Data recovery from WD My Cloud

The post here describes step by steps process to retrieve data from a WD My Cloud (Western Digital) drive spoilt by a failed firmware update. The process is simple and very easy to follow. Most importantly, the method described here helps to access your personal data without compromising privacy. If you faced a non-responsive WD My Cloud, comment below how you managed to recover the data. Help to share this post if you know someone might be looking for help to recover their data from non-accessible WD My Cloud.

Background

In this digital era, having control of your digital assets such as photos and documents is very important, and it will be crucial to find the ideal solution to store these for future access and reference. We do face issues related to these storages from time to time due to hardware failure, lost password, etc.

Recently, I faced the issue with the WD My Cloud 4TB disk storage used for storing documents and family photos. A couple of years ago, the firmware update failed, and the system became non-responsive, and an amber light started displaying instead of the usual blue light.

Western Digital offers a year warranty and promises to repair the storage if any failure happens in the warranty period. However, you need to take the backup before giving the drive for service. This offer leads to two problems as below.

  1. If the drive is not working, there is no way you can access and take backup.
  2. In some cases, the system will be working intermittently, and you can take backup. However, if you don’t have a similar capacity storage drive, the process of taking backup becomes cumbersome, especially if you already used up a good portion of the storage.

Once the warranty period is over, Western Digital abandons the product and point to third party vendors as they don’t have any service team! They don’t show any liability towards recovering your data at any point, including the warranty period. Third-party data recovery vendors on Western Digital website charge thousands of dollars for data recovery services. However, full data recovery is not guaranteed. There are also some vendors available online who charge $30-50 to test and give a preliminary report. One such vendor wanted me to send the storage device to them by courier. I did not want to send the storage device to an unknown address without seeing the person face to face. After failing to find a reliable and economic external solution, I decided to explore the data recovery by myself and started searching for information on it. Finally, I managed to find bits and pieces of information online and could completely copy the data from the storage to another USB Drive. Luckily for me, only 1.5 TB was used up, and I did have another drive with a higher capacity to copy the data. Ironically, another WD USB Drive! You can follow the steps described below to attempt to recover the data if you own a non-responsive WD My Cloud. The cost incurred to recover the data was below $15. The data recovery will be successful if the issue is from firmware update and not due to physical damage to hard disk.

Opening the enclosure

The motherboard and Hard Disk is fixed inside the white enclosure using a clip lock. You can open this lock using a credit card or any object of that thickness. Pushing the card with force might break the lock. However, if you are not planning to use the enclosure later, it should be fine.

Refer to the video below showing how a credit card is used to unlock the enclosure.

Taking out HDD and detaching motherboard

Once unlocked the enclosure, you can easily push the HDD and motherboard together, as shown in the video here.

After that, you can unscrew the motherboard and detach it from HDD, as shown here.

Need to use a Phillips type screw driver1 for this. If you don’t have one, please purchase an economical set from Amazon for $6-7 or buy one set from a local hardware shop which will be useful to unscrew other screws mentioned later in the post.

I noticed I spoiled a plastic clip while dismantling the HDD from its case. It should not matter unless you somehow repair the My Cloud device by updating firmware and able to reuse it. I don’t see much hope in most cases. Once the HDD is taken out, we can connect it to a computer for data copy.

Connecting the hard disk to the computer

I bought the connector cable system online for around $10, as I didn’t want to spend money till I know if I can transfer the data successfully.

There are multiple HDD cases available for around $25, but I was not sure if I can fit the HDD into those. I felt a simple cable is better as I could see the ports and connection options available, and it seemed an easy task to connect to HDD.

The basic connector has a power supply system and data transfer cables. The cables are connected, as shown in the video below.

Copying data from HDD

The data in WD My Cloud uses the Linux file system and not readable directly on macOS or Windows. You can use a third party software extFS from Paragon software to read this file. Please note that they have ten days trial period for the software, and that is good enough for you to take a backup of the HDD. After ten days there is an annual fee of around USD 40. As the copying can be done in a day, you should be able to save this. You might be able to extend the license for another five days by sharing their application link on Facebook.

Once you download the software, you will be able to view the files. For macOS, I have to give permission to access the drive and mount the hard disk. Once you see the data, start copying to your backup disk.

Please note that the cable system you buy for less than $15 might be unreliable for longer-term use and hence plan to complete the data transfer in a day or two. In my case, the power supply had a spark and stopped working after a couple of weeks. Luckily my files were already copied by then.

