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  "My Book" External Disk Drive - Design Observations 
 
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john albrich Feb 21, 2007, 10:32pm EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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Edited: May 18, 2008, 02:29pm EDT

Replies: 13 - Views: 6450
I just bought a "My Book" 250gb disk drive for my sister. She liked the look, and I will assume the title was friendly sounding.

Here are some observations on the design. Given the relatively high prices of these "Name" drives, I'm very disappointed.

1)
The power On/Off button is a huge ~1" diameter circle on the side of the case. The case looks something like a textbook, and the on/off button is on the "spine" of the book.

The button requires VERY VERY little movement to turn it on or off, and it's not even inset. A slight brush against the side of the case is enough to trip the switch. Just pushing some wires from your laptop back against the button would be enough to do it too. Something you might do when adjusting your work area, setting your laptop computer down, etc.

This...is...not...good.

Seeing as you MUST manually stop the drive using the "Safely Remove Hardware" tray icon, this is a huge exposure not only for the drive itself, but for your system as well. I have had a number of experiences with what happens when you turn off an external disk drive without first manually stopping it, up to and including Windows XP Pro. In my XP computers, recovery from this simple human error often means having to open my computer, reset the BIOS with the jumper, and then rebooting. Then you have to go back in and set all your BIOS settings back to the way they were before the problem. There is also potential for lost or corrupted data or filesystems.

This also means you could easily accidently turn the drive off while data are being transferred. You could of course also accidently turn the drive on when you did not intend to do so...thereby screwing up any PC power sequencing you may have going on.

In fact, I just set the drive down on the side with the button, and the button was pressed. It's that easy. I set it down on a dining room table that has a 1/8" pad underneath the tablecloth. Setting down on a hard surface doesn't seem to be a problem, but any somewhat soft surface at all and the switch is activated for you. Whether or not that's what you wanted.


2)
The case is made of what seems to be a relatively cheap plastic. It is not acoustically dampened, and so EVERY little noise from the drive is amplified by the case side panels. Being plastic also means there is no contribution to drive cooling by the case material.


3)
The case was unexpectedly of a design that is intentionally difficult to open, using "hidden" catches and such. At least one screw is hidden under a tamper-seal...a thin material that will be damaged if disturbed. Definitely not designed for the user who plans to change the disk later on. However, should you choose to do so, I've written up some instructions with images. http://www.hardwareanalysis.com/content/topic/65604/


4)
Tapping the sides of the case showed the fit was pretty loose and the pieces "chattered" against each other. Another source of noise during operation.


5)
There are two 1/8" wide x 4" long rubber strip "feet" on the bottom end of the drive. They were poorly attached with a weak adhesive...just about ready to fall off. These "feet" are also on the smallest area "end" of the drive, providing an extremely high center-of-gravity when the drive is stood on these feet. The drive easily falls over from that position.


The ONLY good piece of design work that I could find, was the amount of ventilation that they provide. They provide internal clearance on ALL sides of the drive. Air can freely circulate around the entire drive. In addition, 3 of the 4 case external side panels are thoroughly ventilated. However, standing the drive on the rubber "feet" side completely blocks an entire side of ventilation, leaving only 2 sides, at 90 degree relative positions. Generally speaking vents positioned 90 degrees relative to each other are not as effective as air flow from one end to another circulating over the entire drive.



Another thing...the drive comes with a bunch of ****ware, and an auto install that will start installing things if you have the auto-start feature active on your system.

It has a Google Toolbar and Desktop, and Adobe Acrobat...all stuff that can be obtained as freeware. There were no drive-specific or backup utilities on the drive I bought.



edited to add this temperature informatoin:
(ambient temp = 23C, all 3 ventilated sides are unobstructed)
42C = the internal hard drive case temp at IDLE
52C = the internal hard drive case temp after 5 minutes of file copying

WesternDigital's temperature specs for the WD2500JB drive:
Operating 5C to 55C
Non-operating -40C to 65C
source: http://www.wdc.com/en/products/Products.asp?DriveID=42#jump88

Taking measurement error into consideration, this drive is effectively operating at or above the maximum operating temperature, which can cause data corruption and early drive failure.

It should be noted that most current 3.5" hard drives have a maximum operating temp in the 50C to 60C range, often being 55C. Many vendor external case designs produce similar high temperatures due to inadequate cooling. However, I expected the WD case to perform much better in this area and keep the drive cooler, so this was disappointing.


Edit to add:
It should be noted that while some of the reviews I've read suggest "MyBook" drives contain SATA drives, the "Essential Edition" version I just bought (which is supposed to be hardware identical to "Premium Edition" ) contained a WD2500JB PATA drive. (caviar/250gb/7200rpm/8mb cache/ATA-100) [I was shocked by W/D's choice to use a drive with an old and slow interface]

Using a program called "HD Speed"*, the read and burst-read rates were:
16mb/sec ~ read
15mb/sec ~ burst read
Note that the burst rate was actually lower than the average standard read rate. I would guess that's an artifact of running on USB. Every other time I've tested drives, the burst-read is higher than the standard-read. I didn't test the write rates, as those destroy data on the test drive...but they are usually a lot slower than the read rates.

