Having Problems with WD External Drives for Mac ?


Western Digital My Passport Essential SE

WD MyPassport Essential issues with MacBook Pro

Just a quick note in case this helps anyone else with the same problem with WD External drives for Mac – specifically  MyPassport Essential – working properly on their Mac.

In the past 2 years I have had to return 4 different Western Digital (WD) MyPassport Essential series drives to the manufacturer. I use these to hold redundant back ups of my photographs. The drives were a dream made reality when they came on the market – totally portable, powered off of the connection cable to your Mac and they hold a whopping 1TB of data. How great is that ?

I immediately bought a few of the drives – they were priced right as well. The first one had to be returned 3 times to get one that worked (early versions of these drives had cable issues where the cable was not robust enough to support powering the drive). Then after that, they stabilized and I started to trust them as true backup copies of my data, not just as portable “part time” drives when traveling.

Usually when I am in Adobe Lightroom importing new shots, I automatically copy the images first to a more sturdy desk top non-portable hard drive, and make sure I end up with 2 additional copies to the WD smaller portable drives. These let me work on my images when traveling and make it easier to carry things around and work wherever I am if I have the chance and also provide redundant backups of my data.

But while I have been impressed with the size and portability of the drives, I have had several of them give major problems on the MacBook Pro. I had the same problems on my OS Leopard and Snow Leopard. I even had the Geniuses at Apple Geneva check my Mac in case that was the issue, but the drives did the same thing on their machines too. They do disappearing acts. Often in the middle of copying a large set of data they simply stop working. I get a message saying I cannot power off the drive because it is in use or to be exact the phrase the Mac tosses up is :

“WD My Passport 0740 Media is in use and cannot be powered off.”

– of course, I am not trying to power off my WD External drive for my Mac … something in the operating system is dropping it for some reason, right in the middle of copying data to it. Or other times, they do not appear when plugged in and must be unplugged and plugged in again a few times. Or I must even re-boot the Mac to get it to recognise the drive. Not so much fun if you had work to do with that drive and are hours away from your other data copies.

I had searched high and low on internet forums for an answer, and finally yesterday I found and did something on MacRumors forum that (fingers crossed, knock wood) seems to have worked to fix the random power down issue.

I had  just received a brand new drive in the mail and returned the old drive (which I thought was failing) on an RMA. By the way, WD support is actually quite good and prompt for drive replacement – the website is easy to use and the support team answers your mails. (Good customer support – what a concept !) They just don’t seem to know the answer to this problem, except to diagnose it as a failing drive. As I was trying to copy my data onto the new drive, it repeatedly disappeared, often with that message and with another one saying the file could not be copied and an error code. I was told to go ahead and use the RMA process to replace the drive. Oh … I could read the drive from a friend’s PC … another hint.

Following the MacRumors forum suggestion I found via Googling the exact error message, I uninstalled the WD SmartWare from Applications by using the WD “uninstall” icon on my Mac and …. violà ! I have been copying data onto the new drive for 2 days now without issue.

Prior to that it would not go more than a minute or two – sometimes only 30 seconds – before shutting itself down. What stupid software you have created Western Digital … and in case anyone from your company is listening, you are probably wasting a lot of money on replacing people’s drives simply because of that poor drive management software.

If you are on a Mac and want to use a WD MyPassport as a Time Machine, uninstall the WD SmartWare. There is no need, it is redundant and provides you no benefit and it seems to interfere with drive power.

If you are someone like me using the drives for copies of digital photo backups, again there is also no real need for that WD software – I have Lightroom automatically create the 2nd copy and then manually copy a 3rd version. If I wanted to, I could (and some day will still do) set up an automated Mac job with Automator or another tool to keep them in sync automatically. In any case, I had installed SmartWare thinking it would make the drive run better as it also has some drive monitoring technology (temperature monitoring or something like that) … But in reality, it seems to mess things up more than it helps.


This entry was posted in Photo Tech Tip, Photography.