WD My Passport Studio Portable Hard Drive Review

Here’s another video review. This time I take a look at portable external hard drives. In particular I look at the NEW Western Digital My Passport Studio 500GB Portable Hard Drive and how much of an improvement it is over my older Passport Studio drive.

The WD My Passport Studio drives come preformatted for Mac but will work on Windows PCs too. You can use it as a bootable drive for either Power PC or Intel based Macs. It can also be used with Apple’s Time Machine for backups. This drive is bus powered over Firewire or USB 2 connections.

In this video I mentioned the Synchrotech Firewire 400 to 800 adapter.

The 500GB 5,400 RPM WD My Passport Studio Drive goes for $169.99 at B&H Photo and Video.

I’m starting to see more and more Western Digital drives around my office. So far no failures to date!

CORRECTION: In the video I stated that the OWC On-The-Go drives were not bus powered over USB. I was wrong (working off an old experience). They are!

CORRECTION/UPDATE #2: Blog reader Gary reminded me that this drive is not bootable over Firewire.My primary use for this drive is data transfer and storage, so while I could use it to boot over USB in a pinch, this would not be my drive of choice if I needed to boot over Firewire or needed to use it as a primary drive.

28 Replies to “WD My Passport Studio Portable Hard Drive Review”

  1. Hey Terry,

    I didn’t get a chance to look at the video I’m on a slow internet connection at the moment. What are the differences between the old and the NEW Western Digital My Passport Studio?



  2. Hey Terry,

    As far as I know you are only able to use the normal usb cable if the used usb port has enough juice. My girlfriend has an Acer notebook from 2003, where the usb 2.0 port does not have enough voltage.
    So depending on the computer the drive works or does not with the usb cable. In our case we had to use a seperate USB-Y cable which of course uses up 2 usb ports.
    According to a friend of mine, Seagate ships these cables as part of their package for 2,5″ hdds, and Western Digital (in our case the 160gb passport drive) ships them only a request.

  3. Been using a 120Gb Passport for awhile now as a photo backup to my laptop when I travel. But as photo files get larger, shooting RAW plus processed JPEG is over 20Mb for each photo. The space requirement skyrockets if you use TIFF’s. This drive was too small for a month long trip.

    Picked up a 500Gb Passport last week, just like yours except the non-firewire version. Not the fastest to backup photos for the day but it runs at night when speed is not critical. Now have enough space for other data like music, movies, etc., which also can be uploaded to the iPhone. Instead of the pouch, I use a Case Logic hard case ($10) which has separate internal sections for the drive and cable. Excellent protection.

    Just a side note…… in the three years I have used Passport drives, never a failure.

  4. I took a 500GB Passport with me to Africa last month. I lost my firewire cable somewhere along the way and so I hooked it up using the USB cable. The drive mounted then unmounted and was rendered unreadable. Disk Utility could NOT repair it or get it going again – be careful.

  5. Terry,

    Thanks for the video review of WD My Passport Studio Drive. I really get a lot out of your video reviews. I sent it to six other people.

    What type of camcordeer do you use for your video reviews also what type of lighting?

    You really are my first choice to go to each day to keep up with what is happening with tech info. You write extremely well: You are clear, logical, honest, knowledgeable and personal.

    I consider you the Obama of Tech.

    Keep of the exceptional work.

    Byron K. Hill
    SDA pastor in Elk Grove, CA

    P.S. I lived in Detroit in the 60s. My Dad pastored the Burns Ave. SDA Church. Those were some good years for me and my family.

    1. Hi Bryon,
      Thanks for such high praise! Makes my day 🙂
      I use a Canon VIXIA HF10 camcorder. No special lighting for the video reviews. Those are just overhead lights.
      Thanks again. I used to live on Burns years ago. Small world.


  6. I own the OWC portable drives and love them. It is not true that a power adapter is needed to run the OWC On-The-Go drive from USB 2.0. The power port is probably provided for use with USB 1.0. With no power adapter I am able to easily back up my photo files, also make Super Duper clones, and boot from the same.

  7. Carol, You’re right! I tried a USB connection to one of my OWC drives and it did fire right up. Not sure when that started working with these drives. I just remember at one point it didn’t work. So thanks for pointing that out to me and I’ve updated the post above with the correction.

  8. Hey Terry,

    Perfect timing on your review. My Lacie 100GB portable drive has been acting up all day. I’ve had it for at least 4 years & it’s the thin sliver one. I knew it was time to get another drive before this one dies completely but haven’t decided which one yet. This 500GB sounds pretty nifty & for the price, that’s not bad at all. I was considering the Lacie rugged but now hmmm….
    Thanks again for keeping us up to date.

