How To Convert WD USB To SATA

by May 20, 2023

This is another post in our Tech Series for new data recovery professionals.

Modern Western Digital portable USB hard drives use an integrated USB PCB rather than a USB to SATA adapter, so it may seem obvious to attempt recovery of these drives over USB, however, it’s not recommended to attempt hard drive recovery over a USB connection. Recovery over USB could put the drive at risk for premature failure, and it’s faster and more reliable to use a SATA connection for data recovery whenever possible. Although this article is primarily for data recovery professionals, computer shops and techs should note that attempting a recovery over USB will often return poor results and can end in catastrophic failure if the platter surfaces and/or heads are degraded.

Another reason for USB to SATA conversion is that some modern WD drives have encryption enabled in the onboard CPU. Because of this newer design, a data recovery pro has to use the PCB with the original CPU or move the CPU to a compatible board. The latter requires more equipment and training than some data recovery labs might have, and it adds an unnecessary level of risk. We recommend that the original USB printed circuit board (PCB) be converted to a SATA connection, unless the board is in a state of disrepair. If the original PCB is lost on a CPU-encrypted model, the data will be lost for good.

When converting these boards to SATA, the data recovery engineer will isolate the USB controller by removing 4 small capacitors on the component side of the board. This will prevent data signal interference. On the non-component side of the board, we add 6 wires for the SATA connection: power, ground, and 4 data lines (A+, A-, B+, B-).

The photos below are for reference when we are helping new data recovery engineers recover data from modern Western Digital portable USB drives (Passport, Ultra, Elements). Do not put your data at risk, seek professional data recovery service or you could lose all of your data. Below we present the wiring details for some popular boards from 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, and 5TB WD Palmer, Spyglass, Spyglass2, Ultra, and Charger models. Use at your own risk!


















Warning: This post is part of our tech series. If you are not an experienced data recovery professional, you should not attempt recovery of data from a failed device. There is a reason computer repair technicians and other data recovery companies outsource to us. You can do a lot of damage because of the things you don’t know about a hard drive’s mechanical design and firmware specifics. In some cases, you could make it impossible for your data to be recovered. We offer flat-rate hard drive data recovery service so you don’t have to put your data at risk.