All of us are hoarders – data hoarders that is. Every day we accumulate more and more files; some are useful and some are pure junk. Photos, videos, music, documents pile up on our PCs until we have nowhere else to put them. While some of us are moving files to external USB drives, many of us have found out the hard way (myself included) that these USB external drives aren’t infallible, and eventually turn around and die on you.
This is where Western Digital’s MyBook Live Duo comes in. The device may not look like much at first glance, but under that relatively simply exterior lies quite a robust little file server. The model I reviewed was the 4TB one, but there’s also a 6TB one available if you’re looking for even more space for all your digital essentials.
Build quality and features
So what is it that makes the Live Duo better than just an ordinary external drive? Well for one thing, at 4 and 6 terabytes of space, you’re not going to be running short any time soon, thanks to the two drives hidden away in the device. Secondly, the drive also features RAID0 or RAID1 support – in RAID0 mode you’ll have access to storage on both drives, so when one drive is full, your data will be diverted to the second drive. In RAID1 mode, you’ll only have half the storage capacity (2TB in this case), but anything you copy onto the device is mirrored on both drives. So in the event of one of the drives failing, you simply slot it out and add in a new one without losing a single byte of data.
The MyBook Live Duo looks like most of Western Digital’s storage devices, except this one is slightly thicker to accommodate both drives inside. The top grill can be pushed down gently to reveal the two drives inside, clearly labeled as Drive A and B to make it easier to replace a failed drive. Swapping out a drive is as simple as lifting the plastic tab firmly and tugging upwards to slide the drive out. The front of the Live Duo has the Western Digital logo and a very tiny status indicator light which glows green when the drive is online. At the back you have a small selection of ports such as power, gigabit Ethernet, a reset button, and a USB port which allows you to plug in an external drive to add a bit more storage to your device.
Installation and Software
Getting the Live Duo up and running was very simple – I just plugged the power in and connected it to my router, and then ran the supplied CD. The setup software detected my drive in a few seconds and automatically mapped a network drive to it in My Computer. It also gave me the option to install some of the available software, such as Western Digital’s own backup software and some other utilities, but I chose to skip this part.
Once the drive has booted up, you can access files by just double-clicking the network shortcut, or browsing your network shares. You also have the option to access the drive’s setup pages via a web browser, which allows you to rename the drive, setup users and shares, and also configure media streaming and remote access services. As somewhat of a Power User, I was able to navigate through the various pages with ease, but I think novice users will need to spend a bit of time going through each of the pages to understand what exactly everything does.
The Live Duo also includes a host of remote access options to securely access your content without making any adjustments to your firewall or ports. On iOs there is the W2Go Free and Premium apps to setup and access your Live Duo – the only difference between the apps is that the Premium app allows you to download files directly onto your device. You can also configure mobile access as well as direct file access through a web browser, so no matter what you’re using there’s at least one way for you to get your files from your drive as long as you have an Internet connection. The iOS apps means that you can technically add gigabytes of space to your device, accessing everything through your own personal cloud.
With the drive up and running, I decided to run some simple tests to see what my transfer speeds would be. In RAID0 mode, I was able to transfer a single 1.67GB file at about 52MB/s and with RAID1 mode the same file clocked roughly 43.2MB/s – this was with my test PC connected via LAN and not wirelessly. While the transfer speeds aren’t as fast as some larger network storage solutions, it’s nothing to be disappointed at; given the size and cost of the Live Duo, it performed respectfully well with reading and writing whatever I threw at it. Swapping between RAID0 and RAID1 mode was very simple, however the drive did warn me to take a backup of everything first before swapping over. The switch actually took about 4 minutes to accomplish, but after that the drive had to ‘reinitialize’, which took roughly 4 hours to finish.
You also have the option to stream content to both iTunes and DLNA devices, and this again was easy to accomplish. Streaming music and video to my PS3 was flawless, and I was listening to music on my laptop upstairs via iTunes without a hitch. You can of course turn these features off, but it’s handy that the Live Duo has streaming capabilities built in from the start.
There are only two things that I found a bit puzzling about the Live Duo. For one, the USB port on the back isn’t USB 3.0, so transferring large files around does get a bit time-consuming. It would have also been great if the same USB port could have been used to share a printer as well, which I think would be perfect for a small business that might want to use the Live Duo in their environment. The other strange thing is that the Live Duo doesn’t have a power button at all – if you need to shut down the drive, you need to log into it via a web browser and click a button there to power it off. While not necessarily a deal breaker, I found it a bit odd considering the other two Western Digital drives I currently have at home are equipped with power buttons. Still, like I said it’s not a catastrophic loss, but could be something that Western Digital addresses in future models.
The Western Digital Live duo is a capable little network storage device with plenty of room for all your data. I would highly recommend running it in RAID1 mode - even if you have to sacrifice half your storage space, you can sleep soundly knowing that you’ve always got a backup of everything you’re storing. For a no-fuss network storage solution with whisper-quite operation that won’t break the bank, the Live Duo is the easiest choice to make.