Encryption circuit boards for My Book Essentials drives

I have a client with a failed WDBACW0020HBK-01 drive and I have diagnosed the issue to be the circuit board inside the unit (the store she took it to foolishly opened it and now Western Digital won’t touch it even though it is within warranty which my client did not know).  Of course without a working circuit board the encrypted data can’t be recovered.

In any event my question is whether or not there is a difference between the de-cryption circuitry inside a WDBACW0020HBK unit and a WDBACW0020HBK-01 unit because I can buy a used but working WDBACW0020HBK chassis/electronics on eBay.   My thought is that I’d simply attach the drive from here WDBACW0020HBK-01 to the circuit board/chassis from the WDBACW0020HBK on eBay and then recover the data.

Is this a workable solution or do I need to find a WDBACW0020HBK-01 chassis/circuit board to recover the data from her drive.

I’d also like to know which models of WD external drives don’t have this encryption “feature” so I can recommend a better solution to her for the future (in addition to cloud storage).

Many thanks for any guidance you can offer.

If the drives cane with Smartware they are encrypted. This explains a little about the boards http://community.wdc.com/t5/Off-Topic-Discussions/Bridge-Boards/td-p/353839 hope it helps.


1 Like

Yes I understand that the drives are encrypted.  This is the reason I need to find out what exactly I need hardware-wise to de-crypt it so I can read it.  The post you pointed me to says [with comments I’ve added like this]:

“If the bridge board incorporates encryption [which in my case I know it does], then you will need to find a replacement board from an identical product [meaning the -01 at the end of the P/N is critical] of the same capacity. If this still doesn’t work, and if the drive is otherwise OK, you can overcome any incompatibility by transferring the 8-pin serial flash memory chip from the patient’s bridge board to your donor PCB.”

The above posting excerpt tells me (assuming the author is an expert and knows for sure that what he wrote it true) that I will need a circuit board from not just the same series but from the identical product in order for the encryption/decryption to work with my disk drive (and even then it may not work).  It does not sound to me like I can take a WDBACW0020HBK-01 hard drive and pair it with a WDBACW0020HBK enclosure’s circuit board and expect it to show me anything but encrypted data.

I’m not supremely convinced this is accurate since it is not a WD employee posting the reply so I’m going to purchase the unit from eBay with it’s 30 day return policy and see if it does in fact do the job.

We would never recommend replacing the circuit board.  If the drive is still good, your client’s best chance would be to go to one of our data recovery partners and have them attempt the data recovery.  Switching out the circuit boards could brick the drive for good. 

I already contacted one of the Western Digital recovery solution providers and they get $549 to plus we pay the shipping to recover all the data on a 2TB drive.  That expense is NOT on the table so I’m willing to try the recommendation of several posters and some eBay dealers all of which tell me that as long as it is an identical part number enclosure changing the drive inside it will work.  Further, the recovery solution provider I spoke to (after telling them their price was way out of my client’s budget) told me that unless I de-solder capacitors and re-wire the drive as some web blogs advocate to bypass the encryption there was little chance what I was planning to do would harm the data in any way.

Frankly I think the business model WD has here is broken.  Anyone I know who buys a USB drive does so to store data they need backed up and that is important to them.  The fact that WD will NOT repair a drive for a customer they will only send a replacement blank/new unit if it is a warranty item is ridiculous.  You are forcing your customers to incur great expense and aggrevation to get data they bought your product to protect back again and washing your hands of the issue by directing them to a 3rd party in the process.  I can guarantee you that my client will NEVER buy your products again and I can’t image anyone in their right mind who would after being put through this sort of nonsense.

Perhaps the most perplexing thing in all this is why, in the highly cost sensitive retail space that is USB external storage,WD feels compelled to add this feature which is (based upon this support site) a common failure mode causing customers a great deal of headache for little added value even incorporated in the product in the first place.  It obviously costs something for it to be there and its value is highly questionable not to mention that these boards fail 10x more often than the disk drives which can’t possibly be good for business.

You will probably delete this but hopefully others will see/agree and spread the word of warning well before you do.

I’m sorry for the frustration, but you miss the point of an encrypted drive.  It’s supposed to be impossible for anyone to get the data off the drive.  Moreover, I’m sorry that your client purchased an encryption type drive, especially if she never used it to password protect her data.

As for what you said,

“Frankly I think the business model WD has here is broken.  Anyone I know who buys a USB drive does so to store data they need backed up and that is important to them.”

If the data on her drive was a backup, then she wouldn’t need data recovery.  An external drive should only be used as a secondary source of data.  I never trust any external drive as my primary data source.

“The fact that WD will NOT repair a drive for a customer they will only send a replacement blank/new unit if it is a warranty item is ridiculous.”

That’s industry standard.  Nobody repairs drives.  They ship replacements. Your data will always be your responsibility.

“You are forcing your customers to incur great expense and aggrevation to get data they bought your product to protect back again”

I’m sorry.  You are right, it is costly and time consuming to recover data.  But we’re not forcing anyone to incur that expense. That is why it is of the utmost importance that all of us maintain at least one other copy of our data on a separate medium, whether it’s on another internal drive, external drive, or dvd.  Personally, I use another internal and an external drive to maintain my backups.

As things become more and more digital, it will become more and more critical for us to embrace these requirements.  Data management must become part of our daily discipline as time goes on.  Yes, buying drives can be costly.  But data recovery is even more so.

Please understand that I do feel for your client.  I’ve been there.  I’ve lost critical data that I couldn’t afford to recover.  But, unfortunately, that’s what it took for me to get serious about keeping real backups of my data. 

If you feel you can recover her data by exchanging circuit boards, then I hope it works for you.

Probably the person who knows really about the boards is fzabkar. Try sending him a PM and see if he can shed more light on what you need to replace the bad board.


I do agree with Joe. If anyone can help you with this it would fzabkar.

I’m not an expert. I’m just relaying information that I’ve seen at HDD Guru and in private communication with data recovery professionals. That said, I wouldn’t be certain of anything, as the pros even disagree amongst themselves. FWIW, there have been some recent posts at HDD Guru when end users have successfully swapped the bridge boards without any firmware transfer. However, I’m not sure about the criteria for a successful swap.

That said, sometimes there is an easy fix:

1 Like

In this particular instance the hard drive spins up and the PC can see the USB device connected, it just can’t see the hard drive on the other side of the USB device.  I therefore am not sure this is a power MOSFET issue (I believe power is there) but something else in the circuitry.

There is no way that my client is going to pay a Western Digital “partner” over $500 to recover the data on this drive (which was a backup of her PC hard drive which died as luck with have it at the same time) so I was really looking to get an idea whether attaching a bridge board from another My Book Essentials of the same model number would brick the drive forever or not.  It sounds like the answer is that nobody knows the answer (not even Western Digital support) which is a shame.

Oh yeah, in case anyone was wondering they locked me out with the other account I created when I talked about how lousy the Western Digitial policy is on failed drives.  The notion that their knee jerk reaction to a customer with a failed drive is “should have had a backup” (when this is a backup) is nuts.

Are you saying that you’re theman22?  Cause nobody banned him.  If you are him, pm me so we can figure out what happened.