Anatomy of a Hard Drive

Anatomy of a Hard Drive

Why did my Hard Drive Fail?

Why did my Hard Drive Fail?

A-Z of Data Recovery

A-Z of Data Recovery

Send Us a Drive

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Data Recovery Guides

Data Recovery Guide

Data Recovery Guide Volumn 2

WD My Passport

Western Digital (WD) My Passport (and My Passport Ultra)

Western Digital My Passport, My Passport Ultra, My Passport Edge, My Passport Slim and My Passport for Mac (USB 3.1, 3.0, 2.0) are all popular external drives in Ireland. They are easily portable and come in a wide variety of capacities and colours.

Here are some of the commons problems you can face with these devices:

  • Your WD My Passport disk is not being detected by your Windows or Mac computer.

  • Your WD My Passport disk is making a ticking, buzzing, scraping or clicking noise.

  • When you connect your My Passport disk to your computer, it cannot be seen by your computer.

  • Your WD My Passport makes a humming or whirring noise but cannot be detected by your computer.

  • The light on your WD My Passport is flashing but the drive does not appear in Windows or on the macOS desktop.

  • Your WD disk shows up as “raw” or “unallocated” in Windows.

  • You accidentally dropped your WD My Passport disk on the floor and now your data is inaccessible.

Reasons why your WD My Passport disk is no longer being seen by your computer.

There are several possible reasons why your WD My Passport disk is no longer detected. These include:

Your WD My Passport disk has developed debris under the disk heads. This is normally the side effect of asperities on the disk surface. They develop on the platter surface as the disk ages and are analogous to tiny craters of metallic oxide on the platter surface. When the disk-heads interact with these asperities, debris is created which then accumulates under the disk-heads creating what is known as a “blocking temperature”. This impedes your disk-heads and stops them reading data from the platters, which will result in inaccessible data.

The disk-heads on your WD My Passport disk have degraded or have been damaged, so the output signal that is delivered by them to the drive electronics has reduced. When this signal gets too weak – I/O errors start to develop. This occurs to ageing disks. Heads can also be damaged by a recent fall or impact damage to your disk.

  • Your WD My Passport disk has developed firmware problems. Firmware (FW) is an instructional code needed for your disk to function properly. It is stored on your disk’s ROM chip as well as on the Service Area of your disk. When FW becomes corrupt, your data can be inaccessible. Firmware problems such as a corrupt P-List, G-List or translator need to be fixed with specialised data recovery tools.

  • Your WD My Passport disk has developed Printed Circuit Board (controller board) problems. This can be the result of liquid spillage or events like a power surge to your disk.

  • The NTFS, exFAT or HFS+ (Apple) partitioning scheme on your WD My Passport external hard disk has become corrupt. Your disk will appear as “raw” or “unallocated”. This problem can occur due to bad sectors, firmware or disk-head issues.

Questions and Answers about data recovery from WD My Passport external hard drives.

My MacBook’s Disk Utility is reporting that My WD Passport external disk cannot be repaired. What can I do?

This issue is most likely related to a damaged HFS+ partition table, bad sectors, firmware issues or an electro-mechanical issue with your disk. Unfortunately, Disk Utility was not designed to repair most of these issues, but with the right technical know-how, experience and equipment, a data recovery professional should be able to recover your files.

When I try to repair WD external HDD, my iMac says, “First Aid Process has failed.” How do I recover the data?

When First Aid fails, it normally indicates there is a problem which Disk Utility can’t fix. This could be due to physical problems with your disk, problems with bad blocks or problems with your OS Exteneded (Journaled) or APFS file system. Drive Rescue offer a complete iMac data recovery service.

Time Machine or Migration Assistant is not recognising my WD Passport for Mac external drive, which was used to backup my old MacBook. Using Disk Utility, I’ve tried the “Verify Disk” and “Repair Disk” functions but neither of them seem to make a difference. Can you retrieve my Time Machine backups?

