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WD My Book Duo review: fast, expandable external hard drive BUT not the best option; plus: how to use RAID (UPDATED)

WD My Book Duo review for 360 photo and video editing
WD My Book Duo review for 360 photo and video editing

Are you looking for more storage for your 360 photos and videos?  Here’s a hands-on review of WD My Book Duo, a fast, expandable external hard drive.  However, it has a potential dealbreaker – hardware encryption (see below).  I’ll also discuss the basics of RAID.

360 videos and 360 photos can take up a lot of space, especially if you use high quality formats such as Prores or TIFF.  I’ve almost filled up two 8TB hard drives and was looking for an external hard drive and chose the WD My Book Duo is an external hard drive with two bays that can each accommodate standard 3.5-inch hard drives.

My Book Duo connects to your PC or Mac via USB Type C and supports USB 3.1.  It includes USB Type C to Type C, and a USB Type C to Type A cables.  The drive also has two USB 3.0 pass-through ports for accessories or other drives.

WD My Book Duo has two pass through USB 3 ports
WD My Book Duo has two pass through USB 3 ports

There is a power button at the back that will automatically eject the hard drives from Windows before powering them down. Note: you should press the side of the button close to the edge of the drive.  If you press the other side, it might not recognize your button press.

When you pry the top of the My Book Duo, you can see that it uses standard 3.5-inch hard drives that you can easily replace.  It includes two WD Red hard drive, which are used for NAS drives.  In the future, if I need more storage, I can just replace the hard drives instead of buying an entire external hard drive.  It’s more economical and better for the environment.  UPDATE: According to Western Digital, the compatible drives are WD Green and WD Red.  They do not say that it is compatible with other drives.

Besides expandability, another advantage of My Book Duo over a single external hard drive is that it can be reconfigured for better reliability, or higher speed using RAID (see below).

I found that My Book Duo was generally quiet although it hummed a bit louder than My Book.  The reading and writing sound wasn’t annoying.

WHAT IS RAID AND HOW DO YOU USE IT?

When you have multiple hard drives, you have several options for using them.  Some options trade space for security, while others trade security for speed, and there are many options in between.  When multiple hard drives are used together with these options, they are in a RAID configuration (Redundant Array of Independent Disks).

Option 1: JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disks, a.k.a. spanning)

  • Speed: normal.
  • Chance of failure: normal.  If the normal chance of failure of one drive is 1%, the chance of failure using JBOD is 1%.
  • Storage capacity: normal.

With this configuration, the two disks inside the My Book Duo are treated as independent hard drives (each one has its own drive letter).  With My Book Duo, you only need one USB cable to access both drives.

The chance of failure with JBOD is the same as individual disks.  Some say that you should consider the failure rate of both disks.  But the two disks are independent, and using them in a JBOD configuration is no different than having two external drives instead of one.  If the chance of losing a file from hard drive failure is 1%, then it is still 1% when using JBOD.

I found that the My Book Duo was faster than My Book.  Here are the speeds of the My Book Duo in JBOD, compared to the regular WD My Book.  The top two are sequential, while the bottom two are random.  I did these tests using a USB Type C to Type C cable connected to a USB 3.1 port.

WD My Book speed vs. WD My Book Duo speed in JBOD configuration
WD My Book speed vs. WD My Book Duo speed in JBOD configuration

Option 2: RAID-1 (mirroring)

  • Speed: faster.
  • Chance of failure: lower.   If the normal chance of failure of one drive is 1%, then the chance of failure with RAID-1 is 0.01%.
  • Storage capacity: half.

This option trades space for safety.  With RAID-1, the second disk duplicates the first disk.  If either drive fails, you can use the other as backup.  Besides reliability, the other benefit of RAID-1 is that the data can be read from both drives at the same time, therefore the reading speed is theoretically almost double (but see below).  The disadvantage is that your storage capacity is only half of JBOD.

I tested the speed of RAID-1 on My Book Duo and found that it was almost half as slow when reading sequential data, although the write speed was about the same.  The increase in speed appeared to be from random read.

My Book Duo RAID-1 speed
My Book Duo RAID-1 speed

Option 3: RAID-0 (striping)

  • Speed: faster.
  • Chance of failure: higher.  If the normal chance of failure of one drive is 1%, then the chance of failure with RAID-0 is almost double at 1.99%.
  • Storage capacity: normal.

This is the default mode of My Book Duo.  With RAID-0, each file is split between two drives.  As with RAID-1, your drive can read from both drives at the same time, so the reading speed is theoretically almost double (for sequential reading).  Meanwhile, the storage capacity is the same as normal.  If you have two 8TB drives, then when using them in RAID-0, you will have a single 16TB drive with one drive letter. The disadvantage of RAID-0 is that if either or both of the drives fail, you will lose the data in both drives, therefore the chance of failure is almost double.

