Friday, April 20, 2007

Something to know about Toshiba external USB HDD

As I wrote before, luckily I bought an external hard disk and started backing up my data just in time. Well, although this may look like talking bad about good things, I still believe I should post this. The drive model I bought is a Toshiba PX1269E-G50, a 500GB external USB 2.0 model.

On the box it says this:

Optimized for digital video, photos and music storage. Fanless design for near-silent operation. Interface: high-speed USB 2.0. Interface transfer rate (max.): 480 Mbps. Rotational speed: 7200 rpm. Cache: 16 MB. PushButton Backup. Password security. System requirements: PC with minimum 233 MHz pentium or equivalent (Celeron, AMD, etc.), Windows 2000/XP, available USB 2.0 port.

I read this before buying in the store. I did not care for whatever "PushButton Backup" is. I still don't. I did not care for Password security. I still don't. It says Windows 2000/XP, but after all it is a USB mass storage device. Not needing the nifty Windows backup or security tools I decided to buy it anyway, because it was the only one available with this amount of space.

At home I hooked it up to my Ubuntu box via USB and was somewhat surprised to see a CD-ROM drive being detected and pmount'ed to my desktop. The disc title "PASSWORD" raised my suspicion. This was the moment I decided to have a look at the manual (hey, it's a hard drive, so why include one in the first place?). I almost fell from my chair when I read this:

Your Toshiba Drive came from the factory with Password Security enabled, and programmed with a pre-set password. The first time you connect the Drive to your computer, the login screen will appear. If you want to keep Password Security enabled, follow the instructions below to change the pre-set password. If you want to disable Password Security, go to "Disabling Password Security" on the next page.

Can you believe this? This thing actually reports two drives to the computer - the first being a CD-ROM drive containing some PDFs and driver software and this security thingie. Only for Windows of course. One of the documents on that virtual CD elaborates more on the nature of this "security feature":

You can enable or disable Password Security at any time. Doing so will not affect any data stored on your Drive. Follow the instruction below to enable Password Security for an unsecured Drive. [...] If you permanently forget your password, you will not be able to access the Drive, and any data stored on the Drive will effectively be lost. [...] Password Security allows three consecutive attempts to enter your password at login. If the third attempt is unsuccessful, you will be able to view your Hint, and you will have one last chance to enter your password. [...] If you permanently forget your password you will not be able to access the Drive. For all intents and purposes, the Drive will be rendered unusable, and any data stored on the Drive will effectively be lost. If you want to regain the use of your Drive, you will need to make arrangements to return the Drive to the factory, where the CD+Secure HDD partitions will be deleted and re-created. You will not recover your data, but at least the Drive will be functional again.

I especially like the "for all intents and purposes" part. Had I not already stored my data on the disk (after using the otherwise unused Windows XP I still have to disable the password check and make it appear under Linux as a hard drive at all) I would have brought it back to the store. I probably would have, even had I used Windows. After all, who guarantees that this probably low-level stuff on that inaccessible CD-ROM simulation partition will work on future Windows versions? Just imagine having set up a password on the disk, then upgrading your XP to the all-new shiny Vista just to find out that the driver is incompatible and you don't get your hands on your own files?

Well... Now if you can live with a CD drive appearing needlessly when you plug in a hard drive, and you either disable the password thing altogether (which I totally recommend) or understand the possible consequences, go ahead and buy it. From my experience it is a least blazingly fast. Otherwise: Choose another product.

One more thing: I looked around on the net and found someone who disassembled the whole thing, put the hard drive itself into a PC and removed the CD partition. After putting it back into the external case it would not appear anymore at all. My guess is that either the firmware of the controller has some sort of protection against this, is buggy or maybe even in part contained on the disk itself. Anyways, I just thought I'd put this here for you to find before you ruin yours in the attempt.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Daniel!

Great write up! I wish I had read your blog before purchasing the same external HDD!

Another annoyance is that I am not able to transfer large files (at least 300Mb) to the drive. Do you have the same problem?

Andreas
andreas.nerlich at gmail.com

Peter said...

I bought the same disk, also thinking "a drive is a drive" about it requiring Windows. Unfortunately, I didn't see any fake CD-ROM mount on my Mac, but went ahead and repartitioned it.

What happened was, after plugging it in again, it presented itself as ONLY a fake CD-ROM, and an unreadable one!

So, judging by the user guide, I have to return it to have it reset to factory defaults (ie. the two partitions recreated).

klmnplk said...

Hi all,

i bought also this sh.., but unfortunately i have reinstalled windows and aldo lost this secure cd.
Now i can forget HDD, datas about 90GB and i could not find software for this shity HDD....
Daniel, could you make a ISO of this cd and send me ?please let me know on my email
klmnplk@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I have a problem with this HDD and I was wondering if you would know the solution.

