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Western Digital External Hard Drives – SmartWare Removal

04/18/10

Posted By Dave

Independent Security Specialist

Toymaster Security Lab

I have had some queries lately regarding Western Digital external hard drives and the included software named SmartWare.  It seems a number of purchasers of Western Digital external hard drives do not like to imbedded software, how it works, or the system resources it consumes.  They would much prefer to use the backup software they already have and are used to.  This subject has come up so many times (today again, in fact) in the past six months that I decided to write this paper.

I must say that I am not surprised, and I feel the same way.  I personally dislike SmartWare and the way it operates.  It does not give any granular control or choices as to exactly what is backed up, and it can start up and use a lot of system resources at the most inopportune times.  Further, I have found that not all the files you assume will be backed up are indeed backed up.  Sometimes, files you might consider very important are left alone with no backup.

No problem, you say, I will just remove the program.  So, off you go to the control panel and merrily remove SmartWare from your computer.  It is now gone, right?  Wrong.  It is only gone until the next time you restart your computer, or plug the external hard drive back in again.  In addition, if you check, the virtual CD with Smart Ware is actually still running.  Yeah, but the icon is now gone from my tool tray.  Trust me, the virtual CD is still running.

It seems the next step for most users is to fire up their trusty browser, and use a search engine to find out how to remove this stuff and regain full control of the new external hard drive.  Believe me when I say that a search will yield a ton of results and a whole lot of very bad advice on this subject.  Many users I have seen commenting on forums and asking for help are so upset they indicate they will never buy a Western Digital external drive again, and are now purchasing another new external drive from Seagate, Maxtor etc. that they can be happy with.  One individual on a forum that was quite belligerent indicated he was so frustrated he trashed four (that’s right, 4)  1 TB WD external drives and went out and bought four more new ones from Seagate.  Boy what a waste of money and time.  He will be learning the hard way that Seagate external drives are actually not as good and do not last as long, plus they run hotter.

This is all most unfortunate because Western Digital actually makes excellent, high quality hard drives, both external and internal.  I have been a big fan of WD drives for quite some time now, and have never had any real problems with any of them.  Most of my external drives have run 24/7/365 for around seven years before they start to die.  The real problem is too many people that do not know what they are doing, searching the Internet for advice from a lot of other ‘experts’ that do not know what they are doing or talking about either.  The end result is a lot of unhappy and frustrated folks that didn’t need to be that way, all because of lack of knowledge and bad advice.  But gee, if it was on the Internet on a forum with [perceived] technical experts, and they say this cannot be removed; they must be right, right?  Wrong again.

The whole issue can be easily resolved if any of these people, ‘experts’ included, would stop yelling and talking about things they have no knowledge of and try something novel for a change – contact the manufacturer.  Gee, what a refreshing new concept!  If Western Digital made it, they might just have the answer, right?  Yes – correct for a change.  So there is a solution?  You bet there is, and it is a very good one.

Western Digital explains the situation this way:

“A small portion of drive space on your new My Passport or My Book hard drive has been used to create a Virtual CD (VCD). The VCD contains the WD SmartWare installation software, the encryption and password protection application, User Manuals, and other resource files. The VCD looks like an actual CD volume and appears on the screen each time you connect your WD drive to the computer.

The VCD is necessary if you wish to install WD SmartWare or if you want to use the encryption and password protection features on the drive.

If you don't wish to run WD SmartWare or use the security features, you can disable the VCD following the steps below. The VCD can be re-enabled by running the VCD manager”.

The entire solution, complete with Firmware update files and VCD manager to control the virtual CD is located here:

http://www.wdc.com/wdproducts/updates/?family=wdsmartwareutilities

How ‘bout that – they made it, and they do indeed have the solution!  Don’t condemn a good hard drive just because you don’t like the software that comes with it.  A lot of users actually like the software and it is the only backup solution they have.  You have to admit that the encryption and password protection features are also very useful for the average non-technical user as well.

To keep things as simple as possible for you, I have used this procedure on four external drives already and it works flawlessly.  I also have some recommendations for you as we go through the instructions together so everything will go quite smoothly for you, I promise.  These instructions are from the Web page at Western Digital at the link location I have provided above.  If you are ready, here we go:

Virtual CD (VCD) Manager  

Instructions

IMPORTANT: The following precautions must be performed before installing the firmware update:

  • All AntiVirus software MUST be disabled
  • All Anti-Spyware software MUST be disabled
  • ANY and ALL programs that would require drive access during the update MUST be disabled

Failure to perform these precautions may cause data corruption/loss and/or drive failure.

How to install the Virtual CD Manager

Windows® XP, Windows Vista®, Windows 7

I have found from experience that the following is also quite true – Please follow my steps below in order, and do not disable security software just yet.

  • This also works on Windows 2000 SP 4
  • You should actually begin by making sure Auto Play (Auto Run) is disabled (You know that you should not be running this anyway, right?)
  • You should then safely eject and disconnect your external drive(s)
  • After the reboot, connect only the drive with Smart Ware on it [if you have more than one, you will have to repeat this procedure for each drive – do only one connected drive at a time, leave the other(s) disconnected]To save time, open your browser and download the files to a WD folder you create on your desktop so they are ready to go.  Put each download in a separate named sub-folder so you won’t get confused as to which file is which.
  • Close your browser
  • Unzip (extract) each file to the folder it was downloaded into
  • Reboot your computer, but disconnect from the Internet
  • Exit any automatic disk defrag programs you might have installed
  • Exit any backup software you have installed
  • Now you can disable (exit) your security software
  • Connect the external drive you will be working with

Now on to Western Digitals’ instructions:

STEP 1: Firmware Update: Release 2.003 (3/4/10)

Before running the Virtual CD Manager, you must first update the firmware on your hard drive.

  1. Disconnect all other external drives from the computer except for the My Book or My Passport drive you want to update.
  2. Ensure that the My Book or My Passport drive is connected to a USB port on your computer.
  3. Download the Firmware Updater for Windows.
  4. Unzip the file and double click to open the Firmware Updater.
  5. Click Continue to update the firmware.
  6. Click Accept the End User's License Agreement (EULA). The updater will scan the drive which may take a few minutes.
  7. Verify the attached drive's serial number located on the back of the drive.
  8. Click Update Firmware.
  9. Once the updater is finished, click Exit.
  10. Turn off the drive - For My Passport, disconnect the USB cable. For My Book disconnect both USB and power cables.
  11. Wait 10 seconds. Reconnect the USB/power cables.

This is OK, but I would prefer to give it a minute instead of 10 seconds.

STEP 2: Download and run the VCD Manager

  1. Download VCD Manager for Windows (WDSmartWareVirtualCDManagerforWindows-v1.0.7.4.zip) to your desktop.
  2. Unzip the utility (Extract the file using an extraction utility.)
  3. Double click WDSmartWareVirtualCDManagerforWindows-v1.0.7.4.exe.
  4. Click Continue to disable the VCD.
  5. Once the utility has found your drive, click Configure Drive and then click Exit.
  6. Turn off the drive - For My Passport, disconnect the USB cable. For My Book disconnect both USB and power cables.
  7. Wait 10 seconds. (Again, I prefer you wait a minute) Reconnect the USB/power cables that have been disconnected in the previous step.
  8. Verify that the VCD no longer appears.
  • Restart your security software
  • Reconnect to the Internet
  • Restart your defragmenting software
  • Restart your backup software

All Done!  Now, enjoy using your drive.  If you were paying attention, you only shot about 10-15 minutes and now have the drive the way you wanted it, and it is a very good drive.

Best Regards

Dave

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