WD MyCloud Data Recovery Case Study: The Cloud In Your Living Room

Your Own Personal Cloud… Is Still A Cloud

WD MyCloud external drives are, as their name suggests, meant to give users their own little slice of “cloud storage”. Cloud data storage, like Google Drive or Dropbox, allows you to upload files to a little portion of another organization’s server. From there, you can access those files online on any device. It’s called “putting your data on the Cloud”, where “the Cloud” is this oft-mysticized, decentralized storage media. In reality, it’s a tiny portion of a data center on the other side of the country.

WD MyCloud external drives do the same thing as your Dropbox account or your Google Drive. Except instead of halfway across the country, the physical machine storing your data lives halfway across your living room. They look deceptively similar to Western Digital’s lines of MyBook and MyBook Duo external hard drives.

But these aren’t technically external hard drives. Rather, they’re network-attached storage devices. These devices plug into your router, not your computer, and any device connected to your Internet can access the NAS. WD MyCloud devices are NAS devices aimed at home users. However, some small business owners see them as a simple and inexpensive way to make an easily-accessible shared folder for their employees.

A personal NAS device like the WD MyCloud is a bit like having your own little slice of the Cloud right in your own home. Some of the pitfalls of Cloud-based data storage and other cloud services is that people grow complacent about the service’s reliability and how available the data they store in it is. The same holds true with NAS devices like the WD MyCloud. They can all too easily fall prey to an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality, making their eventual failure (all storage devices fail eventually) all the more shocking and devastating.

Linux RAID-0 Recovery

In order to handle the task of storing data and making it accessible over the Internet, NAS devices have a rather serious collection of hardware inside their casings—things you wouldn’t find in a normal, USB-connected external drive.

For starters, a lot of them have more than one hard drive in them. The model of MyCloud in this MyCloud case study, for example, has two hard drives, like the MyBook Duo. And as in the MyBook Duo, the two hard drives combine in a RAID array to make them appear as a single drive.

The MyCloud NAS supports two RAID configurations. One is RAID-1, which makes one hard drive copy the other. That way, if one drive dies, the other keeps kicking (although sometimes things can go wrong). The other is RAID-0. This RAID array breaks up the data you write to it into “stripes” so that both drives act as one. The way RAID-0 accomplishes this makes the two hard drives faster than a single hard drive. However, if one hard drive dies, the data becomes full of “holes” and the entire volume becomes inaccessible.

NAS devices also have their own operating systems, usually a flavor of the open-source Linux O/S, with maybe a few proprietary tweaks thrown in for good measure. It doesn’t look like this to the end user, though—like the rest of the NAS device’s guts, it’s all kept “under the hood”. This is especially true for things like the MyCloud, which aims to be easily-used, even by people who don’t know what on Earth a “Linux” is.

To retrieve our client’s data, our WD MyCloud data recovery experts didn’t have the luxury of letting the MyCloud translate everything into useable data. We had to piece together the broken RAID-0 array and sift through the Linux Ext4 file system ourselves.

The client in this data recovery case study came to Gillware with a Western Digital MyCloud storage device. Its diagnostic LED light, which normally shines and blinks blue, blinked yellow instead. This is usually a good sign that there is something wrong “under the hood”. In this case, there was indeed something wrong with it. Western Digital tech support led the client through troubleshooting the device. But, unfortunately, the WD MyCloud was well and truly bricked. When tech support couldn’t help the client get their data back, they pointed the owner of the bricked MyCloud toward the WD MyCloud data recovery experts at Gillware.

WD MyCloud Data Recovery Case Study: The Cloud In Your Living Room
RAID Level: RAID-0
Drive Model: Western Digital WD40EZRX-00SPEB0 (x2)
Total Capacity: 8 TB
Operating/File System: Ext4 (Linux)
Data Loss Situation: WD MyCloud stopped responding and diagnostic LED blinked yellow. WD tech support referred user to Gillware Data Recovery.
Type of Data Recovered: Photos, videos, and documents
Binary Read: 100%
Gillware Data Recovery Case Rating: 10

WD MyCloud Data Recovery Case Results

Our cleanroom engineers inspected both drives in the failed Western Digital storage device. While one hard drive worked perfectly, the other had a firmware bug that made it very difficult for the MyCloud to properly read it. Due to the way RAID-0 works, one unreadable drive made the entire array unreadable.

Once the engineers in our cleanroom data recovery lab had fixed the firmware bug, it went to our WD MyCloud data recovery specialists. Our specialists pieced the data back together and successfully recovered all of our client’s data. We ranked this WD MyCloud data recovery case study a 10 on our ten-point case rating scale.

Will Ascenzo
Will Ascenzo

Will is the lead blogger, copywriter, and copy editor for Gillware Data Recovery and Digital Forensics, and a staunch advocate against the abuse of innocent semicolons.

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