  9. Terry, I am wondering why you did not check out the LaCie 500GB Rugged All-Terrain Hard Drive like they use in the Apple Stores? Or did you? And if you did, why you rejected it. B&H has it for $149

  10. DigiMike,
    I did check out the LaCie Rugged line of drives and they are well respected in the industry. However, my goal here was to find a thinner case solution for where I have to put it in my bag. I carry two drives now as it is. The extra rubber coating around the Lacie drive makes it a bit too thick for where I need to carry it. Otherwise, I’d have no problem going with one.

  11. Hey Terry,
    I’ve been considering getting the WD My Passport Studio for a while, but on Newegg and Amazon, there are many cooments about FireWire problems. Have you run into any of these problems?

  12. Hi Terry,

    I bought this drive based on your review, and I like how light, beautiful and capacious it is, but was disappointed about a couple of things. This drive is not bootable via firewire. I wish you had mentioned this total show-stopper in your review, because I would not have bothered to buy the drive. Also, firewire speeds are sub-par. This is a slow drive that is useless as a bootable firewire external.

    1. Hi Gary,

      Did you reformat the drive properly before installing OS X in it? The Intel based Macs require that you format the drive using GUID Partition Table while the PowerPC based Macs require Apple Partition Map for the drive to be bootable on FireWire.

      Below is the WD help page.




  13. Gary,
    You’re absolutely right and I’m posting an update to the post right now. I concentrated on this being primarily a data drive for me and in a pinch I could boot over USB. However, if you’re going to be using it as a primary drive or need to boot over firewire often, this is not your drive. Sorry for the confusion.


  14. Hi. Great vid. I’ve been really thinking about buying one of these WD passport studio 500GB but I mainly want to for traveling and to use as a bootable drive. I know there was a mention in a post above about this not being a good choice for a bootable drive. Does anyone have recommendations for a good portable bootable drive that’s usb/400/800 and doesn’t need a power cable? Any help would be appreciated.

  15. Do either of them require you to carry around a power cable or are they both buss powered? They’re sites didn’t seem to list anything about that.
    Thanks agin.

  16. Terry,

    I finally got unmetered broadband and finally catching up with all these videos I wanted to see. Thanks for the review, I’m definitely going to get the WD drive and look at the OWC gear as well.

    keep it up!!

  17. There is a restrictionusing this drive over Firewire 400 – obvious once you think about it. If you have a 4 pin Firewire 400 port on your laptop, it does not deliver power. WD support claimed that you could connect both cables, but in my test the drive used then USB to transfer the data when connected through both ports, e.g., ignored the Firewire connection.
    Another (little thing) – this led position indicator is only enabled if you decide to install the WD drive manager; otherwise the light will only have 2 states: moving when the drive is accessed and first position otherwise.

  18. What about speed? You didn’t mention anything about the drive’s performance. Is it suitable for video work on the go? I’m working mainly with HD video in Apple ProRess 422 LT in FCP, and was looking for a good FW800 scratch disk.

  19. Hi Terry,

    There is a way to use the My Passport Studio as boot drive with Firewire. The reason it doesn’t boot without workaround is that Apple now provides power through Firewire ports, even when the Mac is shut down, and the My Passport doesn’t see the restart. If you want to use it as a FireWire boot drive do the following:
    1. Disconnect the laptop from its charger (to prevent FireWire ports from being powered at shutdown)
    2. Shut the laptop down (use a shutdown not just a restart)
    3. Start the Mac and press the “Option” key right after the bell sounds

    I hope this helps,

    1. I forgot to add: to be used as boot drive on Intel macs, the drive must be formatted using a GUID partition table.


  20. Hi Terry,

    I just came across your archived post and need your advice concerning my portable HD. I have a MacBook Pro and I just bought a WD My Passport Essential 320GB HD. I want to ask for your recommendation as to how best to format/partition this drive. My intention is to use it as a Time Machine backup and also carry around some data as well. Also if I partition/format this HD will it be read by Windows systems? (Stupid question I know, but many of my friends still use PCs and I might still need to gain access to the HD via one). I am a newbie and will appreciate your (or anyone else’s) recommendations. Thanks.

    1. If you make a DOS/FAT32 partition using Disk Utility it will be readable by Mac and PC systems. Your other Partition for Time Machine should be HFS GUID (in the Options).

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