Monday, April 11, 2011

Do Western Digital actually support their products?

So I'm expecting to be travelling out of the country soon and decided I would buy a bus-powered external drive to act as a SuperDuper clone as well as a few hundred GB of extra storage.

I looked at a few drives but was recommend to look at the Western Digital My Passport Studio drive which is designed for Mac, 640GB, bus-powered, and supports USB2, FireWire-400 & Firewire-800.

It's more expensive than the raft of 500GB USB-2 externals but, since my MBP has a FW-800 port, I was quite attracted. The extra storage would be useful and since it's for Mac I figured I should have no problems, right? Wrong.

But first impressions were good. The drive was neat and even if the LED display is utterly useless it seemed decently made. It also came with short cables for all 3 connections which was a plus.

I connected it up and got my first unpleasant surprise. Western Digital "Smartware" which pops up like an unwanted drive every time you plug the damn thing in. Quite how any hard disk manufacturer has the gall to use the word "smart" in relation to their software leaves me quite non-plussed. And, as a bonus, it's somehow embedded into the drive firmware so there's no way to get rid of it.

Okay I'm never installing it but I can live with it if the thing just works.

I partition into 161GB for SuperDuper! and the rest for storage. Then we're off to the races. I don't know if ~13MB/s write speed is any good really but it took about 3 hours to do the first clone. SD makes it bootable, we're all green. So time to test.

Reboot, hold opt and...

...nothing. There's my system disk. But where is my clone?

Snap. What partition scheme does this disk have? WD faked me out by having the thing formatted HFS+ already. Sure enough Apple Partition map. So I repartition GUID, reformat.

And 3 hours later I have my shiny bootable clone.

Reboot, hold opt and...


What the fuck?

I backup a step. Open the "Startup Disk" preference pane and there it is. I can select it. Reboot.

Gray screen. System won't boot.

Power down, hold opt, reboot from the system disk.

Now I am pretty angry because I am at least 6 hours in the hole for this and I still haven't been able to boot from this thing.

I register with Western Digitals god awful support site and open a case with them. Their response?

While it may be possible to boot your computer to an external hard drive, Western Digital does not provide technical support for booting your computer using an external hard drive. Please, refer to this page for a short list of Mac-bootable WD external drives:

Of course my disk is listed there. I've never had a problem with booting any FireWire disk in the past. Just this one.

I point out that they claim that the disk supports booting FW and all I am asking is why the disk is not appearing as a valid bootable disk. Their response:

Unfortunately "making the drive visible to MacOSX as a bootable drive" is not supported either.

So basically they sell the drive with a feature they appear to be completely unwilling to actually support. I'm not happy about this at all, but I've offered them one last chance to actually be helpful.

I note that Dave Nanian from Shirt Pocket software (who make the excellent SuperDuper!) was quite willing to try and support me even though it's not a problem with his application.

I'll update this when I hear back but my current advice would be don't buy Western Digital disks if you have a Mac. They have crappy firmware and they won't support basic features Mac users rely on. In fact I don't get the impression that they think "support" is important at all.

11/04/2011 21:47 by  | Permalink