If you're anything like us, you'll have a tonne of digital files that you need to keep safely. If you don't fancy constantly prising open your PC and fitting new hard drives, then you need some sort of external solution.
Western Digital's My Book Live is a network-attached storage drive that comes in 2TB and 1TB versions, for around £140 and £105 respectively. It will enable you to store anything you want on your home network, and access it even when your PC is turned off.
The My Book Live is slender, because it only contains a single hard drive, unlike other Western Digital devices, which are mirrored RAID-type devices. This means that it will fit into any room, even if space is at a premium. All you need is a network cable to attach it directly to your router, or you can use a powerline-style system instead.
At the back, there's a single Gigabit Ethernet socket. This socket enables the NAS to perform at higher speeds than previous Western Digital drives, and it should outperform many other NAS-type devices on the market too.
On the front is a single LED, which gives status information about the drive, and lets you know if anything is wrong. That's it for features on the exterior of the device.
Western Digital proudly proclaims that this is one of the fastest NAS devices on the market. It consistently delivered write speeds of 10MBps over our test network. This may not sound fast, but it's important to bear in mind that these network-storage devices rarely perform at the maximum speed of your network, and are limited by other factors too.
In addition, Gigabit Ethernet can be a tricky beast -- you'll need a PC, router and Ethernet cables that are capable of 1,000MBps speeds before you can be sure that you're getting the best speed possible from this hard drive. Most people won't have a home network like that.
At any rate, this drive is one of the fastest we've used. It will handle most types of file transfer in pretty short order.
Two drives are better than one
If you're looking for a device on which to store important information and secure it from drive failure, then the My Book Live probably isn't the device for you, as it's a single-drive device.
If, however, you have data on your PC or Mac that you want to back up to a second drive, then the My Book Live will fit the bill well. It's also very capable as a media drive, but we'll come to that in more detail shortly.
Back it up
The My Book Live is compatible with Apple's Time Machine software, so you can keep a safe copy of your files using that software's fantastic graphical interface. Windows' back-up feature is a less discerning piece of software that will back up anything anywhere -- you'll be able to use that with the My Book Live too.
If you don't want to use the back-up software that comes with Windows -- we wouldn't blame you -- or Mac OS, then Western Digital offers other options via a software download. In the past, the company has received criticism for its software using too many system resources. Western Digital has addressed this, and a complete rewrite means it's now much leaner and sleek.
The MyBook can also accept FTP transfers. That might prove useful for a few people.
Great for media sharing
Video is becoming ever more popular. With so much of it floating around, it makes sense to have a spacious place to store it. But storing it is no good if you can't watch it via your home media devices, like your PlayStation 3 or media streamer. So Western Digital has cleverly included a cut-down version of the TwonkyServer software with the My Book Live.
This means that video, music and photos can all be streamed from the My Book Live to any number of devices, including Western Digital's own TV products, or the popular Popcorn Hour streamers. The software doesn't really require much in the way of set-up -- you just put your media in the relevant folder and you're good to go.
In addition to using Twonky to share media, you can also turn the My Book Live into an iTunes server, which might be useful to you if you've invested in the Apple universe. This also gives you extra choices when your main computer is off and you still want to access your music, as well as providing much more storage than you'd have in your laptop iTunes library.
Handy online photo storage
In addition to Twonky and iTunes compatibility, Western Digital has another trick up its sleeve. An app, available now for both Android and Apple iOS devices, allows you to view photos stored on the My Book Live on your handset. This is a good way of sharing photos while you're out and about. The app is free from both the Android Market and iTunes Store.
The Western Digital My Book Live is highly recommended. As a self-contained NAS device, we like it because it's faster than most we've previously tested. It loses some points for not being a mirrored drive system, which makes it more prone to data loss if the drive fails, but, with its extra features, pleasing design and ease of use, we're huge fans nevertheless. If you're looking for a way to store media and access it when your PC is off, the My Book Live will do the job beautifully.
Edited by Charles Kloet