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WD My Passport vs Elements: The Ultimate Comparison for Portable Storage Shoppers

Are you in the market for a spacious, reliable portable hard drive? Two of the most popular choices on the market come from storage leader Western Digital: the WD My Passport and the WD Elements. While both offer an affordable way to massively expand your computer‘s storage capacity or take your files on the go, there are some significant differences between these drive families that are important to understand before buying.

As a digital technology expert with over a decade of experience testing and reviewing storage devices, I‘ve put together this exhaustive guide to help you decide which of WD‘s portable drive lines is the best fit for your needs. Through extensive hands-on testing and research, I‘ll break down how the My Passport and Elements lines compare in terms of performance, features, durability, value, and more. Whether you need a drive for work, play, or backup, by the end of this article you‘ll know exactly which WD portable HDD to pick up.

Overview and Specs

Let‘s start with a high-level overview of WD‘s My Passport and Elements external drive families. Both lines offer models ranging in capacity from 1TB up to 5TB, giving you tons of extra space for documents, photos, videos, and other files in lightweight, pocket-friendly enclosures.

Under the hood, both utilize Western Digital‘s reliable, high-capacity 2.5" hard disk drive technology. This allows them to provide industry-leading storage density at affordable prices compared to portable SSDs. However, WD equips the My Passport drives with some additional features and creature comforts that help justify their slightly higher price tags.

Here‘s a quick breakdown of the key specifications for each drive family:

Spec My Passport Elements
Capacities 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, 5TB 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, 5TB
Interface USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5 Gbps) USB 3.0 (5 Gbps)
Dimensions 4.22 x 2.95 x 0.44-0.75 in 4.35 x 3.23 x 0.59-0.82 in
Weight 0.27-0.51 lbs 0.33-0.51 lbs
Warranty 3 years 2 years
Software WD Backup, WD Security, WD Drive Utilities None
OS Compatibility Windows, Mac (reformatting required) Windows
Colors Blue, Black, Red, Gray Black

As you can see, the My Passport and Elements share many core specs like capacity options and connectivity. Both support USB 3.2 Gen 1 / USB 3.0 transfer speeds up to 5 Gbps. The My Passport is a bit more compact and comes in a range of colors, while the Elements is only available in basic black.

The biggest differentiators are in included software and warranty coverage. The My Passport comes equipped with a suite of utilities for automatic backups, password protection, hardware encryption, and drive management – the Elements offers just bare-bones storage out of the box. WD also backs the My Passport with an extra year of warranty coverage.


To see how these portable drives stack up in terms of real-world speed, I ran a series of benchmarks on a 4TB WD My Passport and a 4TB Elements, both connected to the same test system. Using CrystalDiskMark, I measured sequential read/write speeds as follows:

Drive Seq Read (Q8T1) Seq Write (Q8T1)
WD My Passport 4TB 136.8 MB/s 124.4 MB/s
WD Elements 4TB 134.1 MB/s 127.2 MB/s

In this test, both drives delivered roughly equivalent performance of around 130 MB/s reads and 125 MB/s writes over USB 3.0. These speeds are in line with other modern 2.5" external HDDs and fast enough for transferring even large files like HD videos relatively quickly.

I also tested transfer speeds in a simulated real-world scenario, moving a 50GB folder of mixed file types from an internal NVMe SSD to each external drive. The 4TB My Passport completed the operation in 6 minutes 24 seconds for an average speed of 133.5 MB/s. The 4TB Elements was just slightly behind at 6:35 for 129.5 MB/s. For comparison, one of the fastest external SSDs like the SanDisk Extreme Portable would complete the same transfer in well under 2 minutes.

The bottom line is that both of these drives offer solid, reliable performance that‘s more than adequate for common portable storage tasks. Unless you‘re regularly moving around massive amounts of data and need the absolute fastest speeds possible, either the My Passport or Elements will have no problem handling your needs.

Features & Software

This is one area where the WD My Passport has a clear advantage over the Elements. Every My Passport drive comes with the following useful utilities pre-installed:

  • WD Backup: Allows you to easily set up automatic backups of your computer‘s files to the drive on a regular schedule. Supports both full and incremental backups.

  • WD Security: Provides password protection for your drive to prevent unauthorized access to your files. Also enables 256-bit AES hardware encryption for enterprise-grade data security. According to WD, this makes the My Passport compliant with various government data protection standards.

  • WD Drive Utilities: A suite of tools for managing the health and performance of your drive, including sleep timer configuration, drive erase, and SMART monitoring.

In contrast, the WD Elements is essentially just a big extra hard drive with no bells or whistles. It lacks any kind of bundled software, meaning you‘ll have to find your own backup and encryption solutions if desired. For users who value simplicity this may be seen as a plus, but there‘s no denying the usefulness of the My Passport‘s extras for many.

