How to: Disassemble Toshiba Canvio Desk (3Tb) External Hard Drive

Since I published an article concerning the Toshiba Canvio Desk 3Tb External Hard Drive, many visitors to the site had arrived looking for instructions to disassemble the drive. The product itself is very well priced – and in some countries, disassembling such a drive may be the only way to get storage at the best price, while getting the best performance out of the drive.

Please remember – you do anything at your own risk. Further to this, by disassembling the drive, you will void all warranties.

The drive itself is manufactured quite solidly, and is a completely screw-less plastic shell design. The way to get it open is not obvious, however, any attempt to open it will damage the casing permanently.

Begin by identifying the bottom rear of the drive where the grille is the widest.

Disassemble Toshiba Canvio Desk 3Tb

You will need a relatively stiff, thin and wide tool to insert into the casing to separate the halves. In my case, I repurposed an I/O rear cover, but a knife or a metal ruler could be just as adequate.

I/O Cover

You will need to insert the spudger where I’ve indicated and move it towards the power/USB connector, where the shell will separate enough for you to tear it apart with your hands.

IMDisassemble Toshiba Canvio Desk 3Tb Open Apart

Unfortunately, you will damage the clips, so being able to reuse this case may be limited to one or two openings at most – but you could always glue/tape it back together if you wanted.

Disassemble Toshiba Canvio Desk 3Tb Damaged Clips

The drive itself is as I reported earlier.

Disassemble Toshiba Canvio Desk 3Tb Internal Drive

The drive itself is shielded by a metal EMI shielding cover which is attached with rubber-grommeted screws on the side. You must undo these four screws.

Disassemble Toshiba Canvio Desk 3Tb Side Screws

There are also two screws on the underside which must be undone to release the shield.

Disassemble Toshiba Canvio Desk 3Tb Rear Screws

You can then remove the SATA to USB 3.0 bridge, which has a minimized triangular footprint! Wow! That’s the smallest I’ve ever seen it!

Disassemble Toshiba Canvio Desk 3Tb Bridge Chip Top

The chip used on this bridge is a VLI VL701 USB 3.0 to SATA II Bridge Controller. The PCB is marked with PI-539 V1.3 dated 11th May 2012 and the PCB is made by Shenzhen Sun and Lynn Circuits Co. Ltd.

Disassemble Toshiba Canvio Desk 3Tb Bridge Chip Bottom

I hope this has helped you achieve happiness, if opening a Toshiba Canvio Desk was your quest. As a side note, Google has now encrypted all search terms, so I won’t be able to read your mind the next time …

Addendum: Reader Question on SMART Values

At the request of Dave, here are the SMART dump values for the three 3Tb drives I have shucked from my cases, and one last one that’s still inside of its enclosure. Note that I have set CrystalDiskInfo to report in base 10 [DEC] rather than 16 [HEX] – you can change this by going to Function, Advanced Feature, Raw Values and toggling the base value there.

Toshiba3Tb-Drive1

Toshiba3Tb-Drive2

Toshiba3Tb-Drive3

Toshiba3Tb-Drive4

The value of concern in the comment was attribute 02, labelled Throughput Performance. All of my values are hovering about 80-84 for raw value, with a SMART value of 144. As far as I can tell, you should really be concerned if the current or worst figures are below the threshold of 54 (the level the manufacturer deems “critical”). However, if you’re experiencing slow reads or writes, it may indicate drive difficulty in which case you are advised to back up your data ASAP.

Note that the values themselves may vary depending on your drive model and the way the firmware interprets the values. The value of 0 for raw or SMART value is suspicious and would trigger a warning, and may deserve an RMA erring on the side of caution. If it’s slow or making unusual noises – send it back. I have noted in the past that some drives may start getting “unexpected” or unusual SMART values due to firmware problems or many improper power-downs as well.

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27 Responses to How to: Disassemble Toshiba Canvio Desk (3Tb) External Hard Drive

  1. ~Coxy says:

    Hi! Love your blog, haven’t had a reason to comment yet but here goes.

