New user, haven't even done backup - but already have some 'observations'

Hi, This weekend I bought a 2TB My Book Live (from Costco Canada; SN: WCAZA8039xxx) for my parents to use on their home LAN as a backup device and media server. I haven’t even performed a single backup yet but already have a number of observations (that’s a nice way to say ‘minor complaints’!) about WD SmartWare.

After updating the out-of-the-box firmware twice (up to 02.02.02-020) I set about exploring the drive’s Backup feature, ie: WD SmartWare. I’m on XP-SP3, btw. Once WD SmartWare was done categorizing all the files on my system’s C:\ drive  (which it started to do on startup and which  took about an hour to do), I checked the current software version and found it to be v1.4.5.2. I clicked the 'Update" button in the lower-right corner of the ‘Home’ tab a few times as nothing seemed to be happening - before finally noticing an inconspicuous message near the top left saying “no update available”. (I see in the newer version the update function has been moved to the ‘Help’ tab, but still, _ the Update status text  “no update available” is not immediately obvious - a ‘busy’ indicator while checking, an alert popup or different color font or better positioning of the status result message would be helpful _).

Seeing as the out-of-the-box firmware had at least 2 updates, I was suspicious that there hadn’t been any software updates. Sure enough, when I checked online I found the  v.1.5.1.6 Product Update Page and on it, a link to the _WD SmartWare Software Updater_. I noticed in the ‘Requirements’ section a note that said “If you don’t already have the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 installed on your computer, you will be prompted to install it.”, followed by a handy link to the Microsoft page where it could be downloaded and then installed from. Running the updater, I found that I did indeed need to update my .NET Framework files.

Once that was taken care of (reboot required), I ran the standalone Updater tool again (had to dl again as my browser had emptied the Temporary Files folder) and the WD SmartWare software finally successfully updated to the most current version, v1.5.1.6. Another reboot was required.

  • Q:  WHY did the out-of-the-box WD SmartWare ‘update’ button report  “no update available” when there was an update available?? (I guess that is rhetorical - the answer is that my system evidently required a .NET Framework update in order for the updater to work!)

I’ll try again then: Q: It’s great that WD SmartWare has a built-in updater feature, but rather than it tell me “no update available”, why didn’t  the out-of-the-box version I was using simply check online, find a newer higher version # available, report that and then, having (as part of the pre-installation) performed a check for the presence of the required .NET Framework files and not found them, informed me of an error, and told me what to do next??

Because my system didn’t have the necessary files (had Framework v4 but not 3.5) I had to figure out on my own that what the app was reporting was false, that there *was* an update available, and that I needed to download a standalone updater utility from the WD website (counter-intuitive when the app appeared to have an updater built-in); I then wasted time attempting to install the update only to get told part way through “can’t do”. Bottom line: if it hasn’t already been addressed, the WD software development team needs to ensure that future new users aren’t ever left thinking there’s no updates when there is in fact one available. If my ‘average computer user’ parents were doing this themselves, I’m sure they’d have taken what the app told them at face value and not investigated further.

_ Next, _ before running the update again, I explored the “_Public_” folder of my drive and discovered a "Software\WD Smartware" folder pre-installed, within it, containing set-up files for x64 and x86 Windows systems.

Neat!”, I thought , “WD has intelligently put the files on the drive itself so anyone on the network can install the backup files without having to each individually go find them on the Net, download them (multiple times in all), or else have one user have the forethought to manually place the files there in that folder”.

Upon further inspection, I noticed that the 2 setup files (x86, x64) appeared in *both* the root '\Software" folder AND the “\Software\WD SmartWare” folders. They have identical filename, size, file version & date stamp.

  • Q: It’s great that the WD SmartWare setup files are pre-installed to an easily-findable place on my My Book Live drive, but what purpose is there in duplicating the setup files there in 2 different folders?? (in the same folder tree, no less!)

Then, to confirm a cynical suspicion, after the app Upgrade was complete, and my system rebooted, I checked the folder(s) again … and was not at all surprised by now to see that the OLD VERSION(s) of the setup files remained on the drive! Same date stamp, they hadn’t be replaced.

