A Workaround for removing Western Digital’s SmartWare Virtual CD Partition

UPDATE 2:  A Mac OS X version of the firmware update and VCD Manager are now available here.  In my own test updating my MyBook Essential 1TB, both utilities worked perfectly.  See the comments below for more information.

UPDATED: It appears that Western Digital has released a firmware update and a utility called VCD manager, which will prevent the Virtual CD from mounting.  Both pieces of software are Windows only, and are available here.  Thanks to robert and Section8 for posting this in the comments below.

I recently purchased a 1TB Western Digital MyBook Essential from Amazon.  It comes pre-loaded with WD’s StupidWare SmartWare software, which is their cross platform answer to Apple’s Time Machine.  A decent effort, but of no concern to me.  I wanted to use the drive my way, so I partitioned and formatted it, but could not get rid of the SmartWare partition.  I did some research and found it’s a part of the drive’s firmware and mounts as a virtual CD every. time. the drive. is. mounted…After trying gparted in Ubuntu Linux, Disk Manager in Windows XP and a host of boot/partition live discs (Easeus Disk Copy, Ultimate Boot CD, Hitachi Feature Tool), I gave up on being able to access that ROM portion of the disk and thought of alternate solutions.

I remembered that I have the simple, but very handy DoSomethingWhen system preference pane installed.  DSW allows you to perform a few basic actions when a volume is either mounted or unmounted.  I use this to automatically run an automator workflow I wrote to back up my primary flash drives when they are inserted.  I created a new rule that will automatically eject the WD SmartWare virtual disc (VCD) when it is mounted.

It’s not the optimal solution I was looking for, but at least it takes the burden of always ejecting the VCD, off of me.  I’ve contacted Western Digital and asked if they have plans to publish a firmware update with the ability to remove this software.  If I ever get an answer, I’ll be sure to post it.

[Download DoSomethingWhen]

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  1. Reply Roger

    I have a WD Passport Elite 500G with the SmartWare junk on it.
    I ran the firmware upgrade and the Mac “hide” software, which worked. The Virtual CD disk no longer automatically appears on my MacBook.
    However, the drive will not work as an external backup boot device on my Macbook (Intel).
    I used the same repartition GUID & format Mac OS extended journaled procedure with backup with SuperDuper that worked with a WD Passport Elite 500G.
    I suspect that the problem is that the Smartware partition is still on the drive.

    Does anyone know how to make this work as a boot drive?

    WD tech support by phone was very polite, but told me they knew of no one who had got a WD external drive to work as an external boot device and asked me how I did it! They said they did not test their drives for this use.

    The Elite has its own problem. Even though the box says it supported Win2k, while it works (with a DOS partition), it does not appear on the “eject USB device” icon menu. WD software support said they did not test it with Win2k and told me to shut down the computer before removing the drive, which for me makes the drive unusable.

    Does anyone know how to eject the Elite drive in Win2k by some other means or make it appear on the USB eject menu?

    I will not buy another WD drive.

  2. Reply Ed

    So a few weeks in and everything seems to be working fine. I was able retrieve ALL my data from the WD drive and transfer it to a Verbatim drive using Data Rescue 3. I disabled the SmartWare on the WD drive with the patch from WD. Then I reformatted the WD drive and my Mac immediately recognized it and asked if I would like to it be my Time Machine drive. I said yes. So for a few weeks now I have had the WD drive doing the Time Machine duties, and I am using Super Duper! to backup only selected folders onto the Verbatim drive.

  3. Reply Ed

    In the last few weeks I have read a lot of articles about external HDs. I am certain I read that USB drives and not meant to be used as boot drives, and that a Firewire drive is required. I have no idea if this information is accurate or out of date, but this could be why the folks at WD were surprised.

    I don’t know if this is useful, but I also ran across this:
    “Can’t eject a removable NTFS media unless you’re logged in as Administrator”

    By default, Windows 2000 allows removable NTFS volumes to be ejected only by members of the Administrators group. This helps ensure that casual or unauthorized users don’t inadvertently eject an important media from a system. If you need to give other users the ability to eject NTFS media, you can do so through a simple security policy change.
    Configure the security policy

    You can select which types of groups have the ability to eject NTFS media by modifying the local security policy. If the domain policy is defined, it takes precedence over the local policy.

    1. Open the Local Security Policy console from the Administrative Tools folder.

    2. Open the branch Security Settings\Local Policies\Security Options.

    3. Double-click the policy “Allowed to eject removable NTFS media.”

    4. Select the desired groups from the Local policy setting drop-down list. You can choose Administrators, Administrators and Power Users, or Administrators and Interactive Users.

    5. Click OK and close the console.
    I don’t know if that’s of any use to you or not, but good luck anyway!

  4. Reply Roger

    Thank you Ed for your helpful reply.

    My websearching shows that, while Apple does not appear to officially support the use of external USB devices for booting the OS, others have found they do work for this, at least sometimes as I found, as long as the GUID partitioning is used with Mac OS extended journaled formatting.