    I recently bought some Hitachi 4TB USB3 external drives because they were (much) cheaper than buying the bare drives.

    Unbeknownst to me the bridge board only supports advanced format disks so I’m wondering whether the VLI controllers on your drive’s bridge board might have the same limitation.

    Regards,
    James

    • lui_gough says:

      Dear James,

      You do raise an interesting and rather “complicated” point which I might have to devote an entire blog post to once I confirm what’s happening. It’s rather technical – I apologize in advance if it’s a bit difficult to follow.

      I will try to summarize, but it seems that the bridge chips that *are* capable of 2+Tb (i.e. they break the 2.1Tb barrier) are often “switched” to present the drive as 4k “native” sector size so that the drives can be (strangely) partitioned in MBR so that 3+Tb drives attached to Windows XP machines (which don’t understand GPT) via USB3.0 still operate properly. This works because the number of blocks in the drive doesn’t exceed the 32-bit size limit when you represent each block as 4k in size rather than 512 bytes.

      The hard drives themselves are 4k “internally” but present 512e (i.e. 512 byte emulated sectors), so the Advanced Format drives are (at a low level) pretty much identical. They have specific information flags which can tell the OS they “prefer” transfers aligned and sized to 4k, but will still process 512 byte accesses just with some performance penalty. There are no drives which present native 4k sectors to the OS directly without 512e, at least, to my knowledge on the consumer market. Despite the drives themselves having information that signals to the OS what its “real” self is (i.e. 4k native, 512e), the bridge chips do not pass these commands – so instead, the OS relies on what the bridge chip reports (which will be 4k native).

      The *magic* is really happening at the bridge chip level where some translation is happening, thus I believe that drives which are *not* AF and are used in computers directly (and partitioned with LBAs of 512 bytes) may have trouble when transferred to bridge chips which do the sector-lumping translation as the block numbers no longer align as each block is 8 times bigger than before and vice-versa. There may even be a slight funny-thing going on with sector slipping as normally, MBR does start the first partition at sector 63 (which isn’t going to be aligned with a straight mapping). This was one of the big issues with migrating to AF drives back in the “XP” days. I’m really only speculating with the sector slipping, but I’ve seen the sector size reporting as native 4k with my own eyes. The effects of this I will need to confirm by experiment. It does, however, bear strong relations to when we had capacity barriers which we had to break – especially in the days of 528Mb – 8.4Gb barriers where CHS translation was the way (i.e. swapping numbers between cylinders, heads, sectors to make a geometry which fits into the limitations).

      The fun seems to happen in the bridge chip’s programming – many of these options can be set in the EEPROM but the utilities to do so are restricted to factory distribution, and may be password protected too. I know because I’ve seen the utility for the Asmedia chips which have the option, and no doubt other bridge chips might as well. Maybe if you could obtain the appropriate EEPROM utility, you can upgrade the firmware, and change the compatibility flags (amongst other things, like the VID, PID, and friendly name strings).

      Another issue I have come across in certain bridge chips is timing compatibility issues, where replacing drives with others leads to unreliable detection of the drive, and thus it didn’t work at all. This happened with an Initio chipset when combined with a certain SSD, but I’m sure edge cases may pop up from time to time despite the well-meaning standards which do their best to maintain interoperability.

      I would usually not recommend people to buy encased drives with any intention of “reusing” the bridge chip except for in an emergency – but if there are problems with the bridge chip, I agree, you really need to know before you need to use it and find it doesn’t work! After all, some also use the friendly name to “hide” the true device name of the drive which is placed within the case, just one of the “features” which you expect to see if you do these kinds of things.

      I’ll do my best to explore and investigate – I’ve got several different bridge chipsets and some AF and some pre-AF drives, so I’ll see what my digging turns up :).

