How to Fix the 3.3V Pin Issue in White Label Disks Shucked From Western Digital 8TB Easystore Drives

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Step 1: The Plan

Today, we're going to fix the 3.3V pin problem that can prevent your Western Digital white label drives from working in some computers. When you shuck, or remove, the internal disk from a Western Digital Easystore external drive, you'll find either a red label or a white label internal disk. In the past, Western Digital was using red label drives exclusively, but at the time of publishing this instructable, the white label drives are more common.

Step 2: The Symptom

The symptom of the problem is that the white labels simply won't be recognized when placed into computers using certain power supplies. After connecting a white label drive, the Western Digital drive doesn't appear at all in the BIOS' storage information screen, and thus, it wouldn't be seen in Windows either. This tells us that this isn't a problem inherent to the operating system, but a hardware problem.

Step 3: The Cause

The cause is a new SATA specification which includes the ability to disable power to the hard disk. When you look at the SATA power connection on the back of your hard drive, there are 15 pins that make contact with your power supply. It's the third pin that delivers a 3.3V signal that disables the drive. What we need to do is prevent that third pin from making contact with the power cable.

Step 4: Solution One

The first solution involves a piece of Kapton tape to cover that third pin. It's a special type of non-conductive tape that's stable at both low and high temperatures, and is yellowish in color. Take a piece of backing paper from a sheet of labels and place the tape onto it. Then take a piece of cardboard and place it underneath. The goal here is to cut a thin strip of tape - enough to cover that third pin - so take a razor and gently slice off a strip of tape. Next, on the hard drive, locate the third pin, and gently apply the tape. I highly recommend that you use an ESD wrist strap while you're doing this, as you are touching the contacts of the drive. The tape is too long for the pin, so snip off the excess with some scissors.

Going back to the computer, while the Kapton tape is on the third pin, connect the power cable which will slip right over the tape, and then the data cable. After booting up the PC and returning to the storage information in the BIOS, we can see that the Western Digital drive is indeed being recognized - and if you boot into Windows or whichever operating system you're using, you will see the drive and be able to partition it and format it.

Step 5: Solution Two

The second solution involves a Molex-to-SATA power adapter, which goes between the hard drive and the power supply. The one shown here has both a power adapter and a data connector, so it's a two-in-one adapter, but all you really need is the power piece of it. They sell just the Molex-to-SATA adapter, separate from the data cable. All you need to do is connect the adapter to a molex connector coming from your power supply, and the other end to the hard disk. These adapters effectively bypass pin 3 on the SATA power connector. Please note that some cheaply made adapters have been known to catch fire, so please do some research and purchase a high quality adapter.

Once again, after entering the BIOS, the Western Digital drive is recognized. Continuing to boot into Windows will allow you to see the disk and format it.

Step 6: Summary

There are many power supplies which will work just fine with the white label drives without any modification, and my QNAP NAS devices work fine with them as well. But if you run across a situation where the drives don't power up, you can use one of these methods that I've covered - using the Kapton tape or the Molex-to-SATA adapter - to prevent any voltage to travel to pin three of the disk, allowing you to use the white label Western Digital disks as internal drives.

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    DIY Hacks and How Tos

    7 months ago

    Interesting. Good to know information if that ever comes up. Thanks for sharing.