WD My Cloud Home Duo

It’s no secret that we’re digital hoarders. Every day we snap up photos of our food, download our favorite music to our phones, and record videos of our friends falling backward into a pool. For home users, file storage can often be a bit of a hassle – people want something that’s easy to setup and forget about, rather than messing with external hard drives or countless USB thumb drives. While power users like myself would be more than happy to setup a basic NAS at home, many home users don’t want or need something as complicated, which is why WD’s My Cloud Home Duo is a viable solution. It strips away a lot of the complications often involved with a home NAS, and instead offers a basic storage space for anyone in your home. Unfortunately, it comes with its own set of drawbacks which makes it a bit difficult to recommend as an all-in home storage solution.

Build Quality & Design

  • Sleek, futuristic design
  • Minimal LED lights
  • User-serviceable

WD introduced a new look for its My Passport series not too long ago, sporting a very futuristic geometric design and coloring. That design inspiration has carried forward to the My Cloud Home Duo as well. Gone are the days of bulk black boxes with an annoying bright LED slit in the front. Instead, you get a chic white and grey box that can gracefully be set up anywhere in your home and not look garish in any way. In fact, one of my coworkers described it as looking like a ‘fancy tissue box’, which I’m not sure is a good thing or not.

 A thin LED strip sits horizontally in the front to let you know when the drive is up and running, while round the back is where you’ll find the device’s connectivity options. There’s a slim power button, two USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, and a reset button. I would have much preferred to have one USB port in the front for easier access, because every time I had to plug something in I had to rotate the device to find where the USB slots were.

The My Cloud Home Duo features a thin LED strip in the front to indicate that it’s on

The WD My Cloud comes in both single and double drive versions (hence the Duo name), and only the Duo model can be user-serviced. The drives can be accessed by prying open the top cover, after which you can slide out either of the drives to replace them. WD’s stuck their Red drives into the Duo, which makes for better performance and reliability. I remember when older models would use Green drives instead, so it’s good that at least this improvement has been introduced.

The My Cloud Home Duo now features WD’s Red drives, pictured here with two 8TB drives.

Our review unit featured a killer 16TB of storage spread across two 8TB drives. However, by default the system well set itself up in RAID1 to ensure that your data is kept secure if one of the drive fails, so you’ll have to contend with using just the 8TB instead. You can switch this over to JBOD instead (which formats the drives), but if either of the drive fails then you’ve lost all of your data. 8TB is still a lot of space to play around with, so I’d recommend you just stick with the RAID1 setup.

The drives can easily be slid out of their bays and replaced

Features

  • Currently only supports Plex for media streaming
  • Easy backup for Windows and Mac

WD is positioning the My Cloud Home Duo as something you’d want to setup at home, and so it’s a bit odd that it doesn’t feature a native media service to stream content to compatible devices. You can get Plex up and running on it (more on that later), but it’s a bit of a puzzle since older WD devices had support for DLNA and iTunes sharing right out of the box.

There are also options to enable cloud services, which lets you link up with Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, or even upload photos from Facebook and Google photos. This makes the My Cloud Home Duo a straightforward backup solution to sync up with whatever services you already use, as well as wirelessly backing up from your smartphone and other devices via the dedicated app.

The My Cloud Home Duo also supports Windows Backup and Apple’s Time Machine, so if you want to be extra secure about your data, you can easily set these up and let your OS and the My Cloud Home Duo take care of the rest. I tried this out with my MacBook Air, and it had zero problems backing up and restoring from the My Cloud Home Duo.

Connectivity and setup

  • Browser-based device setup
  • Requires app to discover and map drive correctly
  • Limited USB drive support

The My Cloud Home Duo just requires you to plug in the power adaptor and an Ethernet cable, and power it up. There’s no manual or further instructions to read, which makes setup a little bit easier – there’s an extensive pdf that you can download via WD’s website for more details on the My Cloud Home Duo and its advanced features, but first-time users should be able to get this up and running fairly quickly.

Plug just two cables in and you’re up and running.