      - Gough

  2. Pingback: Experiment: USB to SATA bridge chips and >2Tb drives | Gough's Tech Zone

  3. Eric says:

    This also works for opening the 2tb model DWC120. It’s the exact same setup. Thanks!

  4. Ho usato questo post per aprire il toshiba stor.e canvio, (voglio usare il suo capiente disco in un NAS che ho appena comprato.
    E’ un pò difficoltoso da aprire il tutto, ma poi è possibile riusare facilmente il case di plastica della toshiba, mettendo dentro un diverso HD
    grazie

    I used this post to open the Toshiba Canvio STOR.E, (I want to use his capacious disk into a NAS that I just bought.
    It ‘sa bit difficult to open the whole thing, but then you can easily reuse the plastic houses of toshiba, putting in a different HD
    thanks

  5. Mohd. Nasim Ahmed says:

    I got much help from “How to: Disassemble Toshiba Canvio Desk (3Tb) External Hard Drive”
    Thanks a lot…….:)
    Nasim, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
    [E-mail removed to avoid spam]

  6. Dave says:

    Hi,

    thank’s for the information.
    I’ve bought a refurbished Toshiba Stor.E Canvio 3,5 3TB USB 3.0 and it has a weird SMART value on ID 02 Throughput Performance with Crystal Disk Info 5_0_0.
    My 2TB Canvio has a value of 0. I would be pleased if you could add a screen shot of the SMART values from your drive.

    Kindly Regards.

    • lui_gough says:

      Dear Dave,

      I’ve dumped the SMART data from my four 3Tb Canvio Desks of which three were removed from their enclosure, with the final one still in its enclosure. The results have been added to the end of this post. I hope you find the information useful.

      - Gough

  7. Harney says:

    Thanks for the neat review ….

    Bought two brand new Toshiba stor.e canvio 3 TB HDWC130EW3J1 both have failed in less than a week 1st one straight out of the box with bad sector count going sky high and the 2nd a few days later with a failing usb 3 board not being able to be recognised .So very unhappy do not recommend Toshiba at all i understand one drive may have a problem but both and there customer support is slow unresponsive and its also hard to find the right info re RMA warranty service ect…All in all a bad experience

    • lui_gough says:

      You must have been unlucky. I’ve heard of a few batches with early failures, it’s likely due to poor handling or shipping problems.

      I have EIGHT drives, all have lasted at least 9 months of active use with 0 bad sectors on any of them. All drives healthy, alive and mostly filled with data. Likewise, the experience of Backblaze in their recent article on hard drive reliability places Hitachi in a favourable position. We know that Toshiba inherited and continued to produce Hitachi designs in the same facilities under this particular branding, especially due to the physical shape, labelling and product name still being Hitachi, and as such, I’ve expected these drives to be reliable.

      Everybody gets unlucky from time to time – I’ve heard issues with drives of every brand, replacement deaths etc. Stay away if you must, but I can say it’s definitely not an issue for me.

      - Gough

      • Harney says:

        Thanks for the response Gough

        I totally agree re the reliability of Hitachi drives this is the reason i got these i have always been happy with all Hitachi’s i bought in the past so yes you are right i must just be darn unlucky…Its just very frustrating being down 6TB’s at a time when i most need it for data sorting …..

        I am also looking into trying to open these without damaging the case i know its near impossible but surly there is a way to do so as i do not want to throw away the warranty that’s all….

        Peeps are buying externals much cheaper than the oem counterpart bare drive and pulling the drive out thinking there saving money which they are but most do not realize there throwing there warranty away so in turn do not gain really

        I will let you know my progress of opening one up unhurt and crying

        :)

        • Harney says:

          NOT CRYING

        • lui_gough says:

          Yeah, I’d probably get my drives *from somewhere else* to try and avoid what is likely to be a batch of drive that might have “fallen off a forklift”. Removing the case is definitely a void warranty, and there’s really not much you can do to hide it. The plastic tabs break easily, and the gouge marks are apparent.