I bought this for video file storage. I used it between PC and MAC. Therefore I formatted this HDD on my Macbook in HFS so I could trasfer the files bigger than 4GB. By installing Macdrive6 on my PC i could read and write files to this HDD. It worked top notch.

Now, suddenly, there is a problem with the security drive (27mb). Neither my PC or Mac recognizes the first drive. Because they don't recognize the first one, I can't open the second one (the actual 460MB HD).

PC says: could be damaged/reformat

MAC says: can't open the CD-rom drive

Pn PC I can do sh!t.
On mac I can press "remove" or "cancel".

So I press "cancel".
Luckily, by istalling this thing on my MAC, It created a shortcut 'SECUREHDLOGIN" on the desktop. If I press this after clocking cancel, I can fill in the standard password "12345" nd guess what... the actual HD opens perfectly in my FINDER with all the files in it!

What is the solution to this problem so I can use it again???
Only my macbook recognizes it, because I have that shortcut by coincidence.

What If i undo the password-protocol? I am scared I won't be able to reach my files anymore on mac too, or am i wrong? Or should I reformat the first drive??

Please help!!!
Kind regards
whydontyoucheckitout@yahoo.com

Daniel Schneller said...

First thing to do is to mount it on the machine that still recognizes it and copy all the data to a different drive, preferrably a "regular" one without dubious virtual CDs and password protection. If you do not have enough internal storage space - which I assume with a notebook - you will probably have to buy another external drive.

After that you can safely try all sorts of things to get it back to "normal".

First thing I did when I bought it and found out about that security sh*t I disabled the password under Windows once.

Since then I have been able to use it flawlessly under Linux. However I will probably buy a different external drive sooner or later and get rid of this one, just for sure. Your experience hints in the same direction.

Anonymous said...

Two things to spread around
1 - On techsupportlive, there is an utility that will remove the worthless CD portion, and return this to a normal external harddrive.

2 - the password protection is WORTHLESS - it is possible to access the "secure" portion without knowing the password.

Dody said...

Dear Daniel,

Please help me about my Toshiba External HDD 120GB.
I have Toshiba External HDD 2,5" 120GB.
Now, HDD has broken/ crash. I want to change HDD with same type 2,5" Western Digital.

If new HDD insert to enclosure, computer can't detect HDD, but CDROM can detect.
Before CDROM virtual is for Password Protected Software.

Please help me how to use this product with new HDD.


Regards,
Dody,-

Daniel Schneller said...

I am sorry, but I cannot give any support for this drive. I merely wrote this article to inform people about the specifics of this device. I especially do not know anything about disassembling it and replacing the drive. *Maybe* it will work if you use the tool in the comment above to switch it to "regular" HDD mode.

Anonymous said...

To Daniel. The cd partition on the Toshiba harddisk has a program to create a shortcut on Mac. In my case, Ubuntu doesn't mount the cd partition, making it unpossible to use the disk in secure mode with Ubuntu. Being new to Linux, I wonder what I overlooked to mount the password cd partition in Ubuntu?

To Andreas: the storage partition on the HD is Fat 32 and there should be no problem writing a file of 300MB. I did not experience your problem with large files.

To Anonym: please drop us the link to the techsupportlive site you mention. I could not find the site with the utility to remove the cd partition.

Jan

edgar@cyberpoin.nl said...

Hmmm, I guess I am not the only sucker who bought the damn thing :-)
I really am interested in the tool to make it a normal drive.
Another nice option would be the posiblity to upload a new iso to the disk, which it could use for the virtual CD. Them i could make a nice GhostBootCD or the HirensBootCD with all tools.
This would make it actually a pretty good feature, just plugin the usb disk, and reboot. You then can easily make ghost images of any PC, without always bringing your bootcd, which always gets scratched or lost....

Anonymous said...

edgar@cyberpoint.nl it is :-)

Daniel Schneller said...

anonym: I did never use it in "secure" mode with Ubuntu. I booted it once with Windows, switching off the password check.

Anonymous said...

go to to toshiba techsupportlive and download the software to switch b/n cd+hdd to hdd.
And then at last you have a real usable hdd only. No password shit!
robert

Anonymous said...

Dear Robert,

You refer to a site named Toshiba Techsupportlive where you have downloaded software to remove the security option from the PX1267E-1G32 external harddisk. Unfortunately, with this little information no one can retrieve that site. Why don't you name the link?

Jan

Anonymous said...

I found the link to it:
http://www.techsupportlive.com/index.php?_m=downloads&_a=viewdownload&downloaditemid=29&nav=0,8

Anonymous said...

