"Its origin and purpose are still a total mystery",
This review is from: Western Digital WD Elements 1 TB USB 2.0 Desktop External Hard Drive WDE1UBK10000N (Black) (Personal Computers)
With 233 reviews and an average score of 4/5 I am really only adding to the chorus. I bought one of these in early November 2009 and have used it almost every day since then. On a physical level it feels very robust, and mechanically it has not skipped a beat since November. I suspect that if it was going to break, it would have broken shortly after getting it. I formatted it as an NTFS drive, which took much less time than I was expecting (about four hours rather than the dozen quoted in other reviews). Partitioning is theoretically tricky, in the sense that some partitioning software drops to DOS in order to work its magic, at which point USB support vanishes. I have left mine as one integral continuum. I use it for medium- and long-term storage rather than as a vehicle for an operating system, and although it is slower than my computer's internal drives, the speed is not really an issue. Music and films take a slightly longer time to cue up.
The biggest performance hit has been to the boot and shutdown procedure, which is much slower with the drive plugged in; and often Windows' "safely remove this device" option doesn't work, even if no processes are accessing the drive, so I have no option but to leave it on whilst shutting the machine down. Still, this is minor griping. The fact of it requiring an external power source is inevitable, but does limit its use slightly; if you plan on taking it on holiday as a convenient way of bringing along your movie collection you will need to pack the power adapter and one extra Europlug socket.
The price seems to have gone up since I bought it, but even so the thought of having a terabyte of data for less than a hundred quid still boggles my mind slightly. I can remember the days of FAT16 and a 2gb maximum partition size. I don't plan to move the drive around a lot, and I have no idea whether it is shockproof, but I suspect that it would be a much more efficient way of moving large amounts of data from place to place than a stack of DVDs. I shudder to think what would happen if a bunch of these drives got into the hands of software pirates and hoarders of pornography. I of course have a perfectly legitimate reason to store one terabyte of data in an device that can easily be removed and thrown into a lake.
The only thing I would like to see added is a light that tells me that the drive is ready to be turned off, or better still a physical switch on the drive that safely turns it off. The motor is loud enough that I can hear it spin down once deactivated, at which point I can pull out the plug, but there seems to be an assumption by the manufacturers that you'll leave it plugged in and running all the time. Which is not the case in the case of my case.
With all relations between man and technology there is an emotional component. Apple knows how to build and market products and services that bypass the rational mind and instead engage the heart and guts. In contrast, Dell does not know how to etc. Google does. Yahoo does not. Amazon does. Argos.co.uk does not. And so on. The product in question is not really an emotional product - it's a black box that whirs and stores data - but the design is small enough, feels robust enough, is quiet and cheap enough, and capacious enough, that I feel good when I contemplate it. I never feel good when I think about my DVD-RW drive. I don't feel anything at all when I think about my DVD-RW drive. In contrast, I feel good when I think about my Western Digital removable drive. It comforts me.