          The funny thing is that they don’t realize that if they buy the “bare drive” – they can often get the 7200rpm version for the same price as the 5940rpm versions that are in the case. At least, that’s been the case in Australia where the drives are gaining a little popularity as the cheapest, best performing 3Tb drive on the market at the moment.

          Hitachi have had their bad spell back in the early 2000′s with their “Deathstar” fiasco when they changed over to glass platters and “pixie dust” fine magnetic coating. The coating would wear off the disks and cause crashes, bad sectors, noise and loss of data. Others had click-of-death due to lost NVRAM data and or bad heads. Every brand has it’s own series of issues, some Maxtor Diamondmax series drives have cost my friends plenty too.

          The safest way is always to back-up if you can afford it, or keep close eyes on the SMART data and performance of the drive (speed, sound) which you seem to be doing.

          - Gough

          • sparcie says:

            I couldn’t agree more, all hard disks are prone to dying so it’s important to backup your data. I always put an extra drive in my machines for such a purpose and back up really important stuff to multiple machines. If you’re really paranoid you store a copy off-site so a disaster like fire or flood isn’t a problem.

            I used to see a lot of dead disks when I was working in IT support. Whilst brand and model of disk can influence how many and how often disks fail, the truth is any disk can stop functioning.

            External disks sometimes don’t have the highest quality Hard disks a manufacter offers. For instance the green economical drives are common in western digital externals. So I only use them typically for low-speed or backup drives and only really when portability is a huge concern.

            Cheers
            Sparcie

          • Harney says:

            1st i will take it back saying stay clear of a brand as it can happen to any so maybe i was being a little biased regarding this but you have to understand its very frustrating having to RMA waiting and then be unsure if you end up with a repaired defective drive again which i will not be happy about …been back and forth in the past with Seagate think it was between 5 or 6 rma’s of the same drive in the end they sent a new one and that’s still running today

            BUT i can not stress how important it is the have multiple backups of your most important data ..data that CAN NOT be replaced is a must on multi backup..and as these 2 3tb where intended for that role the positive way of looking at this is that its better for them to both fail now then say they both fail a few months on and lose all the precious data ..so even though its a pain in the backside having to rma ect i can be rest assured i have not lost any important data..touch wood

  8. Harney says:

    UPDATE….

    So i sent off both of the faulty 3tb ext drives back to Toshiba but must admit that finding out about how to RMA return ect with Toshiba hard drives is very scarce hard to find ect….

    But once done and filled out the relevant info they send you an email requesting that they must be sent to there hard drive centre which is based in Germany as i am in the UK….

    They supply you with a tel & ref number to ring which is UPS… so i arranged this and gave them the reference number easy done booked they pick up and re post the replacement and this is with no extra cost which is great….

    So i received a package yesterday from Toshiba thinking it would be a refurbished or repaired unit i was amazed to find it was a complete new sealed replacement….and is on test as i type all looking good so far …..I am just waiting now on my 2nd replacement drive to come back….the whole process sending and getting back took around 10 days and was all with no cost so all in all very happy with Toshiba…… Even though i had two die on me it happens i suppose…just wish Toshiba made it easier for peeps to find the return info …

    Ta H

    • lui_gough says:

      Dear Harney,

      It’s a bit of a shame to see quite a few people having trouble with their Toshiba branded drives, although, it does sound like you had a decent RMA experience once you tracked them down. I have yet to RMA a Toshiba from AU, although my experiences of RMAing WD and Seagate have cost me a significant proportion of the drive cost in postage fees (needless to say, if the drive is a little old, I won’t bother doing that again!).

      As for drive testing, I hope you like using the command prompt in Linux. Most of the commands will need to be done as a superuser as you will be accessing block devices directly. If you make any mistakes, you can totally destroy the data on any attached device – my advice (for beginners) is to use a spare system with ONLY the drive you want to test on it. You may find most Linux live-CDs to have the tools needed for the job (maybe even Ubuntu install CD’s Live CD mode does too, although I won’t guarantee it).

