Be very afraid of The WD Drive Manager software distributed with Western Digital’s hard drives

WD Drive Manager may erase hard drives not meant to be erased.

On wednesday last week I was doing a configuration with Western Digital’s Drive Manager. Why? Well, I was in the process of switching my files from one hard drive to another (some 500+ GB of stuff: photos, work files, backups, all kinds of designs… 10 – 15 years of life worth saving and several ongoing projects) and thought it’d be good to clean up the final destination, a Western Digital Mirror Edition 2 TB drive, before pushing over all the data.

The 2 TB RAID drive didn’t have any important files on it since I had copied everything to another external disk, which I then unmounted. I clicked the “Configure” button (which I had wanted click quite often just to see what happens). The WD Drive Manager warned me that I’ll lose all information on the disk, which, since this was what I wanted, was quite ok, so I proceeded. The Drive Manager then unmounted the 2 TB disk and by the sound of it was doing something.

Not knowing how long the WD Drive Manager was going to take to do its configuration (I’ve never done it before), I plugged in my other external HD, a 1 TB Western Digital Essential Edition (the one with 10 years worth of files), thinking that I’d go through some photos while waiting. This, I realized quite quickly, was a mistake. Huge mistake.

As soon as the 1 TB drive mounted, it got unmounted as the WD Drive Manager started to configure this other drive too. Jesus H. Christ! I couldn’t believe it. I did what I thought was best: Force quitted the WD Drive Manager application and plugged out both the hard drives.

And then I had to go for a walk, I needed some air and time to calm down.

When I returned from my walk I made a damage evaluation by plugging in both hard drives and they showed up empty. What a disaster. It was such a huge a shock, beyond comprehension, that I just couldn’t get even mad. I just… was perplexed and felt slightly sick. As I couldn’t think straight, I decided to wait to the next day before doing anything, except that I sent feedback to Western Digital, telling them about what happened and wondering how it was possible.

The next day I began assessing different possibilities for recovering my lost data. Searching the net for both data recovery companies and software.

The data recovery companies I contacted weren’t very optimistic about recovering stuff from a HFS+ disk. When asking about recovering overwritten data (since I presume the Catalog File has been overwritten and the file data is intact), one company said that it is a legend that refuses to die.

I kind of have got the feeling that these data recovery companies aren’t actually able to recover (for a notable sum of money) much more than, say what software for about 100 dollars can. I might be wrong, maybe they can work wonders but since I have no knowledge of any data recovery company what so ever, I don’t feel qualified to even try to select which one to try (does anybody have any good advice?).

Yesterday Western Digital’s Service and Support answered. Here’s the main point of their answer, without all the boring yada yada:

While configuring or changing the RAID on the Mirror you can’t connect any other device. Unfortunately if the drive was erased I do not think you will be able to retrieve the files.

What? They know that one shouldn’t plug in other devices while the WD Drive Manager is configuring! Still they don’t tell the users about this in advance. So I wrote them back.

Hello [name of customer support drone removed],

“While configuring or changing the RAID on the Mirror you can’t connect any other device”, you tell me.

I obviously know that now, don’t I, but the information came way too late.

Your software, while configuring, doesn’t in any way inform the user not to plug in other devices. That is certainly a major flaw in your software. It’s bad design and bad usability with disastrous outcome. An accident designed by you, waiting to happen.

Nor does the provided manual inform the user not to plug in other devices while configuring.

There is no way I can have known that my other hard drive will be deleted by your software. And you seem to think that a warning four days after the accident is in place?

As far as I know, you distribute a poorly designed and dangerous software with your hard drives and do not seem to take any responsibility for your actions. It’s appalling! You know of the danger but do not inform users about it. You deliberately keep quiet and thus endanger the data of unsuspecting people. How evil of you.

And since you asked, I have to say that you have certainly not met my expectations today and I’m definitely not satisfied with your service, or Western Digital’s for that matter.

Disgusted by your malevolence and utter indifference,
Pekka Nikrus

If this was 1989 I might believe that it’s normal for software obliterate data without informing the user (and that it might be the user’s fault somehow), but it’s 2009 and I know that if software does shitty things, it is the software that is shitty. Obviously Western Digital doesn’t realize what kind of latent disaster they are distributing with their hard drives.

