Thursday, February 11, 2010

Western Digital's My Book Studio External HD SUCKS.

I hate these things. These 2TB HD's are becoming more and more the choice of clients it seems since there's a dearth of External FireWire hard drives. At a store today I looked out of curiosity and all I saw for 2TB FireWire Externals was this thing and a Seagate (I think).

The model number is WDBAAJ0020HSL-NESN. Don't buy these.

The My Book Studio has a "Virtual CD" which is persistent. It contains software Western Digital thinks you think you need and when you eject this little non-writable volume it just remounts itself. It's not even shown in the partition of the drive.

What's the Virtual CD?

From their site:

A small portion of drive space on your new My Passport or My Book hard drive has been used to create a Virtual CD (VCD). The VCD contains the WD SmartWare installation software, the encryption and password protection application, User Manuals, and other resource files. The VCD looks like an actual CD volume and appears on the screen each time you connect your WD drive to the computer.

The VCD is necessary if you wish to install WD SmartWare or if you want to use the encryption and password protection features on the drive.

If you don't wish to run WD SmartWare or use the security features, you can disable the VCD following the steps below. The VCD can be re-enabled by running the VCD manager.

WD does provide a simple two step way to remove the Virtual CD (or at least hide it, it's still there lurking) from your sidebar and desktop:

Failure to perform these precautions may cause data corruption/loss and/or drive failure.

That's encouraging. Onto the simple two step process:

STEP 1: Firmware Update: Release 1.032 (11/19/09)

Disconnect all other external drives from the computer except for the My Book or My Passport hard drive you want to update.

Ensure that the My Book or My Passport drive is connected to a USB port on your computer.
Download Firmware Updater for Mac.
Unzip the Firmware Updater and double click WD Essential and Elite Firmware Updater for Mac.
Verify the attached drive's serial number located on the back of the drive.
Select the drive displayed.
Click Update Firmware.
Drag both My Book Drive and WD SmartWare Virtual CD icons to Trash bin.
Click OK.
Click Accept the End User's License Agreement (EULA).
Click Yes.
Once the updater is finished, click Exit.
Turn off the drive - For My Passport, disconnect the USB cable. For My Book disconnect both USB and power cables.
Wait 10 seconds. Reconnect the USB/power cables.
STEP 2: Download and run the VCD Manager

Download VCD Manager for Mac to your desktop.
Unzip the utility and double click to open.
Click Continue to disable the VCD.
Click Accept the End User's License Agreement (EULA).
Click Drive to configure and select your drive.
Verify desired Virtual CD setting.
Once the utility has found your drive, click Configure Drive.
Once the Virtual CD setting is finished, click Exit.
Power cycle the drive - For My Passport, disconnect the USB cable. For My Book disconnect both USB and power cables.
Wait 10 seconds. Reconnect the USB/power cables.
Verify that the VCD no longer appears.

See? Simple. Only Two steps.

If you want to change the VCD from mounting and auto-mounting and re-mounting you have to install their software AND update the firmware on the drive. Ridiculous. If you want to change the eInk display from reading "VIDEOS 09" and display any capacity info you must install their software. If you want to adjust just about ANYTHING on these things you must install their software.

Oh yeah, did I mention that as of this post the firmware updater to remove (hide) the Virtual CD only works with the "Essential" and "Elite" drives and NOT the "Studio" ones?

I hate these things.

Here's what you see when you first mount it:

Oh yeah, did I mention that the one a client handed me appears to have been dropped......BEFORE it was packaged? There's a dent in the plastic on the rear top right (as you face the front) of the drive and the plastic was knocked out of it's snapped-into position. It clicked back audibly when I was looking the case over. The HD was sealed in a bag, the whole mess was still shrink wrapped inside the box. The cardboard box is undamaged as best I can tell.

For more reviews just look these things up on Amazon.

After installing the WD software just to change the text on the label of the drive (which I did on a media server Mac that has nothing mission critical on it and is easy to restore) it brought me to the "WD SmartWare" app and shows this deeply helpful information:

That's 114.3 GBs of run-of-the-mill Final Cut project files, saves, images, music, exports, footage...


The one handy thing?

Too bad not all of WD's drives can do this.


raafi said...

I've had bad luck with Western Digital MyBook's. I try to stay away too.

Zak Ray said...

I'd try plugging into a Windows machine and getting rid of the VCD from there. Works on my stubborn Sandisk flash drives.

bigmanathome24 said...

I completely agree, I have just had an argument with WD about their crapware, and even though the hardware, in my opinion, is very good the software is a joke. But I forgot to change the label before I formatted the hard drives :-( do you think you could upload the WD installer somewhere, so I can install it?

Unknown said...

Features like the e-label - come on, did you honestly expect your Mac to just somehow be able to change what it says? Perhaps you have a Mac from the future with firmware that just writes itself..

Also as for the (agreed) annoying CD that pops up by default, it does appear in the partition table. it is the greyed out partition called diskNs1 but while the GUI DiskUtility cannot remove it, the diskutil command line utility can.

Please do some research before you slander some of the best drives around. I own 3 My Books and love them all. Their support and quality is second to none and equal to that of Seagate. I hate when this happens and loads of people read it and miss out on a fantastic product because one person didn't try and research the problems properly!

Anonymous said...

i will never buy any WD product anymore. Its such a waste of my time. They force you to use their faulty software and impossible to remove the software. i spent 500 dollars on WD and its a nightmare. I bought toshiba harddrive which is so simple drag and drop backup drive. I want to warn everyone to not buy WD hardware... you will regret it.

Dantihesis said...

One and a half years after the last post and I find this.
Thanks. I bought a WD essential about a year ago and finally opened it and hooked it up. Unfortunately I didn't read about the software before allowing it to invade and constantly index my Mac Mini. Customer service was horrible. First you have to press one for English and if you don't it defaults to South of the Border Spanish.
I got disconnected. The help told me it was out of warranty and I'd have to pay $14.95 next time I called. The paper inside says I have 30 days of phone support after the first call, not after I open or buy it.
Called again and support told me I had to call on Monday at 11 A.M. as there was no one to help with my problem. Mac was running so slow, I haven't seen so many beachballs since 2003.
Went through the steps above that I got from WD's site and it kept telling me that I couldn't hide or get rid of that icon with the firmware version I had. I'd already installed the firmware twice from WD site.
Finally took my AppCleaner and dragged that icon to it. AppCleaner found all that was associated with this and I Securely deleted all but the uninstaller, just in case I needed it again. Rebooted the Mac and the icon is no more. Going to reformat the drive and start all over again.
Oh yeah, first support character told me they don't recommend partitioning the drive, which I'd done first. What a load.
It also didn't back up pictures that were in the Picture folder that were not in a folder of their own. I had to drag those to the drive icon on the desktop.
By the way, WD owns Seagate, Samsung, part of Toshiba (the Thailand manufacturing) and a couple other HDD manufacturing. Buffalo and Acomdata still make their own. I have one of both and a Hammer external HDD that are old and still working fine without extra software. Toshiba still makes their own too, they just sold the Thailand operation to WD.
Thanks for the article.