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I am looking at External Hard Drives from a shop in the UK, but have not got a clue what the difference is, apart from the price.

Both are Western Digital External Hard Drives 2TB.

I want the most reliable, ie least likely to go wrong. Which would do that and why? What is the difference between the two?

Also…

  • What can I do my end to prolong the life of the drive?
  • I read you should not move it while still spinning. How do I know? (I will be on Windows 10.)
  • Would it be a good idea to have a desk fan blowing on it while it is working?
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  • @davidpostill Please reconsider your close vote. I don't see this as a shopping recommendation - rather a question on how to evaluate disk drives - which IMHO is appropriate here.
    – davidgo
    Sep 17, 2020 at 20:00
  • WD are a bit different - for internal drives they have "blue" and "black" denoting different qualities (black is better). On these external drives, the color is irrelevant and the important question is what is the difference between "passport" and "essential" lines. I don't know the answer to this, but from a technical POV, likely "not much"
    – davidgo
    Sep 17, 2020 at 20:05

2 Answers 2

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I don't have the answer to your first query (specific WD models), but I'll attend to the others. By the way, at SuperUser we tend to break up questions into individual ones, which are easier to search for. You can probably find the answers to your questions with some targeted searching.

  1. To prolong external hard drive life, minimize falls and crushing, and always transporting inside a padded bag. For models with external power supplies, you have to consider power surges, but those are less problematic for USB-powered hard drives.

  2. Don't move the drive while it's spinning. In Windows 10, in the system tray by the clock, a little indicator will come up to show an external hard drive has been plugged in. When done with work, click and choose "Remove drive". Give it a few seconds. It may not be designed to spin down automatically. When the OS reports OK to remove, then unplug USB. Then it should spin down, and when it's done spinning, you can pick up and pack it away.

  3. Desk fan airflow should not be necessary in the UK, where temperatures are rarely over 25*C.

Comment : In 2020, a 2TB drive is relatively small. Remember, storage needs tend to increase.

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The difference between the two drives you are asking about is hardware encryption on the WD Passport 2TB Portable Hard Drive:

“The My Passport drive's password protection and built-in 256-bit AES hardware encryption helps keep your digital life's contents secure.”

In contrast the WD Elements 2TB USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive is just an external hard drive.

Personally, I use macOS and use the built in software encryption — APFS (Encrypted) — when possible. So an external hard drive with its own hardware encryption is not something I am interested in; I don’t need the hassle of managing multiple drive encryption schemes.

“I want the most reliable, ie least likely to go wrong. Which would do that and why? What is the difference between the two?”

Your questions are honestly overthinking things. If you want hardware encryption, get the WD Passport 2TB Portable Hard Drive. If you don’t care about hardware encryption, get the WD Elements 2TB USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive. I am positive the drives inside each of these cases are effectively the same thing.

That said, while your core question is valid the last three questions on best practices are out of scope, opinion-based and not really something anyone can decisively answer.

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