12-21-2009 01:12 PM
Before I say anything further, here's a disclaimer: Performing any of the below steps has the potential to be dangerous to your drive, computer or data. You WILL void your My Book hard drive's warranty by doing this. You may also break your drive or its enclosure. Western Digital does not approve of, endorse or recommend this advice in any way. In fact, I'm pretty sure they might consider removing this posting because it involves tinkering with their products in a way that they might not like! I'm not responsible for any result, good or bad. If you break something, you will be the proud owner of two or more pieces instead of one, and it's entirely your responsibility for dealing with it. This advice is presented in good faith but with NO WARRANTY. I cannot accept any liability that may result from you or anyone else attempting this.
I'm deadly serious. Don't do this if you have any doubt about your abilities or if you want the warranty for your drive to remain in effect. I can only say that it worked for me, but that is none of a guarantee, promise or statement that it will work for you. It may not.
If you understand this, read on. If not, you should just move on to another thread.
Like many of you in this particular forum I recently invested in a Western Digital My Book external hard disk drive. And like many of you, I'll be using this drive to store backups of my data. But I don't intend to use it with any operating system that Western Digital supports--it will be connected to a computer running the FreeNAS network attached storage operating system. Therefore, the bundled Western Digital utilities included with this drive will be completely unneeded. But they appear as a "virtual CD" every time you connect the drive to any computer with USB or Firewire mass storage device support. If you do not or cannot use these tools, you can't reclaim the storage space used by them.
Western Digital does at least provide tools that claim to disable the SmartWare functionality so it doesn't show up when you connect the drive. This is a two part process involving an updated firmware file and a utility. Trouble is, if you bought a "Studio" drive, the firmware updater will not work for you. It only functions on the Elite and Essential My Book models. You're effectively stuck with the unwanted virtual CD and the software that resides on it. This turns the concept of defeating the software and ignoring it into a tease.
Well, folks, there is a way to get rid of it. And contrary to whatever Western Digital is currently saying, it is possible to remove the software entirely and reclaim the storage space consumed by it.
However, there's no "soft" solution to accomplish this. As long as the drive is within its enclosure, you can't get direct enough access to whack the unwanted virtual CD drive and its contents. The firmware running on the bridge IC in the enclosure keeps you from doing this. Note that the SmartWare is in fact stored on the hard drive. There is no hidden "flash disk" on the bridge board. In fact, the only thing on the board apart from a Firewire PHY and DC-DC converter is an Oxford OXUF943SE USB 2.0/Firewire 800 bridge IC. It's under a metal shield, but in my drive this shield was not soldered down. If you take it out to look at the circuitry, be sure to put it back exactly as it came out. Western Digital put it there for a reason, and you don't want to cause problems by leaving it out.
Take a deep breath, because here we go.
You'll have to take the enclosure (not the drive!) apart and connect it directly to a SATA port in a computer. Then you can run a disk wiping tool, such as DBAN or HDAT2 and that will remove all trace of the SmartWare. Western Digital didn't get too clever with this, and the software isn't hidden by way of the host protected area (HPA) or similar measures. You should assume that this is a one-way process! There is no "change of heart" process that can be used to put the SmartWare back into place after you do this. You may wish to copy the contents of the virtual CD to your computer's hard disk if you think that any of it might come in handy in the future--but I make no guarantees that doing so will work.
If you have data stored on the drive, you MUST back it up before going further. Some of these operations are destructive to your data!
Taking the enclosure apart is not terribly difficult. There are a few tabs and snaps around the rear wall (the end of the drive where the USB and Firewire connectors are) that can be persuaded to come loose with a little coaxing. I used an old computer expansion slot cover with rounded edges to pop the tabs and snaps loose. With them loose, the outer cover will slide forward and away. Now you can see the drive, electrophoretic display panel, and the board containing the bridge IC. Four rubber grommet like objects hold the drive in place in the cabinet. Beware of the little light pipe that runs from the controller board to the front of the drive. It will probably fall out with little provocation, so be sure that you make note of its orientation should that happen. Also watch for the little rubber pad around the display panel cable and light pipe--it too may fall off rather easily.
Make note of the position of each rubber grommet. Two of mine fell out while liberating the drive from the enclosure, and it is important that they go back in the same way they came out. Be aware that the drive can fall completely out of the framework. If there's a possibility that it could wind up on the floor, do everything you can to keep that from happening. A fall or shock can kill a hard disk in one shot, and you don't want that.
Carefully disconnect the ribbon wire going to the front display panel. Don't be rough with it. The connector is fragile. Then, carefully pivot the drive out of the enclosure's frame. Two screws hold the bridge board to the drive and its SATA connector. Carefully remove those, set them aside and gently slide the bridge board back so that the SATA data and power connector block will come loose from the drive.
