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The "Help! My Tivo is Stuttering /Freezing /Crashing /Clicking" Thread

Discussion in 'TiVo Help Center' started by ZikZak, Dec 29, 2003.

  1. Dec 29, 2003 #1 of 165
    ZikZak

    ZikZak Neurostim Addict

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    Stuttering, Freezing, Crashing, Constant Rebooting, Pixellation, Loud Mechanical Clicking. These are all symptoms of impending hard drive failure. If you can't get past the "Almost There" startup screen during a reboot, then your hard drive has probably already failed. But fear not! This issue is fixable with a little time and/or $$.

    The Symptoms

    Stuttering. If, when watching TV through the tivo, the motion is not steady, but proceeds in halts and stops, this is known as stuttering. A very small amount of stuttering is normal if your video source is satellite or digital cable. If the signal to the decoder box fades, then the decoder itself could stutter, and this is recorded by the TiVo. But if playback involves consistent stuttering, it's probably the TiVo hard drive.

    Freezing. The most severe kind of stuttering is actual freezing of the playback picture. The picture "pauses" and the TiVo becomes completely unresponsive to the remote. Some users have reported needing to reboot to escape from a picture freeze. This is definitely a classic symptom of hard drive failure.

    Pixellation. If the picture from the TiVo looks excessively "low-resolution" or pixellated, especially on high quality settings, this could be a symptom of hard drive failure. A certain amount of pixellation is normal, since TiVo's MPEG compression is digital and lossy. A lot of pixellization is also produced by digital cable or satellite boxes. However, severe pixellization at high quality settings, especially from analog sources could be caused by a bad hard drive.

    Crashing. Depending on where on the hard drive the damage is, sometimes playback will be normal, but navigating through the TiVo menus becomes slow or even crashes. The TiVo becomes sluggish or nonresponsive to the remote. Sometimes sluggishness in the menus is normal: rearranging Season Passes in the SP Manager will often take several minutes. If the TiVo happens to have just downloaded and is analyzing new guide data, it will also be sluggish. In addition, nonresponsiveness to the remote can also be caused by Infrared (IR) interference from other remotes in the room. Check all remotes for stuck buttons and weak batteries. Check the TiVo remote for weak or dead batteries. However, menu crashing or consistent sluggishness not caused by stuck remote buttons, especially in concert with other symptoms is a symptom of hard drive failure. Crashing might be normal on your Windows PC, but it is NOT normal on your TiVo.

    Constant Rebooting. It is not normal for TiVo to consistently reboot on its own. You will get a reboot every six months or so in the middle of the night when the TiVo downloads new system software. This is normal. Daily, or even weekly, rebooting, however, is abnormal. Sometimes software glitches can cause this behavior too. However, rebooting in conjunction with other symptoms signals impending hard drive doom.

    Loud Mechanical Clicking. If you hear loud mehcanical clicking coming from the TiVo box itself (as opposed to the TV speakers), this is also a symptom of hard drive illness. Rhythmic clicking can sometimes be caused by the fan instead of the drive, but arhythmic clicking in conjuntion with freezing or stuttering is a symptom of complete hard drive destruction in a short time.

    Freezing at "Almost There." If the TiVo never gets past the "Almost there. A few more minutes, please" screen, your hard drive has probably failed. If the TiVo freezes at "Welcome. Powering Up," it may be the cable connections to the hard drive or the power supply. Give them a check.

    The Green Screen of Death. If the TiVo itself thinks that there is a hard drive problem, you will see a green screen saying "A Severe Error Has Occurred" and directing you to not do anything but to leave the TiVo connected for 3 hours to try to "repair" the receiver. This is the GSOD. During this period, the TiVo is attempting to identify the bad sectors of the drive. For relatively minor problems, letting the GSOD do its thing will work. Best to leave it alone. Even if the TiVo starts working again after the GSOD, however, a degenerating disk tends to keep degenerating. Chances are good that the problem will recur.

    Check These Possibilities Too

    <Thanks to litzdog911!>

    Some issues can mimic Hard Drive distress. See if you can exclude these issues before concluding that your drive is terminally ill:

    Check your Tivo's internal temperature. If it's running too hot you'll sometimes see problems like this. Look in "Messages & Setup" -> "System Information" and scroll down a couple of pages to see the internal temperature. Anything under 50-deg C is usually OK. If it's higher than that, make sure you have good airflow under and around your Tivo. It's a good idea to raise your Tivo up an inch or so for better airflow. Some folks use pop bottle caps under each corner.