Here are the speeds of the My Book Duo in RAID-0.  The top two are sequential, while the bottom two are random.

WD My Book Duo speed test in RAID-0 configuration
WD My Book Duo speed test in RAID-0 configuration

There are many other possible RAID configurations, if you have more than two drives.

Choosing between JBOD, RAID-1, or RAID-0 for My Book Duo is easy.  You don’t even need Disk Management.  Just use the included WD Drive Utilities app.  Select your drive, select RAID management, click on Configuration, choose your option, and click on the Configure button.  That’s it.  Please note that if you change the configuration, you’re reformatting the drive so you need to backup any data in it first.  I decided to use exFAT because I have both Windows and Mac.

WD My Book Duo how to use RAID
WD My Book Duo how to use RAID

WHICH RAID SHOULD YOU USE?

I do a lot of photo editing and video editing, and I couldn’t get a clear answer on this.  At first I tried RAID-0, and usually it seemed faster, although sometimes it was slower.  I found that when I was extracting zip files from within the My Book Duo in RAID-0, it was extremely slow.  Whereas on my usual external drive, expanding that same zip file took only a second or two, it would take a minute or longer on the My Book Duo.

Meanwhile, I was somewhat concerned about reliability too.  Is hard drive failure real?  Yes it has happened to me, a couple of years ago, on a Sandisk SSD drive that I was using as my C: drive on one of my PCs.  One day, my PC couldn’t load it and it took a reboot to be able to read it.  The same thing happened the next day.  The third day it just stopped loading altogether.  And just this week in one of the Facebook groups for 360 cameras, someone posted that their hard drive failed.  So it is uncommon, but it happens.

Because I was ambivalent about the performance gains, I decided to just use JBOD as a decent compromise of speed, safety, and storage capacity (minimax strategy).  If I want speed, I’ll use an external SSD for my working files.

MY BOOK DUO HARDWARE ENCRYPTION ISSUE

Reader Mark raised an issue about hardware encryption and it is a serious issue that could be a dealbreaker.  The issue is that the My Book Duo has hardware encryption that is always on, and cannot be disabled.  A drive from the My Book Duo cannot be read by your desktop, and can only be read by another My Book Duo enclosure.  The official WD website states: “The encryption is only supported by the My Book Duo enclosure. Make sure that the My Book Duo firmware is the most recent, then move the HDDs in the replacement enclosure of the My Book Duo. The data should be available without any other configuration.”

WHERE TO BUY

Based on the hardware encryption issue, I think there may be better options, such as a Synology 4-bay NAS drive enclosure ($369 without drives), which can be more flexible, but will be more costly.  However, if you want an affordable external hard drive, My Book Duo is available from Amazon or B&H Photo in several sizes:

12TB (around $389 or $32.14/TB).  Amazon or B&H Photo.

16TB (around $520, or $32.50/TB).  Amazon or B&H Photo.

20TB (around $750 or $37.50/TB).  Amazon or B&H Photo.

28TB (around $999 or $35/TB).  Amazon or B&H Photo.

Thanks for using these links to support 360 Rumors at no additional cost to you so I can do more tests and reviews.

About the author

Mic Ty

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  • Talk about coincidence! In about 12 days I’ll be buying the My Book Duo, 16TB version 😀 Thanks for the review and explanation of RAID modes. I’m in doubt myself how to use that. I think I will go with the RAID 1 config, to safeguard my data on the second disk. I already have an 8TB disk in my (new) PC, and a 512GB M.2 SSD for the OS and a 256GB M.2 SSD for dedicated scratchdisk for my video editor.

    My idea is to use the My Book Duo for backup purposes. I’ll make a mirror of my C: drive on an external SSD, and mirror my data on the My Book Duo. So if I understand your explanation right, the read speed of a RAID 1 config is higher then JBOD and similar to RAID 0?

    Also, very helpfull to know that the powerbutton auto-ejects the disks from Windows. Good to know! Over here, the 16TB version is € 499,-

    regards, Frank

    • Thanks Frank. The read speed of RAID-1 is supposed to be faster, but when I tested it, only the random read was faster, and it was not double.
      Best regards,
      Mic

    • Hi Frank. I’ve updated the article to include information about hardware encryption, which could be a dealbreaker.

      • Oh, this was not mentioned at several reviews. Hmm… I did a little digging too and found this review of a customer. He states it is RAID specific encryption, and several other RAID enclosures have this also. He says the data is NOT LOST when the enclosure would die, and disks can be read in any other My Book Duo enclosure. He has two and has physically tested it.

