So you *really* want rid of SmartWare? Come this way

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.


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.

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.  :angry:

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.

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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.  :smiley:

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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.

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@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.


[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~

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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.

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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.

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So if i remove the hard drive from the enclosure, wipe it using DBAN, then put it in a different enclosure, will i be able to use it without the “stub” you were talking about?

I’m trying to clone my hard drive with acronis and put this in my computer so having the drive be completely blank is very important to me. Thanks in advance.

I am about to sell my WD network drive and would like to ‘Wipe’ it properley before selling it. I have searched the net for an answer, but have been unable to find a suitable solution. I have a number of disc wiping apps, but none recognise a network drive?

Is my only option to remove it from its enclosure? As I am selling it, I would prefer it stayed in good condition.

Any help would be appreciated…


Unfortunately the above posts address the previous version of the drive.

The newer drives have the USB support and Smartware/VCD code integrated into the firmware of  the disk’s built-in controller.  I.e., even if you remove the drive from the enclosure, there is no way to attach it to a standalone SATA controller, since the interface is different.

The approx 663MB of the 1TB drive I have remains hidden and unavailable for use.

WD’s link only provides for removing the automatic activation of VCD and Smartware.

What I’m looking for is a disk firmware update to completely remove the SmatWare/VCD code and reclaim the 663MB.  After all, I paid for this space!

I guess it would be possible to fix the problem by updating the disk controller’s firmware, much like HPA can be updated for those disks that come with that installed.  But before embarking on that I’d like an “official” solution…

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The drive is in every regard a standard serial ATA Caviar Black model, same as what you can buy in an OEM or retail package. It is connected to a bridge board with an Oxford Semiconductor bridge IC on it. The bridge IC has a small firmware ROM where microcode that it uses to start up (it has an embedded ARM processor). WD has customized this firmware to go looking for what is probably a disk image file containing the SmartWare.

When it finds this, a virtual CD device is created. (Actually, it appears that the firmware goes right on and creates the VCD first, even if there is no underlying SmartWare to back it up. Then you have a VCD with nothing in it.)


Your network drive may have a wiping function in the web administration interface (or, if it hasn’t got a web administration interface, through any administration software it may have shipped with). So long as it does, you can use it to perform the erasure of the drives.

You would only have to remove the drive(s) from their enclosure if there is no wiping or security erase option present in the administration software for the device. Not having a WD networked drive (and having a low opinion of the network attached storage devices that I’ve seen being sold), I could not say for sure.

WD_Guru wrote:!!&p_li=&p_topview=1

The problem is that this information is completely false for owners of My Book Studio Edition drives. There is no way to hide the VCD for these drives. It will not work because there is no firmware updater available.

I’m hoping that Western Digital is going to come up with a solution RSN. But since it appears that they can’t even update their web site to reflect the fact their is NO WAY to remove SmartWare from a My Book Studio Edition, I don’t hold out much hope. It’s been three weeks since I registered for this forum, and I absolutely refuse to believe that a note couldn’t have been added to the web site in that time.

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zaphodnl wrote:

Unfortunately the above posts address the previous version of the drive.


The newer drives have the USB support and Smartware/VCD code integrated into the firmware of  the disk’s built-in controller.  I.e., even if you remove the drive from the enclosure, there is no way to attach it to a standalone SATA controller, since the interface is different.

The approx 663MB of the 1TB drive I have remains hidden and unavailable for use.

WD’s link only provides for removing the automatic activation of VCD and Smartware.


What I’m looking for is a disk firmware update to completely remove the SmatWare/VCD code and reclaim the 663MB.  After all, I paid for this space!


I guess it would be possible to fix the problem by updating the disk controller’s firmware, much like HPA can be updated for those disks that come with that installed.  But before embarking on that I’d like an “official” solution…

I beg to differ. It’s certainly not impossible that Western Digital could have devised a proprietary connector for drive and bridge card. But it’s not good business to do so–it requires the expenditure of time, resources and money to devise a new connector and drive type. Therefore it seems unlikely. (Of course, handling SmartWare the way they presently are is not particularly good business either.)

I am also seeing a large quantity of these drives (as part of an order placed for a client who does not care about SmartWare) and so far they have all been conventional SATA units inside. These are the USB only drives that are the subject of the firmware update and VCD hiding tool. So far they are nothing other than conventional Caviar Black SATA drives. No HPA or DCO has been set on them. Nor is there any variation in firmware level from retail or OEM packaged drives. Any of the SmartWare techniques are taking place in the firmware running on the SATA to USB bridge IC.

Sorry if I wasn’t clear in my previous post.

I took the 1TB drive out from the enclosure - pretty easy.  The drive is a WD SATA drive called WD10TMVV, manufactured 25 Oct 2009.  However, the additional ROM is not on a separate daughter board - it is integrated into the main (big) circuit board, as is the light guide for the status light. This drive-size circuit board cannot be removed without removing a retaining metallic tape.  The drive and board do not have standard SATA connectors.

Compared to my WD Scorpio Blue 750GB SATA drive type WD7500KMVT, manufactured 21 Aug 2009, the (big) circuit board is different.

Can provide the detailed pictures of both drives if you need them.  Wasn’t able to paste them here.

That’s really strange. I hadn’t noticed that in any of the drives I was handling, some of which had later manufacturing dates. I would love to see one of these drives in person, as there seems to be very little information around about them. (I tried running a search against the model number.)

I wouldn’t have thought that WD would actually go the trouble of making a drive with a USB connection right on board and no bridge board. Considering how they’re unable to arrive at a simple, effective and immediate removal tool for SmartWare, though, things are approaching the point where nothing at all would surprise me. (Seriously. This post is now at least a month old.)

If you can post some pics of the drive to a site like Flickr (or a personal web site, if you have one) you could send me some links in a private message if you’d like.