Using HDD cases

As the files are now secure and copied and I thought of using the HDD as temporary purposes. I felt an HDD case would be appropriate if I have to use this as an external disk. Hence I ordered an HDD Docking station for about $20.

Unfortunately, I could not use the case as I suspected earlier. I could not remove the metal strap attached as the screw was very tight. Hence, please be aware that you will have a struggle if you are planning to use similar external cases.

I did purchase a new set of tools for this purpose. However, I could not remove the metal strap and hence could not insert the HDD to the slot in the HDD case.

Hopefully , I can take the HDD to an expert to get the metal strap removed and use it with the HDD docking station. Let me know how did you manage to recover the data in comments below.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_screw_drives

How to use a single Mobile phone for work and personal needs?

This post explains a couple of methods to use your Android phone for personal, and business needs instead of carrying two phones. There are ways to achieve this on iPhone using unofficial versions of apps. However, this article focuses on methods for Android phones. The post explains how to get rid of one of your phones – Android or iPhone – and use two WhatsApp and Skype accounts on the same Android phone. Steps are provided to use separate address books for work and personal use. Leave a comment below if you have an alternative solution or have a question related to the implementation. Please help to share this post with anyone who might find it useful.

Background

Due to various reasons, many professionals keep two separate phones for individual and business needs. If you own one of the latest Android phone models and still keeping two different phones due to technology constraints, there is good news for you! Dual SIM Android phones like Samsung Galaxy S7 or later models1 have a feature called “Dual Messenger”, which can become handy in combining the phones. Some of the other popular Android phones have features equivalent to Dual Messenger, as listed here. Xiaomi has Dual App, Oppo has Clone App, Vivo has App Clone, and Asus has Twin Apps. These models support two instances of social media apps, such as WhatsApp. Most of the Samsung models with Dual Messenger will also have an alternative feature called “Secure folder”. Secure folder feature helps users to have two instances of all apps2. Read further to understand how to configure a single Samsung mobile phone for your personal and business requirements through these features.

Dual messenger

Dual messenger feature helps the user to install another instance of WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook, FB Messenger, and few other messenger apps. Access the “Dual Messenger” feature on your phone by clicking on the “Advanced features” from the Settings to view the list of apps supported on your phone.

Once you install the second WhatsApp app using the “Dual Messenger” option, the second WhatsApp icon will appear with a “Dual Messenger” symbol on the lower right side, as shown below. You can use this second instance of the app the same way as you use your main WhatsApp account. Click “Separate contacts list” to use different contact lists for “Dual messenger”. Currently, Samsung “Dual messenger” only allows 1000 contacts to be added.

Secure folder

“Secure Folder” helps to make another instance of all apps in a separate folder with a password and biometric security. You can access the second instance of those apps only after first opening the “Secure Folder” app.

Dual messenger vs. Secure folder – Which one should I use?

If you don’t require additional security but wanted easy access to the second instance of WhatsApp, Dual Messenger is the option to go. However, if you are looking to have extra security, go for the Secure folder. Similarly, if you wanted to use more than 1000 contacts in both instances of WhatsApp, then Secure Folder will be appropriate for you.

If you are using non-Samsung models mentioned above, check if the model offers features equivalent to the Secure Folder. E.g., Private Space in Huawei. Check if there is a limit on the maximum number of contacts similar to Samsung Dual messenger.

Keeping Separate contact list

Most people who use two phones prefer to keep the personal and work contact list separate. Creating a different contacts list makes it easier for future maintenance. To achieve this, add a second Gmail account to your android phone as the first step. Import the contact list from the second phone to the newly added Gmail account.

Importing contacts from iPhone

  1. Sync your iPhone contacts with iCloud
  2. Login to iCloud.com on a computer and click on the “Contacts” menu.
  3. Click on the Settings button on the left bottom screen. Click on “Select All” and use the “Export vCard” option to export all contacts.
  4. Login to Google contacts using the second Gmail ID and use the Import option to import vCard.

If your second phone is an Android phone, you can export the contacts to CSV, which you can import to the new Gmail account.

Addition of contacts to Dual messenger contact.

There is no easy single-click option to add all contacts to the Dual messenger from the second contacts list. You can utilize the method described below to make this process efficient. The idea is to add a keyword, say a word related to your work or company name for all contact in your second contact. To achieve this, you have to edit the contact file before importing to Google Account. Given below are the steps to follow.