You must not disassemble the drive. This should be obvious, but... Only take apart the enclosure and do not remove any screws or parts from the drive itself!
Now you can take the drive completely out of the enclosure, and it's just what it looks like--a plain old Western Digital serial ATA hard disk. You could plug it into any computer and use it as you would any other hard disk.
Here's the part where we say our goodbyes to SmartWare. (Remember: this is the point of no return. If you continue, there IS NO WAY to get SmartWare back!) Find a handy computer with SATA ports, and unplug every hard drive in that computer. (Seriously: what we're about to do is a data-destructive activity. Nothing will ruin your day faster than wiping a hard disk that you had valuable data on! So unplug all the other hard drives in the computer and double check to be sure that you have unplugged ALL of them.)
Download DBAN (do a web search for it) and burn it to a CD or put it on a floppy diskette. Connect the recently-liberated WD hard disk to a SATA connector in the computer and start it. Make sure the computer starts up from its floppy drive or CD-ROM. DBAN will start. Using it is pretty well self-explanatory, and you should choose to do the "manual" wipe. Because we're not really looking for a secure erasure here (just a plain erasure will do), choose the "blank drive" or "zeros" option. All we need to do is overwrite the drive with some garbage data, and DBAN can help us do exactly that.
It's not enough to repartition and reformat the drive, you have to wipe it to be sure the SmartWare is gone.
It bears repeating that you REALLY want to be sure you've unplugged both the power and data cables from any other hard disk in the computer where you will be doing this. If you wipe the wrong drive with DBAN, you are out of luck. Nobody can recover your data if that should happen. So play it safe--unplug all the other drives in the computer and make sure only the drive you took out of the My Book enclosure is plugged in.
Depending upon the size of the drive that you removed from the My Book Enclosure, this operation could take a few hours to complete. Just let it go, and when it's done, power off the computer and put it back together as it was. Remove the DBAN media and store it somewhere where nobody is going to accidentally use it.
It's time to reassemble the enclosure. Plug the drive carefully back in to the bridge board. Fasten the screws that held the bridge board assembly to the drive. How you put the rubber grommets back in is up to you. Just remember that they need to go back in the same places where they were. It may work best if you put them on the corners of the drive and gently manuever it into the plastic framework.
Getting the light pipe back into place is not hard, just remember the way it went in. If yours fell out, it drops down and in through the framework that also contains the display. If the rubber pad that receives the light pipe is loose, a dab of instant glue or hot-melt glue can be used to hold it in place--but be careful.
Plugging the display panel connector in is fiddly at best. It's a thin ribbon cable and with the drive screwed to the bridge board, it's not easy to put it back into place. You can carefully lift up on the edges of the mating connector on the bridge board, but be careful. It's easy to break the little plastic slide off and lose it somewhere. Be patient--you will get the cable back into place.
Make one final check to be sure that all the ports are lined up in the back of the enclosure. Check all of them, including the power plug. Click the power button to make sure it works as intended. If you find a problem, backtrack and fix it.
When you're done with that, it's almost over. Now all you have to do is put the outer shell back on. It slides into a track at each side of the internal framework. Carefully slide it over the drive, making sure that it's going on the track and not splaying out on one side or the other. Press the enclosure back together until it clicks together.
Plug in your enclosure and turn it on. The drive inside should start running within seconds. Plug it into your computer and prepare it as appropriate. it will need to be formatted and partitioned for use with your operation system. Enjoy your totally-unencumbered My Book drive, and verify that it operates properly. As long as you were careful, there should not be any problems or further issues.
It took me around a half hour to get the drive apart and another half hour to get it back together. It took several hours to wipe the drive in another computer. It would have taken someone at Western Digital very little time to face the music and provide both a simple and effective utility that would completely remove (and NOT just cover up) the SmartWare package. Not only did it take some to do this, I also wasted time and raised my blood pressure unnecessarily by discovering that the tools WD provides to deal with this issue (in a half-baked manner) simply do not work on the My Book Studio drive.
12-21-2009 03:16 PM
One thing that is left behind is a "stub" (probably generated by the firmware as it starts up) that represents the former virtual CD.
That particular ball is in WD's court now. I'm not a firmware programmer. As I've got a complaint registered with their tech support system, I hope to hear something soon.
12-21-2009 09:10 PM - edited 12-21-2009 09:11 PM
It's all very interesting but I don't see enough of a benefit to void the warranty like that. Just disable the Virtual drive through the software after labeling the drive and uninstall the Smartware. Install the SES driver if you are getting a popup window and don't like the error in Device Manager. Now it will work fine as an ordinary USB drive. If you want to add password protection you can always reenable that function .
