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EasyStore Drive Shucking like a pro ... by a pro

jgreco

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It has been quite common, for many years, for there to be awesome deals on large capacity hard drives by major vendors on Black Friday. The only downside is that they come in a plastic shell and are "external drives."

This week, Covidian Black Friday Week, Best Buy is selling their external WD EasyStore 14TB (which is a whitebox WD140EDFZ in all the drives I have opened) for $189.99, while the price for other similar retail 14TB drives seems to hover around $400.

Because this technically voids the warranty, there is an economic argument to be made that you can self-warranty your drive simply by keeping the savings and buying another if one fails. The retail drives typically have a three year warranty. However, the external drives also have a two year warranty.

So rather than disassembling an enclosure with a hacksaw and a 5# sledge to get the drive out, one can use a little bit of care and finesse to remove the drive, without ruining the clips, without breaking the slide tracks, without even nicking the plastic. If you can reassemble the drive just the way it was, without obvious signs of tampering, you can send a failed disk in for RMA for up to two years after purchase. This means you have to wash the peanut butter off your hands, and also keep the drive shells around, because they are serial numbered just like the drives. You can't shuck a dozen drives and just keep one drive shell. The hard part seems to be the "finesse" bit.

Tools and supplies required:

Guitar picks - I like Fender heavy tri's
#2 Phillips
Clean hands, or, better yet, ESD gloves, to avoid leaving fingerprints all over
A reasonably safe environment
Screw loosening tool (T10 Torx, but #2 metric hex key works too)
Baggie

The basic process is like this.

The goodie:


shuck0.jpg



Open the box without ruining it, because you may very well want to store the enclosure back into the box. The boxes stack and store very nicely, with an easy-to-read serial number on the box, while the bare enclosures do not.


shuck1.jpg



Remove just the EasyStore from the box:


shuck2.jpg



Now, there are a lot of spudger-wedgy-warranty-voiding tools like the blue tri-picks often used on cell phones, but I've found that getting those doesn't work well, as they're made in Asia and of varying quality, thickness, etc.

I have found that guitar picks are better than the blue tri-picks or most other options, and that for this particular job, Fender Heavy guitar picks are optimal. They have nicely rounded edges that make damaging the plastic of the case quite difficult, insert without a lot of effort, and are the right width to avoid doing other damage.

There are three locking tabs on each side of the case that lock it shut. Shoving four picks in each side is ideal. The goal isn't to shove them in as far as they can possibly go, but rather just to separate the tabs from the cover so that the cover can be pulled off. It's just maybe two millimeters. I use four picks on each side because it's easier than trying to remember the exact location of the tabs. Four evenly spaced picks reliably opens these things just fine. Be gentle.


shuck3.jpg



Two more picks on the top curved edge are used to pry it open. This is the ONLY step which requires any significant amount of force, and that's just enough to get the picks further in. Moving the picks towards each other so that they overlap should be enough to dislodge the cover:


shuck4.jpg



Once overlapped, I stick a really fat guitar pick in to widen the gap. This isn't necessary, it just makes the opening process go faster:


shuck5.jpg



There's a nice satisfying "thuwunk" as you force the picks in and create a gap:


shuck6.jpg



And there's the finished gap:


shuck7.jpg



You don't want the gap to be huge. That risks breaking the cover. You're just looking to get the locks loose.

Now you flip the drive over and do the same thing on the bottom:


shuck8.jpg



And finally the cover is actually loose:


shuck9.jpg



But the stupid forumware will only let me attach ten images, and is still broken and won't let me include images from remote. So we've got to have a second part. Sorry folks. Please follow this link to Part 2!
 

jgreco

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Welcome to part two of EasyStore Drive Shucking. If you missed part 1, please visit this link!

This had to be broken into two parts because the forumware won't let me post external images, and won't let me attach more than ten. Sorry 'bout that.

