My Passport Essential Smartware/VCD firmware and booting

I bought my 1 TB My Passport Essential with the idea that I would store system backup images on it.  Then when I needed to restore my system, I would boot in my recovery software and have it load one of my backup images.

I do this now with both an older Passport and an older My Book.

So I asked WD support whether the firmware would interfere with the booting process.

Unfortunately, I am reminded by the forum administrator that I cannot reveal the contents of the email response for privacy reasons.  So if you are interested in booting from your drive, I would urge you to contact WD support directly.

I think I can say that the answer that I got was discouraging.


Unfortunately, WD does not provide support for external booting. Perhaps the drive is not been design to be use as an external booting device. This is something that you need to confirm with WD before purchasing the unit.

That’s the whole point!

Where on the product flyer or on the box does it say that these units come with firmware that you cannot turn off?

Where does it say that the firmware may interfere with booting from the drive? 

This is a reasonable expectation because previous versions of My PassPort and My Book drives allowed you to boot.

Also similar drives of other brands also allow you to boot.

So if Western Digital drives no longer allow this, then it is their duty to so inform the consumer BEFORE they purchase the drive.

You can use your My Passport to keep a system image using third part software. But you can’t boot from it. You need applicable boot CD for this. If you’re interested, I can guide you. I have done this many times on various PCs using My Passport Essentials ES 1TB.

I know you can keep system images on the Passport. The point is then to boot from that drive without having to use another flash drive or boot CD. Many netbooks, as you know, don’t have CDs and a limited number of USB ports.

My point is that I can boot from my older Passport without another flash drive or boot CD. I would like to do the same with this newer one, or at least have seen a disclaimer on the product flyer that says you can’t.

On an amusing note, I contacted technical support of my third party disk imaging software and they were also trying to make a bootable USB hard drive containing their own software but without any success. I was the one that pointed out to them that they were failing because they were using Western Digital drives.

I strongly believe that My Passport SE 1TB can be configured to work as a bootable drive. I cannot test this at the moment as my drive is half full. Once I clean the drive up, I’ll try to install Windows 7 on this. This drive has updated  firmware and fully formatted to NTFS. No VCD or Smartware stuff. May be I’ll make a Linux boot drive out of this in the first run.

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I have the same drive, so I and others will be interested in how it turns out.

Playing around with the drive, I, too have seen indications that WDC Support’s response may be too pessimistic.

It may be that booting is not reliable so they don’t want to support it.