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The story - How I broke my Western Digital MyBook Essential

Some time ago now I have purchased a Western Digital MyBook Essential. My first impressions were good: the drive was quiet, fast and did what it said on the tin. However, I only got 6-9 months of use out of it.

As one does occasionally, I was upgrading Windows on my laptop from Win Vista to Win 7. I prepared for the upgrade by backing up all my data to the WD HDD. It made perfect sense, right? Normally I would have a copy of all my important files in two places, one on the drive in the laptop, one on the external drive. However, during the upgrade, for about 2 hours, I had exactly one copy of all my important things.The moment when I finished installing Windows 7 I resolved to restore the important data back onto my laptop.

This is when the nightmare started.

The Shoddy Solder Job

I plugged in the drive into power and connected the enclosure with the mini usb cable to my laptop. All looked fine at first, so I started the data transfer... but for some reason it kept failing. The drive appeared and disappeared from the drive list and this overall confused me, and my newly installed OS. Quick investigation uncovered the terrible fact: the USB port on the SATA - USB bridge within the enclosure was loose. I moved it closer, so I could see inside the enclosure... and it fell off. It was poorly fitted - stuff like this happens all the time with on-board connectors. I really didn't think much of it. I was annoyed, yes, but I really thought it was a solvable situation.

It probably would have been, but I made two crucial mistakes afterwards.

Mistake number one - "It's only a SATA drive"

I opened the enclosure to examine the damage and tried to repair the control board. I had a soldering iron and some solder and flux, how hard could it be? Unfortunately, with the PCB's parts almost all being surface-mounted I found that I had no way of soldering the USB port back to it's place with the tools or the skills I had. The damn thing was just too bloody small. Oh well, I wasn't flustered. It was just a SATA drive after all, so if I put it into an another SATA enclosure it should work, right?


When I connected the new enclosure to the laptop, the drive came up as uninitialized. I should have stopped my efforts there and given it up to professionals. But no. I decided to try to initialize the drive.

Mistake number two - wrong bloody partition table

And all would have probably gone well, or at least significantly better, if I hadn't in a moment of extraordinary stupidity initialized it as a GPT partition table. Then, I lost all visibility of both partitions and all I could see was an unallocated space of 31MB.

What happened to the 700MB Virtual CD partition and my 900GB of data? Windows doesn't see it. And worse yet, Linux doesn't either.

I had files on that drive that don't exist anywhere else: my photos, my Open University books and coursework, scans of artwork that got lost during the multiple house moves, my poetry and prose, old versions of my website dating back to the year 2000, email archives... my heart sank. I was sure there must be a way to get it all back - I just didn't know how and I didn't have the money to pay a data recovery company to do the job.

Someone has to know how to do this and I'm going to find out.