WD My Book Duo doesn't work anymore since this morning

I hope someone has advises, helpful tipps what to do next.

This morning I powered up my computer (Mac Mini, but shouldn’t matter which type of PC) with a USB-connected WD My Book Duo 16 TB unit (with 2x 8TB RED drives) and which creates now big headaches.

I run this setup of a computer with this connected WD unit since about more than 3 years. When powering up the computer, the WD unit’s LED starts to light up, as usual, but then the unit (respectively something inside) (not sure if one or both RED HDDs) starts to make - some kind of clicking - noises. After some time it stops making these noises and the LED is having this “heartbeat breathing” rhythm. The computer OS is up and running, but does not see anything of the unit, nor its separate drives and does not ask for the “FileVault” password (the full disk encryption method on macOS), which I usually enter in order to get access to the data. However, it seems to stuck already in the recognition of the drive itself from the beginning, I guess.

Then I powered down the PC, but the WD unit did not power down itself as well. It keeps being on and the LED light stays in that breathing mode.

Pressing the button on the back of the WD unit did not have any effect. Also not the “4 seconds button press” according to the manual. It does not react and the unit keeps powered on.

While the PC is still off, I then unplugged the power adapter from the WD unit. Waited a bit and plugged back in the power adapter to the power socket (the fan then makes this usual, short-time “boost up sound” for a moment).

Then I started the PC again, not having the WD unit connected via USB yet. Once the computer was up and running, I connected the WD unit via USB to the computer. It started to do the same clicking noises, also for a similar (short) time, and then again just stalls. This time the LED light is not breathing, but simply is on all the time.
On the OS desktop, a window appears giving a generic error message, which is not of any help. It says (translated from German) something like “Error RAID configuration, your My Book Duo device (serial nr. …) seem to have problems with the RAID configuration. Start WD Drive Utilities for further information”.

This WD unit is not (and was never) configured with a RAID. I use the 2 internal RED drives separately, without any RAID configuration. I understand this error window as a generic one. The WD Drive Utilities view was not of any help either and does not exhibit any useful information about what is going on. So far I refrained from clicking on the button in the WD Drive Utilities, which is something about starting a check. As any sort of such intense “physical operation” on the disk may create a worse situation than it is already. Since the unit itself is not even detected at all (no entry in the disk utility manager of the operating system), this check would likely not even work, as there is no device, according to the system view, to check on.

My questions:

  1. Could it be that “only” the controller logic of the WD enclosure has a defect, or does it indicate definitely a harddrive defect already?

  2. Would it be a good idea, to remove 1 HDD and power up the WD unit with the remaining HDD (let’s say Slot#2) and vice versa? To see if only one (and which one) HDD (“Slot#1-drive” or “Slot#2-drive”) is affected and creates the noises?

  3. Would a My Book Duo unit generally be able to startup properly if only 1 drive would be inside (again, there is no RAID configuration, both HDDs were set up to be used separately)?

  4. I do have - for the full picture - a 2nd WD My Book Duo 16 TB unit as well. That one is not connected most of the time. Would it be an idea to swap out the 2 RED drives of the affected unit and place it into the 2nd unit, to test if then they boot up properly? So it would be the test if the affected unit’s enclosure (logic board etc) would be the culprit? Or is this not a good idea at all, since these units have this “WD built-in encryption” in place (which is “always enabled” and not possible to get disabled by customers of this particular product since the beginning)? Does someone know how this could impact this idea? Would this “swap out and into another enclosure”-test still work and a good idea or shall I totally stay away from this test, as perhaps the WD encryption is bound to the particular enclosure? And in worst case I would run high risk of ruining my 2nd WD unit with the other disks currently in there?

Amendment: just to be clear on that: I did not install nor used “WD Security”. Does this mean the WD hardware encryption is not active then? For some reasons I thought this product has a built-in hw encryption, which can’t be disabled. What is the correct understanding? Can I assume now that my unit is not utilizing any WD encryption? Thanks for clarification on that matter too.