        “2) Hardware encryption: there is none. However, the RAID is implemented via hardware in the MyBook Duo enclosure. The implications of this design are as follows:
        a. The proprietary nature of the hardware RAID implementation means that the individual disk drives CANNOT be read outside of the MyBook Duo enclosure. I believe this is not unique to the MyBook Duo as many other RAID enclosures have the same characteristics.
        b. The RAID implementation is the same from enclosure to enclosure. Therefore, a drive created in one MyBook Duo enclosure CAN be installed into another MyBook Duo enclosure and READ SUCCESSFULLY. (As I have two MyBook Duo’s, I have physically tested this.)
        c. If the MyBook Duo enclosure fails for any reason, a replacement enclosure will read the disks successfully. The data IS NOT LOST.”

        https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R2TAD9VKL25PVJ/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_viewpnt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B01B6BN1CU#R2TAD9VKL25PVJ

        I’ve got a few days to ponder 🙂 16TB is a lot, maybe I’m better of with a single drive 10TB. I will be using it purely for backup, not working disks, so failure should not occur very fast unless the enclosure itself is faulty.

        • Yes this is what the official website says. I believe using several small drives may have higher risk of failure than a few larger drives.

          • Well, I do believe the My Book Duo has merits, and I know WD has a good record, so while failure is always possible, I’m pretty confident using it.

            However, I decided to step down to the My Book 10TB single disk. It’s less then half the price, leaving me room for a Buffalo 4TB NAS. 10TB will be enough room for backups for a long time, and having a NAS gives me better sharing between my computers, laptop and phone and external personal cloud access. That has been on my list for a long time now, and I kept pushing it back.

          • Mic wrote: “I believe using several small drives may have higher risk of failure than a few larger drives.”

            Not sure what you mean here. Do you mean spreading the data across many drives such as RAID-0 ? What I do is I use several small drives but spread data as RAID-1 in groups of two. The only difference is I do this manually (copy every file twice to each external drive) and the reason is I can use mismatched drives – drives of different sizes, different makes, etc.

            The other advantage is if I want to take data with me, I only need to take the drive with the specific data I need and mount it in a dock or enclosure to connect it to any other computer. With the WD Duo, that’s impossible due to the RAID encryption. You will always need to take the entire enclosure as well as both drives and that’s a pretty big mass to carry around.

            Bottom line is there is no universal solution. So you need to evaluate your needs and be well informed as to the advantages and shortcomings of each.

  • Thank you for this hint and the introduction to RAID, Mic! Data security should be seriously considered by everyone for important data and footage. And you can never have enough storage space for videos 🙂

    I don’t want to be a killjoy, but..

    I also bought a MyBook Duo in a deal and only then read that the disks are encrypted – even if no password is assigned.
    This means that the disks are trapped inside the case and cannot be connected solo somewhere external or inside a PC.
    The danger now is that the controller of the MyBook Duo case could also die. Both disks are then still intact, but can probably no longer be read anywhere…

    Therefore I removed the disks from the MyBook Duo and put one internally into my PC and one in a different external case. So there is no immediate RAID. But, I regularly (daily) mirror the data from one drive (the one in the PC) to the other drive with a tool for Win (Freefilesnyc). So I have almost a RAID0, but if I make a mistake on the main disk, it didn’t happen on the other disk immediately. Because I have the second disk in a different case, I have to turn that on first and have more data security than with RAID0, where accidental erasure and e.g. encryption trojans immediately change both disks. So always remember, a RAID is no backup.

      • Thanks Mic, this is certainly a good advice for readers to consider their own backup strategy. The MyBook Duo are not bad in themselves, but alone without further backup they don’t offer real data security.

  • I have been backing up for years and tried various methods. The method I have settled on now is the use of HDD docks. I use two single docks and back up my content in sequence. In other words, it’s a manual mirror ! The reason I use docks is that I only need two and yet have a dozen separate drives that I keep in protective drive boxes. I prefer having many smaller size drives than one gigantic one and, by spreading my content across more drives, I further reduce the risk of a major loss.

    Why you may ask do I use two separate docks instead of something like the Duo ? Very simply because I can use non-matching drives.

    One photographer friend of mine had a very large RAID drive that he set up at RAID-0 and, as you would expect, one drive failed and he lost an ENORMOUS amount of original shots and then spent many hundreds of dollars in recovery services. And even then, I think he was only able to recover part of his content. So please… avoid RAID-0 at all costs !

    Now a word about SSD drives. They are not only way more expensive than regular HDDs but there is some question about their ability to retain data when they remain unconnected for long periods. They may be great as OS drives in a computer but I definitely would not recommend them as external data drives.