Although it’s probably fair to say that no disk drive manufacturer is perfect, you might want to research very completely and carefully, before you buy an external WD ( Western Digital ) drive, especially if you have any interest in booting from it, and I’m not talking about an issue with the drive’s capacity.
I should say, that when I first heard some of the second hand information that I’m about to mention, I was very skeptical. But after experiencing the situation first hand, I no longer am.
WRT to some of WD’s external drives, some people have ostensibly been told by WD, that WD doesn’t support booting from some external drives. As a more specific example, some people on various websites have complained that they’d had problems booting from external WD Passport drives, and been told by WD that booting was not supported by WD, on external Passport drives.
I was having all sorts of strange problems booting from a WD Elements external drive. On general principle I was concerned, but not a great deal, because I didn’t have a Passport drive. Even then, as long as the MBR, partition table, etc., can be written and read, what would be the problem, on general principles, with booting from the drive? Maybe if there was something in a specific situation that, caused a particular BIOS to incorrectly identify the drive, I could see it. Or perhaps if the firmware in the drive enclosure did not allow full access to the drive itself, there could be a problem booting. In my case, I was able to partition the drive, write and read the MBR, etc. So it sure seemed that booting shouldn’t be a problem.
Previously I was using the drive with oS ( openSUSE ) 11.4 as just external space for backing stuff up, offloading stuff, etc.
Instead, with one of the oS 12.* series systems, I started trying to boot when the system was entirely on the external WD Elements drive. One confusing aspect of trying to boot from my external WD Elements drive, was that something involved with identifying the drive, kept producing what seemed like a totally artificial Model ID and Serial ID.
Eventually I realized that sometime after oS 11.4, the method used by oS to ID drives seemingly was changed. If my WD Elements drive was asked to ID itself by one mechanism, the firmware in the enclosure grabbed the request, and provided the Model ID, Serial ID, etc., that are on the outside of the enclosure, those from the “Elements” branding. Those were what I was so used to seeing in the /dev/disk/by-id directory tree with oS 11.4. If a different mechanism was used, the ID request was passed through to the drive itself, which identified itself by a different Model ID and Serial ID. Those ID’s are in fact from a Passport drive!
I don’t know if what WD did, is something that WD did intentionally for reasons of financial advantage, marketing, testing, or if it was a manufacturing mistake. But it is what it is. Even if WD was going to do something like that, I would have thought it might be better to use some undocumented instruction to tell the firmware to allow direct access to the drive itself for testing purposes by WD. Once it was time to ship the drive, I would think it should have been set to operate in a single consistent mode. In fact, I’ve sometimes purchased bare drives, put them in an external enclosure of my own choosing, and had no issues booting from the drive.
I’ve been able to boot all sorts of Operating Systems, with all sorts of boot loaders, from all sorts of internal and external drives, on this machine. Yet, even apart from the ID issue, I never did get one of the oS 12.* series systems booting from that drive, when the system was entirely contained on that drive.
My WD Elements external drive, was a 1 TB unit. If someone else can say that they’ve been able to boot one of the oS 12.* series systems with the same model drive, then maybe the issue was just a manufacturing glitch with the particular drive I had, a problem with this machine, or a brain glitch on my part, and there’s nothing to worry about. Otherwise, I would want to have a thorough talk with WD before buying one of their external drives again.
For myself, either way, I would still consider a WD internal drive.