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

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

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

  1. Thanks for the excellent article!

    After a lightning strike, the logic board for my WD My Book Live 3TB died. A small addendum for others following this guide – ensure that your Linux distro is fairly current. My Ubuntu installation was quite old and I needed to update it considerably for this procedure to work.

    After updating my distro, I used your instructions and am able to mount the correct drive partition without errors. However, I am unable to see anything in the folder where the contents should be shown. The drive seems to work fine, and all partition data seem to be in good condition. Any recommendations in that direction?

    Thanks,

    Randall

  2. Hi Randall,

    Glad it helped and thanks for the feedback.

    If you mount a directory while still in the mountpoint, eg:

    cd /dev/cdrom
    mount /dev/cdrom

    it will appear empty, you have to cd up out of that dir and go back in. That might explain it?

    Otherwise I’m not totally sure what the problem could be. If there’s some kind of serious issue I’d have a look at the output of dmesg. It could be that even though the disk mounts, it’s damaged in which case you can check and/or fix with badblocks.

    Cheers,
    John.

  3. Hey John,

    Thanks for your earlier reply – sorry it took so long for me to get back on this…

    Here is what I am encountering:

    * Successfully create directory under Home folder
    * Successfully access new directory
    * Successfully complete your procedure above
    * Attempt to access new directory (through the terminal or through Dolphin on Ubuntu) and receive Permission Denied message

    Basically, it seems like once fuseext2 mounts the contents and (if I understand correctly) syncs its contents to the new directory under my Home folder, fuseext2 might be commandeering ownership of my new folder. I don’t otherwise see how I can’t access something under my own Home folder.

    Did you encounter this issue and do you possibly have any suggestions?

    Thanks again,

    Randall

  4. Hey John,

    An additional note:

    Through trial and error, I have verified that I lose access to any directory I create (even though it is under my Home folder) as soon as fuseext2 mounts my drive’s content.

    * I create the directory
    * Access it successfully
    * Leave the directory
    * Mount the drive with fuseext2
    * Attempt to access the directory
    * Receive a Permission Denied message

    When I reboot my Linux server, my access is restored to those directories because fuseext2 is not yet attempting to mount the drive yet.

    Randall

  5. John, great writeup – saved me a lot of time recovering my data from my 3TB MyBookLive after it became inaccessible through the network socket. Thank You!

    BTW what media storage solution did you subsequently get to replace your 3TB drive, or did you stick with WD? I’ve got a replacement coming for mine as it was only 9 months old, but am wondering if I really want to go the WD route again; but not sure what would be better! Any ideas appreciated… Mike

  6. I had the same problem as Randall but I got it to work by doing the following:
    - removed the 2tb hdd from my book live case
    - removed network card so I can access the Sata port and power.
    - plugged the hdd into my computer via Sata cable.
    - Start computer and boot Ubuntu from cd.
    - using Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (ran from cd without installing)
    - followed instructions above, got permission denied.
    - reset the root password using terminal:

    sudo passwd root

    - enter the new password, confirm.
    - log out of Ubuntu
    - log in as root
    - Follow the instructions above
    - Presto.

    I plugged in a USB hdd to transfer the files across.

  7. - Forgot to add that I needed to enable the Universe library to get fuseext2. I used an Ethernet connection for Internet access as it requires a download.

    System -> Preferences -> Software Sources

    Check the universe option and click close.

    - It will load the required libraries from the Internet. If it fails with a bad code, uncheck and close, then go back, recheck the box and close.

    - After that the following command worked fine.

    sudo apt-get install fuseext2 parted

  8. Hi all,
    First, I was surprise to see that all the comments are made on july. programmed obsolesence ???
    I have the same problem except I do not have a pc to insert the disk. So I inserted it in a USB case.
    Is it possible to access it in this way?
    Tks

  9. Hey Mike,

    I have not yet replaced the NAS, I have been considering just using a USB enclosure together with a raspberry pi and ‘torrentsync’ which is basically a roll-your-own dropbox thing. Once I get some free time (who knows when) I’ll set it up and write up on here.

  10. Hi hicham,

    I had a lot of trouble trying to get the data off this way as most enclosures only support a max of 2TB.. yours may differ though so perhaps worth a try.

  11. I tried exactly the process up (ubuntu…) and whenI entred the command : sudo parted -l
    I had :
    Number Start End Size File system Name Flags
    1 15,7MB 528MB 513MB primary
    2 528MB 2576MB 2048MB ext3 primary raid
    3 2576MB 4624MB 2048MB ext3 primary raid
    4 4624MB 2000GB 1996GB primary

    the number 4 doesn’t have an ext
    Someone know why the 4th partition doesn’t have a file system ?
    tks

  12. I also had the same problem as a couple of people above, where only root had access to the mount point once it was mounted. The proper solution appears to be the “allow_other” option of fuseext2, to allow users other than root to access the mounted drive.

    So based on the command line above, this would be:
    sudo fuseext2 -o ro -o sync_read -o allow_other /dev/sdb4 ~/WD

    If you’ve already mounted it without this, you can use “sudo umount ~/WD” to unmount it and start again, without needing to reboot.

