New firmware for my Western Digital “My Book Live” NAS storage device

The WD My Book Live is a NAS device based on Debian Linux, Since Debian stopped supporting this processor, the device has received no updates and will probably never, so the next best thing to do in my opinion is to install openWRT.

Before you start

1- Only the first few paragraphs of this tutorial (STEPS 1 THROUGH 6) are the instructions you need, the remaining is just for extra reference and in short you don’t need to read it to have your device running, but I do recommend YOU SKIM THE WHOLE THING BEFORE YOU START.
2- This procedure requires you to take the disk out and install it on a PC to switch the firmware, then put it back
3- The upgrade will delete all your data, You will need to move your data that is already on your WD NAS drive somewhere else while the upgrade is ready.

Step 1: Move any existing data BEFORE TAKING APART.

Move any data you may have on the drive to a temporary location outside the NAS drive. this has to be done before taking the drive apart as the unconventional 64 kB block size of the disk will be nothing but trouble if you want to extract the data while mounting the disk to a linux PC for example.

Step 2: Take the disk apart

I have included photos to help you do that, it is not rocket science.

Step 3: Mount the disk on a linux PC (Windows and MAC should work)

and mount it to a linux PC (Windows might work with software such as etcher, but i have no guarantees).

Step 4: Download the openWRT firmware

Go to the drive’s page on the openwrt website (Here), and download it to your Linux (Or windows) PC

Step 5: Write the firmware to the disk.

Decompress the file, then copy it to the drive with a command similar to the command below, but make 100% sure to replace sdx with your own drive designation

 dd if=/root/wdsata.img of=/dev/sdx bs=64k

Write the firmware to the disk, overwriting it, and effectively loosing any data you did not backup in step 1

Step 6: Put the drive back in the enclosure

Nothing to say here, this is the reverse of step 2

Step 7: Create the data partition

At this stage, your device will boot, but you will need to create/expand the data partition, the partition that should not be overwritten when you upgrade the firmware for example.

You are done.

FAQ about the original firmware

What is that vulnerability about

it comes from WDs cloud service, bottom line is that many devices were completely wiped remotely by malicious users and it is unknown if the data itself leaked, so yes, it is very serious

What is the difference between quick factory restore and full factory restore

Quick factory restore is probably what you are looking for, the later seems to do a zero fill on the hard drive after performing a factory restore to disallow data retrieval (For example before you sell it), you can verify this by logging in using SSH, and by the fact that the tool tips state something to that effect.

Inspecting the device

To begin with, I logged in via SSH and inspected some stuff, to enable SSH access on the My Book Live original firmware, you will need to visit a page at a URL such as http://mybooklive/UI/ssh or http://192.168.2.116/UI/ssh (Replace the IP with your own)

the system is based on the following CPU

CPU
processor       : 0
cpu             : APM82181
clock           : 800.000008MHz
revision        : 28.130 (pvr 12c4 1c82)
bogomips        : 1600.00
timebase        : 800000008
platform        : PowerPC 44x Platform
model           : amcc,apollo3g
Memory          : 256 MB

With that out of the way, A look at /etc/apt/sources.list revealed that it is a Debian Distro, the only problem with this is that debian stopped supporting this CPU some time ago, so you can’t go past Debian 8 (Jessie)

deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ squeeze main
deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ wheezy main
#deb-src http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ wheezy main
#deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ sid main

Checking the disk info with hdparm revealed that the disk is a WDC WD20EARX-00PASB0, which is as i expected a Caviar Green (SMR disk)

parted (The new fdisk so to speak) shows the following partition scheme for the existing system.

Model: ATA WDC WD20EARX-00P (scsi)
Disk /dev/sda: 2000GB
Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B
Partition Table: gpt

Number  Start   End     Size    File system     Name     Flags
 3      15.7MB  528MB   513MB   linux-swap(v1)  primary
 1      528MB   2576MB  2048MB  ext3            primary  raid
 2      2576MB  4624MB  2048MB  ext3            primary  raid
 4      4624MB  2000GB  1996GB  ext4            primary

And a “df -h” reveals

Filesystem            Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/md0              1.9G  555M  1.3G  31% /
tmpfs                 5.0M     0  5.0M   0% /lib/init/rw
udev                   10M  6.7M  3.4M  67% /dev
tmpfs                 5.0M     0  5.0M   0% /dev/shm
tmpfs                 100M  4.6M   96M   5% /tmp
ramlog-tmpfs           20M  4.5M   16M  23% /var/log
/dev/sda4             1.9T  2.1G  1.9T   1% /DataVolume

A good alternative for this Gigabit Lan network attached storage might be openWRT, the same firmware I use for my routers !

there are things you need to know in advance though, first of which is that changing the firmware will require you to delete everything on the drive ! as Western Digital have used an unconventional bunch of things such as a 64 kB block size !

With that out of the way, you can skip down to the installing openWRT about the upgrade process step by step (Including backing up your system), then come back to why etc…

What if i want to revert back to the WD software ?

That is indeed a good question, and to make it easy to do that, I have already backed up the entire disk to another while I am sure that i don’t want to go back. Also worth mentioning that the latest firmware on the WD website dates back to 2015 ! which is at the time of writing 6 years ago !

Where can i find the up to date openWRT distribution for this drive ?

OpenWRT has a page dedicated to this drive, both the single and the Duo here (https://openwrt.org/toh/western_digital/mybooklive)

What are the benefits of the NAS box (enclosure), why not just take out the hard drive and put it in a PC somewhere.

The Western Digital My Book Live has a super low power CPU, and when the disk is spun down, it consumes very little energy (Not a significant load to your UPS for example), It is also fan-less, so it is with the exception of the spinning drive when it is spinning silent, which is also a nice thing, So i would argue that keeping it by updating it’s software is a good idea

Another reason is the amount of relevant software provided through openWRT packages, covering many more things than the original firmware (miniDLNA included).

How do i keep the system up to date

If you come from a debian background, you would normally apt-get update then apt-get upgrade and that is that, in OpenWRT, there is no such upgrade command, the upgrade command in openWRT is meant to upgrade 1 package specified by name, so the solution is the following line

 opkg list-upgradable | cut -f 1 -d ' ' | xargs -r opkg upgrade

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