At this point, your cover should be unlocked, but these can be difficult to slide open. It is important that you slide these open in order to avoid damaging the cover. Pull gently and rock it back and forth a little:


'
shuck10.jpg



There is a Phillips #2 screw that fastens the USB adapter to the HDD PCB. This is a good point at which to remove it:


shuck11.jpg



Now, carefully tilt the drive out of the frame. Lift it gently just enough to clear the frame. If you go too far, it is possible to damage connectors on the PCB. It will feel just a little uncomfortably tight, but it is absolutely fine to coax it out to this point, which is enough to remove everything:


shuck12.jpg



Once the guts are removed, partially reassemble the plastic shell, making sure that the cover is sliding on the tracks:


shuck13.jpg



Next we move on to the drive assembly. Find a way to gently pry up and loosen the light pipe. It is press-fitted into one of the drive's mounting screw holes:


shuck14.jpg



Next, gently rock the board back and forth to remove it from the drive's power and SATA connectors. Try to avoid dislodging the light pipe from the PCB. Put the Phillips screw, the light pipe, and the PCB assembly into a baggie.


shuck15.jpg



Remove the four T-10 screws and rubber grommets. Put them into the baggie as well.


shuck16.jpg



The baggie is your parts kit in case you ever need to send in the drive for RMA.


shuck17.jpg



Drop the baggie inside the enclosure, and close up the enclosure. Don't actually clip it shut.


shuck18.jpg



Put the enclosure back into its packing material and put it back into the box. You're now all set to reverse this process in case you ever need to RMA the drive.


shuck19.jpg



So that's it. If you've done this correctly, there are no nicks or damage to any of the parts, nothing to give away that someone has ever removed the drive from the enclosure. Since you've probably got more than one drive, it is good to get into a "workflow" and do these steps in the order I've demonstrated, rather than leaving a pile of shucked cases and screws and stuff to clean up "at the end".

And, of course, please enjoy your half price Black Friday drives.
 

sretalla

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But the stupid forumware will only let me attach ten images, and is still broken and won't let me include images from remote. So we've got to have a second part. Sorry folks. Please follow this link to Part 2!
Isn't that just a limit per post? you could just make a second post in this thread... no?
I will happily delete this post if that helps.
 
Last edited:

Jailer

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Or you make a reply when you create the post as a placeholder before other members jump in with their posts. :tongue:

Very nice write up. I use cut up credit/ATM cards in a similar fashion.
 

jgreco

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Isn't that just a limit per post? you could just make a second post in this thread... no?
I will happily delete this post if that helps.
Yeah, okay, so it did at least let me merge them. I get sick and tired of wrestling with the forumware sometimes.
 

jgreco

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Or you make a reply when you create the post as a placeholder before other members jump in with their posts. :tongue:

Very nice write up. I use cut up credit/ATM cards in a similar fashion.
I actually assembled these over in the staff area so I could dink around with editing and stuff without other members jumping in. :smile:

There are other options, as you note, for using as opening picks. Pretty much anything around that thickness, certainly a credit card or thicker guitar pick, will work. There is a general "blue tri-pick" common in the industry, but I find that these can be damaged or broken fairly easily, plus every time you order more, you never know if they are cheaper or higher quality. I prefer tri-picks or guitar picks over the credit cards simply because of the lack of sharp edges, my feeling is that the bullnose works better, but I do use hotel room keys or credit cards for spreading heatsink grease. Having a wide variety of tools is great for hacking. :smile: What you do NOT want to do on the EasyStores is to use anything metal. You will likely leave obvious scratches.
 

adrianwi

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The 8x WD drives in my FreeNAS machine came from a mix of My Book and Elements external enclosures picked up from Amazon on Black Friday in 2019. There was a 3 drive limit, hence the mix, but I found the My Book exclosures the easier ones to 'shuck'.

I had my first failure (not fatal, just bad blocks) about a month ago so dug out the box I'd saved in the garage and 'unshucked' it and returned to WD. I received a replacement within 5 days!

A great way to get more TBs for your £££, and still keep a 2/3 year warranty if you're careful.
 

joeschmuck

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Out of curiosity, is the drive serial number matched to the Easystore case serial number? If it were then I'd place a note in the ziplock bag noting the drive serial number for later identification, or you could place a 3x3 sticky on the outside of the case or box, something.

Now I'm interested in buying a new 14TB drive to play with, maybe one pair to make a mirror.
 

jgreco

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Yes, the box, case, and drive all bear the same serial number.
 

elorimer

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I would add two things to this. First, many credit cards will add another year warranty.

Second, I think it makes sense to run the bb tests before shucking. Yes?
 

jgreco

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I would add two things to this. First, many credit cards will add another year warranty.
That, however, is also true when you buy a retail drive, so it is nothing special to the shucking strategy.

Second, I think it makes sense to run the bb tests before shucking. Yes?
Perhaps. The guide here isn't really about preparing hard disks for use in your NAS, though. It's simply about how to get a drive mechanism, cheaply, and maintain the warrantability of the USB enclosure by not jackhammering it open.
 

jgreco

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"Limit one per customer"...
I generally got away with two, no problem.

