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

By Paul Gregory / November 1, 2019
WD Elements VS My Passport Title Image

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.

Which is the best external drive for you?

You'll find in this article the head to head similarities along with the differences.

So that you can choose between a WD Elements drive and the WD My Passport.

​And decide which is the best external hard drive for you and your Mac.

WD Elements Vs My Passport for Mac Verdict

It's a close call on which is the best.

Though I would say if there's a price premium for the WD My Passport when you head out to buy. And you're not bothered about the snappy colors. Or a more jazzy look. Then the WD Elements external hard drive would win out.

If performance is important for you. And there's not much in it on the price. Then for sure treat yourself to a WD My Passport drive. The better performance and longer warranty is worth a premium.

Why You'd Want It

​WD Elements Pros

  • A great basic drive
  • Many happy user reports
  • The WD Elements drive is reliable. Apart from the occasional, in the field failure

WD My Passport Pros

  • A good looking drive. Available in fun colors. Although the 'for Mac' version is only available in dark blue
  • ​You'll have better performance over the basic Elements Portable drivee
  • Security features inbuilt
  • The WD My Passport drive was refreshed September 2019. And is now a faster USB 3.2 Gen 1 hard drive. This makes it clearly the faster drive
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    ​The 3 years limited warranty supports the fact that this is a great reliable drive

Why You Might Pass on It

WD Elements Cons

  • ​A basic drive … is this really a problem?
  • No direct USB-C/Thunderbolt plug in. You'll need an adaptor

WD My Passport Cons

  • Generally higher priced. But does the extra features make it worth it?
  • No direct USB-C/Thunderbolt plug in. You'll need an adaptor

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​Best of the Two for Mac
WD Elements

WD Elements Portable External Hard Drive

You may well get lucky on a check in with Amazon and find that there's a price offer. An offer that brings the My Passport drive close to the price of the WD Elements.


Features Versus

You'll find the WD Elements and WD My Passport targeted at you if you need take your drive with you when you're on the go. Western Digital positions the Elements as an entry level drive. And are quite open in saying it's a basic drive. 

​WD markets their My Passport drive above the Elements drive. And it's the start of Western Digital's premium external hard drive range.

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

Questions you may have in mind;

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's a price premium. Is the My Passport drive worth it?

Let's dig in deep and find out.

Comparison At a Glance

​You'll find here a quick view of the main differences between the two drives.

WD Elements VS My Passport

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​Drive

​Available Colors

​Warranty

View On Amazon

WD Elements

WD Elements

​​Black

2 Years

WD My Passport Red Upright

WD My Passport

Black,

Sky Blue, Red​

​3 Years

Available Hard Drive Capacities

What's the skinny here?

​Can you separate them based on the storage you can have on your Mac?

WD Elements Capacities

WD My Passport Capacities

1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB, 5TB

1TB, 2TB, 4TB, 5TB

You'll see the WD Elements drive has a 3TB drive option. Other than that there's not much to separate the two.

If the Sky Blue or Red versions are your thing. Then you'll want to know that those colors are only available in 2TB and 4TB.

One important thing to remember.

When you're planning to buy an external hard drive you should work out how much capacity you need. Figure out what you need for your Mac and don't scrimp.

For example …

Planning on using either drive as a backup for Time Machine? Then calculate how much you're backing up on your Mac. Then times by two. And that way you'll have the capacity you'll need for Time Machine.

​Time in the Market

In some ways it pays to have a product that's been on the market for a while.  In the case of the  WD Elements Portable​ this drive was released to the market in 2013. And has had some refreshes. It's a strong seller. And is consistent among Amazon's best sellers in the portable external hard drives. 

Why?

It's well priced, reliable and flexible. You can attach it to a Mac, PC or connect the Elements 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. You'll find it's positioned by Western Digital to be the next step up from the basic Elements drive.  My Passport has also sold well. And has proven to be reliable with its users. It has the same flexibility in that you can ​use it on your Mac, Windows PC or your games console.

What is it about the WD My Passport drive that justifies the higher price? 

Well let's see.

YouTube Video First Look at the Refreshed My Passport Drives

You can check out this one minute 51 second video. And have a look at the WD My Passport external hard drives.

Western Digital's Latest My Passport Drives

Video Credit: First L00k

Available Connections to your Mac

You'll find the WD Elements Portable is a USB 3.0​ external drive.

The WD My Passport drive is since September 2019 is a USB 3.2 Gen 1 drive.

Both drives come with a USB cable in the box.

