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.