Recovering data from a WD Mybook Live 2TB / 3TB (or similar)

This article was originally written in 2013 and applies to a fairly old model of the WD Mybook Live. The procedure here may well not work for you, please just use it for ideas. Also, check the comments as a lot of other people have tips!

When the WD Mybook Live 3TB NAS was released, I went out and bought one and promptly put all my stuff on it. I have never kept anything *really* important on there as I didn’t have anything to back up all that data on to. Anyway, the NAS was destroyed in a thunderstorm one day but fortunately the hard disk still worked. Unfortunately the way WD formats these NAS hard disks is very strange indeed. Normal means of recovering data from them don’t work. Scouring google for tips on how to get your data back results in nothing useful.

I tried various hard disk enclosures.. these have no chance as they all pretty much only support up to 2TB disks. I tried various ext2/ext3 windows drivers.. no good. I tried linux machines with custom built kernels.. also no good.

There are basically three problems:

  1. The hard disk is big, USB enclosures hate that
  2. The hard disk uses a (new) GTP partitioning scheme, older versions of Linux will struggle.
  3. The hard disk ext4 partition (the one with all your data on) is formatted using 64kb sectors. This is the biggest hurdle as your PC running linux will not be able to mount it!

To recover your data:

A rough understanding of Linux is useful. In short you’re going to need to get the hard disk out of the NAS enclosure, stick it into a PC running a recent(ish) version of Linux and mount the partition using fuseext2. The trick to being able to mount the 64k sector disk is to avoid directly mounting it using the most excellent fuseext2 package. You’ll also need somewhere to put the recovered files – maybe another WD NAS? Maybe not :)

Step by step:

  1. I recommend getting an old PC (with sata ports inside) and an old hard disk for installing Xubuntu (no need for ‘heavy’ Ubuntu) on. Don’t plug in your WD hard disk yet, you don’t want to accidentally format it!
  2. Once you’ve installed xubuntu or whatever you’re using, turn off the machine and plug in the WD hard disk. Boot it back up again.
  3. Start a terminal and type:

    sudo apt-get install fuseext2 parted
    sudo parted -l

  4. The parted -l command will show you hard disks and partitions labelled /dev/sd.. something. You will see both the hard disk you installed linux on and the WD hard disk. The WD one will have a label such as: Model: ATA WDC WD30EZRS-11J (scsi), have a look down the list of partitions for the big ext4 one, like this:

    4      4624MB  3001GB  2996GB  ext4         primary

    Make a note of the disk (/dev/sdb) displayed underneath the hard disk model, and the partition number (in my case number 4). The path to the partiton for me is /dev/sdb4 (it may be different for you).

  5. Now you’re ready to mount the disk. To make life easier for you non-terminal types, I’ve provided instructions on mounting it in your home directory:

    sudo mkdir -p ~/WD
    sudo fuseext2 -o ro -o sync_read /dev/sdb4 ~/WD 

You may hit various hurdles along the way. I’m not entirely sure if older PCs can support really big hard disks. If you’re using an earlier mybook world or something I believe they used XFS and software raid partitions which this blog post isn’t really about.

Remember, always back up anything you care about!

Please let me know if you found this useful, and link to it so it helps others stuck in the same situation!!

More info: Mounting filesystems > 4Kb block sizes on Linux

57 thoughts on “Recovering data from a WD Mybook Live 2TB / 3TB (or similar)

  1. Hello, question to HICHAM and others who had not ETX4 in line 4.
    Model: ATA WDC WD20EARS-00M (scsi)
    Disk /dev/sdb: 2000GB
    Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B
    Partition Table: gpt

    Number Start End Size File system Name Flags
    3 15.7MB 528MB 513MB primary msftdata
    1 528MB 2576MB 2048MB ext3 primary raid
    2 2576MB 4624MB 2048MB ext3 primary raid
    4 4624MB 2000GB 1996GB primary msftdata

    and after I try to :
    [email protected]:~$ sudo fuseext2 -o ro -o sync_read -o allow_other /dev/sdb4 ~/WD
    fuse-umfuse-ext2: version:’0.4′, fuse_version:’29’ [main (fuse-ext2.c:331)]
    fuse-umfuse-ext2: enter [do_probe (do_probe.c:30)]
    fuse-umfuse-ext2: Error while trying to open /dev/sdb4 (rc=2133571347) [do_probe (do_probe.c:34)]
    fuse-umfuse-ext2: Probe failed [main (fuse-ext2.c:347)]

    Don`t know what to do. Please help to mount to save family pics!

  2. Hi John,

    On step 4.
    4 4624MB 3001GB 2996GB ext4 primary

    I could not see EXT4 for my HDD. Request you to please suggest if that will be an issue.

    Need help Smiley Sad

    My Book 2TB HDD is detected and I can see the folder named PUBLIC in which all my data is stored – for some reasons now I am getting an error ‘Data volume failed to mount’ in the dashboard and I can see a RED light on the HDD.

    1. I read various forums and found some steps to mount the data. Those steps did not work – I have installed PUTTY and able to login to the drive, however, the steps are different like – I dont find SDA4 as mentioned in most of the steps. I am not a technical person to understand and tweak.
    2. I am able to create another PUBLIC folder using the dashboard.
    3. Self Test passed.
    4. Currently it shows 0TB/0TB – I am assuming thats because of no data mounted.
    5. Unable to update the firmware – getting an error that there is no space ‘31102 – Device does not have enough space for upgrade’

    Please help – I know the data is there on the HDD – with some technical know-how it can be retrieved. Any help would be appreciated.


  3. Hi John, I have this problem now with a 2TB MyBook Essential. I raised a ticket with WD as it still have a week or two of warranty left. However, I’m expecting they won’t help much with recovery of the data. So I plan to try your technique. Just wondering, does it have to be a direct SATA connection or can I buy a cheap USB3-SATA adapter and still use the Linux/mount technique to recover data?

    Thanks for the great suggestions.

  4. This may be a dumb question but can the drive be pulled and used with an enclosure? I thought this was possible but after pulling the drive and plugging it in, my mac says it is unreadable and must be reformatted. Before I do that, I just want to make sure that I will end up with a drive that I can use.


  5. This was very useful, thank you.
    I did mounted my drive (finally). And now I know why I couldnt do this before. But here’s a thing, I’m running xubuntu and when I open folder with mounted partition-it’s empty. But gparted still shows 222gb used data. As I see – folder is marked as rw for root. So I’m trying to run thunar or mc with root – but it freezes. I’m also trying to chmod this partitiong – but it freezes too. Any suggestions how I can view this data?

  6. Thank you very much! It was a life saver!
    I took your article’s basic idea and solved it in a slightly different manner.

    Since I gave away all my old computers, I had to buy and external HDD USB enclosure and live with it ! So, I created a VirtualBox machine using CentOS 7 – minimal iso and installed the basic packages in order to make things work.

    In the end of the day “parted -l” worked fine and I could see /dev/sdb in four partitions.
    So, using fuseext2 it worked like a charm, and all I needed to do was to cope with the inumerous I/O and bad block messages. I was able to read and copy data from the 2TB mounted partition and the sample files I fetched were fine.

    The only thing is … it is taking forever to copy (started yesterday night), and it will take probably one or more days to finish.

    While I am crossing fingers here I thought I could thank you once again for the ideas and help you provided.

    Best regards,

    Rodrigo Duran

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