Western Digital FAIL (part 1)

I’m never using Western Digital again. Please read this post FULLY and then ask yourself Is Western Digital a company you can trust with YOUR data? My advice: IT ISN’T.

UPDATE: See end of the post for additional failure data from Cloud Back-up company BackBlaze, showing Western Digital as having the worst failure rate…


In 2013 I bought a Network Attached Storage device (NAS). This box of hard drives plugs into your home network router, and you chuck all your files onto it. All your files are then accessible by everyone on your network. Movies, music, editing. Easy peasy.

This device was a ReadyNAS 4-bay storage system which allowed for mirroring and protection of data (redundancy and back-up). With 4 identical hard drives inside the system, all the space would be consolidated together and look like one big drive AND be protected in such a way that should one entire hard drive fail, all the data would still be there. And by simply switching out the faulty drive with a new one, the back-up RAID configuration would automatically re-build a new back-up drive and overnight you’re back to normal.


All without losing any data,. Or access to the files. At any time. NAS is good.

My choice of hard drive at the time was the Western Digital RED.

WD-Red-3TBThey’re allegedly designed to run 24/7 in such NAS systems. So back in 2013 I bought 4 identical 3TB hard drives and built the system… (all 12 TERABYTES of it…)

Within the first week, one of the drives failed. As mentioned above, one drive failure in this redundancy system is perfectly acceptable (although NOT acceptable as a failure in a brand new hard drive with less than 7 days usage). All the data on the NAS was still there in a  protected way. However, if a SECOND drive failed then the whole lot would be lost…


So it’s 2013. In my blind panic I immediately contacted Western Digital, as the drives were all brand new and obviously still within their 3 year warranty period. Their advice to me was this; Buy a replacement drive directly from them, and send the faulty one back using an RMA number generated by them. When they receive the RMA return they’ll re-emburse me. I get a new drive, no payment needed. They also suggested I contact the original retailer, CCLOnline, and get advice from them.

It seemed ridiculous to have this 4-bay system, and have no hard drives ready to switch in should another one fail. So I did what Western Digital suggested and bought a drive over the phone. This is all documented and logged.

However. CCLOnline were brilliant. Within an hour of receiving an email from me about the faulty drive and the impending loss of data across the entire system, they too sent me an RMA Return address and shipped me a brand new drive free of charge. I sent the faulty drive back to them… a direct swap for the faulty drive. Problem solved.


So now we’re back to 4 drives, one of which was replaced by CCLOnline. And now there’s a 5th drive coming as “spare”.

Spin forward to 2016. All 4 of those drives (plus the spare) are on the verge of warranty expiration. Low and behold, another drive fails. But no problem, as I have the brand new drive bought directly from Western Digital ready to put in as the replacement.

The broken drive, according to the WD website, is within warranty by only a few weeks. Their online RMA system worked a treat and the faulty drive was replaced.


This next part is where my HUGE issue comes up. The 5th drive I had set aside as the spare, i.e. the one bought directly from Western Digital, immediately fails. I’m left with only 3 working drives out of 5. If another one goes, I lose EVERYTHING.

12 TERABYTES, REMEMBER? Customer data, client footage, financial back-ups.

But no problem, right? The 5th drive was brand new, bought over the phone, less than 3 years ago. Therefore it has full warranty. NOT SO. According to Western Digital, because this 5th drive was meant to be an RMA replacement for the very first failure back in 2013, on their system it only has warranty for as long as the original product. This means the drive is OUT OF WARRANTY. But only on their system. In ‘real life’, the drive was simply purchased (and overly priced too, I should add).

A dozen email correspondence flies back and forth over a period of a few weeks.

Can I supply an invoice for the purchase? Yes! What they sent me… Scan of invoice sent.

WD receipt 2013_sanitised

Can I supply evidence of a purchase? Yes! Bank statement sent.


Back and forth. Back and forth.

The final straw was this morning. After showing receipts, invoices, photos of the drives and bank statements, all of which show that this 5th drive was a direct purchase and in the end was NOT an RMA replacement as discussed and agreed with their Customer Services, they disagreed.


