HGST Enterprise He8 HDD Found in Early Retail 8TB WD My Book

As we were publishing our full review of the Western Digital Red 8TB, we noted something odd. While the street prices of the bare drives seemed to be a bit high ($333), the WD My Book was on sale for $250. Ryan happened to look them up and discovered that our local Best Buy actually had them available for store pick-up. Since the 8TB Red and My Book 8TB were launched simultaneously, and we were just provided early samples of the 8TB Reds last week, how could there already be 8TB Reds on the shelf just down the street? Could they have shipped some earlier form of the 8TB Red in the external My Book and continued tweaking their NASware algorithms / firmware prior to the Red launching? Our curiosity got the best of us, and we decided to find out.

Sebastian ran out to his local Best Buy and picked up a single WD My Book 8TB model, promptly took it home and ripped it open. I don’t think he even plugged it in first. This is what he found:

Well, that’s not a Red label, but it does say Western Digital, and it’s clearly a HelioSeal housing (common to HGST He Series and WD Red 8TB). One thing that immediately stuck out to me was the model number. WD model numbers have a specific pattern (WD80EFZX), and that number above does *not* follow that pattern. The pattern it does follow, however, is that of the HGST He8 line:

Sebastian noted something else almost immediately. The label looked like it was on top of another one. Peeling this one back showed this pure white label:

…and peeling back *that* label gave us this:

We also did some quick performance tests to further confirm what we were seeing. Here’s the My Book 8TB:

…and now the HGST He8 sample we have here:

Connecting the He8 directly to a system gave us similar results, but with the 'correct' model number appearing as the device ID instead of the My Book label.

Ok, so what we have figured out so far is early WD My Book 8TB models may have gone out with relabeled HGST He8’s. We say early because it only makes sense for WD to shift over to actual Reds in the future, as My Books are not marketed as performance units and would generally only be performance-rated with 5400 RPM drives. Bear in mind that all of the above would not necessarily apply to other WD external units. It is very unlikely that they would have put white label drives in any of their external units that have user-replaceable drives (like the My Book Mirror, for example), as those are typically branded as coming equipped with WD Red units installed.

WD is, of course, free to install a faster drive if they wish in their single drive units, and an enterprise-grade He8 most definitely exceeds the performance of the 5400 RPM WD Red. Now our sample set is only a single drive purchased from a Best Buy, so we have no clue if this carries over to Amazon sales or any other outlets. We also have no idea how many went out with He8 internals, so if you are thinking about picking these up, realize that you may not end up with He8’s or even Reds for that matter (it is possible that WD will use a de-rated / white label form of the Red in the My Book down the road). It is also entirely possible that the He8 seen here has tweaked firmware making it less NAS / RAID friendly (TLER disabled), so use extreme caution before trying to buy 8 of these and shucking them for that 64TB array you were lusting over.

Whichever way you look at it, it’s nice to see a company ‘fail faster’ when it comes to substitutions. It's also giving some unsuspecting folks one hell of a deal on an enterprise drive.