​Each USB cable has a USB A plug at the end that goes into your Mac. And USB B Micro at the end that plugs into the Elements and My Passport external hard drives.

WD Elements and My Passport USB Cable

WD Elements and My Passport USB Cable

Why is this relevant?

Newer Macs with USB C Thunderbolt Ports

The USB standard is backwards compatible.

Thanks be. 

This means that your newer 2016 MacBook Pro or 2018 MacBook Air with USB C Thunderbolt ports. Or for your newer iMac with USB C ports.

You'll need to buy yourself a USB C to USB A adaptor to plug in either drive.

Or buy yourself a USB cable that has USB C at one end and USB B Micro at the other end. 

Neither the WD Elements​ nor your My Passport drive are Thunderbolt drives. They won't read and write at Thunderbolt speeds.

But Hey,

You do pay a price for Thunderbolt drives. And if you're not a power user.  And you'd know if you were one. Because you'd be looking at a SSD drive.

You'll find the speed of both these drives are fine for your backup. Or for saving your normal everyday files, pictures or music.

WD Elements Flat

​View your WD Elements on Amazon

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Armed with your adaptor and USB cable you plug into your newer Mac. Backwards compatibility means your faster Mac will send your documents down to your Elements. Or your My Passport drive at the USB speed the drives can work at.

WD Elements YouTube Video

Want to take a break? 

You can watch this cool 42 second YouTube video if your considering getting a WD Elements drive for your Mac.

WD Elements Portable | Official Product Overview

Video Credit: WD

Older Macs with USB A Ports

You've an older Mac with a USB A port?

Then plug right in. 

Again backwards compatibility means your Mac can work with these drives.

Whether your Mac supports USB 3.0 or 2.0 you can plug the USB cable right in.

And your Mac will talk to either drive at the speed your Mac or MacBook Pro or Air can handle.

Not sure what ports you have on your Mac?

Take a look at my article 'How to connect an External Hard drive to a Mac' and I explain all with pictures.

How are they Powered?

Your Mac powers your WD Elements drive and the My Passport by their USB cables. 

​Designed so that you can carry them with you. Both drives have done away with external power cables. And are low powered drives.

Are they Portable?

Yes.

But neither of these drives as rugged in any way. 

Yes, they are portable. But there's little to protect either drive from shakes, drops, excessive heat or cold. And when you're taking your drive with you then a protective case is a must. To protect both your drive and your files on the drive.

And when you use them put them on a solid surface. And do this before powering them up.

Your My Passport user manual clearly says this.

​Knocks or shakes in use are particularly damaging. And there's no ramp loading feature as on the Toshiba Canvio Advance​ for protection.

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Why not view the price now of your WD Elements drive on Amazon. Versus the My Passport drive by using these links.

Physical Size Comparison

Marketed as portable they easy to fit in the hand, a pocket or your messenger bag or purse.  You'll see from the chart below there's little difference in size and weight between the two drives.

WD Elements

1TB & 2TB

WD Elements

3TB, 4TB & 5TB

WD My Passport

​1TB & 2TB

WD My Passport

​4TB & 5TB

4.35 in by 3.2 in by 0.6 in

4.4 in by 3.2 in by 0.82 in

4.22 in by 2.96 in by 0.44 in

4.22 in by 2.96 in by 0.75 in

Weight Comparison

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

WD Elements

1TB & 2TB

WD Elements

3TB, 4TB &5TB

WD My Passport

 1TB & 2TB

WD My Passport

 4TB & 5TB

​0.29 lb.

​0.52 lb.

​0.27 lb.

​0.46 lb.

Good Looks Catwalk

Aha, now you're talking.

​You'll find your WD Elements Portable​ comes in Black. Only black, nothing else. A small LED light on the front shows your drive has power and is working.

Your WD Elements is practical with rounded corners - there's little to offend.

WD Elements Flat

​With the My Passport, Western Digital clearly is aiming at you. The younger more fashion conscious. And has given you a choice of colors;

​Black yes and you've Sky Blue and Red.

WD My Passport Red Side On

The colored part of the casing is on one half.

WD My Passport Color Stripe

You can buy a color and devote it a job.

  • Spare backup drive - Sky Blue
  • Your My Passport for your music - Red

The LED indicator light on the My Passport drive tells you;

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

Other thoughts.

Your My passport drive has squared corners.

You may find this helpful when storing one on top of the other. But some users have disliked the angular sharp corners …

Would you feel that way?

The My Passport drive's casing has one smooth diagonal. It shows fingerprints so can look grubby quite quickly. 

The other diagonal has a ridged pattern.