    Your comment about needing administrator status to eject NTSF formatted USB devices is helpful. However, in my case the Windows partition was formatted with FAT32 so that I could also use it on my Mac (so I can transfer files between the Mac and the PC systems). Thus, I did not run into that problem.

    I just found a solution to the problem of not being able to eject the WD Elite drive from my Win2k PC. I installed the WD “Drive Manager” software (downloaded for the WD support site). This produces a taskbar icon when the Elite drive is connected to the USB. Right clicking on this icon gives an option to “safely remove the device drive O:” (or smtg similar). Selecting this then gives a message re. “device can now be disconnected” (or smtg similar), which seems to work in that disconnecting no longer produces the error message from Windows re. “external device removed without properly being ejected” (or smtg similar). I am surprised that WD support did not offer this workaround to me, but I am at the moment pleased that I seem to have a working method to eject the drive.

    Best wishes to all.

  5. Reply Mike

    Just bought a 1.5Tbyte Mybook – and the bloody Virtual CD kept popping up.
    I then had a multitude of problems – as described above.

    As having bought a number of these – i have the following complaints:

    They take out Macs effectively – only option is to manually switch off the mac at the wall.
    Under XP – they misreport as being present.
    I downloaded the suppression software – but it keeps popping up asking for drivers every time I plug it in.

    Running medical life support equipment – it came up after it was suppressed. This was a complete disaster. Systems failure. I’m sure that WD don’t recommend their products in life support systems.

    But what the hell do they expect? They know we run their drives – along with others. But feint ignorance. I’m expecting a big email back from WD’s lawyers over their product being fingered as a problem. So be it.

    I have one of the disks on my desk – working – after filling it with research data. I’m just waiting for it to crap out when I stick it in a Mac.

    I’m thinking of taking the rest back to the shop.
    Always bought WD products – never liked the software.
    I want compensation.

  6. Reply Santscho

    Guys, just bought my 2nd WD drive and got rid of the WD Virtual Disc. I don’t know what your problem is, because WD offers a solution straight out of the box…

    1. Plug your drive
    2. Copy “Virtual CD Manager” from your virtual WD drive to your desktop or an other place on your harddisc
    3. Start “Virtual CD Manager” and disable mounting of the virtual Disc.

    Once you need the virtual disc again, just start the CD manager and enable mounting.

    -> WD drives are just the best and most reliable drives. have also two Seagate and they only make trouble.

    • Reply acletras

      Santscho, WD now includes this removal tool, as well as a firmware update to take care of this issue. However, this wasn’t always the case; especially Fall 2009 when this blog post was written.

  7. Reply Kevin

    I hear a lot of people with complaints about the virtual Cd thing on Passport. But I would actually like to be able to play my games without using my cd drive all the time, isn’t that what the virtual cd software is for?..if so, how do i go about doing this?..do i install the game onto my passport istead of windows? or do I need to create an image of the cd then copy it onto my passport? I don’t get it, I can get the virtual cd to show up in “my computer”, But unsure how to make this work. PLEASE HELP! (running windows7)

  8. Reply Kevin

    I got my passport to store all my kids’ cd needed games on and hopefully the kids can still play the games without getting out cds all the time…Is this even possible?..if so, do i just copy the cd files into a folder on passport, or do i need to take special steps? Any help will be appreciated!

  9. Reply acletras

    Kevin, it sounds like what you’re looking to do is create .iso files from game CDs, and use those to play the games rather than having to load a different CD/DVD for each game. The Virtual CD included in these WD hard drives does not allow you to do this; it’s simply a way for them to distribute their backup software without having to spend the time and money to print CDs.

    To accomplish what you’re looking to do is a two step process. The first step, is using special software to rip the contents of your CDs/DVDs to an .iso file. That file is basically a virtual clone of the disc, including any hidden or unaccessible files. Once you’ve made a .iso for each disc you’d like, you then need to install special software that will let your computer treat those .iso files as if they were actual physical discs in your computer. It does this by creating a virtual CD drive and mounting that .iso image in the virtual drive.

    OS X can do this natively with the included Disk Utility. It’s been years since I’ve done this in Windows so I can’t recommend any specific software, but a few minutes with Google or download.com should get you what you need.

    I feel the need to point out that copying commercial CDs/DVDs is in the legal grey area, so proceed with caution and good luck.

  10. Reply joey

    hi i have my indeed shitware MY PASSPORT, but in the middle of a very bad moment i set a password to it, and off course now i have absolut no idea which was it, so i´ve trying to formatted or reset it or anything that may help me unlock it again, all i have on the wd passport are movies and music so i dont really care to loss the content as long as i can get it back in function,so could anyone tell me and help me how can i access to WD PASSPORT again, how can i eliminate the password i set on it

  11. Reply Adrian

    Gotta admit that WD SmartWare is slightly bloated! Also, I managed to get the e-label working (with USB). Updated my WD SmartWare v1.2.2.5 (i totally didn’t update the firmware) of my Studio 1 2TB.

