TiVo Adventure in Persistance

June 14, 2011

Recently, a friend of the Hub had a TiVo Series3 that appeared to be going south. As a result, the friend asked to borrow the Hub’s spare parts Series3 for its hard drive image. After reading these trials and tribulations, the Hub decided to share his adventure. It’s a story of persistance and frugality. It’s a story of extraordinary geeky efforts in the quest to be able to watch one’s TiVo.  The names of the innocent (and guilty ) have been edited out. Without further adieu…


I am happy to report, though, that my TiVo seems to be back up and running (although not without spending some unexpected hours I would rather have back). After reading and absorbing the long Tivocommunity forum post on upgrading, the process on paper was an easy 2-step process (not counting disaasembly and reassembly): 1) run DOS app to fix head parking issue with new 1 TB Western Digital drive ( WD10EVDS; quietest available, only $70), and 2) run WinMFS to dupe old drive to new.

Step 1 could not be done through a SATA/USB cable, had to be SATA direct.  I figured my computer at work should fit the bill.  I create multiple boot CDs in order to run the simple DOS app.  None of them will recognize the CDROM after boot since the CD drivers don’t seem to be able to work with SATA CDROM drives, so although I can boot to DOS, I can’t run the program.  Ok, I finally create a bootable cd with usb drivers so I can run the program from thumbdrive after boot.  This allows me to run the program, but alas, the computer’s SATA type is such that the program doesn’t see the drive to perform the fix, AND the BIOS won’t allow me to change it.  Ugh.  So now what?  Well, my boss’ yet-to-be-put-into-service mythbuntu box comes to the rescue, except it has no CD drive from which to run the bootable CD (and assuming it has compatible SATA type via the BIOS).  After some additional researching I am able to create a bootable USB (luckily the bios allowed booting from usb) and run the program from that which works without any BIOS changes.  Whew, step 1 complete.

I figured the hard part was over.  On to step 2.  Knowing that winMFS allowed for TiVo drive duping via SATA/USB connectors, I figured step 2 could be run from my Macbook Pro on which I also run Windows 7 (albeit slowly through usb, but that would be ok).  Since I bought a handful of Seagate Goflex drives for backup purposes, I have a bunch of the SATA/USB dongles laying around.  Perfect.  I install winMFS, I get the old and new drives hooked up, SATA/USB dongles light up, run winMFS, and…it sees no drives.  Great.  More researching suggests rebooting with drives connected to get them recognized by winMFS.  Nope, doesn’t work.  Run winMFS as administrator.  No go.  Run winMFS in XP-compatible mode.  Uh-uh.  How about turning UAC off?  Nada.  So I give up on the Macbook Pro and figure maybe my USB ports aren’t powering the drives, so I try all of the above with my daughter’s netbook.  Same results.  I chalk up the futility to USB not supplying enough power for the desktop drives.  Time to go to bed, dammit.

So next day I figure I can order some sata/usb adapters with external power, but I’m cheap and don’t want to spend the money or wait for them to be shipped.  So now I’m back to needing a computer with sata connections and windows so I can run winMFS.  I return to my work computer to give it a go and unfortunately, it only has 2 sata connections, 1 for the HD and 1 for the CDROM.  I need 3, 2 for the new drives and 1 for the computer’s HD running windows.  Crap.  Oh, but wait, I can use my boss’ Mythbuntu machine again.  It has multiple sata connections, but oh, that’s right, it’s not running Windows.  Well there goes the simplicity of winMFS.  Alright, time to investigate the MFSLive boot CD ISO and its cryptic command line instructions.  Seems like it should work, but oh, that’s right, no cdrom drive.  More searching yields no USB version of this, BUT I am able to eventually find a utility to create a bootable USB from a CD ISO. That works, but the Mythbuntu PC only has 1 SATA cable, and I need 2.  Back to my work machine for another cable.  I think I’m home free except the Mythbuntu PC only has one sata power connector.  Will this ever end?  Sweet, the old drive accepts legacy power which IS available.   Eventually, I think I reach an understanding of the command line to make the copy, but the usb boot seems to hang.  Ooh-oh.  Luckily, a simple keyboard click and a prompt shows up.  Phew.  Finally, with the theater pc, 2 sata cables, a bootable usb version of MFSLive, a leap of faith at the command line, and 3 hours later the drive is duped.  And it seems to work fine since installing (once I got the coax in the coax connection of the S3 and not the antenna connection…doh!).  Now that it’s installed and working, I haven’t yet decided if I want to spend the additional effort and money (for USB/powered SATA adapter) to “supersize” the new drive via winMFS to go from 143 to 157 hours of HD space.

So in the end, I didn’t need your drive and never had to crack open your unit.  I was able to make a full copy including my recordings.  I’m wondering if the drive is really failing or not, because when I originally opened my unit the one-piece sata data/power cable was askew on the data end which may have been the cause of the original glitching (don’t know for sure).  Anyway, I’ll put the old drive aside for a backup if needed.  So much for an easy 2-step process.  Feel free to share on Tech of the Hub. Good night!


Tags: Series3, TiVo

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