    If you're comfortable opening up your Tivo (which will void your warranty if you still have one), then disconnect and reconnect all the cables leading to the hard drive(s). Sometimes connections can work loose, or tarnish, and re-seating them will help.

    If your Tivo is a combination DirecTV+Tivo receiver, you should try re-seating your access card. Remove power, remove the access card, wait a few minutes, re-insert the access card, and reconnect power.

    My Hard Drive is Dying. What to do?

    If your hard drive is going bad, DO NOT THROW AWAY THE BOX! It is repairable, usually by replacing the hard drive. Hard drive replacement is known as "Upgrading." An entire forum is dedicated to this topic.

    Firstly, if your TiVo is still under warranty, TAKE IT IN NOW before the warranty expires.

    Secondly, some hard drive manufacturers have a utility program that will check the hard drive for problems, and fix them. You may be able to do this with your TiVo's drive. Check the Upgrade Forum FAQs for information about your hard drive model. You may be able to save the $$$ for a completely new drive.

    If you need to replace the drive, the rule of thumb is 1 GB = 1 hour of basic quality.

    When replacing a hard drive, your lifetime service STAYS with the box.

    If you wish to save your recordings and preferences, the best way to do this is to buy a hard drive and install it yourself. Some computer experience is required, but otherwise the installation is quick. Most people use the Hinsdale How-To page as a guide. You should also review posts in the Upgrade Forum.

    But I'm not a Computer Person!

    No problem. You can order hard drives ready to plug-and-play into TiVo. You will almost certainly lose your recordings and thumbs ratings, though. You may order these drives from Hinsdale, PTV Upgrade, 9th Tee, or Weeknees.

    But I'm REALLY not a Computer Person!

    If just opening the box gives you the willies, you still have options. Some of the above vendors will replace the drive for you... if you're willing to send in your TiVo. It's pricey, but cheaper than getting a new box.

    It's also possible to sell the driveless TiVo box on eBAY and get a good price, especially if you have lifetime service.

    How To Protect Yourself Against Future HD Failures

    There is one very important thing you can do to extend the life of your hard drive. Hard drives are suceptible to electric spikes and surges. Be sure to at least put the TiVo on a surge protector, but a UPS is preferable. This one precaution can extend the HD's lifetime by years.

    Good Luck!
     
  2. Dec 29, 2003 #2 of 165
    litzdog911

    litzdog911 TechKnow Guide

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    Nice post! Here are a few more tips you might want add that can cause these sorts of problems:

    *** Check your Tivo's internal temperature. If it's running too hot you'll sometimes see problems like this. Look in "Messages & Setup" -> "System Information" and scroll down a couple of pages to see the internal temperature. Anything under 50-deg C is usually OK. If it's higher than that, make sure you have good airflow under and around your Tivo. It's a good idea to raise your Tivo up an inch or so for better airflow. Some folks use pop bottle caps under each corner.


    *** If you're comfortable opening up your Tivo (which will void your warranty if you still have one), then disconnect and reconnect all the cables leading to the hard drive(s). Sometimes connections can work loose, or tarnish, and re-seating them will help.


    *** If your Tivo is a combination DirecTV+Tivo receiver, you should try re-seating your access card. Remove power, remove the access card, wait a few minutes, re-insert the access card, and reconnect power.
     
  3. Dec 29, 2003 #3 of 165
    ZikZak

    ZikZak Neurostim Addict

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  4. Mar 22, 2004 #4 of 165
    ciscom

    ciscom New Member

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    I just purchased a Tivo series 2 - 40 hour unit and started having problems with stuttering and rebooting. The problems began when I extended a Season Pass recording time (to get all of 60 minutes because it started late after a b-ball game) and my wife was watching it while it was recording. While my wife was pausing\rewinding\starting again it when it began the stuttering and rebooting.

    I tried restting the programming data and that did not work. I then reset everything, went through setup and since doing that this morning it has not locked up or stuttered once.

    I'm hoping this was an freakish occurance due to me overloading the system but am curious if any others out there have seen this problem and had it go away forever after resetting everything.