Yes, we recover from external hard disks holding Time Machine backups all the time. If your HFS+ or APFS file system is corrupt, we can repair it. Likewise, if your disk needs physical repair (e.g. failed heads), we can perform this in our Dublin-based Class-100 clean-room.

I’ve been using a Western Digital My Passport Slim USB drive for the last two years. Recently, when I connected it to my Dell computer, it was not detected. When I looked in Disk Management, the disk is listed as “not initialized” and its capacity is being reported as 0MB. Can you recover from this?

Yes! It sounds as if your NTFS (or exFAT) partition has collapsed. We can perform diagnostics on your disk and find the root cause of the problem. This will help determine the best data recovery methodology, which will maximise your chances of a complete recovery.

A WD Passport disk with plastic casing removed. Notice how the USB connector is ed with the PCB.

There is no spinning noise coming from my WD Passport 2TB disk but the LED light remains on. Why?

This sounds like an electronic issue with your disk. WD My Passport disks use PCBs with integrated USB (2.0, 3.0, 3.1) ports. During the disk repair process, we first have to micro-desolder the ROM (or main IC) chip containing disk parameters unique to your drive. We then have to find an exact-match PCB S-ATA board to solder the old ROM chip onto. Performing this type of data recovery from a WD My Passport disk is not amenable to DIY attempts.

The PCB of a WD My Passport disk. The red box shows the U14 or ROM chip of the disk. This chip contains adaptive information unique to an individual disk.

The process is extremely intricate and should only be undertaken by experienced data recovery professionals. The donor PCB needs to have its own ROM chip removed first. The vacant area then needs to be thoroughly cleaned of any oxide residues as any contamination can result in an unreliable joint. The connector alignment between the ROM chip and PCB contacts must also be perfect. Moreover, just the right amount of solder must be used to form a robust metallurgical bond between the donor PCB and ROM chip.

My Windows-formatted My Passport SE 1TB external hard drive, which is connected to my USB hub, has suddenly stopped working.

Connect your disk direct to one of your computer’s USB ports just in case your hub is malfunctioning. Also, try going to Disk Management in Windows to see if your disk appears there. If not, go to Device Manager and under “USB Serial Bus Controllers”, click on “USB Root Hub”. Then go to Properties, followed by Power Management. There, uncheck the option “allow the computer to turn off this device to save power”. If this does not work, you could try a different USB cable.

The white LED light on the front of my WD Passport 0740 continually flashes. Why?

The flashing white LED light on your WD disk usually indicates that the disk electronics are waiting for a data transmission process to execute. However, if no data is being transmitted from your WD Passport disk to the host computer, the light will keep on flashing. To troubleshoot this problem, check the basic things first, such as the USB cable. You can also update the WD device driver. Alternatively, you could try running Chkdsk (Windows) or Fsck (Apple) commands on your drive.

Some of my Word and Excel files seem to have disappeared off my 2TB My WD Passport disk?

There could be any number of possible reasons why your files have disappeared off your disk. It could be caused by malware. Your disk might have been accidentally dropped. Firmware issues might have developed on it. Or the file system the disk is formatted with might have corrupted – whether that be NTFS (Windows) HFS+, APFS, (Apple) or EXT3/EXT4 (Linux) or XFS (Linux). If formatted with Windows, you might try something like Recuva data recovery software to retrieve the files. (Do not attempt this, however, if your disk has been dropped.)

I connected my 4TB WD Passport to my smart TV. Now, even though my disk still turns on, all my files seem to be missing. Why?

It is possible that your smart TV formatted your WD My Passport disk with its own proprietary format. While this feature might make TV recordings direct to external media easier, it can format disks holding important data which do not need formatting! This is a common occurrence which TV manufacturers do not warn their users about. Drive Rescue offers a complete recovery service for disks which have been formatted this way.

I have a 1TB WD Passport portable USB 3.0 disk which makes the Windows “connecting sound” but I hear a “disconnecting sound” shortly afterwards. I really need to access my data.

