Hardware

Computer | Storage

Long-term Field Test: 02.07.2021 to date


WD Elements Portable 5 TB

External Hard Drive with USB Port Version USB 3.0

Because hard drives are designed to last 2–5 years, I always make sure to replace them in good time. I prefer compact USB hard drives in 2.5-inch format. These need neither a fan nor a power supply and are usually optimised for energy-saving operation. So good models don't get very warm during operation, which in turn is good for the life of the electronics. In addition, there is a good price-performance ratio. My research shows that the prices have fallen significantly compared to the last purchase. If I paid about 160 EUR for 2 TB in April 2014, seven years later I get 5 TB for less than 110 EUR!

Ordering Process

29.06.2021: because of my scary shopping experience last year with cyberport.de I order now at amazon.de!
“Western Digital Elements Portable 5 TB USB 3.0 2.5 inch” for EUR 107.90 which is a great deal.

30.06.2021: Shipping confirmation received by email at 22:10.

02.07.2021: Delivery to desired DHL Packstation.

Box Contents

Western Digital Elements Portable USB 3.0 5 TB 2.5 Inch
USB 3.0 cable (USB 2.0 compatible)
Quick installation guide

Tech Specs

Connection: USB 3.0
Capacity: 5 TB
(also available with 500 GB/750 GB/1 TB/1,5 TB/2 TB/3 TB/4 TB)

Data transfer rate: 130 MB/s.

Dimensions: (L x B x H): 110.5 x 8.2 x 2.08 cm
Weight: 229.63 g

System requirements:
• Computer with a free USB port
• Operating system Windows XP or newer, Mac OS X or newer
• NTFS preformatted for Windows
Apple users can use the macOS Disk Utility for initial setup (menu “Delete” to select name, format and encryption password).

Experience

Windows User

… Windows users simply connect the hard disk and give it a nicer name to distinguish it and because otherwise a cryptic long name might be displayed. I always give my hard disks their correct designation as a name including hard disk capacity (as suffix) like this: “WD Elements Portable 5TB”. This is clearer because over time you will accumulate some storage devices or at least connect them temporarily and confusion can end dramatically.

Mac User

… if you do not need to use the hard disk for data exchange across operating system boundaries, i.e. it is only used in the “Apple universe”, connect the hard disk and select in the Finder:
Go to/Hard Disk Utility. New hard disks/SSDs not yet formatted for macOS have always been displayed in the left column at the top with their technical “cryptic” names.
So click on the name for your new drive that Disk Utility displays the data of this storage and look very carefully to see whether it is really the right storage that is about to be reformatted, because all on this storage will be erased irretrievably!

In the macOS version 11.4 (Big Sur) used at the time of the test, “Delete” must now be selected from the menu at the top, after which I can give my new hard disk a pretty name and select file format (see tips below).

Recommended File Formats (Mac)

Use as ordinary Storage

APFS Volume • APFS (upper/lower case, encrypted)

This allows you to use the very convenient hard disk encryption.
Do you use a good password safe like Strongbox or just the Apple keychain? Then generate a secure long password and store it there. I manage my passwords using Strongbox and also store those for hard drives in Apple's keychain, which decrypts hard drives fully automatically after initial setup as soon as access is required from the unlocked MacBook. Those who don't trust Apple use the password manager they trust, just one more step.

Use as “Time Machine”

Mac OS Extended (upper/lower case, journaled, encrypted)

The file format strongly recommended by Apple for “Time Machine”
(system tool for automatic backup in the background).
As a newcomer to Apple, I tried the other format and had problems. I can't remember exactly what happened, but I had to reformat the hard drive and in the meantime two large hard drives share their work as time machine.

This hard disk is actually less ideal for automatic backups in the background because of its low write speed. Some backups take all day, and if you don't use your MacBook stationary or don't want to let it run through the night, you often have to pause or cancel backups in progress.
In addition, only after a longer period of time will it become clear how the hard disk can cope with the permanent stress caused by operation as a time machine.

Tip: use several Backup Media

By this I do not mean that you should buy several pieces of this hard drive at once …
Do not rely solely on the backups with this “hard disk as a time machine”. Since it is very slow and some backups therefore do not finish before you have to unplug the MacBook or perhaps want to switch off at night, some files may not be backed up in time and then you would have no plan B.

