WD Elements Desktop: Removed & Mounted Internally, Win8 cannot mount

Hi There,

I have had a WD Elements Desktop 3.0TB for about six months and it is great. However I just build myself a home server and so I took apart the case and mounted it internally in my server. I sold the external enclosure on craigslist with a smaller driver inside. The 3TB disk has a good portion of my HD media collection on it. I assumed that this would be a straightforward operation, but it appears that WD uses some sort of proprietary formatting in between the USB interface and the SATA, as my computer sees an unformatted 3.0TB disk with three partitions (?). Windows disk manager snap-in  won’t let me see or access the disk without formatting it, but I obviously don’t want to corrupt all my data. I know the disk is good, no SMART errors, when used in the external case there was only one partition.

I searched around on the presumption that WD would have some sort of software tool to emulate the interface on the circuit board in the external drive, to no avail. I started running ontrack to recover the files, and it does start showing my files (so I know encryption is not a part of WD’s proprietary system), however the estimated time is 6.7 days to recover my files this way, and I am going to be hard pressed to find a spare 3TB (the drive was full) to put the files.

This is stupid…There has got to be a straightforward solution here, I can’t be the only WD customer to go through this.

I suppose WD may have an interest in not wantng customers to remove drives from external enclosures, given that often , the external kits are cheaper than the same size internal drive (or at least more often on sale). However, I am a regular WD customer, have always recommended WD to my clients, and I bought the drive and have a right to use it with or without the plastic case and USB interface, without having my data held hostage, thank you. Can somebody or a WD tech please refer me to a utility or instructions on converting the drive to a good old fashioned SATA HD without losing all my data. 

PS I build and repair computers as part of my general business and according to quickbooks, WD sold 65 hard drives in 2011 and 34 so far this year to customers I drew up the system plans and PO’s for…If you want my continued business, I want my silly little movie collection back! LOL! Thanks for any help you can provide, and pardon my frustration.

Indeed Western Digital does not want anyone taking the internal unit out of the enclosure due to the same issues that you are going through right now.

  1. voids the warranty of the unit.
  2. connections problems.
  3. firmware issues since the PCB boar is no longer attached to the unit

and many things.

I’m very sorry for the inconveniences that you are having my friend.

Hello Mate,

So let me see If I got this right.

  • You purchase a external drive.

  • You pull out the internal unit out of the enclosure voiding the warranty.

  • Now you are upset because the external drive that you purchase does not work in your computer as internal drive.

  • Now you want your data and you are demanding WD to provide you with your data.

With all due respect mate, you are not allow to open the external drive to removed the internal drive without WD approval. Yeah I know this sounds silly because is indeed your drive, however if the drive is under warranty this action voids the warranty agreement big time.

I don’t think you read the warranty policy after purchasing your drive or before taking the unit out of the enclosure, even though I believe that if you use a much friendly approach to WD directly instead of the users forums you will get a nice response from those guys.

The problem is that WD’s (and Seagate’s) external 3TB USB mass storage devices are/were configured for 4KB LBAs in the bridge firmware. This is for compatibility with Windows XP which can then work with these drives right out of the box. However, installing such a drive inside a PC exposes the drive’s native 512e LBAs, which means that the partitions now appear to be 8 times bigger than they really are, and the boot sector is no longer where the partition table says it is.

Luckily, your Elements model is not encrypted, so the solution is now to locate an external enclosure that is configured for 4KB LBAs rather than 512-bytes.

If you clone your HDD into a single image file, then there may be some data recovery software that can recognise the 4KB LBAs, but I can’t recall any at the moment.

You could use a disc editor (eg DMDE or HxD, both freeware) to examine sector 0. If you upload the contents of this sector, we could examine its partition table. We would also need to view the boot sector. The information in these sectors will be vital in determining exactly how to proceed.

I had the same issue. My 2TB element drives went in as internal drives with no issue and all data still accessible. The 3TB drive needed to be reformatted. Luckily I still had the enclosure. It would seem hasty to me to sell it before verifying that the internal mount works, but your circumstances obviously warranted it. I just pulled out the drive, plugged in the USB-to-SATA PCB from the enclosure and transferred the data to another drive via USB (this took 20 hours!). Then I put it back into the tower, converted it to GPT and had the full 3TB available to use.

Your best bet would be to buy an enclosure from eBay, transfer the data and sell it back.