Amendment 2: I found this community article from the past. How can I know for sure if my unit, purchased May 2018, has the hw-encryption enabled all the time or not? This topic is certainly confusing, and worrying too.
“WD My Book Duo data forever lost if Drive Enclosure Dies!”

Amendment 3:
The product detail page advertises the hardware encryption as follows:

The My Book™ Duo drive comes with 256-bit AES Hardware Encryption with WD Security™ software built in to help keep private content secure. Set a personalized password to activate hardware encryption and data protection.
Source: My Book Duo Product Detail Page

This marketing text makes basically sense. By setting a password via that WD Security software, the customer can “activate hardware encryption”. Consequentially, it would mean when not setting a password, the hardware encryption is not activated.

Unfortunately, there is a contradicting support article, also original WD source.

Do I need to turn on the encryption?
No. The encryption is always turned on and cannot be configured.

How can I turn off the hardware encryption?
The encryption is always turned on and cannot be configured or turned off.

Source: My Book Duo Hardware Encryption Questions and Answers

This official support article describes completely the opposite: hardware encryption is always on and can’t be deactivated by the customer.
What is now the correct information? Both statements are completely contradicting each other.

Furthermore, following description in the same FAQ support article describes:

Will I lose my data is the hardware encryption is used and the enclosure needs to be replaced?
The data is not lost. If the My Book Duo enclosure fails, replace the My Book Duo enclosure.

The advertised security gained through that “always on”-hardware encryption gets absurd by that description. Why? Imagine the unit gets stolen, only thieves who would take out the disks and try to connect to them to any other option of connecting SATA drives, would not gain access. But, thieves who are aware of that you only need to buy the same type of enclosure from WD, would get around the hardware encryption, as it would be automatically decrypted through a new enclosure of the same product type.
If the information of the support article would hold true, it would be not an effective security solution protecting customers as advertised on the marketing website. Unless… unless the marketing website tells the truth, and hardware encryption is enabled only with a customer set password. But that info, as outlined before, contradicts completely the support article.
So, what are now the true facts?

Thanks so far for any advises, help, ideas!

Hi @mm-europe,

Have you opened a Support Case? If not opened, for more information, please contact the WD Technical Support team for the best assistance and troubleshooting:

Hello @Keerti_01,
yes I did. The same day. So far no response yet.

  1. Yes, it could
  2. You could test each drive individually with the system. Connect it directly to the PC via external enclosure.
  3. Should be able to if they are not configured in RAID

Do you have backup of your data? And, is it important?

If you have a copy of your data, then, you could try to format the disk.

If not, and it is important files, you should contact a recovery service.

I can suggest SalvageData - https://www.salvagedata.com

Good luck!

thanks for your reply and sorry for the late response. I am still devastated by the situation.

If it would be “only” the controllerboard, that would be the “best case in this worst case”.
I have a 2nd unit of this product (WD MyBook Duo). Do you think it would work to test the controllerboard-idea, by taking out drives from unit 1 and putting them into unit 2?
Plus, if I take out the drives from unit 2 and after the test back into unit 2 - will these data remain safe? Or could the swap in of “drives of unit 1” harm the unit 2 in a way which ends with additional, new issues for my data on the drives belonging originally to unit 2?

The drives in this unit are formatted with Apple’s HFS. That unit had been connected to a Mac Mini. There is no chance to connect a 3.5" drive to it internally, nor do I have any other Mac being capable of connecting SATA drives internally.

Short answer: no + yes.

Well, I started in the beginning when these units were new to have a backup, but the copy process on these external units were so slow, that I disabled it and did this occasionally in a manual fashion - which as you can guess is as bad as not having a backup. Therefore, a fraction exists, but majority is missing. And the existing copy might even partly be outdated.

The disks respectively the unit is not recognized in the first place, so you won’t be able to even format it.

an update after interaction with WD support and further findings made in the meantime:

Since I have a second WD enclosure of the same product line (My Book Duo), I tested the disks of unit#1 (the “faulty unit”) in unit#2.
Result: same noises, same issue.