Once powered up, you just navigate to mycloud.com/hello to create a WD account and begin detection of your My Cloud Home Duo. Once it’s set up and registered to your account, you can download the WD Discovery app for Windows or Mac, which will search your network for the My Cloud Home Duo and accordingly map it so you can access it directly within programs. It all sounds fairly simple, but there are some alarming things that can go wrong. Firstly, you can’t natively find the My Cloud Home Duo by browsing network devices. In Windows you get an authentication error, and in Mac you simply see a folder for Time Machine backups. There’s just no easy way to access the device directly without using the Discovery app, even if you try logging in with the correct credentials. Secondly, if for whatever reason the Discovery app crashes, your network mapped drive automatically disappears and you have to launch the app again to restore it. Lastly, you’ll need to have a working Internet connection in order to access the My Cloud Home Duo settings – there’s no ‘local’ web portal on the device, so you have to make all changes via WD’s website.

Once set up, you’ll see your files and folders as well as access settings through the web portal

Since the My Cloud Home Duo is targeted towards home storage, you’re given the option to add as many users as you like to the device, so that different users can populate it with their data. The catch here is that each user only sees their own files and folders, so there’s no way to quickly share a file or folder between users on the fly. Yes, you can generate a shareable URL and send that to a user to view files, but it’s a ridiculously tedious process for something that should be so simple to execute via drag and drop. For example, if a family member wants to look at vacation photos or shared media, there’s absolutely no way for them to do this without the owning person sending a shareable link or logging in with their account instead. So if you want an environment where all your family members have access to all the content you store, then you’re just going to have to set up and share one account login with everyone.

You can keep an eye on disk space as well as easily invite other users to store files on your device

At the back of the My Cloud Home Duo are two USB 3.0 ports which let you plug in a thumb drive or other USB storage (or a card reader) to quickly import contents on to your device. This in itself raises a few issues. You can only copy content directly from the USB storage to the My Cloud Home Duo, not the other way around. So if you thought you could plug in a larger drive to back up the My Cloud Home Duo, think again. Secondly, you can only copy data from the USB device using the app on your smartphone. That’s right – the USB drive doesn’t show up in the file explorer, or online via WD’s website, or anywhere else – only via the app. You basically get a little notification that a USB drive has been plugged in, and from there you can select which files you’d like to copy over.

Two USB 3.0 ports let you quickly copy data to the My Cloud Home Duo, but not the other way

Funnily enough, any USB drive connected to the My Cloud Home Duo can be accessed by anyone via the app on their smartphone, so if you thought of copying over some private files from a USB stick, think again. It’s also puzzling as to why there are two USB ports, when the My Cloud Home Duo can only detect one USB drive at a time. Copying data from a USB drive should be the easiest thing in the world, but here it’s the most convoluted system you’ve ever seen.

Mobile Backup & Apps

  • Easy photo and video backup from your devices
  • No support for uploading other file types
  • Limited third-party services available

In addition to letting you view files and settings for your My Cloud Home Duo, the My Cloud app also acts as a sync for your smartphone to automatically backup your phone’s images. You can enable this backup over WiFi or cellular data, and photos are backed up a few seconds after you capture them. You can manually upload a photo or video for backup as well via the app if you wish, or sort items into folders. You can even tap onto a photo or video to view it pretty  much straight away.

One thing to note is that there’s no way to upload other file types using the My Cloud app. If you want to upload a document you’ve been working on or a pdf, there’s no way to get that onto your My Cloud Home Duo without uploading it via the website. The same goes for music – you can’t upload or sync music from your device to your My Cloud Home Duo, and any music file you tap on the app will only download to your device, whereas images and video can be viewed without downloading. In essence then, the My Cloud Home Duo just becomes a repository for your images and video content, and pretty much nothing else.

As mentioned earlier, there are other services that you can enable as well. The first is a network copy tool which lets you copy data from older WD network devices to your new My Cloud Home Duo. The second is support for IFTTT, so you can create triggers for when particular folders or files are updated. These two services seem the least useful in the long run, so we’ll focus on the two that we actually played around with.

