A Tale of 2 Hard Drives


Noise Emitting Machine
[the engines cannae take it captain]
My PC is really noisy. This is mostly due to the PSU which is on its last legs. When I turn the computer on the fan starts up, and I don't know what's happened maybe the bearings have gone or there is so much dust and gunk inside there it just can't cope anymore, but it rattles and grinds away like a hammer action drill.
I could usually make the noise go away with some strategic thumps or whacks to the back of the case. In extreme cases I tilted the case forward, usually propped it up with something and then applied said strategic wallops.
This escalated to point where I'm sure I heard the fan grind to a stuttering halt. Not wanting to see how long it was before it started a fire, I replaced the PSU with a shiny new one. This is a lot quieter, more powerful, and also suited to P4 motherboards, should I wish to upgrade.

[crunchy drives]
The hard drives in my PC make a satisfying crunching noise when they are working. I always just accepted this noise and used it as an audible activity indicator as I had never connected up the indicator LED on my case. Most of my hard drives I had purchased as OEM units from computer fairs I started with a 20 GB drive and then added a 30GB IBM drive.
Recently I purchased 2 120GB drives, online from DABS. One of them was intended to be used to upgrade my TIVO when I got around to it, and the other was going to replace the 20GB drive in my PC so I had room for all the data I was downloading with my new ADSL connection.


Just How Wrong Can I Be?
[plug and play]
Eagerly I connected a 120GB drive to my computer. Hmmm it wasn't detected, lets play with the jumper setting. Hurrah it works, seems to say its 32GB, lets worry about that later.
I unsuccessfully tried using GHOST a few times to clone a drive. Eventually It managed to copy one of the partitions, stupidly I booted into windows which did something critical like moving the swap file. This basically screwed the system, every time I tried to log in it gave me a message saying the swap file was missing then it waited for a minute or two and gave me log-in box again. This is a bit of step backwards, oh dear!

[mr fix-it]
My current favourite method from previous experience of breaking my windows installation is to re-install windows on top of itself. Every time I've tried to use the repair option thing from the install disk it has never worked and usually sucked up an hour of disk faffing about. I don't bother with it anymore.
So in with the disk reinstall Windows 2000 over itself, everything's working again. Mental note to self re-install the service packs.


Seek Wisdom From the Machine
[internet my friend]
Before diving back into the mess I'd made, I decided to track down some more info and resources on that world wide web thing.
I went to the Maxtor site (since they had made my new drive) and found a great utility here that promised to be able to clone my old drive onto my new one, "hassle-free" no less. I also tracked down some details about the drive that explained why I could only get the drive to work with one jumper setting. The jumper setting I was using was specially for old motherboards with an old BIOS that didn't understand large drives. The setting made the drive appear to be a smaller 32GB drive. This explained why the drive was reported as only 32GB. It also meant that my BIOS couldn't handle a larger sized drive, another setback.

[flash ahhhhhh, he saved every one of us]
So I dig up the manual for my motherboard and check the model number, then tracked down the Gigabyte support website. I downloaded a new BIOS and a flash utility.
BIOS flashing has that extra tang of fun because of the possibility of wrecking the hardware by doing it wrong, not that I've ever wrecked anything myself or actually heard of anyone doing it, but they plaster about all kinds of dire warnings in red type. Anyway I make a boot disk thingy and flash the BIOS. I had my fingers crossed and all went well, yay.

[my what a big hard drive you have grandma]
The PC now accepting that I have a 120GB drive, the MaxBlast Plus II utility is brought into action. I clone my old drive and effortlessly resize a few partitions as is my whim.
Pulling drives and cables in and out of the case is a hassle so during temporary operations I end up with drives balancing precariously on top of the case (insulated from nasty metal by a sheet of cardboard). So for the few hours it took to transfer data between drives I tiptoed around making sure I didn't knock anything vital. If I had a dog or other such similar highly mobile pet with a small brain, this would be the opportunity they would be looking for to murder my computer by crashing into / jumping onto it at high speed, or absent mindedly thwaking it with a happy tail.
Hard drive successfully installed, I remember my first hard drive 420MB the mind boggles.