WD My Passport Black Ridges Front

​You'd have to go some to put scratches on the plastic casing. That said you wouldn't want to put your My Passport drive in your bag loose.

Why risk scratching your drive.

Neither drive is rugged. And being tossed about in a bag with no protection will shorten the life of both these portable drives.

WD Elements vs My Passport Speed Test

Here you'll find how the two drives compare on speed.

And you don't have to just take my word for it.

Usb.userbenchmark.com has over 3,800 user benchmarks recorded for these drives.

The speed test score and results are from an average of all tests.

The My Passport was 4% faster on USB 3.0 performance.

The My Passport 1TB compared to the WD Elements 1TB read performance was 101 Mb/s. 3% faster.

Versus 98 Mb/s on the WD Elements Portable.

Write performance on the WD My Passport was 103 Mb/s 4% faster, versus 99.2 Mb/s.

On the random write speed test.

And this test more accurately reflects how you would use your drives in the real world. As you'd write files of many different sizes. 

The My Passport took the crown.

At around 9% faster than the WD Elements Portable.

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

What do Users Think?

Both drives have lots of positive feedback on Amazon.

Many of them from Mac users.

As it's always worth taking a look yourself to find out what the latest users have to say on Amazon. 

Click on the links below. Scroll to the bottom of the page. And select to see the latest reviews.

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​What's in their Boxes?

Of course both the WD Elements and the WD My Passport boxes have the drives inside.

About a 12 inch USB cable in the WD Elements box.

Compared to a 16 inch USB cable in the My Passport box. 

Each box comes with a Quick Start Guide.

WD Elements Quick Guide

WD Elements Quick Guide

Using your WD Elements Portable Versus your WD My Passport on a Mac

The all important question.

Physical Connection

Both drives are USB powered. This means 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 both drives come with USB 3.0 cables. And you'll need an adaptor cable or USB C to Micro USB B cable for your Mac with USB C ports.

After a few seconds your Mac will see your WD Elements or your My Passport drive connected.  Your drives will show as an Icon on your desktop.

And that's it for your physical connection.

​What about using the external drives.

Default File System Formats

When you buy your WD Elements Portable it's NTFS formatted. Your WD My Passport drive is also NTFS formatted. 

Your Mac can see both drives. And your Mac can read an NTFS drive. But you can't write to it. It will appear blocked.

But don't let that put you off.

Because reformatting either drive is quick and easy.

You'll find step by step guides here on the site.

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

​Would you like to know how to format your 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+.

This formatting is also known on your Mac as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system.

So what?

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

A nice to have for you when you really don't want to go to the trouble of formatting. No matter how easy it is.

The WD My Passport for Mac is a USB 3.2 Gen 1 drive. The same as the non 'for Mac' My Passport drive.

But in its box are two USB cables. One has a USB A plug at the end that plugs into your Mac. The other USB cable has USB C. Ready for you to plug into your USB C Mac.

Saving you buying an adaptor cable.

You won't get the snazzy colors I'm afraid. This drive is only in dark blue. And in 2TB, 4TB and 5TB drive sizes.

Time Machine

Backup with Time Machine or Storage for your Files

Whether you're planning to use your WD Elements. Or WD My Passport (not for Mac version) as a backup drive with Time Machine. Or a place to your store files.

With both the WD Elements and WD My Passport formatted in NTFS. You'll need to change this formatting to use on your Mac.  

And it only takes a few minutes.

And then you'll want find out how to use both of these drives on your Mac.

For your WD Elements drive you can find out how to use it here.​

And to set up your WD Elements drive with Time Machine take a look at this article.​

For using your WD My Passport for storing your documents. Take a look at my article here.​

And you can learn how to set up WD My Passport. Either the 'for Mac' version or the NTFS version with Time Machine in my article on the site here. ​

Want to Share your WD Elements drive or the My Passport Drive with a Windows PC?

For both your WD Elements and your My Passport drive it's best to format to ExFAT. Because both your Mac and a Windows PC can use an ExFAT formatted hard drive.

​You'll find an article for the WD My Passport drive on how to create a shareable hard drive. "Easily Use Your WD My Passport For Mac And Windows in 7 Steps". Follow the link to read the article.

For the WD Elements drive. You'll find this article "External Hard Drive For Mac and PC with Data Interchangeable" will tell you how.

To Share Part of an External Drive

Another option if you don't want to share the entire drive is to create an ExFAT partition.

An ExFAT partition can sit along side a Mac OS formatted partition.

This will allow you to split up a larger WD Elements or WD My Passport drive and store your own files in one part. And your shared files in another part.