Because your method voids the warranty and can't be reversed it seems unnecessary. The amount of saved space in your procedure is minimal anyway.
This thread will probably be removed.
12-22-2009 06:47 AM
Okay, here's the thing: yes, you raise a good question as to whether or not doing this is worth voiding the warranty. For some people it may not be. Even if a hard drive breaks, I won't be returning it for warranty coverage--I must know that my data has been properly discarded. I am simply not interested in any warranty for that reason. Your mileage may vary. I already strongly suggested that a user evaluate the risk of doing this.
Secondly, I'm not using Windows with this drive. Studio drives come preformatted with HFS+ for ready use with a Macintosh. However, I don't care about that either. The end application will be a storage device for use with a FreeNAS computer system (based on FreeBSD). You can't use any of the SmartWare with FreeBSD, and the virtual CD device appears to cause problems. The reason for buying a Studio drive was to get one with a Firewire port.
It is my fervent belief that Western Digital has an obligation to provide a straightforward, "un-fooled-around-with" external hard drive OR the option to convert a drive into plain old external mass storage device. There is nothing about these drives that would preclude them from doing so--if they'd just admit that maybe not everyone wants anything to do with SmartWare and provide a suitable removal tool.
12-22-2009 07:41 AM
Providing a proper tool for removing all "smart" remnants is a great idea. It would be very popular. For Windows 7 users the built in backup is far superior to any smartware anyway.
12-25-2009 04:02 PM
I think UnexpectedBill has provided an excellent guide and all proper warnings for eliminating a program that some people may not want. I bought a separate WD hard drive and case--that cost more--instead of buying a unit with SmartWare.
12-25-2009 10:12 PM - edited 12-25-2009 10:13 PM
@1oldman: Thank you for responding. I have tried to be sure that everyone understands the risks of doing this. They are very real and cannot be understated.
- - - - - - - -
There's still a virtual CD "stub" left behind, but it doesn't seem to stop you from using all the capacity of the drive in your enclosure. It may or may not mount on your desktop or show in My Computer depending upon your luck. (That's the best way I've got to put it.)
I've had some discussions with WD support over the few days since I've posted this message, and I've tried hard to make it clear that I (and I'm sure, others) purchased a My Book drive in good faith and with the belief that any optional software bundled on the drive would be removable. I've also tried to make them aware that the support site presently does not have correct information on file for owners of Studio model My Book drives--you cannot presently hide SmartWare on these drives.
The most they've said is "an update might be forthcoming in a few months" and that I should basically wait for it. That is, to be polite, absolutely ridiculous. I will not wait for an update that may never show up, and take the chance of being stuck with a product that is completely incompatible with my requirements. They also haven't even taken the small step of updating their web site with the correct information for My Book Studio edition owners!
As it is, I don't think the Firewire interface on the My Book Studio edition drive really works. I've noticed a lot of "stalling" while doing file transfers under FreeNAS, stalling that isn't present with other enclosures that also use WD hard drives and are based around Oxford Semiconductor bridge products.
I've drafted a letter that I intend to send to Western Digital via the good old postal service. I'll see what they say, but I have a feeling that this My Book drive and I are about to part ways. I've simply had enough at this point, and the efforts of customer service are not sufficient.
12-26-2009 04:39 PM - last edited on 12-26-2009 10:00 PM by WendyM
[text deleted] I have to admit, Western Digital pulled a slick one with smartware, real slick. Not only is their rootkit portable, but its virtual, literally at the hypervisor level.
It didn't take me but a few seconds after plugging it into my computer to realize that smartware is a rootkit. It may or may not have acted on any rootkit-like intentions, but every aspect of smartware is characteristic of a rootkit. From the inability to remove it, to western digitals lack of support to provide tools for removal - other than a slick method of hiding it, down to the falsification of available hard drive space, and the amount of space smartware really occupies // eg: with the full 465gb ntfs partition available as "free space" (eg: 500gb drive) as reported in the HD properties (as it is supposed to be with any 500gb drive formatted to ntfs), somehow 104mb is miraculously being reported as used, yet unaccounted for. However, this is false also, because smartware is really occupying 293mb ( verification of size on properties/copy ) and 465gb is still free - yea right~
12-27-2009 10:41 PM
I agree. I have had nothing but trouble with my 1.5 tb drive because of this smartware and its vcd. I will never ever purchase anything from Western Digital again if they can't get the drive to work or give me my money back.
12-30-2009 02:59 PM
My letter to Western Digital entered the mail stream today. We shall see what happens and I will post back to let everyone know what I hear, if I hear anything.
Their technical support stopped responding to my support ticket (updated five days ago) so I closed it under the assumption that they probably wouldn't be getting back to me.