Another My Book Essential HDD is inexplicably dead, after doing nothing for months

My WDBACW0020HBK 2TB external HDD is barely 5 years old. It is a very light duty backup device. I probably connect to it once every few months. It is not left plugged into any computers. However, I do leave the power supply plugged in. With no data trigger coming from a computer, the HDD is “sleeping.” Hardly any power consumption.

For no reason I can fathom, it simply won’t power up any longer. This drive has always been well cared for, sitting quietly on a desktop with adequate ventilation and never subject to any abuse, or even direct sunlight. I must also point out that I checked the power supply – it’s functional. I was able to use it with another device.

After this happened, I took to the Internet to learn what I could, and have come to find that this is a known problem. Many people report this happening to their WD My Book external HDD. For some mysterious reason, some component on the PCB goes bad and then that’s it – no power.

In my searches, I’ve not yet been able to discover a workable solution for this. My first thought is… could I obtain a replacement PCB and swap it in? Does WD makes these available, and at a reasonable cost? Does WD make available any kind of decryption software that could be obtained with proper product serial number identification, then run that on the HDD directly connected to a computer (after removal from the My Book enclosure)?

The other more likely solution I fathom is to simply buy an old but working used HDD of compatible enclosure type, and then do a HDD swap in order to gain access to the data. And if this is the more economical and high likelihood of success approach… what models are generally all compatible? My unit is WDBACW0020HBK, the “0020” representing 2TB. As I understand it I could find models of the same nomenclature with 1TB, 3TB, and 4TB. But are there other models that use this same encryption algorithm, which could be in the candidate list?

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

There are solutions for your problem, but I would need more information.

Is there any sound at all coming from the enclosure? Is the LED alight or flashing?

Can you disassemble the unit and upload photos of the USB-SATA bridge PCB and HDD PCB?

Does the HDD power up if you attach it directly to a SATA port inside your computer?

Thanks very much for responding! Sorry for my delay (I didn’t get a notification).

The device is acting like it’s not plugged in at all. No sound. No lights. No vibration. I’ve plugged it in and also pressed the power button on the back, to no avail.

Yes, the HDD does power up if I attach it directly to a SATA port. The computer just recognizes an unformatted storage device and prompts to format (because of the WD encryption).

I didn’t take photos when I disassembled it, but I saw nothing out of the ordinary. There wasn’t any sign of damage at all. What specifically were you interested to see on the PCB’s?

Here are “tools for opening some encrypted WD My Book drives in Linux”:

Here is another tool (reallymine): (Windows executable)

As for the bridge PCB (which handles the encryption), there is a dual MOSFET switch which switches the 5V and 12V SATA power to the HDD. This device can be bypassed if it fails. Also, in some models this PCB can be replaced without having to modify anything.

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Hey, just to follow-up, I ran into some issues getting this to work… so I fell back on another technique that turned out to be foolproof – using the controller PCB from a functional drive.

The controller PCB part in my unit is 4061-705094-001 Rev AD. The donor part is 4061-705094-00 Rev AA. At first the drive was only recognized as 1TB, but after about a half hour of use it showed as 2TB (correct). Access works perfectly. I can read and write. The donor is a 3TB unit that I bought used. Got a fairly good deal on it. I then got in contact with a seller who offers a controller PCB part pulled from a functional unit, offered for under $20. It’s part 4061-705094-004 Rev 04P. It looks identical, but I’m a little hesitant about the “004” increment. The seller takes returns, so I think it’s worth a gamble to see if it works.

Glad you got it working again. I suggest that you unplug the power supply from the wall when not in use as well, as even though the drive is sleeping with the USB cable unplugged, it is still drawing standby power. Unplugging from the wall can help prolong the life of both the power supply and the controller board in the enclosure.

Unrelated to WD’s external drives, I’ve used aftermarket enclosures in the past where the filter capacitors in the power supply failed while being constantly plugged in after a few years, even when no power was being passed through to the controller board, and with the installed drive only consisting of several hours of total use.

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Thanks for sharing your experience on this. Yes, going forward I’m definitely going to cut power to the drive then not in use.

I received that alternate PCB controller. And while the primary model number matched, 4061-705094, the last 3 digits were different (004 instead of 001) and the Rev is 04P. The seller expected it should be compatible… and offered free return shipping if not. Well, it definitely powered up and the drive was recognized as a storage device, but as “unformatted.” No visibility to files. So that means the encryption algorithm must be different. I don’t know if it’s an issue with the Rev the last 3 digits, or both combined.

My hunch is that the last 3 digits need to be identical. In my case, 001. But REV could be different. I don’t know if there’s a ceiling on that. If I do find another, I’ll give it a try.

What has probably happened is that the bridge firmware has been configured for a different sector size, either 512 bytes or 4096 bytes. The OS can still find sector 0 – if it couldn’t, then it would prompt you to initialise the drive. However, every other sector is out by a factor of 8, so the OS looks for the boot sector in the wrong place. It then prompts you to format the partition.

You can see this in DMDE:

Can you show us DMDE’s Partitions tab?

BTW, the encryption key is stored on the drive, at the end of the user area. It is not stored on the bridge PCB.