  13. Finally someone with actual knowledge rather than suggestions. :-)
    I’ve managed to get this to work under Lupu Puppy Linux run from a live DVD with with an internet connection. Puppy is built from Ubuntu Lucid binaries so I just enabled the repository in the package manager and followed the rest of the instructions (omitting the sudo command as puppy user is root) this also makes the mounted WD directory accessible straight away.
    Someone mentioned planned obsolescence: I think the damage to WD MyBookLive and WD’s reputation occurred when a firmware update trashed an enormous number of their products. I’ve gone through all sorts of de-bricking attempts, rewriting older versions of the firmware using a script which remakes the Raid drive and copies any version of the firmware. Unfortunately I still could not access the data partition via the network socket. Now I’ve managed to recover everything I can retry with the destroy flag set to rewrite the partition table etc. as a last resort to recover my MyBookLive.

  14. Not entirely sure why that would happen.. might be worth trying gparted or fdisk -l, though I’m not entirely sure fdisk can work with guid partition tables…

  15. Even if you hit a brick wall with this, there are ways of getting the files off the drive. I can’t remember exactly what tool you need to use, imagerestore or something.. basically it just reads data off the disk and tries to get files – it’s certainly far from ideal.

    Unfortunately I’m no expert, I simply wanted to write down my experiences here in the hope of helping others in a similar situation.

    Merry Christmas, hope you get your data back!

  16. Hi, I’ve tried the above procedure but after sudo part -l i get Error: /dev/sda: unrecognised disk label and it does not show the 3tb wd drive. Could this be cause im using mint15?

    Error: /dev/sda: unrecognised disk label

    Model: ATA Hitachi HDS72161 (scsi)
    Disk /dev/sdb: 165GB
    Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B
    Partition Table: msdos

    Number Start End Size Type File system Flags
    1 32.3kB 165GB 165GB primary ntfs boot

  17. I’m having the same details returned on my WD MBL 2TB drive as reported by Hicham. Unlike some reports found elsewhere, my drive does not appear to have an identifiable ext for partition 1 or 4 when queried.

    I have read elsewhere that a corrupt SuperBlock may be a cause for this. When attempting to restore superblocks I specify the EXT4 file system but all of the other superblocks don’t seem to fit the file system and cannot be restored. I’ve also read that the 2TB model consists of a single-physical disk raid which must be addressed (http://superuser.com/questions/436341/cant-mount-filesystem-on-hd-that-came-from-wd-nas) before access to the underlying file system is possible.

    The first question is, are we sure that the file system for partition 4 on the MBL 2TB is EXT4? I’ve been hunting for WD specifications that indicate the underlying file-systems for each partition but may have missed something obvious in my frustration…

    The next is, is there any reason to assume that the RAID identified in partitions 1 and 2 also extends into (or otherwise obfuscates) the fourth partition?

    Of course, any other guidance is appreciated but there’s no need to suggest R-Linux or Disk Internals Linux Reader. Neither have had any luck mounting the partition in a USB cradle or on SATA in the tower. I’m fairly confident that the drive is still good but have exhausted my obvious courses of action and am catching a little “haven’t-focused-enough-attention-on-linux karma” as well.

    For whatever it’s worth, this is my 3rd WD NAS device down out of 5. The 2TB was purchased when I had to replace an older 1TB model. (less than a year ago.) There was no traumatic event, these things just fail. In my eyes, the expenses in time, misery and lost data so greatly exceed the cost of the device or the value of the solution that I couldn’t buy another one, even if I was feeling lucky.

    Finally, I have also read that there is something unique about Ubuntu that makes it more difficult to mount these drives. That the WD format is a “Mac” version of EXT4? More crack smoke perhaps?

  18. Thanks! This definitely saved me some time. It’s copying VERY slowly, though, about 75kbps. It’ll almost be faster to download it from my other backup on a cable modem link across the country.

  19. Hi BD,

    I found that I couldn’t get the data off the disk if I used a USB enclosure although I had a 3GB disk.

    I think another issue is that WD change their partitioning schemes etc for different releases of the WD mybook so it’s hard to say exactly what the problem is. Without literally tinkering with your drive I can’t be sure. Here’s some tips though:

    • Use a modern distro from a livecd/live usb stick to do the work, some old tooks aren’t very good.
    • Use the fuse mount command as described in the post, it seems to work well.
    • Try using parted rather than fdisk, parted supports GUID partitions I believe.
    • Google some other solutions, my one was fairly specific to 3TB disks..
    • Keep in mind the data/drive may actually be damaged so maybe try running ‘badblocks’ on it. (or spinright! haha)
  20. Just a quick general comment – thanks for your comments everyone! It’s slightly worrying that this post is so popular.. obviously WD are doing something wrong.

    Just remember that your data isn’t safe unless you have an offsite backup!

    Also, I apologise for not replying sooner to people’s comments. I’m quite busy with lots of stuff and have a family too so free time isn’t something I have much of!

