Category: Storage Media

Fake Hard Drives for Sale

A couple of years ago, I blogged about Fake Flash Drives, and now I have to write a refresh article: You also need to watch out for Fake Hard Drives and Fake Solid State Drives. Please make sure you don’t buy these things!

Good & Bad Examples

First, some examples of legitimate, reliable storage drives:

These items are all fine choices for your data storage. Please note that they are recognizable, big-brand names within the $50-100 price range.

Now for some fakes for your consideration (PLEASE DO NOT BUY THE FOLLOWING PRODUCTS!):

If you regard those items, you should notice some clues that something’s not right. First, there’s no noticeable brand name, or if there is, it’s a name you’ve never seen before and won’t see anywhere else on the web. There’s a big price disparity, too; charging a few dollars per Terabyte of storage is too good to be true.

16TB storage drives do exist, for the rare few of you that need one. If you buy a legitimate 16TB hard drive, expect to pay around $300 at the time of this writing.

Details & Dangers of Fake Drives

The dangers of this scam go beyond losing some money. Your files are at risk if you fall into this trap. These fraudulent devices are mis-manufactured to offer 16TB of storage to your computer. And your computer will believe it when you attach the drive! But there isn’t really that much storage in there. It’s more like a couple of 64GB microSD cards glued to a reader board in these sham drives.

So what happens is that you can try to put data on the device. And it will work, up to a point, but then catastrophe will strike. As your computer pipes data into an area that it thinks is huge but is really much smaller, your data will fall into oblivion. Like lemmings walking off a cliff. And this won’t be apparent until later, when you try to open or retrieve those files. Then you will meet with errors and irrevocable data loss.

Dos & Don’ts

The Too-Long;-Didn’t-Read advice I can finish up with is:

  • Do pay attention to brand names, and buy something from a recognizable manufacturer.
  • Don’t jump on amazing prices/deals. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Don’t believe the posted reviews! Amazon and other websites are commonly gamed by the scammers, and a sham product can have thousands of 5-star reviews below it.
  • Do be judgmental about where you buy (online). Costco, Staples & Best Buy vet their vendors more than Wal*Mart, Amazon and eBay. Avoid those free-for-all marketplaces where anyone can hawk their wares.
  • Do feel free to report scam products to the website’s support team, but don’t spend a lot of your time or emotion on it. I did that 2 years ago with the flash drive debacle, and it became obvious that these big companies don’t care about or can’t fix the problem from their side.

Retrofloppy.com

We’ve pretty much moved past digital storage media, such as CDs and DVDs, by now. If you’ve got any old discs laying around with important data on them, you should probably move your files off to an external hard drive or cloud storage. These days, very few computers come with an optical drive for reading such discs, and you also have to worry about disc rot as the years go by.

Don’t have a computer with an optical drive? No worries, you can always grab an external one from Amazon or other vendor. A USB-connecting CD/DVD drive should only set you back about $25. Same goes for floppy discs: you won’t ever see a floppy drive in a modern computer, but you can still buy a USB floppy reader from some tech stores and websites. Although here’s a warning, today’s floppy readers may not work for you if your diskettes are pre-2010 or from old Macintoshes…

But you should also know about Retrofloppy.com. If you’ve unearthed some floppies, and need the files off of them, Retrofloppy.com will gladly get your files for you, and provide them to you over the internet as a download. But that’s just the start of it.

Retrofloppy can handle virtually any kind of archaic storage media you have. Zip disks, tape drives, Bernoulli disks… If the media is undamaged, they can read it and copy off the data.

Even more, they can convert archaic file types to modern-day, universal files. Example: If your old digital camera saved some pictures to its disk as MVC files, Retrofloppy will change them over to JPG files for you.

Check out their pricing or contact them for a pricequote, if you think you might need their services.

WD My Book Live Drives Being Erased

This is a pretty scary topic, but let’s go through the scope of this problem. It may not affect you at all, but if it does, I’ve got some advice for you.

Reformatted from Afar

Yesterday it was reported that some people’s Western Digital external hard drives were erased! And the attack is not the fault of the drive owners. Instead, they suspect a malware attack is reformatting the drives remotely (through the internet). WD is still working to figure it all out.

But this attack is only affecting WD My Book Live drives. If your WD drive doesn’t have “Live” in its name, you’re OK for now. If your WD drive connects to your computer via USB cable, there’s no immediate threat. The only worry is for WD My Book Live drives that connect via ethernet cable to your router.

What To Do, per Western Digital:

If you have a My Book Live drive, WD recommends you disconnect it immediately to protect your data.

