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Outback Photo Handbook: Backup & Archiving

Western Digital My Passport Studio

review note by Uwe Steinmueller

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10/31/2008 New generation of Passport Studio with Firewire 800 and up to 500 GB

Equipped with FireWire 800/400 and USB 2.0 interfaces.

Small bus-powered drives are very popular and capacity up to 320GB is not bad. These are the ideal portable backup drives (especially on the road).

What does bus-powered mean? These drives in most cases don't need an external power supply but get the power from the bus connecting to the host computer. Most of these drives support only USB. USB transfer rates can be quite a bit slower in reality than the spec sheets make believe (we will cover this in our backup series). We own quite a few Western Digital (WD) Passport USB drives (100 - 320GB) and like them a lot except for the lack of Firewire support.

Now finally WD produces a dual interface Passport drive. The WD My Passport Studio has:

  • Firewire 400
  • USB 2.0

The Passport Studio is formatted by default for the Mac (very welcome for Mac users like us).

We hope (and actually expect) this drive to perform as well as all our other Passport drives.

There are more reasons we like a Firewire interface. Notebooks (especially Macs) have only few USB ports (often just 2). With the Passport Studio you get faster transfer speeds and also keep the USB ports for other use. We use a USB mouse, card reader and wireless Aircard with our Mac Book. Only two of these three USB devices can be active at any time (powered USB hubs are not that convenient on travel). Now we don't need anymore to unplug even one more of these devices if we use the Passport Studio as external disk.

Firewire devices also allow better bootable copies of your Mac OS disk.

We have a Mac Book with a 160 GB internal disk (was the largest disk we could buy at that time). On some of our trips this is not enough space. Now we use the 320 GB Passport Studio as an extension:

  • Holds a bootable copy of the main disk
  • Allows enough space for raw files on a trip (>100 GB). We have also other disks to serve as a second backup because you should never trust just one physical disk.
  • Does not use any USB port on the Mac Book

You may say that we have now to take an extra disk. This is not entirely true, because we always carried a bootable Passport disk on our trips anyway.


We find the Passport Studio much of an improvement. Especially welcome for all Mac users. We stopped buying larger external drives without Firewire interface about two years ago. The only exception were the USB bus-powered drives (e.g. WD Passport). Now all external drives have to have Firewire to be useful to us. Remember this is mainly seen from a Mac perspective. But we also used a lot of Firewire drives for our PCs before we switched to Macs.



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