Info on External Disk Drives

(makes, models, features)

(especially file backup features ---
including user comments on pre-installed,
unremovable auto-backup 'crapware' on drives)

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This External Disk Drives Info page

! Note !
Some notes may be added or revised --- and
dead links may be removed or replaced
(especially in the 'Disk Drive Sources' section),
if/when I re-visit this page.

Some sections of this page :    

Crapware info (complaints)

Seagate info     WesternDigital info    

'rsync' info     Some Disk Drive Sources


In the timeframe of about 2005 to the present (2015) ... after I retired and started using my home computer(s) much more than I had in my pre-retirement years ... I started using Seagate and Western Digital 'external' disk drives at home (with USB connectors) --- to backup files from my various desktop and netbook computers.

    I also have a Maxtor external disk drive (USB-connector, 160 GB). Soon after I bought the Maxtor drive (circa 2005), Maxtor was acquired by Seagate in 2006 and the Maxtor brand drives disappeared.

On the computers for which I bought the 'external' disk drives, I am/was running a Linux operating system --- mostly Ubuntu 9.10 (2009 October ; 'Karmic Koala') --- up through 2015.

I have used the 'rsync' command to back up my entire 'home' directory on the disk drives of those computers. I have described the parameters that I use with the 'rsync' command on a web page of this site titled Linux Backup Script(s) using 'rsync'.

A Disk Drive Bummer:
(unremovable crapware)

Around 2013, I bought a Seagate 'external' disk drive (about 500 GB) for use with one of my (Linux) computers. When I got it home, I found that the disk drive had backup software on it --- that could not be removed. Not with Linux disk reformatting utilities --- not with Microsoft Windows utilities.

I did not need (nor want) that backup software, because I was quite happy using the 'rsync' command --- which I could tailor to work exactly how I wanted it to work.

I tried to remove the software (which was occupying a significant percentage of the disk --- at least 5 to 10 percent, as I recall), but I found the normal directory removal commands would not work.

    At this point, I was experiencing some 'deja vu'. A few years earlier, I had bought a SanDisk USB 'thumb drive' to use for backup and transfer of relatively small groups of files.

    I found that I could not use anywhere near the full capacity of the thumb drive. It turned out that there was software (that I did not want nor need) installed on the thumb drive in such a way that it was impossible to remove by 'ordinary means'.

    Some web searches revealed that many people had experienced the same concern. It turned out that SanDisk was installing the software on the thumb drive in a special partition (that used a CD-drive partition format ... a 'virtual CD', VCD).

    SanDisk did provide a way to remove that partition, but it required downloading a special program from a SanDisk web site. The program only ran on Microsoft Windows. I used the program to remove the partition from the SanDisk thumb drive, but the program was really 'flaky' to use. It failed a couple of times. I had to re-insert the thumb drive several times and restart the program each time, before I finally was able to remove the partition of 'gunk'.

    In my web searches on this problem, I found many people who said they would not use SanDisk thumb drives again. I too decided never to buy a SanDisk thumb drive again. I use alternatives like Lexar and PNY and Kingston.

Back to the unremovable partition on the Seagate 'external' hard drive:

Luckily, I bought the Seagate hard drive from a local BestBuy store. When I explained that I could not remove the software that was hogging space on the drive, they were nice enough to refund the purchase price and take the drive back.

    (It probably helped that I could say that the software was of no use to me because it was made for Microsoft Windows operating systems and would not run on Linux. And since I could not remove it, it was wasting space on my drive. They could not tell me to give the software a try ... that I might eventually like it. I could not try it with my Linux system.)

I resolved never to buy an 'external' hard drive with manufacturer-supplied backup software on it. In the following months, in looking around local stores that sold 'external' disk drives (stores like BestBuy, OfficeDepot, Target, Walmart), I noticed that, for the most part, two makes were sold ---- Seagate and Western Digital.

For a while (circa 2010-2013), I could occasionally find a Seagate or Western Digital drive without backup software. The Seagate 'Expansion' model external drives were supplied without backup software. The Western Digital 'Elements' external drives were supplied without backup software. (In the original models. This changed later ... as reported below.)