    Thanks in advance,
    David Ely
     
  5. Mar 22, 2004 #5 of 165
    Robert S

    Robert S New Member

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    Cambridgeshi...
    I love the way people make up these superstitious stories to explain these things!

    The TiVo's designers did anticipate that occasionally TiVo owners would fill up their hard drives (mine are 99.5% full most of the time...). The expected result of what you did is a warning that something would be deleted early, not a crash.

    Unfortunately, what's likely happened is that there's a bad block somewhere near the top of the drive and your extended recording included that block. Bad blocks make TiVoes behave oddly.

    So, I predict that when your TiVo gets full again (it seems to fill the drives from the bottom, so it make take a while), you'll hit this bad block and get the same problem. If you keep the recording that contains the bad block, that will prevent it from being reused, which should make the TiVo behave a bit better.
     
  6. Mar 22, 2004 #6 of 165
    jmace57

    jmace57 Large Member

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    My 60 Hour series 2 did something the other day I have not read about in the forum.

    The "background" went away. So, instead of seeing the green screen with the TiVo guy and now showing...I see Now Showing with a list of my shows against a black screen. All menu options looked the same. It was tru for the main menu, the system menu - all of them. When I tried to play anything, it showed the status bars at the bottom with no green stripe - shows would not play.

    I re-booted and all is fine, but I have never seen or heard of that before.

    Any thoughts?

    Thanks
    Jim
     
  7. Mar 22, 2004 #7 of 165
    Robert S

    Robert S New Member

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    Cambridgeshi...
    The backgrounds are recordings, so anything that interferes with playback of recordings (it sounds like your MPEG-2 decoder crashed) will also stop the backgrounds.

    You're right that this is a strange occurance. Missing backgrounds due to faulty upgrade procedures are common, but of course, they don't come back when you reboot.
     
  8. Apr 12, 2004 #8 of 165
    w2jo

    w2jo New Member

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    I have a TIVO model 1 that I upgraded to a 120GB+40GB unit a couple of years ago. About a year after I updated it, the unit started "pausing" at times. This occurred following a software update and has continued ever since. I am told that this was a coincidence.

    I have been told that the problem was caused by bad blocks or sectors on one of the hard drives. Seeming to contradict this view are the following factors:
    1) If a "pause" or "stuttering" even occurs, backing up and replaying the section always shows no "pause" or "stuttering".
    2) The "pauses" can be up to 5 seconds long and when the picture restarts, it does not skip 5 seconds (if any).

    This makes me think the TiVO OS is "getting busy" or some such.

    I was then advised to completely erase all of the video from the disk drives and this might stop the problem. I did completely delete all video files and this had no effect. Soon after I began recording again (and before the drives were more than maybe 1/3 full) the pausing/stuttering was noticed again and it has continued.

    Another person told me that TiVO has a disk drive tester program for TiVo, and maybe they do, but TiVO support denies this and I can find no such reference on this or other TiVO groups. I would surely like to run a disk check on my unit but not quite enough to go completely through the rebuild process as yet!

    My daughter also has a TiVO model 1 that has just the original 40Gb drive. It is not exhibiting this problem. I do not know if this is meaningful data or not.

    I have seen quite a few comments that all these pausing and stuttering problems are caused by disk drive problems. But I have not yet seen any confirmation of this assertion from people who have changed out the disk drives toward making the pausing/studdering go away. Is there some empirical evidence that replacing the disk drives is a fix in all cases?

    Thanks

    Joe
     
  9. Apr 13, 2004 #9 of 165
    ZikZak

    ZikZak Neurostim Addict

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    w2jo,

    Replacing the disk drives is not the correct solution in all cases (see some of the previous posts). In your case, it sounds like it could be a temperature problem or a problem with the motherboard or MPEG decoder. Is your TiVo's temperature normal?
     
  10. Apr 13, 2004 #10 of 165
    w2jo

    w2jo New Member

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    Yes, The temp is 35C which is about where it always has been. "On rare occasions" (about once a month), the unit "hangs up" and I have to reboot it, but other than that and the stutter/pause problem, it gives normal operation.

    Joe
     
  11. Apr 13, 2004 #11 of 165
    w2jo

    w2jo New Member

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    Are any of the 3rd party repair people mentioned in the above forum expert in fixing this stuttering problem in model 1 units?
     