Then I tested each drive individually, meaning letting only disk 1 in, and afterwards only disk 2 in. Since I generally did not configure the disks to be used in any RAID configuration, but just being used “individually”.
Result: disk 1 is working/healthy and disk 2 is the culprit.
It also turned out the enclosure of unit#1 is not broken, which could have been a possibility.
So it boils down to be disk 2 causing the issue, which is:

  • noise,
  • letting the whole unit not getting recognized by the operating system,
  • making the whole WD unit stalling so that even(!) hard-reset doesn’t work at all. Which is pressing a button on the back of the enclosure for a certain amount of time. Even after powering down the PC, the WD unit won’t turn off and one is forced to pull the power cable from the WD unit.

One of the main basic precondition in a next step of any data recovery consideration from a faulty disk is usually: to connect such a hard drive directly, internally to a SATA port. Since USB-connected hard drives are not offering the full access to certain features required, which are essential for any data recovery tools / procedures.

Very unfortunate though, here comes a major design flaw from WD into this situation, and this is the intransparent hardware encryption of the disks from this WD MyBook Duo products.
This encryption is

  • implicitly working,
  • it can’t be disabled on setup time of such a new unit by the user,
  • there is even no clear hint from WD about it when buying, setting up and using this product.

There is a “WD Security” software, which allows users to put explicitly a password onto a drive, but this is optional to use. Not using this “WD security” may give a false impression to customers, since the hardware encryption is still active and applied by the “USB mainboard logic” so to say.

I tested the healthy disk 1 in another, non-WD USB case, and I was not able to access my data. The disk appears as not initialized to the operating system.
Since this healthy disk 1 experiment proves the hardware encryption is preventing the data access when being used outside of the WD enclosure, it is clear the same finding will apply to disk 2.

I tested another disk from another 3rd party USB enclosure (also a multiple disks unit; also used individually) with the same “USB test enclosure” as used for the experiment with the WD disk 1, and it was no problem to access this disk and get to my data. The disk was recognized as expected. Simply a hard drive as everyone expects it to be picked up by the operating system.

While the faulty drive itself creates already headache on its own, I’m now locked out of even thinking about being able to pursue any data recovery attempt, since the disk won’t be accessible outside of the WD USB enclosure by default. Because of the hardware encryption in the first place.

WD support provided infos about “data recovery service providers”. It seems therefore, that WD authorized service providers do have the possibilities to access those drives, whereas customers themselves don’t.

The design decision to put on such a hardware encryption, which can’t be disabled by the customer is not understandable. Especially since the presumed security layer is unclear how this is supposed to work in practice respectively for what is this supposed to be good for?:
the disks - assuming they are in healthy state for now - can be read by putting them into any WD enclosure of the same product line. So, this strange hardware encryption is “bypassed” by putting them into another WD enclosure, which only would have to be done if the original WD enclosure for example would be broken, or - for whatever reasons - the disks were stolen without the WD enclosure together (what are the bets). By the way, good luck for customers of this product when their enclosure fails at some point and the product might have been already sunset at some point, so that replacement enclosures won’t be available anymore.

So, where is the added security here? It’s all, but customer-friendly.

This design decision is a huge disadvantage for actual customers, and add no benefit at all (there is WD Security or other 3rd party solutions if a user opts in for data encryption / putting some access layer on top of it). Now, customers won’t be able to access even healthy drives outside of this enclosure, and in case of faulty drives they would have no chance in terms of data recovery, unless perhaps to pay expensive authorized service providers.

While WD disks themselves have a good reputation (why my disk in its prime time failed is a different question (an 8TB RED disk, which got to see maybe at max a total of 16TB written data throughout the whole “lifetime” - so like nothing)), the only recommendation can be made to stay away from specific WD USB products, which do have this intransparent, unable to get disabled hardware encryption put on.