The Customer Services at Western Digital of 2016 are nowhere near as good as it was in 2013. Every correspondence asked for more evidence that I bought the drive. Not content with me showing them my entire bank statements, with all their reference numbers on it, along with a scan of their own invoice showing I paid for the drive, their OWN email correspondence from 20143, and my hand written notes from 2013 explaining to my future self what had happened…

Western Digital will not replace this IN WARRANTY drive, and have categorically stated they will not change their system to reflect the fact that the RMA Warranty is incorrect.

So here’s my plan.

I’m never using Western Digital again. I advise you not to either. Over the coming weeks I’m going to buy drives from their competitors and one by one will replace every single Western Digital hard drive (including external ones I used to edit with) with a competitors drive.

At last count that’s 12 drives. And that’s not including the office…

All of these drives are going to be destroyed. Publicly. In a variety of rather destructive ways. And in slow motion.

Western Digital. You have become a shameful company. Your company name is no longer fit to use as professional in any manor, nor one I can ever recommend again.

I hope you enjoy seeing the viral video, and hope that it brings you the luck that you deserve.

UPDATE: Someone sent me a link on twitter to a Cloud Back-up company called BackBlaze. They offer online back-up solutions for $5 per month. These guys go through THOUSANDS of hard drives, all with similar redundancy to the above.

They posted this image:

2015-drive-failures-barchartThe BackBlaze statistics show that out of all the different hard drive products they use for their back-up company, Western Digital has the highest failure rate at 7%.

Overall Seagate comes out best. As much as the above diagram may show HGST as being better (ironically, HGST is a subsidiary of Western Digital anyway), other factors such as power usage, cost and availability also came into play. As such, Seagate come out on top.

Media Streaming To The World

Recently I bought a Netgear ReadyNAS Drive; i.e. Network Attached Storage. It’s a piece of kit containing hard drives that you connect to your home router, giving you a separate place to store all of your media and documents.

My NAS contains four 3TB drives; a total of 12’288GB of space! To complicate things further I have the NAS set up in a RAID configuration. RAID is a ‘first-level redundancy’ safety mechanism. In layman’s terms, hard drive two is a direct copy of hard drive one, hard drive four is a direct copy of hard drive three. If one hard drive fails, the data is still safely stored on the other drive. The downside to this is that it cuts the storage capacity in half because of the duplication.

Slight overkill, I hear you say, but my NAS serves a clear purpose…

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(UPDATE: Just to clarify the above numbers; although in computer terms 1TB is 1024GB, in manufacturing terms 1TB is 1000GB. So 12TB of space is actually 12’000GB, and not 12’228GB. In addition, due to the way restriping occurs and the redundancy effect of RAID, my 12TB of space actually accumulates to 8.2TB. Somehow.)

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The beauty of my NAS system is that it’s a self-contained unit with its own operating system, memory and processor. This means I can install add-on software and the box will do it’s own thing, without needing a computer. It’s possible to run torrent software to automatically read RSS feeds and download the latest TV episodes I’ve missed, or install software which runs a website directly off the NAS without having to pay for hosting, etc.

Today I discovered a piece of software called Plex Media Server. And I have to say, it’s utter genius. Plex is an add-on that will database all your files and play any media file you throw at it. Secondly, it will transcode and stream these files across your network to your TV, laptop, games console or smart phone.

I can store my entire music and video collection on the NAS, and it will stream the audio or video to anywhere in the world. My NAS is a place for me to archive and keep every piece of footage I shoot with my DSLR’s. I keep all my original files as back-up, even after transcoding, editing and final publication. Some of these files are huge. But with Plex, I can watch the footage back without having to copy the files across the network. Technically, I can show the footage to an editor using my iPhone whilst on the go.

Like I say, it’s brilliant. Now I have access to my entire media catalogue from anywhere in the world. It’s like YouTube for all my media stored at home! I’m currently in the process of going through my entire movie collection and archiving it onto my NAS system, which I then have access to from absolutely anywhere.

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UPDATE: I should make is quite clear that transcoding and streaming via Plex depends on your internet connection and what hardware you are operating with. Although my ReadyNAS NVX will stream video via Plex to my MacBook Pro with no problems, the ReadyNAS struggles to transcode video and stream it to my Samsung TV via the Plex smart app on the telly. I currently can’t work out why that is, considering it’s the same hardware in the NAS on both occasions, but I have run into complications there. The Plex FAQ suggests hardware for transcoding should be at least a 2GHz dual core processor. The ReadyNAS NVX uses a single 1GHz Intel processor and 1GB of RAM.