WD My Book Live Home Network Drive Review – Access Files & Media on Various Devices

If like me you are enthusiastic about technology, the chances are you have more than one computer. Not only may you have numurous computers in the form of desktops, notebooks and netbooks – I bet you may even have phones, tablets and even television screens that can access and playback various media file types. You may also have a family, who all want access to the same collection of music, photographs and videos.

The ability to view your own captured images, listen to your favourite music downloads or ripped CDs and watch videos directly through your television is really catching on at the moment, although the technology has been around for a fair few years already. Many modern HDTVs incorporate media file playback, so formats such as jpg and png for images, mp3 and wma for music and all sorts of video formats can be viewed on a far bigger screen and possibly through a powerful surround sound system. The same is applicable for when you wish to enjoy the same content on your computers or other mobile devices, but there is a downside.

One option is to carefully select and copy your media onto a USB memory stick, however this takes time and they can’t hold a vast amount of data. Another method is to have one computer turned on for most, if not all of the time, allowing you to stream the information from your computer to your compatible HDTV, mobile device or indeed another computer – again not exactly ideal.

The WD My Book Live Home Network Drive solves these issues wonderfully as it is essentially an external hard drive that physically connects to your router using a traditional Ethernet cable. Once installed, you can copy up to 1GB-3GB (depending on the model) of data in the form of files & media, sharing this information and content to various devices and users – without any of the traditional hassles. The device can be configured to share media content to many devices including computers, smartphones, tablets, game consoles and even iTunes software.

So how does it work? Well I will try and explain…

Home Network

Ethernet connection at rear of My Book Live

As I have already mentioned, many devices include the ability to playback all types of media files. The real difficulty is getting the content to the compatible device with the minimum amount of fuss. Families will also have a number of individuals all wanting access to the same digital media and copying this on every device isn’t exactly practical or ideal for keeping everyone up-to-date with the latest content.

Chances are you have a router, that allows you to share your Internet connection between various computers and devices. The ‘My Book Live’ device by Western Digital connects directly to your router using traditional Ethernet cable and henceforth becomes a part of your home network. In fact if your router supports it, the My Book Live also features a Gigabit connection – ensuring fantastic speeds.

All the content you transfer to this drive is accessible on your home network, so anyone who has your wireless network password or is physically connected to your router – can view the files and media stored on ‘My Book Live’.

For the more advanced users, you can however share your stored data hosted on the My Book Live by using MioNet Remote Access. No matter where you are, as long as you have an Internet connection and a web browser – documents and other content can be accessed.

The key is to centralise data in one accessible location, in this instance the ‘My Book Live’, so you can share your documents, images, music and videos on other devices…

Sharing Images, Music and Videos Easily

Whether you own a computer with Windows or Mac OS X, the My Book Live is accessible to share all kinds of content between devices on your home network. Personally, I like to have all my music stored on the My Book Live as this allows me to tap into my vast collection no matter which computer I am currently using. Other obvious uses include storing your photographs on the My Book Live and any home movies you have created.

Many HDTVs now feature media playback capabilities by either inserting a USB stick or connecting to your home network via either wirelessly or Ethernet cable. This may be functionality you are yet to try on your new television set, but once you have the My Book Live – just the ability to view your photos on a large screen is hard to resist, especially when sharing the spectacle with friends and family. Yes the humble family slideshow has returned whether you love that prospect or not! Add to that music & video playback and soon your living room becomes an entertainment hub.

WD Photos on the Apple iPad

For smartphone users, there is even an app for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Android that allows you to view the photos stored on the ‘My Book Live’ directly on your compatible mobile device. Named ‘WD Photos’, this free app presents your photographs within the same folders you have them stored on your My Book Live, with the ability to sort by date or name, option to upload to Facebook and of course also has the valuable slideshow function. Unfortunately it doesn’t support music or video streaming and in fact other apps that attempt to offer such functionality are often limited in scope, struggling to support the many variations of audio and video file formats.

The brilliance of ‘My Book Live’ is that content is no longer locked to a single device and to access the information you don’t need a computer permanently switched on for the magic to occur.

Sharing Files – Copying Documents and Staying Up-to-date

Sharing your media content is a fantastic ability, however there will also be times when you wish to host your documents and other miscellaneous file types in a location that can be easily accessed using different computers. I am sure we have all been there, when an important spreadsheet, presentation or document is stored on the main desktop computer and you need it on a notebook (laptop) for a meeting, presentation or other occasion where you require portability.

Rather than grabbing a USB memory stick, you can simply drag and drop your files from the computer, to the ‘My Book Live’ hard drive with its impressive 1GB-3GB storage capacity. At this point, the file is safely stored on the network and can now easily be transferred to your notebook.

That is one scenario, however you can also keep the file permanently on ‘My Book Live’, updating it from various computers you own. This ensures that from any computer you use, you access to the most current and up-to-date version.

Backing Up your Computers – Looking After your Memories

When you first install your new My Book Live Home Network Drive, the software is actually stored within the device itself – No need for a separate installation CD although one is provided just in case. The software named ‘WDSmartWare’ compatible with a number of other WD storage devices, takes care of your backup, recovery and general settings.

Within the options, you can easily inform the software to automatically backup any media files you may have on your computer’s internal hard drive to your new portable external device. Music, images, video and documents can all be transferred with a minimal amount of work on your part as WDSmartWare scans each of your internal hard drives for this type of content, giving you every opportunity to backup this valuable data you will have no doubt collected over a number of years.

At least currently the software doesn’t allow you to select files and folders yourself, so if you desire greater backup flexibility – you will need to find a third-party alternative to give you these more advanced options. For most people though, the included functionality will be more than enough, providing much needed peace of mind. You can however save multiple backup revisions and by this I mean you can retrieve a file that is for example a week older than your current document in case you have made a disastrous mistake with your work. You can also manually drag and drop files as you usually would to other storage devices, bypassing the included software altogether.

The automatic backing up process will only occur when your computer is sitting idle or in other words you have popped off for a well deserved cup of tea and your computer has a moment to process something other than your current activities. This stops your computer noticeably slowing down while you are working or indeed playing.

Final Thoughts

If you have a few devices around the home or a family wishing to access the same information, it certainly makes complete sense to invest in the WD My Book Live or similar device to access your treasure chest of memories, favourite tunes and home movies.

Whether you have a selection of computers, smartphones, tablets or game consoles – The My Book Live centralises all of your files in one location so that many of the devices you own can share this information and enjoy the content. For those who have a family, this is so important as it ensures everyone can enjoy the same collection of memories and media. Once you have experienced this file freedom, you will never look back!

Compatibility

  • Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7
  • Mac OS X Leopard or Snow Leopard
  • DLNA/UPnP enabled devices

Package Includes

  • Home network drive
  • Ethernet cable
  • AC power adapter
  • Installation and software CD
  • Quick Install Guide

James Woodcock

Freelance Journalist, Author, Blogger & Podcaster specialising in gaming and technology. Ever since he experienced the first controllable pixel movement on the television screen, he has been entranced by the possibilities and rewarding entertainment value generated from these metal and plastic boxes of delight. Writing hundreds of articles including commentary and reviews on various gaming platforms, while also interviewing well known industry figures for popular online publications.