PROS / Comprehensive security features let you set a password to prevent anyone else from accessing the data on your external hard drive.
CONS / No drop protection means you may have to keep looking if you’re seeking a rugged external hard drive.
VERDICT / One of Western Digital’s flagship portable hard drive devices, the My Passport Ultra is diverse in functionality but lacks the added protection that would come with a ruggedized exterior.
Western Digital is a high-profile name in hard drives, and one of its flagship portable models, the My Passport Ultra, is our Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award winner among the best external hard drives available on the market. It is a best seller for its affordable cost and versatility, and it performs excellently in the areas of software and security, and in numerous help and support channels. It can be used in a PC or Mac environment and comes equipped with software that enables you to automatically back up your critical data files to the cloud.
The WD My Passport Ultra comes in four available maximum size capacities: 500GB, 1TB, 2TB and 3TB. It comes with a USB cable that is compatible with USB 3.0 connectivity, which offers faster transfer speeds than the older USB 2.0 technology. As with all other portable external hard drives equipped with USB 3.0, the port and cable are backward compatible with USB 2.0, which means the drive can be used with older computers that aren’t up to snuff with today’s standard USB speeds.
The recognition time of the My Passport Ultra, which is the length of time it takes for your computer to recognize the external drive once it’s plugged into your computer, is six seconds. This isn’t the fastest recognition time we tested, however it is acceptable within expected time frames and indicates a high level of plug and play functionality required for on-the-fly data backup.
Software & Security
The My Passport Ultra offers some of the best software and security available in portable external hard drives. The complementary software that comes with it is easily installed and provides a user-friendly interface that lets you perform complex functions like backing up your data to the cloud, configuring your drive, scheduling automated data backups from your computer and securing it all with password encryption. A user-friendly wizard walks you through the steps of installing the software. Using this provided software, you can set your data backup frequency to take place in hourly, daily or monthly increments, offering a high level of flexibility. These programmable backup functions can also save you from having to manually click and drag important files for safe, off-computer storage.
It is compatible with a variety of cloud backup services, which affords you a double layer of protection in the event the drive is lost, stolen or damaged. Rather than keeping your data stored only to your WD My Passport Ultra, you can also mirror that data to cloud storage, offering a critical secondary level of protection you may not otherwise get with other lower-rated portable external hard drives. When your data is backed up to the cloud, you can access your stored information remotely via computer or smartphone. This means you don’t even have to have the drive with you in order to access the data it contains. The password protection ensures that others will not be able to gain access to your important files and documents.
Encased in plastic, the WD drive weighs just 5.4 ounces and measures 4.3 x 3.2 x 0.6 inches. It comes in a range of storage capacities, from 500GB to 3TB. This is highly appealing if you’re seeking a pocketable device capable of backing up terabytes of data in a convenient form factor that can conceivably fit into your pocket, briefcase, computer bag or purse.
Unlike other external hard drives in our lineup, this drive was manufactured without shock resistance. This means that it wasn’t built to withstand accidental drops and may become easily damaged. Therefore we recommend using it only in the home and limiting its portability to environments that will not cause it undue damage. It is also not manufactured to withstand exposure to dust or water, which may further limit its portability, but it remains an ideal complement to your in-home or in-office data backup setup.
Help & Support
Help and support channels are numerous and include the ability to contact support via online ticket or phone. Support can be reached during specified business hours seven days a week, with the exclusion of holidays. The manufacturer’s website also offers a comprehensive knowledgebase of FAQs and how-to resources to help you troubleshoot issues in the event help is not immediately available. Other support options include the availability of an online message board community that can help you get answers fast. You can also download the user manual direct from the website.
The My Passport Ultra is backed up by a three-year limited manufacturer warranty, which is the standard length of warranty among the best available portable hard drives. The warranty protects you against defects in manufacture and equipment failure.
The WD My Passport Ultra excels in the area of software and security, and it ranks among the top three best external hard drives on the market. Its physical design lacks any sort of protection against accidental impacts or exposure to dust and water, however its ranking is bolstered by exceptional software and security, good overall performance, and excellent help and support channels.