Then, in the 2014-2015 time frame, I could not find, in local stores, external disk drives without backup software pre-installed. For example, I could only find Seagate 'Backup Plus' external drives in local stores.

This is rather puzzling to me, because there must be local small businesses that already have a backup system in place. Those businesses would probably not want disk drives that waste space with unremovable partitions containing files that the business will never use.

    Around 2014, things were getting confusing. Seagate came out with an 'Expansion Plus' drive that has the unwanted-by-me backup software on it. It appeared that Seagate might phase out their 'Expansion' drives that came without backup software.

    In the future, I will have to be careful to research disk drive user-reviews (manufacturer specs are totally quiet on the nature of the backup software) to make sure I am getting a drive without unwanted-backup software on it --- especially if that software is provided in an unremovable (or hard-to-remove) partition on the drive. (I define 'hard-to-remove' as taking me more than a few minutes to remove ALL the crap.)

    Around the same time, Western Digital started putting '30-day trial' 'Smartware Pro' software on their 'Elements' drives. The 'Elements' drives used to be 'clean'. You will probably have to do web searches to find out if people had a hard time removing that 'Smartware' software from 'Elements' drives --- or if the most recent 'Elements' drives still include the backup software. (See some 'Smartware' links below.)

    I may have to start looking to other manufacturers --- such as Samsung, Hitachi, Toshiba, LaCie --- to get 'clean' drives.

Here is an image that indicates the kind of information that one has to look for in an attempt to try to make sure one is buying a disk drive without backup software on it.

Note the row labelled 'Automatic backup'.
At this time (circa 2010), the WD 'Elements' drive
was available without backup software.
Around 2014 --- not the case.

Some links to info on disk drives with and
without 'pre-installed' backup software:

(especially the text of crapware complaints)

Although many of the following links will probably go dead over time, I provide here links to some of the pages that I found that discussed the issue of disk drives with and without backup software on them.

Some of these links are about people who tried to remove the backup software.

I have provided some 'choice' comments from the links here --- in case these web pages disappear.

  • difference-between-seagate-backup-plus-and-expansion
    at (2013)

      "The Backup Plus comes with a backup software.
      This backup software gives you the option to set automatic backups."

  • the-difference-between-seagate-expansion-and-Seagate-Backup-Plus
    at (2014)

      "The Backup Plus comes with the ability to automatically backup your data
      from your computer, and can even share to social networks and YouTube."

        (And 'phone-home' to some site and transfer your data there ???
        Sounds like it would be good to turn off your internet connection
        before you connect the Backup Plus drive to your USB port. Then
        reconnect to the internet AFTER you disconnect the USB drive.
        And, thereafter, monitor your computer's network interface
        for unwanted, large-scale data-transfer activity.

        If the backup software is so intrusive that it basically brings down
        your operating system --- for example, after installing the backup software,
        your computer will not boot up if the drive is not attached --- then
        shame on the disk drive providers. Return the drive, 'with prejudice'.)

  • answers-wd-elements-vs-passport-and-seagate-expansion-vs-goflex
    at (2015)

      "I avoid companies that produce everything under the sun, such as HP,
      [Dell, Lenovo, Asus,] Acer, Samsung, LG, Iomega, Toshiba and more."

        This is probably not good advice in all cases. See a Samsung convert below. Also an Hitachi convert.

  • My-Passport-Essential-vs-Elements
    at (2012)

      "The Elements model is very simplistic and has no confusing
      virtual partition and no encryption. No automatic syncing software.
      Elements is a simple blank disk and nothing else."

        Outdated? No longer true? Around 2014, lots of WD 'Elements' drives were
        appearing with unremovable 'Smartware' backup software pre-installed.

  • How-do-you-remove-the-WD-Smartware-virtual-CD-drive
    (multiple pages)
    at (2010)

      "You can uninstall SmartWare, and you can reformat the drive, but
      it won't remove the VCD. We [Western Digital] made it so that
      the firmware will hide the VCD if you use the VCD Manager."