Protection against Ransomware Trojans

In addition, back up all irretrievable data regularly on another external hard drive (or SSD), which, if possible, should not remain permanently plugged into the computer.

Ransomware (extortion Trojans) have long been available for macOS as well, so a backup hard drive/SSD that is not permanently connected is important!

Oops!

04.08.2021 approx. 22:44: macOS reports unannounced disconnection of all my external hard drives incl. WD Elements Portable 5 TB.
Yet they are all permanently connected to the MacBook! surprise
Like last time on 13.07.2021, the MacBook Air had gone into power saving mode during my non-use, the connected hub Anker PowerExpands Elite then did the same to it and it's all normal.

Even before the supposed disconnection, data to be saved had already been saved, this time it affected all drives. But this time, they were automatically mounted again after a few minutes. This never worked before. Therefore, I suspect an error of the operating system, which Apple now at least catches a little better. A restart of macOS is no longer necessary after unintentional disconnection of the drives in order to be able to continue working safely again (I hope).

To be on the safe side, I had the hard disk utility checked:
The test function "First aid" was successfully terminated after approx. 5 min.

Photos

Photo: Original box WD Elements Portable 5 TB

Photo: Original box WD Elements Portable 5 TB

Photo: box contents WD Elements Portable 5 TB

Photo: box contents WD Elements Portable 5 TB

Pros

  • a lot of memory in a small space
  • silent operation
  • low power consumption
  • neither power supply nor fan required
  • easily transportable

Cons

  • low data transfer rate
  • proprietary socket on housing side instead of USB-A or USB-C
  • Plug for computer connection USB-A instead of USB-C

Conclusion

Highly recommended for data backups or photo and video collections. That is, if no constant quick access is needed, because it would be maybe too slow for that.

Alternatives

WD My Passport (6.4 cm (2.5 inch), USB 3.0), colours: black, silver, blue, red.
Available in the sizes 1 TB (56 EUR), 2 TB (70 EUR), 4 TB (108 EUR), 5 TB (127 EUR).
I have been using one with 1 TB for years.

Western Digital added a variant (Ultra) to their My Passport series after a successful market launch:

WD My Passport Ultra (6.4 cm (2.5 inch), USB 3.0), colours: matt black, blue, silver.
Available in the sizes 1 TB (69 EUR), 2 TB (94 EUR) and 4 TB (128 EUR).
I have been using one with 2 TB for years.

WD Elements Portable (6.4 cm (2.5 inch), USB 3.0), colours: black, silver, blue, red.
Available in the sizes 750 MB (47 EUR!), 1 TB (49 EUR), 1.5 TB (60 EUR), 2 TB (70 EUR), 4 TB (about 100 EUR), 5 TB (about 108 EUR).
With 5 TB it corresponds to the model tested here.
See also my test report on the model with 4 TB.

I had taken all the prices from the Amazon shop as a guide. In the meantime, all prices there have been reduced to a greater or lesser extent. I only took into account direct offers from Amazon, i.e. no Marketplace dealers who add extra high postage costs.

Photo: my disk collection

Group photo from left to right: LaCie Porsche Design P'9220 1 TB, LaCie Porsche Design P'9220 2 TB, WD My Passport Ultra 2 TB, WD My Passport 1 TB, WD Elements 4 TB (new group photo coming very soon!)

Fixed Disk for Hard Disk Drives

In the photo above you can see an element of my two-part desk. This consists of two elements that are connected via an axis. In this way, I can place this integrated shelf element against the wall to save space and arrange the connected desk element as an angle.

My “disk collection” is draped on this “hard drive”.

I have just taken new, more recent group photos and will put them online this week (scaled down for short loading times with optimal quality).

The two hard drives on the far left (Porsche Design) are discontinued models and have not been marketed for a long time. If they are offered to you in a shop, better not buy them! They were good at the time, but the Western Digital ones on the right are better and cheaper, and their connection cable is not so rigid, which offers more placing options. I could hardly arrange this disk collection any other way on the table, also because of the short connection cables. Until now, they all hung on the D-Link DUB-H7 USB hub, USB-A 2.0, which is placed directly under the hard drives.
The USB hub remains in operation and is now connected to the Anker PowerExpand Elite docking station and serves the three oldest hard drives.

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