What now?

Well. I’ll wait and see if Western Digital has anything to say anymore, or will they just stop communicating. It would be nice if they had something intelligent to say and not just state self-evident platitudes and apologize for the inconvenience (once again) but I really don’t have high hopes. Big corporations rarely seem to take interest in cleaning up the mess when their shit hits the fan at private person’s level.

And in contradiction to suggestions on data recovery company sites, I have scanned the 1 TB disk myself. I couldn’t just sit here without doing anything – I really need my files. So I checked what the Data Rescue 3 (which, to my knowledge, shouldn’t write anything on the disk it tries to read) was able to salvage from the mayhem that Western Digital caused. And well… at least I now have huge piles of all kind of files to sort through. The file names are gone and so is the folder structure which I built up for several years. Can’t really say in what shape the files are, yet, the sorting will take time. A long time. Very long.

Update October 29th: I made a Flickr set of some of the unrecoverable images: In Loving Memory Of Lost Images.

Commenting for this post has been closed. Stupid spammer idiots!



  1. Härreminjesus… *tarkistaa samantien oman WD usb-kovonsa kytkennät ja softat*

    Kiitoksia varoittavasta esimerkistä – peloittavaa huomata, että vielä nykyään tehdään niin rumaa softaa, että on suorastaan vaarallista pitää useampaa laitetta kytkettynä koneeseen samanaikaisesti.

    Jaksamista datan läpikäyntiin *kram*

  2. Vainoharhaisuudelle on siis perusteita. Ikinä ei pitäisi luottaa mihinkään varsinkaan tekniikassa. Pahoitteluni.

  3. OMG!

    Kylmä hiki tuli lukiessa ihan sympatiasta. Kiitos varoituksesta! Omalla WD My Bookilla on tosin vain Macin Time Machine -backup, eli ei mitään, joka ei olisi koneen kovo-RAIDilla.

  4. Auch!!! Du har mina fulla sympatier! Jag råkade ut för något i samma stil för 3-4 år sen (en hårdskiva kraschade och i processen att rädda den förstördes en annan hd) och börjar svettas så fort något verkar vara på tok med hårdskivorna. Jag skaffade då “File Scavanger” som hjälpte mig att få tillbaka 90% av filerna. Men det tog också sin tid att reda upp!

  5. Was the data, all or most of the 10 years worth of it, really something you hadn’t backed up at all until now? Not trying to be critical of your choices here at all, just trying to get my head around the scale of your loss, which feels incomprehensible from the POV of someone who actually does backups once a month. You have my sympathies, and the WD QA definitely deserve the wrath for such a disaster. You’d think they’d have “Don’t destroy the customer’s data” up there in the rules by now, right after “Don’t eat the customer’s babies”, but apparently not so…

  6. Jani: At that particular moment in time all my files were on that one HD yes. I was in the process of fixing myself a bit safer keeping.

    Now I see, and it’s always easy to be wise after a Black Swan, that I should have been more careful, but there’s really no point in dwelling in maybes. What’s done is done.

    At the moment I just try to rescue what I can and try to evaluate if should spend money on a data rescue company or on getting more HDs and maybe even a Drobo. The data rescue companies might extract more data off the HD (I think, none has managed to convince me about that though), but if they don’t I’d end up paying significantly more for the same stuff I’ve already have rescued.

  7. Lordy.. I’ll have to keep this in mind next time dabbling with my WD’s. I’ve once lost photos worth 2 months, and felt mildly sick then – cannot even imagine what’s it like losing 10 years worth of stuff. Take care & good luck with recovery.

  8. Personally i am very happy with “recuva”
    data recovery program, i believe it also sees the filenames etc.
    it’s free.

    good luck

  9. A3: Since I’m on a mac that app doesn’t work for me. BTW, I fixed the URL you provided, it pointed (accidentally perhaps) to some advertisement.