I then removed the WD2500JB drive and tested it attached to an IDE channel, and the read rates were:
58mb/sec ~ read
72mb/sec ~ burst read

As can be seen the USB connection is roughly 4X slower than the IDE connection on the same physical drive. The IDE rates are consistent with other brand drives I've measured on this same system.

Test system: AMD Athlon64 3500+ 2.2GHz, 3gb RAM, WinXP Pro SP2.
*HDspeed 1.5.1.55 http://majorgeeks.com/HD_Speed_d1607.html



edit-add ATA-100 info to WD2500JB drive specs
edit-added a link to my 'How-To Open A "My Book" Disk Drive Case' thread.


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Dr. Peaceful Feb 22, 2007, 12:27am EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: "My Book" External Disk Drive - Design Observations
Another reason why it's better to pick the external enclosure that you like and which will suit your requirements. Then simply build your own external hdd with compatible internal hdds of any storage size you want.

For <= 2.5" hdd size, I would buy pre-build ones, since it may be more cost effective and more compact design than building one. But for 3.5", I would just build one. The My Book is basically a 5.25" profile.

john albrich Feb 22, 2007, 05:21am EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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Edited: Feb 22, 2007, 05:24am EST

 
>> Re: "My Book" External Disk Drive - Design Observations
Yep. That's why I posted this. I've always built my own, but that's the drive she wanted.

I think it's some sort of cultural thing started by Apple with it's cute names and all. My sister also wanted me to recommend an Apple for her daughter at school, simply because she'd been advised by someone that "everyone uses Apples in college". Absolutely no consideration for the actual requirements or technical merits...just the name, what "other" people were doing (whether accurate or not) , and the aesthetic style. She was disappointed when I would not recommend an Apple.

Another item about the "My Book" drive...it's one of those "SmartPower" drives that's setup to power-on and off when you turn the computer on and off as well. In addition, it also spins-down after about 5 minutes of no activity, independent of any system power settings. Some people may like those "features" ... I don't.

Dan McCann Feb 22, 2007, 05:40am EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: "My Book" External Disk Drive - Design Observations

---------- Hiper Modular PSU || Abit KN9 Ultra || AMD 4600+X2 || 1GB Geil 800DDR2 || ATi x1950gt || 120gb SATA I, 200gb SATA II || Creative Audigy LS hooked up to Cambridge Soundworks 5.1 THX Surround System ------------

:)
john albrich Feb 22, 2007, 09:00am EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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Edited: Feb 22, 2007, 09:24am EST

 
>> Re: "My Book" External Disk Drive - Design Observations
This one is definitely plastic all around. Noisy as well.

As for Plug N' Play working like it should, nothing special about Western Digital. Plug 'N Play has worked for EVERY single disk drive I've ever plugged into a USB port under WinXP: Maxtor, W/D, IBM, Hitachi, Samsung, JTS, Iomega microdisk, Quantum, and more. The only time Plug 'N Play is noteworthy is when it doesn't work.

By the way, the internal hard drive case temp in this "MyBook" 250gb drive is
42C at IDLE. That's considerably higher than the temps of my internal systems disks while they are operating. I'm going to take some more temp readings and post back. (See original post edited to include temperature measurements)

It should be noted that most drives have a maximum operating temp in the 50C to 60C range, often being 55C.

Dan McCann Feb 22, 2007, 12:20pm EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: "My Book" External Disk Drive - Design Observations
not got a clue about my dads temps, but like i said its silent, has a quality feel and doesnt have that issue that yours seems to have about needing to software 'unplug' it

---------- Hiper Modular PSU || Abit KN9 Ultra || AMD 4600+X2 || 1GB Geil 800DDR2 || ATi x1950gt || 120gb SATA I, 200gb SATA II || Creative Audigy LS hooked up to Cambridge Soundworks 5.1 THX Surround System ------------

:)
john albrich Feb 22, 2007, 07:26pm EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: "My Book" External Disk Drive - Design Observations
Dan McCann said:
... doesnt have that issue that yours seems to have about needing to software 'unplug' it

Well, I've set the drive up as a removable resource, and so it SHOULD not require that safety action. But what you tell the computer to do and what it does isn't always the same thing anymore. Take THAT Mr/Ms Programmer!!! (ouch! my own words wound me)

HOWEVER, "My Book Essential Edition Quick Install Guide" definitely says to use the "Safely Remove Hardware" utility. I'm assuming that would be for maximum protection, especially when you are disconnecting or powering-down the drive while leaving the system turned on.

