Password protection and hardware encryption

I have a “My Passport 1TB Portable External Hard Drive Storage USB 3.0” that has the so-called “password protection and hardware encryption.”

I have been trying to find out what that really means.

I have scanned the message boards, and see that this question has been raised several times.  However, on each occasion, the answer provided by the WD representative is too vague.

The most informative post is by someone named “Ichigo,” on 07-09-2013, that states that “[t]he access to the data is encrypted, not the files.”  What does this mean?

If the files themselves are not encrypted, then why are the files considered safe?

For example, the WD user, to whom Ichigo replied, cited an article, at the following link, that seems to suggest such data can still be accessed by relatively ordinary means:

There is a card on the bridge boards of the drives with Smartware that hardware encrypt all data. This separate from the password. In the event of a problem you cannot connect the drive as an internal and recover the data because it is encrypted.