  10. OK so sorry about the form filling, i don’t read, write, speak or even know what language the rest of this site is in but i’ve seen some comments in English and the article itself is in aforementioned language so… i have had a similar problem to yours, the only difference is it was a 4TB hard drive from WD running on my mac. Now this was almost full up with not only all my paid video editing projects and archives but also alllllllll….. my personal stuff including almost 2 TBs of torrents i cannot and will not be able to find again. Anyway for about a year now i have been annoyed and intrigued but the WD icon in my taskbar, so a few hours ago for absolutely no reason i clicked the configure button (just to see what i could configure) i did not get any warning saying it would now wipe all 4 of my partitions or anything for that matter it just asked for my password so that (i assumed i) could make changes, however after a small duration it finished and i was a bit confused as to what it had configured. i then checked on my drive to see if anything had changed and hay f-ing presto, its turned into a 1 partition drive with no data in it… i nearly blacked out with hatred. what kind of software, neigh Company would allow the click of one very misleading button to delete the contents of one’s entire drive without any warning about deletion whatsoever. the thing is my time machine backup drive was one of these 4 partitions on the drive (which contains 2 physical hard drives) i have the feeling that even if i had used raid 1 to use the second 2TB drive to duplicate the first, it still wouldn’t have made any difference what so ever. i… i will calm down now. all is not lost, i am as we speak running a data recovery program simply called Data Rescue 3. i hope it comes out with something i can use, could someone please give me some advise if you have any. i really can’t afford to lose it all.

  11. Brook: Thanks for your comment, it’s ok to write in english, even though I mostly write in finnish.

    I’m so sad to hear that you’ve become an offer of Western Digital’s dangerous software, and I’m very sorry about your loss. I can imagine how you feel.

    I don’t know if I can give any good advice, but here’s what I’ve learned.

    Don’t panic. Don’t do any hasty decisions. What ever is left on your drive, will be there as long as you don’t write anything to the drive. This means you can scan the disk over and over again, which of course takes a lot of time, but one can only hope that recovery software gets better in the future.

    Look carefully at Data Rescue’s preferences. I wondered for a while why it didn’t recover psd files larger than 104.9 MB, until I understood that it has this silly preference that has to be changed in order to rescue bigger files. Read the manual, fix the preferences so that there’s no size limit and scan again. I’m not sure, but I have the feeling that Deep Scan and Deleted Files Scan produce a bit different results.

    The rescued files are a mess, compared to what they used to be, since the filenames and folder structure is gone.

    I’ve had very much help of Big Mean Folder Machine and A Better Finder Rename in sorting my rescued files.

    I’ve used Duplicate Image Detector to sort out all the doubles and triples of rescued files. But I hope there is better software available, I chose this one in haste.

    That’s all I have to offer. I hope there’s something there to help you.

    Have you contacted Western Digital? I haven’t heard of them since my reply. They just hide behind their big cold corporate silence and don’t seem to take any responsibility about their crappy software.

  12. Thank you very much for your extremely snappy response, i knew already not to right anything onto the drive as soon as it happened and have changed the whole thing to read only for the time being, could you be a little more specific in what and where the preferences are i have to change, also i have just started a deleted files scan which will take 3 or 4 days to complete, doyou advise me to stop it now, adjust the preferences then start it again? should i use deep scan instead?

    once again thank you ever so much, i would have waited ages to find that little preference change if you hadn’t told me.


  13. If you haven’t changed the preferences I would (to the extent I’ve learned from my own mayhem) recommend you to stop the scan and fix the preferences.

    Read the User’s Guide (either via Data Rescue’s Help in the menu bar or for example here) what it says about File Modules and Maximum File Size. I went through every file module and turned the maximum file size to zero (= no size limit) on all file types to rescue as many of my big files as possible.

    I have to say that I don’t which one is better, the deleted scan or the deep one, I just know they seem to produce somewhat different results. So I can’t help you there, sorry.

  14. Yep i changed the preferences for everything and set them all to 0, i also changed some of the other limitations like on the movie files, now i can recover ones shorter than 20 seconds.
    i have changed to a deep scan as it sounds better, but ETA is still 45 Hours.
    thank you so much PNI
    i will let you know how it goes when i’m done.

  15. But do notice, that your ETA of 45 hours, is for the first scan (looking for what might be salvaged), the actual recovery (second scan) will probably take another 45 hours or so…

    I’d appreciate if you’d tell me know how it went. I think I’ve recovered about 80 – 90 % of the stuff Western Digital’s Drive Manager destroyed.