    Here’s what I did. I did everything 1-2-3 (Under Step Up Drive) using the USB connectivities:
    1. Label (set)
    2. Security (set)
    3. Registration (checked)

    Then rebooted my Mac, and removed the security password (still on USB connections). Then ejected the drive and plugged in my Firewire 800 🙂 And now, e-labels works on my F800 connection 🙂

    Hope this helps.

  12. Reply David

    Try formatting the Mypassport Essential 1 tb with HP USB Disk formatting tool.

    The stupidware will be formatted and the disk will gain a little more capacity. For formatting purpose, Mac users may take the drive off their Mac, and use a windows PC with HP disk format tool installed. Thereafter reconnect it to Mac and format it using your Mac.

  13. Reply mike

    I bought a WD elements and have a Macbook.
    I followed the partition instructions, but after the last step nothing happens, instead of the status bar saying formatting, it just says unmounting. I thought it might just take time, so I left it hours and it isn’t doing anything.

    Why is this so much hard work. My MaXtor drive was easy, just plug and play.

  14. Reply Roger

    This is a followup to my 2 March 2010 post (which BTW
    contained a typo, it should have said that I had succeeded in
    getting a WD Passport ESSENTIAL to work as a MacBook USB boot
    drive, not a Passport ELITE. That was the point of the earlier post
    – the Elite would not allow booting). David’s 18 August 2010 post
    provides the solution to removing the malware from the WD external
    drives, at least it worked for my 500G Elite. As noted in my March
    2 posting, I was able to partition and format a WD 500G Passport
    Essential drive with just the Apple Disk Utility so that it would
    function as an external USB boot device on my Intel Macbook (with
    OS 10.4.11). The Passport Elite would not boot using the same
    procedure, probably because that Virtual CD partition prevents the
    Mac partition being recognized. David’s post refers to a webpage
    that in turn refers to a site that provides a download of the “HP
    USB Disk Storage Format Tool, v2.1.8”.
    http://files.extremeoverclocking.com/file.php?f=197 I downloaded
    the software from this site, which turns out to be an installer. I
    ran it on a Win2k PC and installed the files onto the PC HD, which
    include a DOS and a Windows exec. I ran the Windows version, which
    immediately recognized the WD drive. It did a quick format to FAT32
    in a few seconds. I then plugged the WD Elite into my MacBook,
    partitioned it with the GUID option, and formatted the first
    partition with the Mac OS extended (journaled) format. SuperDuper
    then was used to make a bootable backup on this partition. The
    Macbook booted from this with no problems. So, the HP USB format
    tool solves the WD “malware” problem. Thank you David.

  15. Reply hemant

    hi friends,
    i m facing problem with same kind of HDD,,, its very slow to open any file ,,not responding properly while playing movs, takes lot of time to copy & paste,,several time fromating done but of no use. may i know the exact issue? shall i stop using WD HDD. Seagte HDD performs faster than this..plz help me out.

  16. Reply sunday

    i just bought a 500GB WD My Passport Essential.

    but when i look at the drive, it says i only have 465GB of total space.

    what happened to the 35GB.?? how can i make use of the whole 500GB.? or at least 490 of it. please help.

    • Reply acletras

      Sunday, unfortunately that’s about all the space you’ll be able to use. The actual formatted capacity of a drive is always less than the advertised capacity. Think of it as being a 500GB class drive rather than an actual usable 500GB.

      However, if you still have the SmartWare virtual partition on this drive from the factory, you may be able to regain some of that by using the removal tool linked to early on in these comments. Be aware though, that you’ll have to format your drive which will erase any data you have on it so make sure you’ve backed it up elsewhere first.

  17. Reply Carl

    I am reading all these posts but I am a real layman!! I was using a Lacie to drag and drop from my PowerBook G4 (now obsolete obviously – but still perfectly usable!) OS X Tiger. I was given the My Book Studio 1TB as a present. I was surprised that I didn’t have the option of ‘cherry-picking’ files I wanted to archive and that the drive just seemed to back up EVERYTHING over a very long space of time (over 2 hours to backup around 72 GB!)… I really just want to use it as a drag and drop from computer to external hard drive… Is this possible? And if so, how (in very, very simple terms!) would I go about it? It seems that people have asked this here before but I’m afraid that I know nothing of computer-speak! Can anyone help?!! Thanks very much!

  18. Reply Ludidus

    Hi Carl,

    USB drives should just show up on your desktop and in Finder so that you can drag files into folders there. Does that not happen with your “My Book”?

    It sounds like there was some kind of software on your new drive that made it do a complete backup. You may need to remove or disable that if you don’t want it to keep doing backups every time you plug it in.

    Others with more expertise will likely reply to you as well.

  19. Reply Anonymous

    If you take the drive apart and wipe the first 34,037,760 b, 66480×512, 8310×4096, you will eliminate the virtual CD image. Make sure you make a backup if you want to restore it.

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