      Step 1 is to identify where your “target” device you want to test is. You might be able to find it if you execute dmesg right after plugging it in – it might be sdb, sdc, etc. (if you have an internal hard disk, it might be hda or sda – multiple disks will then follow down). Don’t guess! Find out by looking carefully at it. Alternatively, you can try fdisk -l which will list all drives and partition tables – you will probably be able to tell which drive is your target by the size and the partitioning.

      Step 2 is to fill the drive with random data. Easily done with the dd command. You need to execute something like dd if=/dev/random of=/dev/sd* bs=32M where * is replaced with the correct letter corresponding to the device you want filled. It will look like nothing’s happening for a long time, as dd doesn’t print output as it goes. If you want updates, in a new console window you will have to find the process number for that dd instance (by using ps -A) and then executing watch -n 1 kill -USR1 * where * is the process ID number. This will cause it to print a status update each second, although you would probably like to kill (CRTL+C) the console window with watch running, once dd has completed.

      Step 3 is to take the MD5 of the whole drive as a single block device. Easily done by executing md5sum /dev/sd* where * is the letter corresponding to the drive you wish to test. Unfortunately, this won’t print the progress, so you might want to just make a short .sh script with this command typed in three times – you should see three lines of identical output consisting of the sum, followed by a tab, and the device name. If they are all identical, you have just proven that you have filled the drive completely (unpartitionable sector slack area and all) with random data, read it back three times, and the results were the same all three times. This normally is enough for me to “certify” that the drive is sufficiently healthy to go into service.

      Step 4 is a prudent one as well – check the SMART health of the drive. Unfortunately, if it’s over USB, I find Linux to be inconsistent – doing it under Windows using CrystalDiskInfo is often a better way. In CrystalDiskInfo, if you have “just attached the drive” before opening the program, you will have to choose to rescan drives to see the SMART data. Note that some USB chipsets do not support passing SMART commands, so in that case, you’ll either have to go blind or put the drive into a supported internal port. For those which are bare drives, directly attached to the controller, you can often use smartctl -A /dev/sd* to get a printout of the attribute and raw value table. I hope you already know how to interpret these – if not, please do some research online (as I’ve explained this too often over the years).

      If you don’t want to use Linux, there’s a few options. You could use DBAN (Darik’s Boot and Nuke) which is a bootable “mini” Linux disc already set up for data destruction and sanitation purposes. It’s capable of doing a random fill and (to my knowledge) once-over verify, which could be enough for you.

      Under Windows, because of the lack of ease of working with block devices directly, my preferred route is to use WinHex. This software is not free, and can be quite expensive if you’re not using it for other purposes (data recovery, forensics, etc.). You will need to ensure you have the right edition for your needs (at this point, you should just use Linux …). It’s also a bit slower than Linux (likely due to non-optimized routines), but you can achieve the same thing by using the Open Disk command, then Fill Disk Sectors with Random for 1 pass. Then you can Select All, then choose Compute Hash, then MD5. Repeat the Compute Hash, then MD5 command twice more to get three MD5 results.

      If you don’t get the same result every time, and receive say, one “bad” one, check to make sure that you have no viruses or rogue programs in your test-bed (anything that can “accidentally” write to the disk and alter it during a test). If that has been eliminated, what you may be finding are transient flaws in the compatibility of the USB bridge chip with your USB controller, or the USB bridge chip with the Hard Drive, or the Hard Drive with your internal controller (the latter being least likely, as most internal controllers are now quite decent). This may be driver related (so maybe there’s a bug in Linux if you’re using that) or maybe the hardware itself has timing issues. I discovered the reason behind random file-system corruption on a 2.5″ Pocket HDD I owned was down to the ITE Bridge Chip in use that would randomly mangle one sector in every 60Gb of writes or thereabouts. Needless to say, once I changed the bridge chip (by moving the drive to a new enclosure), the problem disappeared.