Although this is a rare problem, it is possible that the USB 3.0 connector has become loose from the disk’s PCB (printed circuit board). This can occur due to a weak or damaged solder joint. A repair of your WD disk’s PCB should remedy the problem and enable you to retrieve the data.

The controller board on my WD Passport external disk seems to have failed. Can you fix it?

Yes. We offer a complete controller board repair service for WD My Passport disks in our Dublin-based lab.

The head-disk assembly of a WD Passport disk. This component mounts the disk-heads which performs the crucial task of reading and writing data to your disk.

My WD Passport for Mac (HFS+ formatted) disk is making a clunking noise, what could it be?

This sounds like one or more of your disk-heads has failed. When this occurs, the heads move back and forth across the platters looking for the Master Boot Record. But, if for example, the heads assigned to read the MBR has are defective, the heads begin to make a clicking or clunking noise. In this type of scenario, the only way to recover data is to replace the Head Disk Assembly (the unit which holds the heads) in a clean-room environment. Once fitted, the HDA must be calibrated and torqued with nanometre precision. If the disk-heads are misaligned by even 1 nanometre, it can result in failed reads.

My 1TB WD Passport USB 3.0 disk shows up as empty on my Windows computer. Why is this?

It’s possible that the folders on your hard disk have been designated as “hidden” folders. While this attribute might not have been activated by you, it could have been caused by faulty firmware or malware running on a host system that your drive was previously connected to. To show hidden files on Windows, type “show hidden files and folders” into your Windows search bar and then click to select the option “show hidden files”.

My 3TB WD Passport Ultra has suddenly stopped working. I’ve tried Western Digital’s diagnostic software but it can’t even detect the disk. What is the problem?

There are a number of reasons why WD Data Lifeguard tools cannot detect your disk. These range from electronic or firmware issues to physical damage. If you need to recover the files from your device, we offer a complete data recovery service for WD disks.

Can bad sectors on a WD My Passport disk be fixed?

Bad sectors on a WD Passport cannot really be fixed. However, using the right know-how and equipment, the data stored on sectors which have gone “bad” can usually be recovered.

Can you salvage the data from a 5TB My Passport Ultra for Mac USB-C disk that’s making a steady humming noise? (The disk can longer be seen by my MacBook Pro or my iMac.)

A steady humming noise indicates that your disk is spinning but the fact that your Apple Mac can no longer see it points to an underlying issue with your disk. For a healthy disk, the HFS+ (or APFS) volume should appear on your Mac Desktop within seconds after the USB-C connection has been established. You could try running Data Lifeguard Tools on the disk to see if any SMART errors are reported. That should give you a better idea of what is wrong with your disk.

Every time I try to copy files off my WD My Passport Essential 1TB disk, my computer freezes and the copy process stops halfway through?

Defective sectors are probably being encountered at a certain Logical Block Address (LBA) area of your disk. Alternatively, disk-heads assigned to read the inner disk tracks could be malfunctioning, which can prevent the copy process from running normally. Here at Drive Rescue, our diagnostic tests can find out the root cause as to why you cannot copy files off your WD My Passport disk.

The pre-amplifier chip on the disk-head assembly of a WD disk. This chip or “pre-amp” helps filter the “noise” generated during disk reads but also “amplfies” the read signals so they can be read more reliably by the disk’s firmware and the host system. While this tiny chip plays a crucial role, it can be rendered inoperable by voltage spikes caused by liquid spills or power surges.

I spilt coffee on my WD Passport disk. It worked fine for a week, now it won’t turn on at all.

Some liquid spillages on or near external hard disks can be harmless because the disk and PCB (printed circuit board) are protected by the plastic or metal casing. Having said that, if coffee (or any other liquid) did seep into the innards of your disk and then came into contact with the disk’s PCB, it might have corrosive effects. Component corrosion of capacitors, resistors or PCB tracks can result in a short-circuit, resulting in your disk not being recognised. This damage can take days or sometimes even weeks to manifest itself. In the worst-case scenario, liquid can provoke a power surge inside your disk damaging the disk-head pre-amplifier. (This is a component under the actuator arm which is highly sensitive to voltage fluctuation.)