  • Q: It’s great that the WD SmartWare setup files are pre-installed on my My Book Live drive, but WHY does the Updater not copy NEWER, NEWLY DOWNLOADED setup files to the drive’s “\Public\Software\WD Smartware” folder (and better yet, prompt the user to agree/disagree to do so before doing it… and perhaps even confirm where they’d like to place the files)??

And then, just to see what would happen, having first verified that I was indeed now running _ v1.5.1.6 , I re-ran the ‘WD SmartWare Setup (x86).msi’ file in the  "\Public\Software_" folder, and without so much as a single prompt or dialog box nor alert to the fact that it was going to DOWNGRADE ME, it did just that - it downgraded me back to v1.4.5.2!

  • Q: It’s great that the WD SmartWare setup files are pre-installed on my My Book Live drive, but WHY does(/did) the updater not check to see if it is DOWNGRADING the software, and upon finding that it is, why does(/did) it not present a confirmation prompt to the user before continuing??

  • Q: It’s great that the WD SmartWare setup files are pre-installed on my My Book Live drive, but WHY is running them a ‘silent install’ with no  information about the process about to be carried out and no possiblility to Cancel before it gets under way?? (note: it’s not even possible to determine which app version the setup files will install)

  • Q: It’s great that the WD SmartWare setup files are pre-installed on my My Book Live drive, but WHY does the setup file not have a built-in ‘Check Online For Update?’ prompt at the beginning of the process??

Of course, I then had to waste more time re-installing the v1.5.1.6 update - which v1.4.52’s 'Update Software’ button now thankfully found without issue (having got the .NET Framework previously installed), and was once again prompted to perform a system reboot once the setup was completed.

I thought I was done there were my complaints (not having yet performed my first backup), but sadly, no!

Clicking the ‘Settings’ tab -> ‘Set up software’, I set about changing the location of the ‘Retrieve Folder’ in which it seems restored-from-backup files will be placed. By default, the location was set to: ‘C:\Documents and Settings\Default User\My Documents\Retrieved Contents\’. I clicked the ‘Browse’ button so that I could pick a different (new) subfolder of ‘My Documents’, and the standard Windows(XP) folder-picker appeared (as expected), but when I clicked the ‘+’ (expand tree) beside the ‘My Documents’ folder that was the 2nd item in the tree (directly below ‘Desktop’), it did not expand, as I expected it to. How unusual! No subfolders found, apparently!

*I* quickly realized why this was so, but I’m quite confident that most typical ‘non-advanced’ home users would be clueless why their ‘My Documents’ was emptyrefusing to expand. The reason:  on this particular computer, like most Windows-based computers that are set up with a named ‘User’, the ‘Default User’ branch is not normally used - and thus it is *empty*!

I’ve installed hundreds of Windows applications on everything from 3.1 to Windows 7 and will honestly tell you this is the first time I’ve ever encountered a program choosing to NOT bother identifying the currently logged-on Windows User account when presenting a file/folder-picker window! Sure, one can click ‘My Computer’ and either navigate through the appropriate ‘Documents & Settings’ subfolder or find the ‘username’s Documents’ folder at the bottom of it, but one shouldn’t have to, and many or most, I dare say, won’t know to.

  • Q: It’s great that WD SmartWare provides the user with an option as to where they’d like their restored files to go, but WHY does WD SmartWare’s ‘Retrieve Folder’ settings deal with the Windows(XP, at least) ‘Default User’ account rather than the currently-logged-on User account??

So, in conclusion, although I’m excited by the features and obvious potential of the WD My Book Live, not having even really used it yet, I’ve already noticed numerous things about the WD SmartWare software side of it that could and (IMHO) almost certainly should have been implemented better. It’s disappointing and disheartening that I’m noting and writing about such trivial items - I can only hope that the ‘meat and bones’ of the software had far more thought put into it than the parts I’ve been exposed to so far!

Yeah… I would suggest you do a  little hands on experience.