      So the value in testing is beyond just testing the hardware, it also tests it under some stress to ensure there’s a good level of compatibility.

      - Gough

      • Harney says:

        Thank you Gough

        Very helpful and should be easy to follow will give that a go later this weekend…I am sure this will be helpful to others too…

        Thanks again H

  9. Harney says:

    Hi Gough

    When you get time would you be so kind and upload some photos of the entire inner case mainly where the clips are ect i have 3 of these drives now all with usb problems and i am going to attempt to open them all with the objective of not damaging the case so i can still use the warranty in case of drive fails within the pc

    After doing some research i found that the drives are excellent once used as sata the only thing that lets them down is the usb bridge that Toshiba have used …there are power problems not feeding enough power to the drive (there have been over 5 reports of this that i have found so far stating when used as usb external the drive make a sweeping sound ect once taken out of case and powered up in pc there fine no sweeping noise)…All three i have here have to be plugged in 3 or 4 times before there recognized tested in 5 other systems too same thing so no its not a pc fault ..
    Shame really

    I do not trust these externals at all for storing data even with a dual backup would prefer to use the drives as sata within the pc so i know there getting the right amount of power…

    Regards sy

    • lui_gough says:

      No problems, but I’ll need a few days (two, maybe three) since it’s a bit of a busy time here and I’m totally worn out! I’ll get back to you as soon as I have time.

      - Gough

      • Harney says:

        Hi Gough

        No Problem you sound busy any how i have managed to source some info regarding taking these apart so i will post the link for others to use…(The drive testing write up you did worked a treat thanks)…

        http://imgur.com/a/OSydS

        sy

        • lui_gough says:

          Dear Sy,

          Looks like you’ve found gold :). That will be helpful for all – thanks for letting me know. Looks like I won’t have to crack mine open again ;).

          - Gough

  10. 1111sdaads says:

    Dear Gough,

    Thanks a lot for your info. They are great!

    One question: what is needed to make it work as an internal drive?

    I’ve opened the case, removed the drive, put it on my Windows XP SP2 box and it does not seem to work :-(

    The OS sees a 800GB drive, not a 3TB one and it does not properly see the partition. If I plug the disk back into the case and connect through USB all goes back to normal.

    Any ideas?

    • lui_gough says:

      Drives larger than 2.2Tb will not work under Windows XP when directly connected as it can only understand up to 32-bits number of sectors (i.e. 4294967296 sectors) due to the use of legacy MBR partitioning which uses 32 bit values. When hard drives are directly connected, advanced format drives report to the system and emulate 512-byte sectors -> therefore, you can only access 2Tb at the most. If you need more information, you can search up “2.2Tb Barrier” and there will be many hits.

      Due to the way the numbering works, the actual capacity wraps around and you are left with ~ 800Gb.

      The only way to use the full 3Tb capacity would be to partition it using the newer GPT format, which is not understood by Windows XP. Windows 7 and newer, for example, have no trouble with GPT, nor does Linux.

      When you plug it into the external case – something different happens. The case actually “groups together” eight 512-byte sectors and presents them as a single 4k sized sector. This divides the number of sectors by eight, and now it fits within the 32-bit sector count limit. This means that the drive WILL partition and access correctly under Windows XP using the old MBR system.

      I put more information in my post about the bridge chip here: http://goughlui.com/?p=4721

      Hope that clears it up for you.

      - Gough

  11. Jp says:

    Thank you for your how to on opening the Toshiba 3tb drives. I purchased two and one failed within a month. The problem is the en-closer board itself. Mine quit working on USB 3.0 but would still work on 2.0 I was lucky and able to get the data off. I’m going to install both of the drives as internal from this point forward. Note: after reading all the reviews online, I have come to the conclusion that this is a common problem with these units. Looks like Toshiba failed on this one.
    Thanks again.

  12. This was magic: http://imgur.com/a/OSydS (I only broke 2 :) ) Thanks!!

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