WD's Ever-Smaller External Hard Drives Bring New Features

Western Digital's new line of hard drives have the expected upgrades (higher capacity, smaller size) but also feature tough-as-nails hardware security and incremental backups.

The lines are still separated by size, with the My Passports being portable 2.5-inch drives and the My Books taking the larger-capacity 3.5-inch size. My Passport now goes up to a 1TB capacity in a portable, USB-powered drive, and because of a few innovations they're remarkably small. Essentially, WD removed the USB-to-SATA-to-drive connection and made them direct to USB, which saves space—and WD promises there've been no compromises on speed.

Other changes: security has been bumped up several notches. The security is now hardware-based, rather than merely software-encrypted, so WD actually has to warn users that if they forget their passwords, even WD can't access the drives. They also do incremental backups, so if for example you want to save a couple versions of a document and accidentally overwrite one of them, these drives will have saved all versions of your progress.

My favourite has to be that teeny 1TB 2.5-inch My Passport Essential SE. The triple platter drives (plus the direct-to-USB connection) make it much smaller than I expected. It'll cost $US250 when it's released later this month (the 750GB version will cost $US180). Others:

• My Passport Essential: 320/500/640GB ranging from $US100 to $US150, released this month with equivalent Mac version • My Passport Elite: 320/500GB at $US120/$US160, adds lighted capacity gauge and dock. Available October 2009. • My Book Essential: 0.5/1/1.5/2TB from $US99 to $US250, with lighted capacity gauge and equivalent Mac version

We'll let you know when we have precise release dates, but you can expect all of these drives to be showing up in stores very soon. [WD]

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