Not sure how to create a shareable partition?

Read my article on this here on the site.

Packaged Software

Your WD Elements Portable ships 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. 

But before you format your WD Elements drive for your Mac. Are you planning to share your WD Elements drive between your Mac and a Windows PC?

And do you want to use this software for your PC?

If yes, then copy this software off onto a Windows PC before formatting your WD Elements drive. You can copy it back onto the drive later.

The WD My Passport Portable comes with a suite of software

WD Discovery, which includes Backup Software and WD Security.

WD Discovery lets you to register your My Passport drive for warranty. You can import and download files from cloud services. And run a check your hard drive's health.

This software is Windows PC only on the non Mac version of the My Passport drive.

So don't try to use on your Mac. 

But if you do plan to share your My Passport drive with a Windows PC, copy the software off first. Before you format on your Mac.

Mac Versions of the WD Discovery Software

You can download a version of the WD Discovery software that runs on your Mac. You'll find the Mac version of the software on the Western Digital support site. 

The Mac version of this software package doesn't include the backup software.

This is because your Mac has its own backup software - Time Machine.

And you don't need it.

Your Mac's operating system has software called Disk Utility. Disk Utility allows you to run a check your WD Elements drive. Or your My Passport's  drive health. It will repair transient errors and of course reformat the drive if needed.

​Your Mac has you covered for the utilities the WD Discovery software provides.

WD My Passport Red Side On

WD Elements vs My Passport Security

Here ​you'll find ​differences. But will they matter to you?

Let me explain.

The WD Elements drive​ is a basic drive and has no inbuilt security software. Or hardware encryption or password protection. 

But you can add encryption and a password for your WD Elements drive using your Mac's operating system..

Disk Utility can encrypt your WD Elements drive. And add a password to protect your files.

Security On the My Passport

The My Passport has 256-bit AES hardware encryption.  And that feature works with the WD Security software.

As I said earlier the software supplied is PC only not for Mac version.

But you can download the Mac version of the WD Security software. And you can do that direct from the Western Digital support site. 

The Mac version of the WD Security software is on the 'for Mac' My Passport drive.

The hardware encryption on your My Passport drive needs the WD Security software to work.  The security software manages the password and hardware encryption. Great you say …

There are some buts to be aware of ...

  1. The WD Security software needs to be on all the Macs you connect your My Passport drive to. This is so you can manage the password protection. Bit of a pain if you're swapping the drive between a few Macs.
  2. Say your Mac had a major failure and you can't boot up. You think I'll boot up to Mac OS Recovery and use my Time Machine backup. Then I can completely restore my Mac. Even to a replacement Mac.  But if you're stuck with a drive that needs the security system unlocked. And it needs unlocking 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 very 'handy' feature is. You forgot your password. And then you typed it in wrong five times. And then oh no. Your My Passport has erased everything on your drive. Mmmm.
    To be fair, forget your drive encryption password under Mac OS and you're in trouble too. But at least you can play around a bit to remember it.
  4. Your MacBook Pro or MacBook Air goes onto standby. The password for the drive needs to be re-entered. Unless you've set up on your Mac to automatically open up your drive when your Mac wakes up.

Part of the extra cost of the WD My Passport drive is clearly for the security features.

And you may want them. 

All I am trying to do here is to outline to you where these features may trip you up. 

Use your Mac OS to manage your security. Then your Mac and your Mac's recovery software knows all about it.

Limited Warranties Compared

The warranty offered on the drives is another area of difference between the two.

WD Elements Portable

WD My Passport 

​2 Years

​3 Years

Western Digital is happy to offer a longer 3 year warranty on their premium drive. - The My Passport drive. 

For you this means that your My Passport drive should go the distance.

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

Who Manufactures?

Western Digital makes both the WD Elements and the WD My Passport external hard drives. It's where they get the WD part of their names. 

Western Digital​ started in 1970 so have been around for nearly 40 years. Any company around that long must be doing something right. 

Their products have a great reputation in the market place for reliability. 

Western Digital has sold thousands and thousands of external drives over the years. Covering a wide range industry areas. From wireless external hard drives, ​networked attached storage, solid state drives through to drives targeted at specific markets. 

And this means you're getting great drives from a solid company.

Last Words

I hope you enjoyed my article ' WD Elements VS My Passport Which is Best for Your Mac?'. And that what you've read has made it easier for you to choose which is the best of the two drives for your Mac.

​Feel free to check out these other related articles.

WD Elements Review - What the Smart Mac Would Choose

Best WD My Passport for Mac Review for Your Mac