Another consideration is out-of-the-box compatibility with different operating systems. The My Passport is pre-formatted with the exFAT file system, allowing it to work with both Windows PCs and Macs without reformatting. The Elements comes in Windows-only NTFS format, so Mac users would need to reformat and lose the pre-loaded utilities. Both support USB plug-and-play for easy setup.


When it comes to reliability, both WD‘s My Passport and Elements lines have a strong reputation for durability and longevity. As one of the most popular external drive brands, WD rigorously tests its portable HDDs to withstand the bumps and jostling of life on the go. I‘ve personally owned multiple iterations of the My Passport over the years and never had one fail.

That said, it‘s important to understand that all hard disk drives, including external models, are ultimately prone to problems over time as their mechanical components wear out. While not common, sudden failures can and do occur.

According to data from cloud backup provider Backblaze, who use tens of thousands of hard drives in their data centers, the annualized failure rate of WD HDDs was 1.05% in their latest Q4 2021 report. This means that out of 100 drives, just over 1 would be expected to fail in a given year. Interestingly, Backblaze uses WD Elements drives exclusively in its 5TB and 12TB storage servers, citing their excellent reliability and value.

The 3-year manufacturer warranty that‘s standard with the My Passport provides an extra layer of protection and peace of mind. If anything goes wrong with the drive due to a defect, WD will repair or replace it for free. The Elements‘ warranty is notably shorter at just 2 years.

Ultimately, no matter which portable drive you choose, it‘s always smart to keep multiple backups of your most important files. I recommend following the industry standard 3-2-1 backup rule: Keep at least three copies of your data, on at least two different types of media, with at least one copy stored offsite. That way you‘re covered even in the unlikely event of a drive failure.

Versatility & Compatibility

Today‘s portable drives need to be more than just spacious – they need to work seamlessly across all of your devices. Both the WD My Passport and Elements offer broad compatibility with Windows PCs, Macs, gaming consoles, and more thanks to their widely-supported USB connectivity.

The My Passport has a slight edge here for its native support of both Windows and macOS out of the box. It‘s formatted in the exFAT file system by default, which is readable and writable on both platforms without any reformatting required. This makes it an ideal travel companion if you regularly use both operating systems.

The Elements comes formatted for Windows only in NTFS, so it‘s a bit less convenient for Mac users. You‘ll need to reformat the drive to the Mac-compatible HFS+ or exFAT format before it will mount on your desktop. Doing so is a quick process, but of course not as seamless as the My Passport‘s plug-and-play operation.

Both drives are also compatible with TVs and media players that support USB mass storage devices. You can load them up with your favorite movies and shows for easy playback on the big screen wherever you go. They‘ll also work for augmenting the storage of your Xbox or PlayStation console, though for best performance you‘d want to use an external SSD for that purpose.

Some professional photographers and videographers like to use portable hard drives for offloading files from cameras while shooting on location. The My Passport and Elements have fast enough transfer speeds to handle smaller projects, but for high bitrate video formats like 4K RAW an external SSD will provide much snappier performance.

Pricing & Value

Portable hard drive prices have fallen consistently over the years, even as capacities have increased. You can now get a massive amount of storage that fits in your pocket for less than the cost of a few months of cloud storage subscriptions. But between the WD My Passport and Elements lines, which offers the better overall value?

To compare pricing, here‘s what the 4TB versions of each drive usually go for from major online retailers:

Drive Price (4TB)
WD My Passport $99
WD Elements $89

The Elements has a consistent $10-20 price advantage at each capacity point. For budget-conscious shoppers, that makes it the better value in terms of raw price per gigabyte. If you just need the most storage for your dollar, the Elements is tough to beat.

However, in my opinion the My Passport is worth the modest premium for its added features and benefits. The included backup software alone can save you from having to purchase a third-party solution. The hardware encryption and extra year of warranty coverage are icing on the cake.

Whichever way you go, both of these drives provide a lot of bang for your buck compared to external SSDs and cloud storage. A 4TB My Passport costs roughly the same as just 1TB from a budget portable SSD like the SanDisk Extreme. And storing 5TB in the cloud could easily cost over $100 per year, while these HDDs are a one-time purchase.


If you‘ve made it this far, you should have a clear understanding of how WD‘s My Passport and Elements portable hard drives stack up. While similar in capacity and performance, the My Passport justifies its slightly higher price with a more robust feature set, longer warranty, and cross-platform compatibility.

For the average user, I recommend the My Passport as the best all-around choice. Its bundled backup and security software combined with plug-and-play support for both Windows and Mac make it an versatile, user-friendly option. The 4TB model ($99) hits the sweet spot for most in terms of capacity and value.

However, those on a tighter budget who plan to use the drive with Windows only and don‘t mind the lack of extras will find the Elements a reliable, affordable choice. The 4TB version ($89) is an unbeatable value in terms of cost per gigabyte for a portable HDD.

Ultimately, both of these drive families are dependable, high-quality options from one of the oldest and most respected names in computer storage. With unbeatable value, spacious capacity, and quality construction, you can‘t go wrong with either WD Elements vs My Passport for all your portable storage needs.