        Bummer! Outrageous! ... considering WD does not make these 'features' clear on the packaging or in their spec sheets or in their advertising.

      "Solution: Returned the drives to place of purchase for full refund and
      purchased 2 Hitachi 2TB drives instead."

      "I will certainly never buy another Western Digital external hard drive.
      The arrogance of a company putting an unremovable device on one's computer
      without permission or warning is pretty scary."

      From 'bill_s' of WD:
      "Just so you know, the VCD is not on your computer. It's on the drive
      connected to your computer. It's a small, locked partition on your
      external drive used to provide password protection, etc. It just shows up
      on your computer because it's a partition designed to look like a virtual CD.
      You'll notice that if you disconnect the drive from the computer, the VCD
      disappears. Nothing has been infected on your computer. The only software
      that loads onto your computer is SmartWare, and that can be uninstalled."

        Well, Bill, if the Smartware software is loaded onto my computer and if the (closed, binary!) Smartware software is (or becomes) infected, then my computer IS infected. I guess you are counting on people not really understanding the quite possible implications of what you are saying here.

      "... MY brand new 640 gig My Passport Essential Hard Drive is in fact
      showing 595 gig in explorer. This is not what is advertised on the packaging ..."

      "bill_s, you seem to be very pleased with doing something that almost
      every one is complaining about. the idea of an unremovable vcd totally sucks.
      i unfortunately made a big mistake of buying that crap."

      "Why is it that we buy a Hard Drive to use for OUR files and then we
      find out that the mfg has put a bunch of bloatware or anything at all on it
      in a separate, apparently unremovable, partition that renders part of
      the drive unusable. Who knows what else it on the drive. I was just
      on my way to buy a WD drive today and read all this about this virtual drive
      crap, so I decided to look at other brands than WDC and when I find one
      that gives me for what I pay for, I will buy that one. What is with you
      people at WDC? Leave all the stuff OFF the hard drive and offer it on
      your site as a free download for the very few who want it ... Simple solution!
      What were you thinking? I have always bought WD drives but WD is losing me
      with this baloney!"

      "I personally consider the 'vcd' software garbage. The backup software
      that comes with it is almost useless. The encryption is nothing compared to
      truecrypt or bitlocker. I think some people's complaints are overblown, but
      I do want the software optional, not forced. I buy too many drives to be
      brand loyal, but I now no longer purchase drives with vcd by avoiding
      WD external drives altogether. The average consumer expects a certain level
      of transparency that WDC is betraying in this matter, hence all of the
      controversy the vcd software has created."

      The WD "Backup is too simple to be useful. Encryption for storing photos and
      family films is not needed. Why WDC does not offer an option to use and
      manage ... without VCD?"

        This brings to mind the fact that WD does not explain how OVERLY simplistic
        the backup software is --- not on the packaging, their web site, or
        their advertising.

      "The trouble here is frequently the Essentials are cheaper than the
      Elements at Best Buy and Walmart. Staples and Target have a few but
      the selection is pretty skimpy. Then most people don't have any idea
      what's involved with the software."

        This brings up another point: It appears that WD is purposely helping
        to obfuscate the situation. WD seems to want you to buy their drives with
        the VCD and WD software by offering those drives at a discount --- or at
        the same cost as the software-less drives. (Why?)

      "Computers are meant to be versatile, to add and remove programs as you
      see fit. There's a reason they call it PC - it's a PERSONAL computer.
      Shouldn't hardware and accessories follow the same principle? Ok, I get
      the whole SmartWare thing. I even understand having it pre-programmed into
      the unit. (How else would you get people to try out your software?)
      What I don't get is making it impossible to remove. No, I don't believe
      it's a problem that needs to be worked out. The software engineers DESIGNED
      it to be un-erasable - it's a corporate control scheme that forces
      the consumer to let a product take up valuable memory that could be put
      to better use. When you want to get rid of a virus, do you 'hide it' and
      let it drive you nuts as WD recommends we do with the SmartWare. No, you
      completely wipe it out of the system. Heck, even if you want to delete a
      generic file from your computer, it remains a part of the computer memory
      (understandable). But IT DOESN'T TAKE UP VALUABLE MEMORY.
      It simply DISAPPEARS when enough data is stored to write over the old data.
      At first I compared the SmartWare to a similarly usless-to-me program.
      (I'm not saying SmartWare is usless, I just don't have a use for it.)
      U3, an annoying little program that also took up valuable space on a drive
      I wanted to use for transporting school projects back and forth.
      How did I get rid of it? The DELETE button! Why can't it be that simple
      with SmartWare? Because the creators designed it to block all administrative
      access. Even formatting the drive (which warns you that ALL data on
      the drive will be erased) somehow is incapable of removing said software.
      What blowhard came up with this idea?"

