Hydrogen deuterium exchange mass spectrometry (HDX-MS) has significant potential for protein structure initiatives but its relationship with protein conformations is unclear. We report on the efficacy of HDX-MS to distinguish between native and non-native proteins using a popular approach to calculate HDX protection factors (PFs) from protein structures. The ability of HDX-MS to identify native protein conformations is quantified by binary structural classification such that merits of the approach for protein modelling can be quantified and better understood. We show that highly accurate PF calculations are not a prerequisite for HDX-MS simulations that are capable of effectively discriminating between native and non-native protein folds. The simulations can also be performed directly on unique structures facilitating high-throughput evaluation of many alternate conformations. The ability of HDX-MS to classify the conformations of homo-protein assemblies is also investigated. In contrast to protein monomers, we show a significant lack of correspondence between the simulated and experimental HDX-MS data for these systems with a subsequent decrease in the ability of HDX-MS to identify native states. However, we demonstrate surprisingly high diagnostic ability of the simulated data for assemblies in which a significant proportion of the individual chains occupy protein-protein interfaces. We relate this to the number of peptides that can sample alternate subunit orientations and discuss these observations within the larger context of applying HDX-MS to evaluate protein structures. Graphical Abstract.