On Backups, Customer Service and the Persistence of Nagging

January 17, 2011


I have a “Western Digital My Book World Edition” Home Network Drive drive. It’s a single 1TB external hard disk drive that plugs into my router and becomes a NAS server. I can map it as a mapped drive in windows to access files directly, I can stream audio and video from it and it even has a built-in (albeit primitive) torrent client that I can manage from a web interface. It’s just home grade product, not very fast but streams media and stores gigs of pictures and videos for me. I quite liked it until it died on me.

Western Digital My Book World Edition (White Light) 1TBAfter 18 months of use my MBWE (for short) stopped working. It became “bricked” – no longer accessible in any way. The web interface was unavailable, the drives I’ve mapped to it from Windows were broken. When plugged in, I could hear the drive spinning but only the bottom quarter of the row of white LED lights on the front would light up and stay that way indefinitely. Resetting the unit didn’t help. Even the power button in the back of the unit went out of commissio. I could only turn it off by unplugging the power cord. 

This was tragedy. I had several dozains of gigs of family photos and videos on the drive, with 90% of them not having a backup anywhere in the world!

Lesson no. 1: Back your data up always! Back it up right now. Don’t wait like me for your media to die. Stop reading this post and go build a backup solution for yourself right now. Not convinced? Scott Hanselman said it better.

Luckily my MBWE was only half way through its 3 year warranty period. Just go to Ivory Computers where I bought it and they’ll fix my drive and I’ll have my files back, right? Wrong! Having spent over 45 minutes waiting in line at their lab, Ivory told me that they will not fix my drive. They are only willing to replace it with an equivalent unit from another manufacturer. They don’t fix devices and they don’t carry this model any more.

Lesson no. 2: Ivory Computers give bad service. Cheap is what you pay and cheap is what you get.

It was time to escalate. I contacted the local retailer from which Ivory bought the device to sell to me. They are called Tech Data and they suck. Their phone and email service matched Ivory’s bad service. After many emails and much nagging, I was told that it’s Western Digital’s official policy not to fix devices but rather to replace them with new units. Any data on the device will be lost. They are not responsible for keeping my data alive – nevermind that the device is a data storage device! What’s worse – if I try to open the device to remove the HDD and restore the data myself then that would automatically revoke my warranty! Talk about “if you can’t open it, you don’t own it”.

I was not pleased. Going further up the stream to its srouce I contacted Western Digital’s official support
. Another elaborate ping pong of messages went on until finally a superviser there was kind enough to authorize an RMA for me. He agreed that if I open the unit to restore the data I will still be allowed to send it over to WD in the US(!) and get a full refund for the product.

Lesson no. 3: If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Being persistent pays. The companies behind bad service policies such as “never fix always replace” expect 99% of customers to shut up and take it. The one percent that stands up and insists on receiving better service will eventually get it. The more of us do this, the more these companies will understand that their service level must be improved.

To conclude, I finally have a plan of action: Open my defective NAS device up, remove the HDD and recover the data in it myself. Then either fix the device’s software to run as before or send it to WD for my money back. And of course, back everything up to secondary media – DVDs will do fine as a starting point.

This is actually where my adventure begins – I’m going to to get acquainted with hacker forums, SATA drives, Ubuntu Linux, RAID configuration and other territories unknown just to get back my baby daughter’s precious photos from that darned device! All this – in my next post.

Now, why have you been reading this far when you should have been planning and executing the backup strategy for your precious home data?

Add comment
facebook linkedin twitter email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



  1. ArikJanuary 18, 2011 讘 8:45 am

    I had a similar case: my WD external drive (USB connection) failed all of the sudden. Just like you, I had years of personal photos on it.

    I didn’t even bother contacting WD representatives, as it was clear to me that they won’t try to save my data. Since then it’s waiting for me to find time to do what you plan todo. Back at the time, a friend of mine recommended me to try this software: http://www.runtime.org/data-recovery-software.htm

    If you find a solution that works for you, I would love to know 馃檪

    Good luck!

  2. urigJanuary 18, 2011 讘 9:32 pm

    Hi Arik,

    I actually received a recommendation about the GetDataBack software that you linked to. Someone I know used it successfully to restore a drive that had its filesystem corrupted.

    Stay tuned for my upcoming post about how I managed to restore the files from my WD MyBook World Edition. I hope I manage to also bring the drive back online but that’s going to be a bit trickier.

  3. ArikJanuary 22, 2011 讘 12:38 pm

    After reading that question you posted on askubuntu.com I realized that our situation is different. But it’s time that I stop being lazy and try that GetDataBack software, as it definitely seems that my only issue is corrupt filesystem.