WD My Passport: 5TB of shingled disk capacity in my shirt pocket

I can store five terabytes in my shirt pocket with Western Digital’s My Passport portable drive.

The latest iteration of My Passport as released in September last year, and its recent launch in India prompted us to take a fresh look. 

My Passport is a certainly capacity whopper, and is available in 2TB and 5TB base formats, with two or four platters. The 5TB drive can use 4 x 1TB base platters because deploys shingling – using overlapping write tracks to cram more read tracks in the drive. 

My Passport drive Windows colours

Power comes through a USB port: USB-C for Macs, and USB 3.2 Gen 1 for Windows. There is 256-bit AES encryption and built-in password protection.

The device has a SATA interface, spins at 5,400rpm, and the actual capacities available are 1TB, 2 TB, 4TB and 5TB, using 1TB platters.

The drive dimensions are;

  • 1-2TB – Length:107.2mm, Width: 75mm, Height: 11.15mm, Weight: 120g
  • 4-5TB – Length:107.2mm, Width: 75mm, Height: 19.15mm, Weight: 210

The 4TB and 5TB drive’s extra thickness and near doubled weight reflects the two extra platters inside. The case is part-diagonally ribbed and available in blue for Mac and black, red and a different blue for Windows.

Shingling

The 5TB drive, claimed to be the thinnest such drive available, uses drive-managed shingling. This slows the data rewrite process as blocks of tracks have to be read, the data altered, and then the block re-written to the drive. Fresh data writes to empty tracks proceed as normal. 

Large sequential files are accepted by the drive and written with no interruption. Smaller randomly-addressed files are stored temporarily in a cache and then, when the drive is idle, written out in a sequential manner, with address translation to speed the writing process.

WD’s Discovery software provides management functions, and enables the drive, with included Backup utility, to backup host system files on a settable schedule. It can also backup Facebook, Dropbox and Google Drive (cloud) account data, such as photos, videos, music and documents. Data is transferred to and from the drive at up to 5Gbit/s. In practice that means, , 100 to 115MB/sec when reading large sequential files.

Writing such files over deleted files will be slower because of the shingled media effect. In other words, the 5TB drive will seem slower as it fills up and files get deleted to make space for newer ones. The 4TB drive should not suffer from this effect.

Pricing

My Passport is warranted for three years. A 5TB model costs $125.99 on Amazon; £112.99 in the UK from Scan. The 1TB model is $47.00 (£46.05.)

This pricing makes them affordable for desktop, notebook and low-intensity gaming systems. High-intensity gamers will do better with external SSD storage. The rest of us can enjoy 5TB capacity for $0.026/GB. Cheap as chips.

However, 5TB of slightly faster (5,526rpm) spinning Seagate Backup Plus Portable external storage, which is shingled as well, costs $109.99 (£98.66) on Amazon; cheaper still.

My Passport vs. My Passport Ultra

WD also sells the My Passport Ultra drive. What’s the difference? A WD spokesperson said: “The My Passport drives are the best choice for most everyday consumers. The 5TB My Passport drive is actually the slimmest of its capacity in the WD lineup. For those looking for a more premium portable hard drive, the My Passport Ultra features a modern metal design and USB-C technology out of the box. Both drives offer a three-year limited warranty and WD Discovery software (including social media and cloud importing, WD Backup and 256-bit AES hardware encryption).”

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