Review Price free/subscription
In the centre of the two rings is a large silver button that when pressed safely removes the drive from windows and powers it down. This is rather more immediately useful than the capacity gauge but is still stuck with a fundamental problem. The software that powers both features doesn't work when the drive is connected by anything other than USB, so if you want to use the ultra fast Firewire 800 connection, for instance, you have to compromise on features.
Round the back are the data connections, which in their entirety consist of a USB 2.0 port, a six-pin Firewire 400 port, and two Firewire 800 ports. As mentioned, the lack of eSATA is a bit of a fundamental flaw in a product that, when configured in RAID 0, should offer stellar performance. Though Firewire 800 is faster than either USB 2.0 or the previous version of Firewire, it simply isn't a patch on eSATA. Moreover, hardly any motherboards support Firewire 800, except those made by Apple, so you'll probably have to fork out for a Firewire 800 expansion card to use it. This is in contrast to eSATA, which is fast becoming a standard feature on even the most basic of PCs.
As testament to this point, none of the motherboards or computers in our office had a Firewire 800 port, which meant our speed tests were confined to using the two slower connections on offer. And, as you'd expect the drive was beaten in all tests by our reference eSATA enabled drive. All of which should tell you one thing, the only reason to get this drive is if you plan to use its RAID 1 capabilities. Otherwise, you'd be best served by buying a cheaper eSATA drive.
Also on the back panel is a socket for the external power brick, a locking point, and a small hole that hides a hard reset button. This can be activated with judicious use of a paperclip, or some such device, which will simply revert the device back to its original unformatted RAID 0 state.
As standard, the My Book can be plugged in with any connection and partitioned and formatted how you like. However, to change the type of RAID, you must install the software and connect the drive via USB. Once you've done this, you open the software and simply select the drive and tell it to switch RAID types. It will ask for a confirmation code and you must click OK a total of three times before the drive will start the change process, so there shouldn't be any chance of you accidentally losing your data.
If you plan to use your My Book as a backup device, you'll be glad to hear it ships with the impressive EMC Retrospect backup software. This lets you define backups of files, folders, or whole disks and has powerful scripting tools for scheduling your backups to be run whenever you want. You can also choose whether backups are incremental (only adding files to the backup that have changed) or complete each time. It has a fairly stark interface, without the flashy bells and whistles of some alternatives but it's easy to use, fast and powerful, which is certainly how I prefer to have my software.
The Western Digital My Book Pro Edition II is the first external hard drive we've seen that brings RAID and Firewire 800 to the desktop. It's stylish, quiet, and a breeze to use and, if all you want is data security then it's definitely worth considering. However, if you just want a large and fast external hard drive you'd be better served by a single disk solution.
Trusted Reviews is part of the Time Inc. (UK) Ltd Technology Network