      "I thought i bought a hard drive. What I got was a locked CD drive that
      I have to log on to your website and waste an hour of my life figuring out
      how to get what I thought was a hard drive to work. Absolute arrogant fail.
      Would never buy WD again for any reason. Had to be an idiotic bean counter
      that thought this would lock people in."

  • remove-seagate-replica-software-reformat-hd
    at (2011)

      "I want to reformat a Seagate Replica drive and use it as a simple
      external drive. I tried the product as a primary backup device but
      the 'replica' software was much too invasive on processor and main memory
      resourses, plus it ran contstantly. I have tried to reformat the drive after
      performing an uninstall of the Replica software but the drive seems to
      have a life of its own and keeps trying to perform what is presumably
      a Replica related write operation. Do I disconnect the drive and
      run over it with a steam roller and write it off, or is there a way
      to reclaim it for general use?"

      "... nothing I have experienced has prepared me for the utterly tenacious
      Replica drive. That blue light on top reminds me of the 'Terminator's'
      red eye after what seems to have been destruction beyond repair. LOL"

      "... The reviews of the Replica are absolutely horrible ..."

      Replica "creates a continuously updated disk 'image' and is
      a one-trick-pony in that regard."

  • wd-passport-element-differences
    at (2010)

      "The included software is fixed on the firmware and autocreates a
      virtual CD drive and the drive requires a driver. (You can skip the driver,
      but then you have an uninstalled device in your device manager, and
      the drive keeps asking for it everytime you connect.)
      You can not remove it, you can only flash new firmware to allow a tool
      to remove the automatic creation of the virtual CD drive. If you do that,
      you have to make sure you have the driver ready somewhere else (besides
      on the virtual CD) or otherwise you will keep getting asked for the driver.

      Imho, WD seriously messed up a perfectly fine product (the old MyPassport),
      to the point where I can't stand to use it anymore.

      I bought a Samsung S2 Portable 320GB HD, which is what the WD MyPassort
      should have been, it has a nice mini usb connector, that is compatible with
      all your old mini usb cables and which does not disconnect when you bump
      the table or move the drive a few inches. And you can easely remove
      all software by quick-formatting the drive, and it is cheaper (at least
      in my regular store).

      Perhaps the Western Digital Elements is better. It seems it still has
      a mini usb cable and if it doesn't have the nasty firmware, it might be
      as good as the old WD MyPassports or the Samsung S2. I do think the
      Elements is bigger than the mypassport, while the samsung s2 is even a bit
      smaller than the mypassport.

      So yah, I am a samsung convert ( at least for the portable drives ), ..."

  • Can't remove Smartware on Western Digital My Book Essential external drive
    at (2010)

      "Stuart, I might consider returning the drive if you aren't happy with it.
      You shouldn't have to go through so much trouble with a brand new drive.
      This is why I dislike some of the drives for sale now that come with this
      built in software that many of us don't want or need."

      "Another drive that people like here are the OWC drives. My 1 TB drive with
      FW 800 and USB 2 has performed well. And it has no hidden nuisance ware!"

      "OWC, like LaCie, are very Mac-oriented."

