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Western Digital Elements External Hard Drive Disassembly

The Western Digital Elements External Hard Drive has a plain black enclosure. It's as if WD made it for people who want to hide their hard drive or keep people from noticing it.

If you look around the case, you'll find no screws or holes of any kind. There is only a power port, an USB port, and a LED can be found on the back-side of the enclosure. WD even put the bright white LED on the back to keep this drive covert.

You can find a seam on the bottom of the drive, all around the edge. If you slip a miniature flat-head screwdriver, you can easily pry the enclosure apart (see photo below). The plastic is made to snap together easily, so it's a good candidate for re-use. Unfortunately, the SATA to USB adapter isn't reusable (see below).

The SATA to USB adapter is mounted to the internal hard drive with two screws. A ground contact is snapped onto the USB port and touches the drive like a clip.

The internal hard drive in the 2TB version is a Western Digital WD20EADS. It is a 3.5" 5400 RPM SATA drive with 32MB of cache.

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Is the Internal Hard Drive Replaceable?

The question is whether it's possible to replace the drive inside the case with another SATA drive. We might want to do this when the 2TB drive eventually fails. Or maybe we simply want to use the 2TB drive somewhere else and swap a different SATA drive into this case.

The answer is no. I tried a 1.5 TB drive, a 750 GB drive, and a 500 GB drive in the case. None of these drive work. After applying power to the USB adapter with the other drives attached, the LED blinks on and off. The USB adapter also doesn't spin the drive up. If I try to do anything with the drive in Disk Management, it would say access denied. If you are able to get any other drive to work, please let us know.

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Update 1: Some Does Work

Other users have reported, in the discussion, that their USB adapter works with other drives. Based on the amount of ye and nay reports, I suspect that there are two versions of USB adapters being supplied with this external hard drive. Some versions of the adapter will work with other hard drives, while some will not.

The USB adapter that came in my enclosure, which does not work, has the following designations:


Please report the USB adapter board that you have and whether it works with other hard drives in the discussion thread.

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Update 2: Getting Other Drives to Work

Frank de Lange has posted (in the discussion) technical reasoning why the adapter won't work with some drivers. He has also figured out how to format drives in Linux to make them work with the adapter.

Karel van der Walt figured out (see discussion) that using an earlier version of the WD Element adapter to low-level format the drive causes it to work with the newer adapter. I suspect that the same technical reason that Frank de Lange provide applies here. Question is: will low-level format the drive with another USB adapter work?

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Does the Internal Hard Drive Work Without the Case?

After pulling the 2TB hard drive out of the Western Digital case, I was able to use it with an USB adapter and within a Seagate USB case. So the internal hard drive is really just a normal hard drive.

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