physical connection what about using the external drive.

Default Formats

​By default the WD Elements Portable is NTFS formatted as is the My Passport drive. Your Mac running Mac OS reads and writes to disks formatted as;

  • Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system, also known as HFS+ or
  • ExFAT file systems or
  • the new Apple File System (AFS) newly available with Mac OS High Sierra.

But don't let that put you off, because Mac ready formatted drives come at a price premium and you may need to reformat them anyway as Mac OS can be pretty picky about how its formatting is done. And

the act of reformatting both drives is quick and easy.

I have instructions here on the site depending on what you plan to use the external drive for.

Would like to find out how to format the WD Elements for Mac? Take a look at this article.

Would like to find out how to format the WD My Passport for Mac? This article will tell you how.

WD My Passport for Mac

​The 'for Mac' guise of the WD My Passport comes ready formatted as HFS+ (known on the Mac as Mac OS Extended (journaled) file system). A nice to have for those Mac users who really do not want to go to the trouble of formatting a drive no matter how easy it is.

You plug this drive in and it's there ready to drag and drop your files to or connect up to Time Machine.

This drive is a USB 3.0 drive the same as the other My Passport drives however it is supplied with a USB-C cable ready for connection to the newest Macs. Saving you purchasing an adaptor cable.

You won't get the snazzy colors I'm afraid. This drive is only available in black.

Time Machine

Backup with Time Machine or Storage for your Files

​Whether you are planning to use the external drive as a backup drive with Time Machine, or a place to store files.

In both those cases formatting for Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system (HFS+)  is what you want. And it only takes a few minutes.

I teach you how to use the WD My Passport for storing files on set up with Time Machine in my article on the site here.

Want to share either drive with a Windows PC?

​In whole or just part with partitions? Then it would be best to format the whole drive as ExFAT so that both the Mac and PC can use the external hard drive. Or as a minimum create an ExFAT partition along side the Mac OS (Journaled) partition so you can share parts of the drive.

Not sure how to format a complete drive to be shared between Mac and PC? Then take a look at my article here

Not sure how to format a partition to be shared between Mac and a PC? Read my article on this here on the site

Packaged Software

​By default the WD Elements Portable is supplied with a 30 day trial of the Western Digital's Smartware Pro backup software. This software is PC only, it will not run on your Mac.

If you plan to share the Elements drive with a Windows PC and want to use this software, then copy this software off onto a Windows PC before formatting the hard drive so you can copy it back and use it on the PC.

The WD My Passport Portable comes with a suite of software

​WD Discovery, which includes Backup Software and WD Security.

The WD Discovery software allows you to register your external drive for warranty purposes, import and download files from cloud services and check your hard drive's health.

This software is also Windows PC only on this version of the My Passport Drive so don't try to use these versions on a Mac. As I have suggested for the Elements portable, copy off this software first if you intend to use for a PC.

Mac Versions

​You can download a version of the WD Discovery software that runs on Mac directly from the Western Digital support site. The Mac version doesn't include the backup software.

Mac has its own backup software - Time Machine. So not only will the WD backup software not work on your Mac you don't need it and Western Digital knows this and does not supply this software for Mac.

Mac OS also has Disk Utility which allows you to run a check on the external drive health, repair transient errors and of course reformat the drive.

Largely your Mac has you covered for the utilities the WD Discovery software provides.

WD Elements vs My Passport Security

​Here is where we find the main differences. But will they matter to you?

Let me explain.

The WD Elements drive is a basic drive there is no inbuilt security software or hardware encryption or password protection.

However you can apply encryption and a password for the WD Drive using Mac OS. Using the Mac Operating System Disk Utility you can encrypt the drive and add a password to protect your data anyway.

For the My Passport - non Mac version

​The My Passport is supplied with inbuilt 256-bit AES hardware encryption on the drive itself and that teams with the WD Security software.

As I said earlier the software supplied is PC only however,

You can download the Mac version of the WD Security software direct from the Western Digital support site.

The Mac version of this software is supplied on this drive by default on the 'for Mac' version of the My Passport drive - if you pay the extra for that flavor.

You then use the WD Security interface to manage the password and electronic hardware encryption. Great you say … There are some buts.

  1. The WD Security software needs to be on all the Mac's you are connecting the My Passport drive to so you can manage the password protection. Bit of a pain if you are swapping the drive between Macs.
  2. Say your Mac had a major failure and you can't boot up normally. You could always boot up to Mac OS Recovery and use your Time Machine backup to completely restore your system. Even to a replacement Mac. But if your stuck with a drive that needs the security system unlocked, before you can get to your Time Machine backup, but you can't unlock it because you can't get to the WD security software. You're done. You may as well not have a backup.
  3. A 'handy' feature is, forget your password and type it in five times wrong and your My Passport drive erases everything on it. Mmmm.
    To be fair, forget your drive encryption password under Mac OS and you are in trouble too but at least you can play around to remember it.
  4. Your Macbook Pro or Macbook Air hasn't been used for a little while and goes onto standby. The password for the drive needs to be re-entered if not set up on that Mac to automatically open the drive on your Macbook waking up.

You do pay extra for these software features, and you may like them for your particular case. All I am trying to do is to outline where it may trip you up.

If you use Mac OS to manage your security then your Mac and the Mac's recovery software understands all about it.

Limited Warranties Compared

​Another area of difference is in the limited warranties offered on the drives.

WD Elements Portable

WD My Passport 

​2 Years

​3 Years

Clearly Western Digital is happy to offer a longer 3 year warranty on their premium drive - the My Passport drive. Backing their belief that this external hard drive should go the distance and be reliable.

It is a sad fact that the consumer laptop portable type drives found at this end of the market typically last about 2 years. Hence many of the manufacturers offering a 2 year warranty.

The My Passport with a longer warranty makes it a winner in the warranty stakes.

Who Manufactures?

​Both the WD Elements and the My Passport external hard drives are manufactured by Western Digital - it's where they get the WD part of their names.

Western Digital started their company in 1970 so have been around for nearly 40 years. I would say any company that has been around that long must be doing something right.

Their products have a great reputation in the market place for reliability, going head to head with some of the best names out there in the consumer market place.

They have sold thousands and thousands of external drives covering a raft of industry areas from wireless external hard drives, networked attached storage, solid state drives through to drives targeted at specific markets. ​

Last Words

I hope you enjoyed my article ' WD Elements VS My Passport Which is Best for Your Mac?' and that the information I have provided has made it easier for you to choose which is the best for your Mac.

​YouTube Video and screenshot images credit to: Western Digital and AndroRat

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