When I connect my 1TB WD Passport Ultra (WDBM5M0010BBL-05) to my Windows computer, I get the message “you must initialize a disk before Logical Disk Manager can access it”. Why is this happening?

This could be caused by anything from a bad PCB, defective disk-heads or firmware issues. However, you could try accessing your Passport disk on another computer system to see if you get the same error message.

My Windows formatted Passport disk is making a beeping noise when I connect it to my computer. Why?

Why is the USB connector fused to the PCB board in Western Digital external drives if this makes data recovery more difficult?

Hard disk manufacturers do this because it makes the hard disk production process more streamlined and economical. The fewer parts that their robots or workers have to handle, the lower the unit cost of production. The downside of this PCB-with-integrated-USB port design is that it introduces an unwanted layer of complexity onto the data recovery process.

Data recovery methodology using a PCB “pin-out” and IDE cable to recover from a WD My Passport disk. The IDE standard still has its uses…

The execution of ATA (Advanced Technology Attachment) and VSC (Vendor Specific Commands), sometimes essential for successful data recovery, runs extremely poorly over Universal Serial Bus. However, Drive Rescue has developed finely-tuned processes over the years, including customised tools for WD My Passport disks to circumvent these problems and retrieve your data.

The head disk assembly and platters of a WD My Passport disk in our Dublin clean-room

I dropped my WD Passport disk and I can no longer access the data.

Unfortunately, when you drop an external hard disk, it is normally the disk-heads that get damaged. These are the tiny components mounted at the end of the Head Disk Assembly which read the data off the disk platters. When they fail, the whole Head Disk Assembly (HDA) has to be replaced with a donor HDA in a cleanroom environment. This component has to be calibrated and torqued with nanometre precision to ensure perfect inter-head alignment. After disassembling your WD Passport disk, we then need to decrypt it. Even though you probably did not enable encryption yourself, most WD My Passport disks are Self-Encrypting Drives (SED). This basically means that your disk is encrypted with AES-256 by default. Before we can extract your data from your inaccessible WD Passport disk, we have to use specialised equipment to decrypt it first. The extra layer of complexity that this factory-enabled encryption introduces means the data recovery process for a dropped WD My Passport disk can be complex and time-consuming. However, we do it all the time and our years of experience mean we can perform this job for a competitive price while also maximising the probability of a complete recovery.

I understand that WD My Passport disks are encrypted before they leave the factory. If so, how do you recover data from an encrypted WD My Passport disk?

WD My Passport disks are known as Self-Encrypting Drives. They come with AES-256 enabled as default. Using highly specialised tools we can add an “extension” module to your disk’s ROM chip. This extension module enables us to decrypt your WD My Passport disk.

WD Utilities can no longer see my 3TB WD Passport Ultra (wdbbkd0030bbk-05). It keeps on displaying the message “Attach a supported WD drive.”

This problem is usually caused by the “WD Drive Manager” being set to “disabled” in Windows Services. To fix this, go to Control Panel. Then go to Administrative Tools, followed by Services. Look out for “WD Drive Manager”. Its “Startup Type” should be set to “automatic”. Restart WD Utilities and you should now see your disk again.

My NTFS-formatted 2TB Western Digital external disk shows up as “unallocated” in Windows’s Disk Management. How can I fix this?

You could try some third-party partition tools such as MiniTool to fix your NTFS partition. But bear in mind, tinkering with disk partitions is a high-risk operation even for experienced IT professionals and so this is only recommended if you have a complete backup of your disk’s important data.

When I plug in my 3TB Passport Portable disk (WDBYFT0030BBK-WESN) into my computer, it says “You need to format the disk in drive E: before you can use it. Do you want to format it?” Should I format it?

