WD Elements 500gb external drive reviewMikey 121 comments
If you hadn’t already heard, hard drive based storage is now cheaper than ever. If you ever wanted a dedicated backup drive, now is the time.
Western Digital’s WDE1U5000 offering, dubbed 'Elements' for reasons that are not at all obvious, comes in a 500gb capacity. A whopping half a terabyte of storage that unless you are constantly backing up hours of uncompressed AVI, should last you several years to come. And by that time hard drives like this will be 5 times the capacity and half the price.
Just to give a rough ‘real world’ example of how much space that is, according to the data on the official web page it will hold:
- Up to 142,800 digital photos (based on photos around 3.5mb each)
- Up to 125,000 songs (MP3)
- Up to 12,500 songs (uncompressed CD quality)
- Up to 38 hours of Digital Video (DV)
- Up to 220 hours of DVD quality video
- Up to 60 hours of HD video
Something I might add here is the drive comes pre-formatted with the inferior FAT32 file system, so the estimates noted above are likely under-exaggerated.
The reason for having a FAT32 deployment is likely so Windows 98 users (both of them) can plug and play with minimal hassle. But to everyone else, I suggest formatting the drive with NTFS to get optimum use of those disc sectors.
What’s in the box?
- WDE1U5000 500gb hard drive in metal enclosure
- USB cable
- Power connector
- Quick start guide
- Warranty and Safety information
Setting up the drive is as easy as it gets. Plug one end of the USB cable to the drive and the other end to your computer. Then do the same for the power connector. Open Windows Explorer and you will notice a new drive letter complete with Western Digital icon, and the drive named ‘Elements’ (seriously - what’s with that name?).
One thing that did catch me off guard and annoy is the lack of an on/off switch. The only way to switch it off is to either pull the mains connector from the wall or unplug the power connector from the drive. Both are very inconvenient. As a backup drive, you will typically only ever need it running when you perform backups, which might only be a few minutes a day. By having the ability to switch the drive off you can extend its life by several years.
Some people of course might need the drive to be spinning all day in a scenario when backups are done on the fly. In any event a power switch would be nice.
Performance wise it is nothing special and works like any other 7200 rpm drive as expected, although the transfer speed over USB will not be as fast as an internal hard drive. That said, Vista is telling me my files are transferring at a rate of about 15mb/second.
There is ventilation on both the front and back ends but no fans for silent operation. If you had more than one of these drives you could theoretically stack them although there are no built in guides for keeping them in place. As the front and back ends have a raised plastic mould, this allows for about 2mm clearance raised off your desk or table.
Recommendation: Yeah why not. It does the job expected and at a very reasonable price of around $155 (at time of writing this review).
- Massive capacity
- Rugged durable casing
- Too easy to set up
- Works on PC and Mac
- No power switch
- Not designed for stacking
Update: There is a way to switch it off after all - kind of. When you shut your computer down, the drive shuts down, and it powers up when you turn your computer back on. This is a pleasant change from my older external drive that keeps spinning even when the computer is switched off. That said, a power switch would still be helpful.