Should I avoid Western Digital hard disks?

This content is 17 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Over the years I’ve had many hard drives and by and large they have been pretty reliable. I did lose data once when the hard disk in a Dell laptop died but then, last week, the disk in one of my external Toshiba PX1223E-1G32 (320GB 7200 RPM external USB 2.0 hard drive with 8MB data buffer) let out a “clunk” before failing – there was still power to the enclosure but the disk was not spinning. To open the enclosure and investigate further would have voided the warranty and thankfully, it was the drive I use for backups (strangely, the one which sees least use) so I hadn’t lost any data – just the previous night’s backup. As it was less than a year old, I had no problems exchanging it for a new one (although it was the last one on the shelf at PC World), but it has dented my confidence in these drives.

Toshiba PX1223E-1G32 320GB External Hard DiskPrior to the failure, the disk inside the Toshiba enclosure was reporting itself within the Mac OS X Disk Utility as a “WDC WD32 00JB-00KFA0” (a Western Digital Caviar SE WD3200JB), as does the one which is still working. My personal preference over the years has been to avoid Western Digital drives and to use drives from Seagate (one reason is that many Seagate drives have a 5 year warranty). Interestingly, the replacement for my failed disk is reporting itself as a “Toshiba USB 2.0 Ext. HDD Media”, which does make me wonder if there have been problems with failure rates on these disks and if Toshiba have switched their drive manufacturer as a result.

I accept that an occasional hard disk failure is inevitable (that’s one reason to take backups) but my understanding is that failures should normally be in early life, or after a few years (the curve is sometimes described as a bathtub); however on the way to work this morning I was listening to Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte discussing Google’s white paper about failure trends in a large disk drive population on episode 81 of the Security Now podcast. Interestingly, Steve Gibson commented that he doesn’t use Western Digital drives – maybe that’s something I should be considering too.

18 thoughts on “Should I avoid Western Digital hard disks?

  1. There definitely IS something going on with the recent larger WD drives. I’ve lost 3 in the last couple years. Everything’s fine until they start “hiccupping”. Whirrr CLUNK maybe a few times at first then it gets more frequent until it isn’t recognized anymore. ANYONE WITH A CLUNKING WD DRIVE-BACKUP YOUR STUFF AND GET RID OF IT

  2. I have a toshiba 320GB ext HD which is no longer recognizable by my computer – cant hear rotatiom. – is it really possible I have damaged disk by removing power/disconnection.

  3. Whilst data corruption would be possible (even likely) if you removed the USB connection without safely ejecting the disk, it’s unlikely that powering the disk down using the switch on the back would physically damage the unit. I imagine that it has suffered the same fate as mine and just “died”.

    When mine failed, it still had power to the unit because the blue light on the front was still working.

    If you could get it to spin up then I would be tempted to try SpinRite to repair the disk but as you say it’s not spinning then I hope you have a backup :-(

    As for repair, if it’s under warranty you should be able to get it exchanged for a new one but if the warranty has expired then it might be worth opening up the unit and replacing the hard disk inside (assuming it still has a working power supply) – if it’s the power supply that’s broken then I’d try the disk inside another PC or external hard drive chassis.

  4. Tony,
    I haven’t tried this but there are two screws at the bottom of the “stand” which will probably help. If there are no visible screw holes after that I would try carefully prising the “silver” cover off at the back end (taking care not to damage it) – I imagine (but remember I haven’t tried this myself) that there will be more screws there (that’s where the “warranty void if broken” sticker is) to remove the backplate and access the disk inside.

    HTH, Mark

  5. I’ve got he same problem, power to the case but it stopped spinning this morning. I have taken the base off and removed the two further screw underneath, but I cannot remove the case.

    Does anyone know how to remove it please?

    I want to try the internal drive as a slave device on my PC before it goes off to have the files recovered.

  6. ok, I’ve got into the casing. On the back of the driver the out metal facade is glued to the black plastic. You will need to pull this off and hey presto it exposes four more screws.

    Remove these and the drive slides out from the front. Remove a few more securing screws and you will be able to disconnect and remove the Western Digital HDD.

    You will need to jumper it to a slave device. I’ve just connected mine to my PC and it’s working perfectly fine. I’m currently backing up the data to another external drive.

    Hope this helps you.

  7. In my office, WD disks are always referred to as “Western Dodgital”.

    There’s a reason for that.

  8. Whenever I buy a disk, I buy a Seagate Barracuda – because they come with a 5 year warranty (and if Seagate believes they are good enough to offer that warranty, then I’m prepared to take the chance). Sadly, I don’t get the same level of choice when I buy an enclosure (or PC) with a disk already installed…

    Having said that, my most recent failure appears to have been the enclosure, not the disk itself.

  9. It seems to me that disk failure rates are on the increase as we try to squeeze more and more data onto them (I suppose that’s what should be expected really) so last time I bought a disk I didn’t worry too much about it being a Western Digital one… I just accepted that it will fail sooner or later and so I need to keep myself backed up!

  10. This is rather an old thread, but the problem of these external Toshiba drives is the power supply … it gets bad. Replace the secundary capacitors and all works like new again. It simply gets too hot, therefore the capacitors age extremely quickly. Alternative – as mentioned before – get the drives out and use them inside the computer.

  11. I’ve always sworn by WD after having two 80gb for 6 years.

    But I got two 500gb 10months ago and the first one failed the the data lifeguard test a month back and I got a replacement.

    Then the second one has went too. The replacement I got for the first one is in he middle of failing. I’m very disappointed!!

    I may get replacements for all but I think I’ll just sell those and move on to someone else!

    WD = Avoid!

  12. Every single Western Digital drive I ever had broke down within a year or 2. The majority within a year.

    I took a chance on the Worldbook 1 TB network drive and it broke within 6 months. The replacement just went down today and that’s been 7 months owning.

    The proplem with this is if I want to replace with a warenty then I have to send the old one in or have the Reatil price from 5 years ago put on hold with my credit card.

    I will avoid every single western digital device I can because they certainly want to make their money in volume and not quality.

    Maxtor makes a decent drive.
    Once in awhile I’ll get a good Seagate but they do go out from time to time.


  13. Dear Mark

    Thanks a lot for this “classic” but still very relevant thread. My PX1223E-1G32 stopped working last week. I was already considering taking it into the cleanroom, when I found your remarks re. the power supply and on how to open the case. At this moment my data are being copied to another drive :-) Quite a relief… Many thanks again!

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