The My Cloud Home Duo currently offers a limited selection of third-party services

First up is Plex. We’ve used Plex on a ton of devices before, and setting it up here is as simple as enabling the service and then dropping content into the dedicated Plex folders that are created on your My Cloud Home Duo. Once Plex is up and running, you can finally stream media to devices in your network via the Plex app or DLNA compatible devices such as a games console or Smart TV. 1080p content was streamed pretty much straight away, but when we ramped it up to a 4K file, performance was middling, with the file taking way too long to buffer and delays in the audio. You can quickly downgrade the video quality to make it a bit better, but that defeats the purpose of streaming high-quality content on your network. Presumably the My Cloud Home Duo’s innards aren’t quite up to speed when it comes to high-bitrate content, so stick with Full HD content for now.

Unfortunately after a day of working properly, our Plex server on the My Cloud Home Duo decided to die on us, and we weren’t able to get back into it or connect via any of our Plex apps or devices. Even disabling and re-enabling the service fixed nothing, so we had to reset the device and set it all up again before it was working once more.

Secondly we have the ‘Social and Cloud Import’ service, which lets you connect with online storage providers, or with the likes of Facebook or Google Photos to make backing up your content even quicker. We linked up with our Dropbox account, which then created a dedicated Dropbox folder on our My Cloud Home Duo. There are two problems specific to the Dropbox integration here – firstly is that there’s no way to select exactly what you’d like to sync – we had the My Cloud Home Duo attempt to download an entire 118GB worth of data from our Dropbox account. Secondly, it’s a one-way sync only. Changes that you make in your Dropbox account are automatically synced with the My Cloud Home Duo, but any changes or files you upload to the ‘Dropbox’ folder on your My Cloud Home Duo will not sync up with your actual Dropbox account. Yes, we’re shaking our heads in disbelief as well.

Outside of syncing with cloud services, you can also sync folders on your computer once you’ve installed the WD Discovery app. Simply right click a folder and choose “Sync with My Cloud” to keep the folder backed up and up to date with your My Cloud Home Duo. This works as expected, and makes it easier for users to selectively back up certain folders on their PCs without having to do a full system backup.

Performance

Here’s where things unraveled a little bit for the My Cloud Home Duo – large files copied with no problem at all, clocking in about 14MB/s for a 300MB file copy. But when I attempted to copy a folder of smaller files, performance went out the window. A folder of about 1,200 files that in total came to about 4.2MB transferred at a whopping 3.6KB/s. Yes, you read that right – just under four kilobytes per second. Sticking in a USB drive into my PC completed the transfer in an instant, so if you’re copying over smaller files in batches, you’re going to have to go grab a cup of coffee and come back.

Copying large files over produced acceptable speeds, but smaller files took much longer to transfer over

Who is it for?

The My Cloud Home Duo is designed for home users who quite literally need a space to dump their files. Whether it’s photos, videos, music, or documents, the My Cloud Home Duo has plenty of storage space to spare, so you’re not going to be filling it up anytime soon. The integration with folder backup, cloud services, and smartphone uploads make it a fool-proof solution for any household that needs a secure space to store data.

Should you buy it?

The My Cloud Home Duo is easy to understand once you’ve set it up, but there are so many annoyances with it over time that it’s going to get frustrating when users discover just what they can and can’t do with it. The weird dependency on the WD Discovery app, the ineffective use of the USB ports, and the fluctuating performance means that you might struggle with fully harnessing what the My Cloud Home Duo can do. The only way this will behave as a ‘true’ home storage solution is if everyone is using the same login and has their own individual folder to store files in. Our 16TB model sits in at AED 2,999 (US$699.99), but more budget-friendly models are available starting at AED 1,349 (US$309.99) for the 4TB version.

Other options

For a bit of extra cash, you could be quite happy with Synology’s DiskStation DS216play. Sure, you have to also factor in the cost of buying the hard drives, but it’s a worthwhile investment to make. A larger selection of apps, better streaming performance, and a friendly user interface make this a strong contender for a better home network storage solution.

Nick Rego
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