Excellent and thanks for this thread! This tool fixed a nasty problem I had with a Toshiba external disk (PX1269E-1G50).

After some strange error, only the virtual cd-rom drive was available, which on top of that was empty. So no possibility to type in the password and activate the actual data partition. This tool merged the cd-rom drive with the harddisk---did loose my backup data in the process :/---and that solved the problem.


I find it rather awkward though that an external harddisk becomes disabled because of an error in the password protection software.

XaRz said...

Thanks a lot for all information.

I'm one user that happens exactly as Daniel Schneller. My problem hasn't any answer till now.

My ubuntu is using the toshiba hdd! Incredible!

thanks a lot.

Anonymous said...

Hi Daniel,
I had the same problem after convert the filesystem in ntfs and the drive was missed I could see only th cd letter.
Thanks for you infomation really better than toshiba support!!!
Regards
Andrea

Anonymous said...

I bought this drive because of the months of problems I'd been having with my laptop. Got all the data stored on it, so great I thought. My replacement machine comes with Vista, not XP this time. Little did I know the Toshiba HDD wouldn't recognise Vista, or whatever the problem is. So now I'm stuck! How do I get the data off this HDD onto my new laptop, without messing everything up completely?

Like everyone else here, I though a hard drive is just a hard drive, and it seemed to behave that way with a few minor exceptions in XP.

Daniel Schneller said...

Go find an XP machine, copy your data from the external disk to another harddrive. Then download the program linked some comments above and turn the Toshiba device into a "plain old harddisk". After that, you can copy your data back onto it and take it home to your Vista machine.

Do not try to use the program above *before* copying your data off the Toshiba drive, or it will be lost!

Anonymous said...

[quote]
One more thing: I looked around on the net and found someone who disassembled the whole thing, put the hard drive itself into a PC and removed the CD partition. After putting it back into the external case it would not appear anymore at all.
[/quote]

Dan,

Please can you direct me to this URL? Google does not seem to be returning any link on this ...

Thanks!

chono

Rosie said...

This is a great site. Thank you for your information. I THANK YOU I SALUTE YOU IT,S A AMZING SITE.

keyboardcowboy said...

link changed

http://www.techsupportlive.com/index.php?_m=downloads&_a=viewdownload&downloaditemid=29

or do a search for

CD to HDD Convertor

Erwin said...

A friend of mine had the same problem with his Toshiba external drive. The drive was not recognized on any OS.
What I did was the following. I opened up the casing, and plugged the Western Digital HD in my desktop PC. Windows XP did recognize the drive, but didn't find any partitions. So I then used a boot CD with Ontrack EasyRecovery Professional and started the recovery process. I did find out that the first partition was 25.3 MB; this is the CD partition. I didn't do anything with this one. Instead I started recovering the second partition, which starts at sector 51918. Ontrack finds a FAT32 partition and is now recovering the files. The total procedure takes about 18 hours, but all about 20.000 files were recovered, including his holiday pictures :-)

Anonymous said...

For anyone who looking how to disassemble this case. I've been looking for hours and i found it on the amazon site. This is how it is done:

"Some people have had these drives fail to initialise (red/blue light syndrome)
This is caused by the board inside the caddy failing.NOT the drive.
To retrieve your data you will need a ...... screw driver.
First go to ebuyer and locate one of their caddys - they do one for £10.
Next take to foot off that allows the caddy to stand upright ,underneath are two screws , undo these. then strip off the silver bezel around the back end of the caddy where the on/off switch is.. underneath are 4 screws undo these and carefully slide the drive out.
undo the screws that hold the drive in and disconnect the cables.
Put it in to your new caddy (if you use my recommendation it has all the crews and even a little screwdriver !)and hey presto....

btw the caddy is is not made by toshiba and the drive is western digital
so where does toshiba come in to this ??

Sorry amazon these caddys are rubbish , but the drives are fine."

Hope it helps some people here.

Anonymous said...

Thank you guys. The link to Toshiba's techsupport site with it's little "CD + HDD to HDD" converter thinggy is worth gold!

Mahmoud said...

hi. just wanted to thank you for pointing us to read the manual. it helped me with getting another model, the 320GB to get detected on my computer. it came with a usb cable with two connectors and although not always the case, in mine i needed to plug in both connectors into my pc. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have the CD to HDD convertor program that they can post? The tech support site seems to be under construction and mean while I have a useless drive sitting here.

Anonymous said...

THe link to the tool that merges the CD with bullsh.. password protection to the external HDD partition worked perfectly!!! Thanx for the usefull information! I was almost ready to throw the HDD out of the window. I'll never buy crappy toshiba hardware again, and I believe it's always crappy.

thnx!