The guide also has this to say...a very funny thing when you think about it.
My Book turns off automatically when you turn off the computer. If not, follow these steps to turn off the drive.
1.Click the Safely Remove Hardware icon....
2. Select Safely Remove USB Mass Storage Device
(they don't warn you there might be more than one...I've got 5)
3. When a message is displayed that it is safe....


Erm, if the computer is turned off...how do you click on the icon? Either the computer turned off, or it's hung because the drive wasn't properly handled. I'm gonna give them the benefit of the doubt and interpret this as meaning for you to do this the NEXT time BEFORE you turn off the computer.

Adam Kolak Feb 22, 2007, 07:29pm EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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Edited: Feb 22, 2007, 07:35pm EST

 
>> Re: "My Book" External Disk Drive - Design Observations
I'm going to a college that is all high tech and stuff and one that is computer oriented mostly. I can assure you that almost no-one will be using an Apple at whatever comp related tech school i go to.

And on a more related story, you say build a external hard drive? You mean popping it in and connecting two wires? :D

Adam Kolak
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adam@hardwareanalysis.com
DFI LP P35-T2RS | Xeon Quad @ 3.2Ghz | 4GB DDR2-1000 | 8800GT 512MB | See Profile
Dr. Peaceful Feb 22, 2007, 07:49pm EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: "My Book" External Disk Drive - Design Observations
Water Drop said:
And on a more related story, you say build a external hard drive? You mean popping it in and connecting two wires? :D


And a couple of screws... ;)

Adam Kolak Feb 22, 2007, 08:06pm EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: "My Book" External Disk Drive - Design Observations
Screw the screws.

Adam Kolak
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adam@hardwareanalysis.com
DFI LP P35-T2RS | Xeon Quad @ 3.2Ghz | 4GB DDR2-1000 | 8800GT 512MB | See Profile
john albrich Feb 22, 2007, 09:26pm EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: "My Book" External Disk Drive - Design Observations
Water Drop said:
...And on a more related story, you say build a external hard drive? You mean popping it in and connecting two wires? :D


Yeah, I've gone that route too, but I've also gone the route of scavenging and repairing (replacing surface mount and pin-and-hole components (chips and driver transistors) ) old drive circuit boards, completely disassembling the drives, and in essence building a single good drive from several bad drives. I've also built my own wiring harnesses, 2.5" to 3.5" connector adapters, and power supplies (from scratch) for the hard drives too.

I've modified 5.25" drive enclosures to hold 3.5" drives, and I've also formed my own drive enclosures from sheet metal and made my own bezels on a 3D milling system. I've also added activity LEDs when they weren't originally provided.

So, I've done just a teensy tiny bit more more than connecting two wires and tightened a few screws.

Mike L. Feb 24, 2007, 02:43am EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: "My Book" External Disk Drive - Design Observations
I can't say how appreciative I am of this review. I was actually quite close to purchasing a My Book, inspite of the mixed reviews - moreso bad than good. I opened up a box at work and checked it out for myself. Build quality wise, well it was mediocre, that I agree. But I won't lie, it's the look that got me first. So a big thankyou to John for posting this as you have opened up my eyes entirely. Thankyou, very much. Have a good one.

___________________________________________
I am what you would call depressingly comfortable...
john albrich Feb 24, 2007, 09:15am EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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Edited: Feb 24, 2007, 10:55am EST

 
>> Re: "My Book" External Disk Drive - Design Observations
I found that WesternDigital provides a few utilities for the "MyBook" line of drives that look like they'll help provide better management of the drive.

Things like:

Spin-up/down control (looks like can't eliminate, just control it to some degree)
A button manager
A capacity gauge
Special diagnostics
A 'return to original FAT32 partition' utility


Some particular downloads available to you will depend on which drive you have and in some cases, where you bought it. In those cases, you will be asked for the serial number of your drive.
http://support.wdc.com/download/index.asp?swid=1

These additional files appear to be related to backup software. I find it incredible that such a basic function is restricted access, especially when a number of good freeware backup programs exist. Holding back the backup software as some sort of special offering seems pretty petty to me. However, I've read in other fora the backup software provided with the "Premium Edition" is fairly simplistic. For example, you can't edit a backup profile...you have to delete the old one and create a new one...that sort of thing.

An example of a restricted download is a Backup Utility that normally doesn't come with the "Essential Edition" model. But, IF you bought your drive at a "Dixon's" store in the UK, you can download the file. You have to enter your serial number to get the file.
http://support.wdc.com/download/index.asp?cxml=n&pid=18&swid=47

Similarly for the "Premium Edition" re: a special download.
http://support.wdc.com/download/index.asp?cxml=n&pid=19&swid=40

and a few more.

john albrich Mar 07, 2007, 03:54pm EST Reply - Quote - Report Abuse
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>> Re: "My Book" External Disk Drive - Design Observations
For detailed info and a reference picture on how to open a "My Book" disk drive, see my post at: http://www.hardwareanalysis.com/content/topic/65604/


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