  1. If your second phone is iPhone, you need to convert the vCard file to CSV file first. This can be done by Google contacts you are going to use.
    a. Import vCard file to Google account.
    b. Export to CSV file.
  2. Edit CSV file (CSV file exported from Android phone or from the iPhone as explained in step 1) to add a unique term to each item in the first column – Name. As an example, the term “Taxi -“ is added in the image below.
  3. Once you add this unique term, import the CSV back to Google contacts. Now you can see that all the contacts in the second contacts list start with the unique term you inserted.
  4. Now, go to the “Dual messenger” in the Settings and click on “Separate contacts list” and “Select contacts” . Click on “Add” and search for the unique term set for your second contact list. Click the “All” radio button to select all the contacts filtered by this unique term. Please note that if the unique term appears anywhere in the first contact list, those contacts will be filtered too.

Things to note.

When you import the CSV file exported from vCard files, there are chances some phone numbers are not recognized properly and rounded to 1000s – numbers ending with “00000”. In my last experiment, I found 20 such cases from around 1000 contacts imported. You can correct these by referring to the original vCard file. Similarly, you can ensure correct country code is inserted for all numbers so that WhatsApp recognizes the users when you add the contacts to Dual messenger. This editing is an excellent opportunity to weed out duplicate and obsolete contacts in your address book.

Note that WhatsApp currently does not allow importing message backup from iCloud to Android3. Hence when you migrate from iPhone to Android, you will lose the message history. You can use the Export Chat option to send important chat history to yourself by email.

Additional information

Given below are some of the reasons why people prefer two phones and some technical tips to overcome those challenges.

  1. “I switch off my work phone when I don’t want to get disturbed, e.g., Weekends”. If you are using a single Dual SIM phone, check the options to change to Silent Mode for only one SIM card using the SIM Card manager.
  2. “If I use two phones, I can use it for more time without worrying about drained battery”. A power bank is a cheaper answer to a dead phone.
  3. “If I lose one, I have a backup phone”. Yes, it is an expensive solution to the potential risk. However, for a cost-effective solution, you can sync your data, contact, and photo with cloud services like Google Photos, Google Drive, etc.
  4. “My phone will be wiped out by the IT department when I leave my current company, and I will lose personal data and photos ”. The solution is the same, as mentioned in point 3.

As more and more corporates are encouraging the BYOD4 (Bring Your Own Device), these concerns could be disappearing soon.


  1. https://www.samsung.com/global/galaxy/what-is/dual-messenger/
  2. https://support.samsungknox.com/hc/en-us/articles/115012597568-Which-devices-support-Secure-Folder-
  3. https://faq.whatsapp.com/en/iphone/20888066/?category=5245251#iphonebackup
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bring_your_own_device

Selecting your Electricity retailer

This post is an attempt to help you choose an electricity retailer for residential connections. The comparison is time-consuming. I attempt to list a few standard plans by considering the most important factor, price. If you have already chosen a retailer, please leave a comment below. Share this post with those who are yet to make the switch.
Updated on 26th Oct 2019

Background

Open Electricity Market is a government initiative to liberalize the retail power market in Singapore. Thirteen companies are offering various fixed and flexible rates. Government-owned SP Group/SP Services1 will still manage the power grid and distribution. A recent report suggests that 40% of households switched to a private retailer and many enjoy a savings of 30% .2

This post is an attempt to help you decide to switch and choose a retailer for a residential connection. As the number of retailers and options is relatively high, the comparison is time-consuming and confusing. However, I attempt to list popular options by considering the most important factor – price. If you want more information on a specific plan, please refer to the retailer website after reading the “Additional Information” section below.

A glance at standard price plans

The current rate charged by SP Services is ‘regulated tariff’ which is adjusted each quarter based on fuel cost (see “Additional information” section). The regulated tariff for Oct-Dec-2019 is 25.07 cents per kWh. The standard pricing plans offered by retailers are fixed-rate (for six months, 1, 2 or 3 years) and fixed discount rate (a fixed % discount, e.g., 23% on the regulated tariff).

For a quick comparison, I considered a monthly electricity consumption of 300 kWh (National average for private apartments is around 530 kWh, and a 3/4 room HDB is approximately 300 kWh)3. Sembcorp has the cheapest rate for 24 months fixed-rate standard plan inclusive of rebate. Please note that NOT all rebates are readily available to you online. Hence call the retailer for promotion codes in such cases. (The information provided is correct as of 26th October 2019). Download the ‘DIY Comparison’ Excel sheet at the bottom of this post to input your average monthly consumption for a more accurate comparison of savings.