  • HDLock on new Eaget 1Tb external HDD
    at (2015)

      "I've just added a new Eaget 1Tb external HDD to my computer. My
      'List of Drives' shows the Eaget (K:) and there's also a 'List of
      Devices with Removeable Storage'. One of them is 'CD Drive (J:) EAGET'
      and ... I find that 'HDLock' is a means of encryption (for security of
      files on the HDD) that requires a pysical key/tag to make it work.
      That also presents a problem, or at least inconvenience, if it is lost
      so I don't want it on the computer. Is there a way to delete those four
      on the 'Removeable Storage' list? And would there be any problem caused by
      doing so?"

      "If they are on a virtual CD drive then you can't just delete them."

  • Best External HDD for Use with DVR?
    at (2015)

      "I DO NOT want to pay for any backup software or any kind of
      special features I will never use. Also, I don't like the idea of
      a USB drive that uses anything but an ordinary USB A male to A male cable.
      I do NOT want the flimsy micro B cable that comes with the My Passport Ultra;
      I'd much prefer a full-sized USB port."


      This site has some rather general descriptions of various hard drives. The
      descriptions probably will not answer your questions about a drive, but, for
      each drive, there are links to pages which typically provide
      hundreds of user reviews.

Info on Disk Drives without (and with)
pre-installed backup software:

(PDF's and web links)

The following sections are links to local PDF files (or 'external' web pages) with disk drive specifications (quite uninformative on the nature of software on the drives) ---- for some Seagate and WesternDigital disk drives.

I include a section of links to documentation on the 'rsync' utility program, which I use with my Linux computers --- to backup 'home' directories.

Seagate Info Section:

Western Digital Info Section:

'rsync' Section:

Some External Disk Drive SOURCES:

Here are some examples of sites that offer external disk drives --- possibly without 'crapware' installed --- although it is getting harder and harder to find those kinds of 'clean' drives.

The links are grouped in two ways:

  • 'brick-and-mortar' sources
    (like BestBuy, Target, OfficeDepot, Walmart, Costco)

  • 'internet-only' sources
    (like amazon, tigerdirect, bhphotovideo, newegg)

Within these two groups, the links are grouped by drive-maker (Seagate, Western Digital, ...), then by the source (store-chain or internet-company).

You may be able to find more sources of external USB drives --- without 'offending' software on the drives --- by trying a WEB SEARCH on keywords such as
'external disk drive "no software"'

    I found that when I did this web search in September 2015, two makes of drives appeared almost exclusively --- Seagate 'Expansion' drives and Toshiba 'Canvio Basics' drives. I saw no Western Digital drives --- no WD 'Elements' drives. This does not bode well for finding WD drives without backup software on them. Hopefully, someday, WD will, at least, allow software on their drives to be EASILY removable.

Many of the following links will go dead over time. But you may be able to navigate to other pages of these sites to find the information that you are looking for. Or try the web search above.

Like with computers, you will probably find the best USB disk-drive bargains at brick-and-mortar stores, rather than on the internet --- because the brick-and-mortar stores use the bargains to get people into their stores.

However, as noted above, it may be difficult to find USB drives without backup software on them, in brick-and-mortar stores.

Some 'brick-and-mortar' sources:


Some Seagate brick-and-mortar examples:


Some Western Digital brick-and-mortar examples:


Some Toshiba brick-and-mortar examples:

Some 'internet-only' sources :


Some Seagate 'internet-only' examples:


Some Western Digital 'internet-only' examples:


Some Toshiba internet-only examples:


Good luck in finding drives without 'auto-backup' software (in an unremovable disk drive partition).

It looks like someone (the NSA? the CIA? the FBI?) really wants that software on our drives even if we will never use it and even if we want to use that space on drives for OUR data.

Bottom of this
page of info on External Disk Drives
(especially for backing up files --- with
our own backup software, such as 'rsync' scripts).

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Page was created 2015 Sep 11.

Page was changed 2015 Sep 20.
('Sources' section was re-organized.)

Page was changed 2015 Sep 22.
(Added User Guide PDF files for 'Smartware' and 'Replica' backup software. Also re-organized the 'Sources' section, again.)

Page was changed 2019 Jan 07.
(Added css and javascript to try to handle text-size for smartphones, esp. in portrait orientation.)