My Passport - Can I read drive without enclosure if no password set in WD software?

I a question about WD My Passport: I have removed the WD software (as per the instruction in the manual) and have never used a password for hardware encryption on the drive. Can I open the My Passport enclosure, move the drive to a standalone computer, connect it to a SATA connector and after boot be able to read the files on the drive? Or does the WD My Passport enclosure hardware encrypt all data written to the drive even if there is no password set so that I can only access the drive contents through WD My Passport enclosure? If the latter is the case, can I switch to any other available WD My Passport enclosure or does it only work with the single unique enclosure that came bundled with the drive? I did read the user manual and all other information on the WD product page but there questions where not answered there.

I havent try that but will be nice to know if it’s posible.

Current My Passports incorporate the USB-SATA bridge IC on the drive itself, so there is no separate bridge board. Therefore you will not expose the SATA interface unless you do some hardware hacking.

See http://www.datarecoverytools.co.uk/2010/05/05/how-to-connect-and-recover-usb-only-western-digital-drives-with-hd-doctor-suite/comment-page-1/

Thank you fzabkar. I mistakenly assumed that there was a standard 2,5 inch drive in the enclosure. The special drive complicates things.However the linked page describes previous versions of WD portable drives. So it does not say if t hat procedure works for My Passport. It also says nothing about the encryption topic I was asking about. So even though the link was helpful I have some questions unaswered.

  1. would the same, or a similar, hardware procedure work for getting My Passport drive connected directly to a PC

  2. if the answer to 1 is yes, would the PC be able to read the drive contents if the users hasn’t set an encryption password for My Passport previously?

  3. if the answer to 1 and 2 is yes,would it work to replace a broken PCB from the drive and replace it with a PCB from another My Passport of the same kind and then read the drive contents if the users hasn’t set an encryption password for My Passport previously?

A comment on the linked page asks similar questions but there is no answer to them on that page

http://www.datarecoverytools.co.uk/2010/05/05/how-to-connect-and-recover-usb-only-western-digital-drives-with-hd-doctor-suite/comment-page-1/#comment-1375

The first thing I would do is to determine the actual model number of the drive behind the bridge IC, eg WD10TMVV. Either HD Sentinel or HDDScan should be able to do this.

HD Sentinel (DOS / Windows / Linux):
http://www.hdsentinel.com/

HDDScan for Windows:
http://hddscan.com/

The procedure for exposing the SATA interface is a general one and should work for any drive where the bridge IC and HDD MCU are implemented as separate chips. AFAIK, that setup is still the case for all USB drives made till today. In WD’s case, the circuit references (eg E71, E72) are probably consistent across all models, but it’s not too difficult to determine the correct points from scratch. There will be two thin parallel SATA Tx/Rx data pairs running between the two chips, and each trace will have a coupling capacitor. The order of the Tx/Rx pairs will most likely follow the same order as the SATA data interface (so that the PCB layout can be neat and tidy).

Serial ATA (SATA) pinout:
http://pinoutsguide.com/HD/serialATA_pinout.shtml

The same technique applies to Samsung’s USB models.

If the bridge IC (eg Initio INIC-1607E or symwave SW6316) supports AES hardware encryption, and if this encryption is enabled in the firmware, then you will have no access to your data, even if you have not set a password. AIUI, Passport Essentials models are encrypted, while Elements models are not, even though the latter may have a chip that supports it.

As for swapping boards, there are two factors to consider. If you think of the drive as a traditional USB HDD, with separate HDD PCB and bridge PCBs, then the HDD PCB will have unique, drive specific “adaptive” data stored in its flash memory, either in a discrete serial EEPROM (usually at location U12) or inside the Marvell MCU (the largest IC). These data must be transferred to the replacement PCB.

In addition to the EEPROM, there will be a second chip that stores the bridge firmware. I don’t know enough to be able to say whether this firmware needs to be transferred as well. However, I do know that My Book bridge boards can sometimes be swapped without modification, so it may be that you will be lucky with your Passport’s bridge firmware (you will still need to transfer U12, though).

In the absence of encryption, there is another potential SATA conversion possibility. In some (all?) cases, there is an equivalent SATA model which uses exactly the same HDA. It is then a simple matter to replace your USB PCB with a SATA PCB, and transfer the adaptive data. You need to be very careful, though. In particular you will need to confirm that the preamp/VCM pinouts are identical, and perhaps the order of the motor terminals may need to be verified.

Please note that I’m not a data recovery professional, so the above information may contain errors. That said, even the professionals can’t seem to agree on everything. If you go to HDD Guru, you’ll see what I mean.

Thank you, very informative reply! I should say that I don’t have the problem described with my drive enclosure so far. I’m asking in advance because of bad experiences with other (not WD) external harddrives and want to read up on the worst case scenarios.

fzabkar wrote:
If the bridge IC (eg Initio INIC-1607E or symwave SW6316) supports AES hardware encryption, and if this encryption is enabled in the firmware, then you will have no access to your data, even if you have not set a password. AIUI, Passport Essentials models are encrypted, while Elements models are not, even though the latter may have a chip that supports it.

I have the model named only My Passport.

http://wdc.com/en/products/products.aspx?id=640 . Compare to My Passport Essential http://wdc.com/en/products/products.aspx?id=440 . They look a little different but might have the same underlying hardware.

You may be able to determine whether AES encryption is active by examining sectors 0 and 1 of the external drive. You could use freeware tools such as HxD or DMDE to do this. If you upload these sectors, I would be most interested in examining them.

HxD - Freeware Hex Editor and Disk Editor:
http://mh-nexus.de/en/hxd

DMDE (DM Disk Editor and Data Recovery):
http://softdm.com/download.html