Western Digital sued over claims of data-trashing SanDisk, My Passport SSDs

Drives are anything but solid, allegedly

Western Digital was sued on Tuesday on behalf of a California resident who claims the solid state drive he bought from the manufacturer was defective and that the storage slinger shipped kit that didn't live up to its marketing promises.

The complaint [PDF], filed in federal court in San Jose, California, where the storage giant is based, alleges the Western Digital SanDisk 2TB Extreme Pro SSD purchased by plaintiff Nathan Krum in May for $180 failed because of an undisclosed flaw, which also affects SanDisk Extreme Pro, Extreme Portable, Extreme Pro Portable, and WD My Passport SSD models since January 2023, it's claimed.

As such, the case aspires to be certified as a class action that would represent an unspecified number of customers said to have experienced similar device failures or data loss. The class potentially consists of "tens if not hundreds of thousands of individuals" in the United States.

The complaint asserts Western Digital customers "have widely reported drive failures and data loss." Krum, in his filing, believes Western Digital is aware of the problem and not doing enough about it.

"The SanDisk Extreme Pro SSD hard drives, which are also sold under the WD My Passport brand, have a firmware issue that causes them to disconnect or become unreadable by computers," he claimed, adding that his drive was among those that stopped working as expected.

It is alleged the drives can break down in various ways, including randomly disconnecting from their host, which could result in information not being saved correctly or file-system corruption. In any case, people find they can no longer access their stored documents, making the SSDs worthless and useless, it is claimed.

The lawsuit summarized the alleged situation thus:

Without warning these hard drives have wiped out data stored on them, making the files stored on them unable to be accessed

"For reasons that defendants have yet to fully explain or disclose, without warning these hard drives have wiped out data stored on them, making the files stored on them unable to be accessed and users unable or unwilling to use these drives out of the reasonable concern such data will be lost forever or cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars to recover."

In May, Western Digital issued an update to address "a firmware issue that can cause SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD V2, SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD V2, and WD My Passport SSD products to unexpectedly disconnect from a computer."

That patch was intended for the following products: SanDisk Extreme Portable 4TB (SDSSDE61-4T00), SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable 4TB (SDSSDE81-4T00), SanDisk Extreme Pro 2TB (SDSSDE81-2T00), SanDisk Extreme Pro 1TB (SDSSDE81-1T00), and WD My Passport 4TB (WDBAGF0040BGY).

According to Krum, the problem is much more than a disconnection annoyance: "It is not simply a connection issue – data is being lost without warning, and class members are reporting an inability to access and retrieve data they have stored on their devices."

To us, if drives are disconnecting unexpectedly, that could cause corruption that would be experienced by users as a data or file loss.

Meanwhile, firmware version R332G190 was emitted last month, and adversely affected drive reliability, the lawsuit claimed. "According to SanDisk, one issue is caused by a bug in the firmware version R332G190 that was released in July 2023. This bug affects some SanDisk Extreme and SanDisk Extreme PRO SSDs with capacities of 500GB, 1TB, and 2TB," the complaint alleged.

"The bug can cause the drive to enter a read-only mode, which means that the user cannot write any new data to the drive or delete any existing data. The bug can also cause the drive to become undetected by the computer or show an incorrect capacity."

For what it's worth, we couldn't find an R332G190 update on the web, though it may be accessible from this portal, which requires a valid serial number for a buggy device. We're looking into this.

Citing reports from individuals who have installed WD's firmware updates, the complaint states an underlying defect remains and continues to haunt certain Western Digital SanDisk and My Passport SSDs. The lawsuit alleges that even replacement equipment, sent to customers who complained of problems with their hard drives, still suffers from the same "latent defect."

"These SanDisk Extreme Pro SSD portable solid-state hard drives are marketed without either affirmatively disclosing these material limitations or having engaged in a corrective promotional campaign to correct their previous misstatements," the lawsuit alleged. "Such conduct is ongoing."

Chris Cantrell, an attorney at Doyle Lowther LLP who is representing the plaintiffs, told The Register it's not yet clear how many SanDisk SSDs experienced data loss though there are more than a few people who share his client's experience.

We have been inundated with messages from individuals all across the US

"We won’t be able to ascertain that number with any certainty until we get into discovery as only Western Digital will have comprehensive information on the complaint rate and/or failure rates," he said.

"We do know that the number will be substantial. These SSDs were quite popular. We have been inundated with messages from individuals all across the US that have lost data or are no longer able to access the portable hard drive. Some of the lost data can’t be recovered or recreated or can only be recreated at great expense."

"While Western Digital appears to have attempted to fix the issue with a firmware update, it does not appear to have fixed the issue," Cantrell added. "This is what prompted us to file this lawsuit on behalf of affected SanDisk SSD purchasers. We anticipate adding additional named plaintiffs from other states over the next few weeks."

The complaint alleges breach of contract, violation of consumer protection law, and misleading advertising, among other claims, and seeks damages, legal costs, and other relief.

Western Digital did not immediately respond to a request for comment. ®

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