Operation TIVO
[suddenly, as if by magic, the shopkeeper appeared]
There's a hardware store around the corner from where I live and I was intending to go there and seek out the required screwdriver bits for my TIVO upgrade, circumstances, laziness and rubbish opening hours had thus far prevented me from completing this mission.
Then I wandered down to Tottenham Court road after work (joys of working in central London) and noticed a Maplins had appeared out of nowhere. It was like a toy shop inside, so many cables and gadgets and components. I hurried out of the shop with a new set of screwdriver bits, armed with these I could take anything apart.

[be prepared]
This upgrade was different to the PC upgrade. I had no pretence that I knew what I was doing so I made sure I tracked down all the resources I would need.
I started at the TIVO Forum which I had been visiting since before I bought my TIVO. Here I found this lovely detailed upgrade guide from which I printed out 20 pages of instructions. I grabbed an image of a linux boot CD and burnt this to a disk. I was almost ready, one more thing I needed was a utility to access the acoustic management settings of my harddrive.

[hush now baby]
Maxtor have a utility to change the setting of their drives but I stumbled across this article that suggested that the IBM utility (no longer on the IBM site but I tracked down what should be the equivalent here) was superior but just as effective with Maxtor disks as it was with IBM disks.

[non-crunchy drives]
I ran the utility on the new 120GB drive and set it to the quietest setting. In principle this slows some of the performance but a TIVO only needs 5400rpm drive anyway and this is a 7200rpm drive, so I didn't think it would matter. Also I don't want my TIVO crunching away to itself in my living room, especially as the drive is running constantly even in standby, you have to physically pull the plug to turn the thing off.
I also ran the utility on my other drives, one of them is actually an IBM drive that I think has been in there for about 2 years. It didn't occur to me that there was such things as utilities for the drives, if I plugged it in and it worked I was happy. I was slightly more discerning with the settings for these as I didn't want to unnecessarily cripple the performance of my machine.

[quirky]
This is where I noticed a bit of a quirk with the utility. You can select an acoustic level, save the setting and also 'test' the drive, where it does some random drive seeking so you can hear what it sounds like. What would have been nice is that you could set a level and then test what that level sounded like, but you have to choose the level, then save the level which sends you back to the main menu, and then use the menu to get back to the acoustic management menu so you can run the test to see what it sounds like. I understand why it does this, because it needs to actually write to the drive memory, but I did sit there for a moment changing the settings and running the test thinking to myself that it wasn't making a difference.


Down to Business
[pandoras box]
So armed with my Torx 10 screwdriver bit, I opened up the TIVO case. I've heard mentioned a few times a technique involving bracing the back of the case against ones knees whilst attempting to slide the lid out out of its socket. I think this is the method I applied and it worked pretty well. I can see how some people may have difficulty getting the lid of though.
There's really nothing inside the TIVO box, a circuit board and a harddrive. Oh and a nasty unshielded power supply.

[box of death]
The instructions were pretty clear about not sticking my fingers into the power supply gubbins, so I tried to stay well away. A couple more screws and the hard drive was removed, although still attached to a dinky metal tray thing. I left the tray on and plugged the drive into the PC so I had just the old TIVO drive, the soon to be new TIVO drive and DVD drive attached. Apparently you can monkey up a TIVO drive by having it connected whilst booting into Windows 2000, I didn't test this out myself.

[pipe]
I booted from the CD in the DVD drive and checked that Linux had detected the drives properly. Then all I had to do was type one command line and leave it running. From what I could tell there was a backup and a restore program that could both understand the special TIVO drive formats. The backup utility was pointed at the TIVO drive and the output was piped into the restore utility which was pointed at the new drive.
Copying all the data (we had about 30 hours of video we wanted to keep) only took about 100 minutes and completed successfully. The drives were removed from the PC and with the help of a Torx 15 screwdriver bit the dinky metal tray was transferred to the new drive. The new drive was carefully inserted into the TIVO box and the old drive was packed away in a box as a backup.

[the end]
So now I have a TIVO that is exactly the same as it was, but now has 3 times the capacity, Woo.
The inside of the Thomson TIVO (i.e. the one you get in the UK) looks like this in case you were wondering.


main menu