If you believe that global oil price/ regulated tariff will be declining in the coming months, you can opt for a fixed discount plan. Most of the retailers offer around 22% savings from the regulated tariff. The same five companies (Tuas Power, Sunseap, Sembcorp, Geneco, and Keppel) provide cheaper options for 24 months contract for 300 kWh usage per month.

As retailers are providing around 22% discount on regulated tariffs, there is no reason to delay the switch. However, if you are thinking of relocating abroad, you might want to continue with the SP group or consider shorter contracts with the retailer. You can even consider contract-less plans such as 20% discount by Diamond electric. There is no termination/relocation fee charged for relocation (detailed comparison below). SP group guarantees an uninterrupted power supply in the event of a retailer to cease the service. Thus, there is no apparent risk in switching to a retailer. The application process is online and straightforward.


Additional information

As the regulated tariff for the quarter is derived based on fuel cost in the preceding quarter, changes in international oil prices dictate regulated tariff (see chart below). If you expect the oil price to slide for the next few months, you can choose the fixed discount plan. Otherwise, the fixed rate is for you. Oil price could fluctuate based on various scenarios 4

If you are looking for a shorter contract duration, you should check out 12 months contract from Ohm and Diamond as they offer cheapest with a 25% discount on the regulated tariff. They also have cash rebates on these plans. Fixed-rate plan for 12 months from iSwitch has the lowest kWh rate, but the $50 rebate by Sunseap makes them cheapest for now in terms of total savings as of July 2019.

Open Electricity Market website lists all price plans provided by the retailers.5 You can see that there are non-standard plans considering weekend vs. weekday consumption, peak vs. off-peak time consumption, etc.


FAQs

You might want to ask these to the retailers before finalizing the plan. I added my comments to each.

  1. Can I get the promotion code for the rebate? An additional discount is given on the phone or at roadshows. Compare online offers before you signup at roadshows. A few retailers offer cash rebates from $20 to $60 in tie-up with credit card companies. I had added $40 for FREE Air-con Servicing offered by iSwitch when I computed total rebate.
  2. Is there a service fee?
    iSwitch has a service fee of $5.297/ month for their 24 months plan (they are classifying two years plan as non-standard plan!), which makes a difference in total savings.
  3. What is the Early termination fee (ETF)?
    iSwitch, Sembcorp, and Tuas Power waive the fee if you are relocating outside of Singapore (provide valid documents). Most of the retailers charge ETF based on house type. See the plan factsheet for details. A consolidated list is given below. I have combined some house types for simplicity.
  4. Is there a relocation fee if you are moving to new premises in Singapore?
    Most retailers don’t charge relocation fee. Union Power has a fee of $26.75. Some of the retailers charge the ETF and refund once you start a new contract on a new premise. There is an SP Group fee of $10.7 for account closure in such cases.
  5. Do I get a new bill?
    Most retailers provide separate bills. Ohm and Tuas Power have integrated billing with SP Group. All retailers give rebates on credit card payment (e.g., 1% for ‘POSB Everyday card’, 5% rebate on ‘UOB One card’ etc.).
  6. Is there a security deposit?
    65% of the security deposit with SP Group is used to offset outstanding bills with SP Group. You need to pay the security deposit to the new retailer if their plan demands a deposit (e.g., iSwitch requires a deposit of $30-$90 based on house type). However, few retailers don’t demand a security deposit. Singaporeans and PRs are not required to pay a security deposit for Keppel.
  7. Is there a carbon offset to be paid?
    Ohm has an optional fee charged for consumers opting to pay carbon offset credit. If you want 100% clean solar energy, you can opt for a 100% solar scheme from Sunseap and still save about 10% on the regulated tariff.
  8. Should I install a new meter?
    The retailers use the same meters. However, if you opt for smart meters/ (AMI), there is an optional installation fee of around $43. Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) meter provides reading at half-hourly intervals 6.
  9. What are the other charges?
    Retailers charge various other fees such as paper bill fees ($1.07), GIRO rejection fees, etc. E.g., Pacific light allows you to change the Price plan by paying a fee of $53.50.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singapore_Power
  2. https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/open-electricity-market-4-in-10-singapore-households-now-buy-electricity-from-retailerber-2019-11672840
  3. https://www.spgroup.com.sg/what-we-do/billing
  4. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-06-28/jpmorgan-flags-risk-of-oil-crash-if-trump-and-xi-don-t-deliver
  5. https://compare.openelectricitymarket.sg
  6. https://www.ema.gov.sg/Metering_Options.aspx