No, do not, under any circumstance format it! This message is indicative of a damaged or unreadable MBR (Master Boot Record). Your disk most likely needs professional data recovery.

I’m trying to copy data off my WD Passport disk but the message “Error 0x8007045d the request could not be performed because of an I/O device error” keeps on coming up? What is the best data recovery software to retrieve my data?

This sounds like your Passport disk has extensive bad sectors, firmware issues or failing disk-heads which are preventing you from accessing your data. With this sort of problem, it is unlikely that any data recovery software will be able to help you recover the data.

My WD Passport Ultra (WDBYFT0020BBK) disk no longer shows up as a drive letter in Windows Explorer. Why?

It sounds as if your disk might be faulty. However, you might want to see if it shows up in Disk Management or Device Manager. This might shed some more light on the problem.

The message “unable to unmount volume for repair…operation failed” appears after I run Disk Utility? How do I fix this?

This basically means that Disk Utility cannot fix your disk. You could try running “fsck” command via Terminal on your Apple Mac.

I am getting the message that the First Aid process in Disk Utility has failed. Now what?

First aid has obviously encountered problems which it cannot fix. These can include OS X journal or “catalog” file corruption. We have much experience dealing with the OS X journaled file (HFS+) system on inaccessible external hard disks, such as the My Passport, Toshiba Canvio, WD Elements and Intenso.

Are WD 3.5" disks more reliable than WD portable 2.5" disks?

No disk is reliable! Assuming that one disk is relatively “safe” compared to another can lead to a dangerous sense of false security. But going back to your question, many users equate the larger disk form factors with better reliability and performance. While the latter may be true (3.5" disks spin at 7200 rpm whereas 2.5" disks spin at 5200rpm), 3.5" disks are typically no more reliable than 2.5" disks. In fact, it can be argued that 3.5" disks (used inside models such as the WD Elements or WD My Book) are more susceptible to data loss because they need to be plugged into a mains power source. Being plugged into a wall or floor socket substantially increases the cable snagging risk which can result in a disk ungracefully falling to the floor. This is an occurrence which happens much more frequently than people think.

I accidentally formatted my WD Passport drive. What should I do?

If you performed a “full format” (Windows) or “Secure Erase” (Apple), the probability of a successful recovery is low. However, if you performed a “quick format” or “erase”, the chances of a successful recovery are much higher.

My external WD disk is unreadable. Its LED light just keeps on blinking. Why is this happening?

Your disk could have firmware, disk-head or bad sector issues. Your blinking LED basically indicates that your disk is waiting for a data transmission (or I/O operation) to take place. Power down your disk and bring it to a trusted data recovery company.

The 2TB WD My Passport USB portable disk, containing almost 6 years of photos, seems to have become corrupt. I’ve tried using macOS to fix it but the message “Disk Utility can’t repair this disk” appears.

Your Apple Mac external disk might have logical, firmware or physical defects. You could try the Data Lifeguard tool provided by Western Digital to see if it reports any specific problems with your disk.

WD Unlocker no longer works for me on Windows 10. I’ve tried it on another computer and I have the same problem.

WD Unlocker will sometimes fail to work if there are underlying problems with your WD disk. These might include problems with your disk’s Service Area, damaged OS X Journaled or NTFS file systems, physical problems or bad sectors.

I’ve tried running Data Lifeguard diagnostic tool on My Passport disk but this software does not even recognise it. Why?

This is usually symptomatic of your disk failing to initialise properly. However, you could try a third-party utility such as CrystalDiskInfo just to double-check.

My Passport disk is no longer recognised by my iMac. When I try to repair it using Disk Utility, it just says “Error: Partition map check failed because no slices found.” What should I do as I really need to recover the data from it?

This sounds like you have a damaged HFS+ partition. Typically, “catalog” and “journaling” files on your disk’s partition can become corrupt resulting in this error message.