What To Do, per BlueScreen Computer:

Personally, I recommend that WD My Book Live drive users strive to get their data off of MyBook Live drives ASAP. Switch to any other external hard drive, by WD or another big-name brand. Because, even if Western Digital comes up with a fix for this, it will be hard to trust MyBook Live drives, going forward.

If your MyBook Live drive has a USB connector on the back, it is safe to disconnect its ethernet cable and access the drive directly using a USB cable. The drive will be accessible just on the one computer it is cabled to, but that should be good enough to get your data off.

But if your Live drive only allows for an ethernet connection, there’s no easy and safe way to get at your data. You can take your chances, boot it up and try to get your data off of it (very risky, I do not recommend). Or you can watch the WD Advisory Page for updates.

If you have a My Book Live drive that has been erased by this attack, TURN IT OFF immediately.

UPDATE: Western Digital will offer data recovery services to anyone affected by this attack. And WD will announce some kind of trade-in process for MyBook Live drives, to help people move to different devices that are not vulnerable to this attack. Keep an eye on the last section of this website, to keep up with the details on these offers.

Fake Flash Drives for Sale

1TB or 2TB flash drives are not cheap! If you’ve seen an ad or an offer for a Terabyte Flash Drive for a low price ($20-30), it is a scam. While terabyte-sized flash drives are finally coming to market, they are still expensive (~$150-200).

Consider this legitimate flash drive, made by PNY. It’s a known brand-name at a significant price, $139. I can assure you: You can trust in this product and its pricetag.

Now regard this no-name 1TB flash drive for $30. Seem too good to be true? It is! The listing is deceptive and a scam. But the seller doesn’t care, and is ready to sell you this fake flash drive.

Here’s how this works:

If you buy this flash drive and plug it in, your computer will report a 1 or 2TB capacity. But the flash drive has been programmed to lie to your computer. There’s only about 16GB of space on there, and the dishonest programming will cause you to lose data as you fill this thing up with files. Once you reach the true capacity of the drive, it will self-corrupt and the drive will become unusable.

Unfortunately, this scam is common on Amazon and eBay. These scam listings often have decent reviews, but if you look, you’ll see warnings of fraud in some of them. And many people might honestly buy these flash drives and use them without problem, if they only store small amounts of data on them.

Don’t risk your data! It’s best that you avoid these deceptive products. I recommend that you stick to well-known brand-names when buying flash drives (e.g.: Sandisk, Samsung, PNY, Corsair, HP, Microcenter). Those companies will always be truthful with their technology items.

Update #1

I bought one of these drives, to get some first-hand experience with them. For $30, I received a 2TB drive (even though I’d ordered a 1TB), but the packaging was devoid of any words or info. My computer told me the FALSE capacity:

There are no tools or ways within Windows 10 to determine the truth, but a nifty program called ChipGenius quickly revealed that the drive’s TRUE 16GB capacity:

I’ll soon have a conversation with the vendor, to get my money back and report the fraud.

Update #2

Amazon appears uninterested in pursuing this issue and has not removed any fake flash drive listings. I have pressed their agents to give me contact info for fraud specialists in their company. And they have grudgingly given me some email addresses to write to. But when I send detailed info to those addresses, I get robo-responses back that are off-base, and to which I cannot reply.

I made one final attempt (just now), and spoke with an honest-seeming Amazon rep. He agreed with me that the items may be suspect, but he could only “report the sellers” of the items. When I pointed out that the sellers change from week to week, while the items stay the same and remain listed for sale, he had little else to add.

So I have reported this issue to the FTC and the Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection division. We’ll see if that does any good…

Final Update

The Office of the Attorney General for my state did pay attention to my complaint. They reached out to Amazon in writing to get them to address the situation of my purchase of a fraudulent flash drive. And an Amazon rep emailed them back and cc:ed me, so that we could all share details.

It took many months (until January 2021) to reach any conclusion. And after numerous emails and much waiting, the most that Amazon did was to remove the one listing on their site that I purchased from. I impressed upon them that there were countless similar fake flash drives on their website. I gave them 20 different examples, with a URL for each one. But since I had not purchased them, they were not willing to take my word for anything, and would not even commit to checking those other listings.

At the end of it, the OAG personnel admitted that this entire process was non-binding and Amazon was a voluntary participant. The OAG could not impose or enforce any action, other than what Amazon had already done. I had to tell the OAG to close the case as “unresolved”. To their credit, they understood and sympathized with my feelings and situation.


To this day, fake flash drives are still for sale, on Amazon, eBay and at other marketplaces. If you’ve read this far, I hope you now know enough to avoid them and only purchase known, big-brand name technology. And if you have any doubts, reach out to me and I will be happy to double-check what you’re about to buy.

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