How to use a WD external hard drive with your computer

STOP Critical: This article only applies to Western Digital external hard drives. It does not apply to Western Digital network hard drives like the My Cloud.

All WD external drives function as storage devices that you can use on either the Windows or Mac Operating System without any additional software. Some WD drives come with backup software, but you are not required to use this software in order to use the drive effectively with your computer.

Data can be moved or copied on and off the drive with or without software. The tips below describe how to locate your data and copy it to an external hard drive. Also, these tips go over creating and maintaining backups, both with and without backup software.

There are 5 topics detailed in this answer:




Topic #1 - Locating your data(Pictures, Videos, Music, Documents, etc.):

    Before you can copy any data to an external drive, you need to locate your data first. Microsoft Windows 2000 and XP stores most of the user’s data in the “My Documents” folder. Windows 7 and Vista stores the data in a folder called “Documents”. Installed programs can store their data in a variety of locations. If you want to backup data from your programs like iTunes or financial software it is recommended that you check with the manufacturer or documentation for the software and find out where it stores the data and what the recommended procedure is to back it up.

    The macOS typically stores its data in locations accessible through the side bar within the Finder. When you have an open Finder window, you’ll see a list of documents, pictures, music, and videos on the left side.

    Another way to find your files is to use the search function built into the Windows and Macintosh Operating Systems. Please see the links below for instructions on using the search function in these Operating Systems.

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Topic #2 - Transferring files using copy and paste or drag and drop:

    Both Windows and the Mac Operating Systems incorporate a feature called “drag and drop” or “copy and paste”. There are several options for moving, copying, and backing-up files from one drive to another:

    The most common method of moving files or folders from one hard drive to another would be to right-click on the source file or folder and choose copy or cut from the menu. The file or folder is now ready to be transferred. Go to the destination where you want to put the file and then right click in the windows and choose paste. Make sure that you are not right-clicking on another file or folder. The data should then be transferred from the source to the destination.

    Note: If you choose the copy option, the original file or folder will remain on the source drive and a copy of the file will be created on the destination drive when you paste it there.

    If you choose the cut option, the original file or folder from the source will be moved to the destination when you paste it there.

    The most common method of moving a file or folder from one location to another on a Macintosh computer would be to open both the source and destination so they are both visible on the desktop.

    To move the file or folder from the source to the destination, click and hold the mouse button on the file or folder. The Operating System will highlight the file or folder. You then drag the file or folder from the source window to the destination window and let go of the mouse button. The file or folder will disappear from the source and will now exist exclusively on the destination.

    To copy the file or folder from the source to the destination, click and hold the mouse button on the file or folder. The OS will highlight the file or folder. You then press and hold down the Option Key while you drag the file from the source window to the destination window. Let go of the mouse button and option key and the file or folder will copy to the source window.

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Topic #3 - What is a backup and how do I back up data to a WD external hard drive?

    Making and maintaining backups vary greatly by what you want to back up and how you go about doing it. One of the most important things to know is what a backup is and what it is not. A “backup” by its definition is a duplicate copy of data. A backup is not a backup if the data is stored only in one location. If you have a backup of your data and one of the devices fail, you will have the data stored in a second location that you can access and no data is lost.

    A backup can be created by copying or drag and dropping a file from one location to another. With this method, you manually keep your files up to date by re-copying the new data to the destination. This is covered in Topic #2 above. Another way to backup your data is to use software. Software will copy the data to the destination on its own after you setup what is usually called a backup plan. This method is covered in Topic #4 below.

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Topic #4 - Using Backup Software built into the Operating System:

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Topic #5 - Using the software that came with the WD external hard drive:

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Topic #6 - Safe Connection and Disconnection of the external hard drive:

    Both Windows and Mac Operating Systems will read and write data to the drive, even if you are not using your computer. If you want to leave your computer on and disconnect the drive, you will need to safely remove ("eject" on Mac) the drive before you unplug it. Otherwise, you will need to turn off the computer before disconnecting the drive. Please see Answer ID 5316: How to connect or disconnect a WD external hard drive for directions on how to safely remove an external hard drive.

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In case the answer did not answer your question, you can always visit the WD Community for help from WD users.

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