WD drives intentionaly built to prevent 3rd party data recovery/replacement?

I’ve had my eyes on one of WD’s external USB-3 hard drives for backup/storage purposes while traveling with a laptop as the drives both look good and perform well according to tests and reviews.

What most reviews usually don’t investigate is what’s under the hood, so I was shocked to read that these drives utilize a solution where the USB interface is attached to the drive itself meaning you can’t simply move the drive mechanism over to another USB enclosure if the WD enclosure dies to perform data recovery. I also hear that WD uses firmware on some drives with standard SATA connectors so they won’t be usable in any other enclosures! This is information I’ve read several places, for instance in the reader comments below a WD My Passport Slim review someone writes:

- I really wish that CNet would check with people who have to deal with the technical side of these drives. Sure; as long as everything goes well, we’re okay. As a computer and data recovery technician in Philadelphia, I have to deal with these things all the time and they’re a nightmare. We have stopped selling them and don’t recommend them to our customers anymore. 

The #1 problem I have with them is that instead of a standard SATA connection on the internal drive, the drive’s USB port is connected directly to the drive. This means that if the port or drive enclosure fails, which does happen, there are almost no data recovery options even if the drive is healthy, since you can’t pull it out of the enclosure. On their bigger drives which don’t have this “feature”, they somehow attach the drive to the enclosure using firmware that makes it show up as a blank drive if you pull it out. This is anti-consumer as it means that only Western Digital is the only one who can perform data recovery on their products. Even Apple let’s other people perform data recovery on their products. 

Secondly, the WD Smartware is terrible. Again, it locks you into it and won’t let you delete or reformat the drive. Also, we’ve had problems where the program starts using 99% of the CPU of a computer randomly, slowing the entire computer down. While this is a bug that can be fixed with an update, the good doesn’t outweigh the bad and it’s not optional. Get a drive from LaCie or G-Tech instead. 


- Oh yea, LaCie, now there’s a reliable brand (LOL!).

- They have their issues but at least they don’t cripple their hardware to prevent data recovery or lock you into proprietary software.



This sure doesn’t seem tempting when I want reliable backup solutions on the road.

And yes: you should always take backups, but I read about an unlucky person who had bought two such WD drives (one for storage and another for backup) and they both died on him and as explained above were unrecoverable.

Does anyone know more about these “features” and possible solutions? Like I said, WD makes appealing drives (when they work), but I’m worried about reliability.