DIY data recovery: MyBook firmware update fail

I had a 1 TB MyBook attached to Win XP computer for 3 years. When I plugged MyBook into a new win 8.1 computer, it recognized the drive, ran install software from MyBook, and gave me an option to update firmware. The firmware update failed - in addition to final failure message, it gave an error message about service not started at one point. Now the MyBook is not recognized by any computer.

I downloaded the universal firmware updater from
But it too needs to recognize the drive - it just stalls at prompt to connect drive. Stuck in catch-22.

I desperately don’t want to lose the data.

I see many threads in this forum of others experiencing same problem. Only “solution” is that people on Macs sometimes have better luck updating on windows computer.

Googling around internet, I see this is a sadly common problem. The firmware update process is unstable. It crashes, leaving people with a useless brick. I see some clever guy around 2008 figured out a way to acquire a copy of firmware and load it on drive, but that was arcane procedure and I doubt that rogue firmware matches my drive.

Help! This is crazy that a product can crash beyond recovery just from following instructions!. The data is there.

I spoke to tech at WD. He said that he can help me bring drive back to life by reformatting it. He suggests I hire a data recovery service first. Quick research shows that’ll be at least $300, maybe $500. The tech agrees that the data itself is undoubtedly just fine.

(Quick philosophical question: How can a company that sells backup solutions not take accountability when their own software failure makes your data inaccessible?)

I’m not the handiest guy in the world, but I’m going to purchase a hard drive docking station for about $20 or $25, extract the hard drive from the MyBook case, and see if I can pull the data off myself. Pray for me. I will document my specific purchases and experience whether it turns out to be an adventure or misadventure. Perhaps somebody else will read & benefit. One example:

ps. 1 TB of space on dropbox is $100 per year. Not cheap, and not a HUGE amount of space, but supremely convenient and safe. This experience makes me wonder why we are maintaining our own home backup hardware. Clearly we aren’t securing anything without a mirror system, or manually backing up twice to different units. We are sitting ducks waiting for the inevitable failure

Hi, I’m sorry to read that you are unable to access the information on the drive. Depending on the drive model, taking out of the enclosure to attempt to recovery the data might not work, as the newer drives have a hardware encryption and might not allow you to access the information on any other enclosure.

Sure, it might not work, but what are my options?

BTW, WD Tech Support was going to reformat the drive using a program called “Data Lifeguard Diagnostics for Windows.” For grins I downloaded it and gave it a spin. That program can’t recognize the MyBook any more than can the Universal Firmware Update program. With the firmware trashed, a MyBook is a useless brick. (A utility to flash load new firmware is simply missing from the WD arsenal. Obviously they could do it in-house.)

I’ll let you know how my DIY project works out. For $20 investment, it’s worth a try to recover my data.

ps. The WD techs told me that firmware trashed by an update is not a common problem. I suspect it was a problem common in drives produced older than three years ago. Remember, when you plug a drive into a computer the first time, it runs very old installation software that was stored on the drive years ago,

Success! Removing the drive from MyBook was not difficult, although be careful not to damage the SATA connector when removing. Evidently my generation of MyBook is not encrypted. I used this enclosure:

Hey, glad to hear you had some success. I think I’m having the same problem with my essential 2.0 Is that what you had? Any idea whether that enclosure would work for it?

I have no idea if your drive will spring back to life in new enclosure. I’m not sure if my MyBook is an “essential 2.0” version, but it is 1 TB and born around 2010. These are very dark arts that I don’t really understand. Here are some thoughts:

WD tech support ought to be able to tell you if data is encrypted based on your serial number.

I’m now thinking that the “firmware” actually lives on the hard disk’s attached controller board. That means that someway, somehow, my firmware must have been largely intact. Otherwise a new enclosure wouldn’t be enough. (Just a guess. Perhaps I am wrong and part of firmware lives on the MyBook electronics.)

Even if your data is encrypted, you might be able to carefully remove drive from its MyBook enclosure, get drive repaired, and reassemble the unit. This company fixes controller boards (including trashed firmware) for under $100:

If your data is NOT encrypted, and you ham-handedly mangled your MYBook (it is easier to disassemble than reassemble) the $20 enclosure you purchased can allow the drive to continue its life as an external backup, with added bonus of USB 3.0 interface. You may or may not have to send drive (with its accompanying controller board) out for repair.

Just want to share an important bit of info I garnered from WD and Outsource: nearly all MyBook products are in fact encrypted. So the chances of just a new enclosure working are very low.

There are software solutions that data recovery firms use to decrypt your drive (even if it is removed from the MyBook) but you will pay good dough.

Hey Huck-

Hoping you can help me. Did you have the MyBook Live Black Box, has a small LED on the front and the WD logo at the bottom and on the back there is the ethernet plug, and a power insert and only the reset button and a key slot and that’s it?

I need to recover my data and your $19.99 option sounds so good I’m hoping we had the same device. Mine was also 1 tb

Don’t have my old hardware to look at.

Call WD Tech Support. The tech can find out whether your data is encrypted based on your serial number. They may have to call you back, they won’t have the answer handy.

Most likely your data is encrypted.