  16. ok thanks i will, luckily i don’t have any data that i need right away.
    i’ll keep you posted

  17. Righty ho then. i have now completed 2 scans both took less time than previously estimated and although i was happy about that i was not happy with my results. the deleted file scan only came up with 500 and something GBs of my data all with no or corrupted file names. the deep scan however seemed to find 2.1 TBs (more than i had on it at the time) of my data to my delight, thing is i can’t seem to preview or open any of these extra files, i can open the files in the “reconstructed” folder but none in the “found files” folder. so what should i do now, it seems like if i recover all my data from my 4TB HD to my 4TB HD (i have no other drive big enough) then i will be writing over the data therefore destroying any chance of re-trying the recovery if it turns out that i can’t open any of my files. i do however have the option of trying to recover all of my files hopefully with file names and partitions with some Windows based software my PC genius friend suggested called Hiren USB boot (or something similar) it runs in single user mode and apparently restores your drive to its previous state, i am wary of this however since if it goes wrong and this program writes the files over themselves then i really am F****d as i won’t be able to use Data rescue 3 which apart from not having file names and a folder structure and some files not working seems to be my best bet at the moment. also i am not sure if this PC thing will recognize all my deleted HFS+ files so that’s there too just to make everything more complicated.
    anyway thanks for taking the time to read all of this, i know i sound stupid but i really am too tired to make a proper decision at the moment so i’m just taking any ideas or comments that might help my unfortunate predicament.

    (update) i have just tried to open one of the files from the “found files” folder and it did open and all it was was a text document containing a serial number, it was all corrupted with symbols and characters i didn’t even know about which implies to me that although the “found files” folder contains some kind of folder structure and the names of the files are intact, the actual data itself is corrupt. just another thing to consider.

    thanks again for letting helping me i do appreciate it a lot.

  18. I had a similar experience. My source drive died. No problem, I thought. I have a back-up WD My Book drive. However, when I checked the drive it was “empty”. I think that when the source drive died the back-up software wrote a new directory on the back-up drive to reflect the new state of the source (Seagate) drive. So right when I needed the back-up drive to save my data, WD Anywhere Back-up threw it all away. I’m still trying to figure out if there is anything I can reclaim from the drive. WD has not proven very helpful at all. I have 3 of these 1TB My Book drives plus 2- 1TB internal drives. I’m more than a little suspicious of the WD back-up software now.

    Sorry I don’t know what the boxes above are for.

  19. I’m using Disk Drill for data recovery – seems to be great:)

  20. Hey I know this post is old now but if you been careful enough not to write anything to the drive in question since this happened I strongly suggest R-Studio. Something similar happened to me and so I purchased Data Rescue and ended up in the same position you did. R-Studio for Mac was able to recover all but 40 files (out of tens of thousands of files).


  21. I’m glad to find I’m not crazy. I can’t believe this has been going on for 2 years now and WD hasn’t changed anything. I did exactly the same thing with a 2 GB My Book Studio II and it wiped my 1.5 T Seagate FreeAgent Desk (Mac). I’m scanning with R-Studio to recover the media files right now, a process that will take about a day.

  22. Hey i’m back with another great data loss story.
    Ok so a few months ago i got involved in the shooting of a feature film with some graduates from my university, I took on the roles of production manager and camera D.I.T which means as soon as they were finished filming I take the SD cards and back them up to multiple drives attached to my mac. I did this both in flats and in random forests at 3Am. So anyway one day after being sure i had backed this brilliant days footage up to at least 2 different hard drives, i did the stupidest thing in the world. yes. i trashed the whole shoots video and audio files and then oh… yes… i emptied the trash. After realising what i had done i rang the director and told him, he basically said this is the worst thing ever to have happened to him, he said he felt like i had killed his only child (not paraphrasing).

    Data rescue was the first thing i tried with shitty results, after a deep scan i found nothing from the shoot at all, not video, audio or still image. then eventually i found some unnamed audio files which were all distorted beyond recognition after 5 seconds (useful) and some images corrupted completely but with remnants of colour. so long story short i tried for 6 days to recover this stuff and nothing usable at all came of it, so we had to reshoot the whole day. disaster. btw i had not writen anything to disk at all before i found out my mistake so there is no reason that they shouldn’t have been there.

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