  21. Hi – thanks for the article. This gives me hope that I might be able to recover my data from a Seagate Central 3TB that I’m no longer able to access. I’ve removed the HDD from the housing, and got the same error when trying to mount the drive using Ubuntu (which I should note, I’m new to Linux) which is how the Seagate support team suggested I might be able to try to recover my data.

    So, I tried your instructions above, however it didn’t seem to work as I still cannot access or mount the drive (the 2nd model below). I think this might be due to not having the same results after using the ‘sudo parted -l’ as you, and thus not having the correct path to mount? Or maybe it did mount, and I need to do something further to actually get to the data? I’m at loss..,

    My results are below, would you be able to suggest an additional resoultion – I REALLY appreciate it! Thanks in advance!

    ssoong@ssoong-Latitude-E6410:~$ sudo parted -l
    Model: ATA ST9250410AS (scsi)
    Disk /dev/sda: 250GB
    Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B
    Partition Table: msdos

    Number Start End Size Type File system Flags
    1 32.3kB 41.1MB 41.1MB primary fat16 diag
    2 41.9MB 828MB 786MB primary ntfs boot
    3 828MB 182GB 181GB primary ntfs
    4 182GB 250GB 68.5GB extended
    5 182GB 246GB 64.3GB logical ext4
    6 246GB 250GB 4149MB logical linux-swap(v1)

    Error: Unable to satisfy all constraints on the partition.

    Model: Linux device-mapper (linear) (dm)
    Disk /dev/mapper/vg1-lv1: 2995GB
    Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B
    Partition Table: loop

    Number Start End Size File system Flags
    1 0.00B 2995GB 2995GB ext4

    ssoong@ssoong-Latitude-E6410:~$ sudo mkdir -p ~/SG3tb
    ssoong@ssoong-Latitude-E6410:~$ sudo fuseext2 -o ro -o sync_read /dev/mapper/vg1-lv1 ~/SG3tb
    ssoong@ssoong-Latitude-E6410:~$ sudo lvdisplay
    — Logical volume —
    LV Name /dev/vg1/lv1
    VG Name vg1
    LV UUID 0BDfLf-Hth4-iy0g-xg0W-MBp2-kWC2-6gl6eJ
    LV Write Access read/write
    LV Status available
    # open 4
    LV Size 2.72 TiB
    Current LE 714106
    Segments 1
    Allocation inherit
    Read ahead sectors auto
    – currently set to 256
    Block device 252:0

  22. Hmm.. I’m tempting to do this … I just need to find time and download Ubuntu.
    I had 2 out of 4 WD MyBookLive 3 TB failed on me. It just died. It was working 15 minutes ago and then the Red light of Death came on.
    Good thing everything was still under warranty when it happened so lucky me to get another replacement of “crap” drive.
    Bad thing that I had to use the data recovery service once and paid them tons of dead presidents for I’m sure a pretty easy restore since there was no physical damage. The thing just died.

    I wonder if the new WD “my cloud” drive is any good since I’m sure WD realize the MyBookLive edition is evil!

  23. Hi,

    when I run “sudo parted -l” I can see the disk. “….Model: WDC WD20 EURS-63S48Y0 (scsi)……” but there are no partitions listed under neath.

    Using USB dock and running Ubuntu.

    Any ideas?

    Thanks!

  24. Oh this sounds great. I was getting quite desperate. At the moment I still have to try it.
    I must say, that concerning a NAS and Linux I am a true END USER. And I still do not comprehend why WD pruduces this kind of crap.
    I will try your hints and tips, they sound promising.
    thx

  25. Hi John,

    Thanks for this info! Looks promising, I can see the disk and partitions, but when I try to mount using “sudo fuseext2 -o ro -o sync_read /dev/sdb4 ~/WD ” I get the below error;

    Open_ext2 Error:2

    Any idea’s on this? I’m using a USB caddy and running Ubuntu 12

    Thanks!

  26. Thank you for this Post. It helped me view the files of a single raid 1 disk MBL duo on Linux Mint. I also saw Windows solutions but did not try yet because I wanted to be able to use rsync to a new drive.
    I like the MBL form factor and power consumption. My drives were damaged by power fluctuations before a storm caused black-out. The power went off/on/off 5 or 6 times in under a minute. Since the MBL powers-on automatically, this can damage the drives. A PC would have stayed off on the first power cut. I believe a UPS of some sort is mandatory. I now use a 12v Belkin UPS from an AT&T uVerse. On top of the MBL, I also use a 3inch CPU fan with the 5v (Red wire) and 5v wall-slug very quiet and brought HDD temps from 150 to under 100 deg f.
    And I agree with you completely – you data isn’t safe unless it is backed-up in multiple off site locations. For work we use LTO’s tape to off-site.

  27. I can mount the drive with fuseext2 however it hangs when trying to ls a directory.

    I have spent about 6 hours going through all options of fuseext2, but with no help. Debug doesn’t show anything in particular. The cpu stays at 100% forever.

    Any ideas?

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