  12. Apr 13, 2004 #12 of 165
    Robert S

    Robert S New Member

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    Cambridgeshi...
    It sounds like a classic drive failure to me. The drive's electronics are failing, causing delays in reading the data. The clicks are drive resets caused by the inability to read the data - the drive resets in the hope that moving the head off the track and back will allow the data to be read.

    At times it's taking several seconds for the drive to complete its read cycle and during this time the TiVo is pretty much frozen, waiting for the drive to return the data.

    I would have good confidence that changing the drive would fix this. If you wanted to, you could use your PC to copy your recordings to a new drive.
     
  13. Apr 13, 2004 #13 of 165
    w2jo

    w2jo New Member

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    Maybe it IS a drive problem, but I have never had PC drive failures act like this. PC disks always seem to either just get bad sectors/clusters or to just completely fail. Failing by delaying a read operation and then after five seconds or so "getting it read completley OK" is a failure mode I do not see in PC disk drive operation.. If I get a TiVO stutter failure in a particular spot and then reread that sam spot 10 times it always works fine. This is simply NOT like any disk problem I have seen.

    If this is a common occurance, does the TiVO OS have a disk exercise/diagnostic routine? Seems like this would be an urgent built in diagnostic tool (since disk drives always fail, it is just a matter of time.) but so far that seems to be wishful thinking.
     
  14. Apr 13, 2004 #14 of 165
    ZikZak

    ZikZak Neurostim Addict

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    Yes it does. It's called the "Green Screen of Death." (see the original post)
     
  15. Apr 13, 2004 #15 of 165
    w2jo

    w2jo New Member

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    OK.. So How do I activate the "green screen of death" so as to force the TiVO to run a disk check on my system. SURELY I do not have to hit the HD with a hammer! :)
     
  16. Apr 13, 2004 #16 of 165
    ZikZak

    ZikZak Neurostim Addict

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    Wow. I don't think anyone's ever asked how they can activate the GSOD before ;)
     
  17. Apr 13, 2004 #17 of 165
    w2jo

    w2jo New Member

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    Well.. did you not suggest that this was how to kick off the disk diagnostic routine into action? I do not see a "check my HDs for errors" selection in the setup menu! :)
     
  18. Apr 13, 2004 #18 of 165
    Robert S

    Robert S New Member

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    Cambridgeshi...
    You can trigger a GSOD with diagnostic mode. It won't make any difference, though. The GSOD is a filesystem checker, like ScanDisk, not drive diagnostics.

    You wouldn't notice a drive doing this in a PC, because the drive does deliver the data eventually and there are lots of things that make PC's hesitate momentarily. This is a major problem because the standard diagnostics run on PC's and they tend to pass drives that are doing this.

    I do have a drive that behaves somewhat like this in my PC and it's usually not obvious that anything is wrong with the machine.

    Yours is misbehaving so badly that the diagnostics might catch it. It sounds like there's a good chance that DiskSpeed32 would show the problem, but as you've only got one drive, this doesn't necessarily tell you anything you didn't know before.

    Anyway, your options are pretty limited. You can change the hard drive yourself. That may or may not fix the problem. If it doesn't, you're no worse off than you are now as then all you can do is send the TiVo for repair under warranty or whatever. When the TiVo is fixed, you can use the new drive to increase its capacity.
     
  19. Apr 13, 2004 #19 of 165
    w2jo

    w2jo New Member

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    OK.. I ran the #58 cleanup mode to completion. It said it could take up to 3 hours but it only took about 15 minutes and did not erase any recordings. I was surprised on both counts. Obviously, this is not a THROUGH reading test or indeed it would have taken more than an hour to READ 160megs (120+40).

    I will now do a bit of viewing and see if the exercise actually did anything except reload the Tivo OS.

    Thanks.
    Joe
     
  20. Apr 13, 2004 #20 of 165
    Robert S

    Robert S New Member

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    Cambridgeshi...
    Like I said, it's basically equivalent to ScanDisk - it's just checking through the metadata structures to look for corruption. As there are only a few hundred files in the system (MFS is about a few enormous files rather than lots of tiny ones as in a PC), it doesn't take very long to check.
     

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