I had one clerk, who was confused by the "limit 1" warning on their register, call over a manager who imperiously informed me that there was a limit, despite there being no notice of such on the shelf, and that their system wouldn't let a customer order more than one per day even if you went to different stores, with a strong implication that I better not try it. Of course I already had like eight drives in the car by that time. Personally, having been a retail store manager in the distant past, I think liars should be fired.

Almost every other clerk either knew that they just had to ring them up separately, or would call over a supervisor who would tell them to ring them up separately. I made two separate rounds of eight stores over three days to scrounge up two dozen drives without running anyone out of stock.

However, it was not unusual to find only one out on the shelf, even though the online system reported multiple units in stock. There were two stores that had a dozen or more drives out (and it was one of these that Miss Imperious worked at). It wasn't real clear what the strategy was supposed to be, because most of the stores were stuffed with 8TB and 12TB units.
 

joeschmuck

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Right now I'm online.
My wife will be here soon...
Yup, I could do that as well, and she'd like to throw her Pixel 4a phone at them. She doesn't like it but that is another story.
Of course I already had like eight drives in the car by that time.
Wish I had the coin to buy equipment like that. And good for you. I still don't understand why there is such a significant price difference from a bare drive to an Easystore unit. It's all marketing I know but it's just crazy.
 

jgreco

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Right now I'm online.
My wife will be here soon...
I'm told by the west coast hooligans that the web site will let you place multiple orders on the same day, using the same credit card and delivery address, but you need to supply a different name, e-mail, and phone number for each one.

That's a bit more sketchy than I'm comfortable with. When I walk into a store, they have my Best Buy account and they know who I am. Most of the clerks just shrug when the second drive errors out and many even apologize for needing to ring it up separately.

Wish I had the coin to buy equipment like that. And good for you.
It's all the pennies I've saved by not paying cloud vendors for stuff.

I still don't understand why there is such a significant price difference from a bare drive to an Easystore unit. It's all marketing I know but it's just crazy.
Storage has always been about what the market will bear. The home user market will not bear the profit margin that they get selling retail server drives, and that profit margin is one of the big things keeping WD and Seagate in business. It's kind of a strategic bet that most data center and enterprise folks are not really that interested in having to peel these things out of their plastic cans, and would prefer a warranty that doesn't involve keeping opened shells around.

Most of my career has been about paddling against the current if it can save money. I got into 386BSD back in the day because the Sun/HP/etc gear was so damn expensive. I got into FreeNAS because commercial NAS arrays were so damn expensive. I got into shucking drives because retail server hard drives were so damn expensive. I got into micromanaging endurance on SSD's to learn where I could avoid buying enterprise SSD's and use consumer SSD's instead (interesting answer: you can use consumer SSD's almost everywhere, at least for my workloads).

Most businesses have IT staff that are separate from the management and ownership, so the business owners just have to trust when the IT people say "I need $400 per hard drive" or "I need enterprise SSD's". Me, every dollar I spend on IT, it's a dollar less profit. I will happily spend any dollar that is a good investment or that I deem necessary, but on the flip side, I hate to waste money. The cost savings on 24 of these drives is on the order of $4800, and it takes less than 5 minutes to shuck each one, so that's about two hours of work. There aren't many things you can do where you can get "paid" $2400/hour.

It would kill Western Digital if this was widespread. And it *has* happened in the past on a large scale, read up on Costco vs Backblaze.
 

Redcoat

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I'm told by the west coast hooligans that the web site will let you place multiple orders on the same day, using the same credit card and delivery address, but you need to supply a different name, e-mail, and phone number for each one.
A eastern mid-west hooligan-conservative can confirm...
 

Jailer

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I'm told by the west coast hooligans that the web site will let you place multiple orders on the same day, using the same credit card and delivery address, but you need to supply a different name, e-mail, and phone number for each one.
That may be true now but when I purchased my 8TB easystores they were limit 5 per customer. I purchased 5 on my first order and 1 on the next order minutes apart online with the same order information. They both went through no issues. It's worth a try.
 

sretalla

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Second, I think it makes sense to run the bb tests before shucking. Yes?
As with any disks, shucked or not if you care about your pool contents.
 

elorimer

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As with any disks, shucked or not if you care about your pool contents.
Yes, of course. What I meant was, before you pick apart the enclosure (pun intended), take the week to run the tests, and if necessary return the drive in its original state.
 
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