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Old 03-08-2013, 11:23 AM   #1
demon
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My Series3 is possibly failing

My Series3, which is now... going on 6 and a half years old, seems to be having a problem in its growing age. However, this is a weird one.

I replaced its hard drive about 16 months ago, when the original 250 GB hard disk it shipped with up and died. I purchased and installed a WD Caviar Black 1TB SATA drive, and used an InstantCake CD to install a fresh software load on it, because I'd never backed up that original drive - oops.

Since that time, it had been fine. However, a couple days ago, it developed a new quirk. When watching two different digital cable channels with the two CableCARD S-Cards I still had in it, I would get massive breakup on both, whether they were being recorded or not (obviously either way, both streams get spooled out to disk). However, if I switched one tuner to an analog cable channel, and the other to a digital (HD or not) cable channel - no breakup. I haven't yet cracked my S3 open again since this happened, but I never enabled any of the AAM stuff on the new drive, so I can hear it running. It's not annoyingly noisy, but it's the familiar drone of a hard drive. This has not changed. (I'm familiar with the noise of a failing drive.) I could also watch an already-recorded show - no breakup.

I had bought a refurbed Premiere XL last fall, so I decided to take the plunge and move the XL into primary service, swapped out my two S-Cards for one M-Card, and now the XL is up and running happily. But, for the moment, I still have active service on my S3. I connected a Mohu Leaf antenna to it, and tuned two different digital OTA channels. Guess what? No breakup.

Anyway, my main question is this: Could this be caused by either a failing capacitor related to the CableCARD controller chip, or the chip itself? Or could my cableco have pushed new code out to the aging S-Cards that made them not play nice together on a single host? I don't really need more than one TiVo for myself, so I'd like to sell off my S3, but it's not lifetimed, and I don't want to sell it and claim it's OK if it's not (even though other than the oddness with two digital cable channels, it seems perfectly fine). Has anyone seen this sort of failure mode?

Edit: I popped the case on mine, and on the power supply board, the capacitor marked C701 (a fairly large radial electrolytic cap) is visibly bulging, but I don't see any signs of the electrolyte leaking. Could that do this?

Last edited by demon : 03-08-2013 at 11:43 AM.
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Old 03-08-2013, 01:56 PM   #2
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Edit: I popped the case on mine, and on the power supply board, the capacitor marked C701 (a fairly large radial electrolytic cap) is visibly bulging, but I don't see any signs of the electrolyte leaking. Could that do this?
Probably. It's a well known problem, especially with Series 3s. There were a lot of bad caps out there from a particular company when the S3s were being built.
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Old 03-09-2013, 01:26 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by demon View Post
My Series3, which is now... going on 6 and a half years old, seems to be having a problem in its growing age. However, this is a weird one.

I replaced its hard drive about 16 months ago, when the original 250 GB hard disk it shipped with up and died. I purchased and installed a WD Caviar Black 1TB SATA drive, and used an InstantCake CD to install a fresh software load on it, because I'd never backed up that original drive - oops.

Since that time, it had been fine. However, a couple days ago, it developed a new quirk. When watching two different digital cable channels with the two CableCARD S-Cards I still had in it, I would get massive breakup on both, whether they were being recorded or not (obviously either way, both streams get spooled out to disk). However, if I switched one tuner to an analog cable channel, and the other to a digital (HD or not) cable channel - no breakup. I haven't yet cracked my S3 open again since this happened, but I never enabled any of the AAM stuff on the new drive, so I can hear it running. It's not annoyingly noisy, but it's the familiar drone of a hard drive. This has not changed. (I'm familiar with the noise of a failing drive.) I could also watch an already-recorded show - no breakup.

I had bought a refurbed Premiere XL last fall, so I decided to take the plunge and move the XL into primary service, swapped out my two S-Cards for one M-Card, and now the XL is up and running happily. But, for the moment, I still have active service on my S3. I connected a Mohu Leaf antenna to it, and tuned two different digital OTA channels. Guess what? No breakup.

Anyway, my main question is this: Could this be caused by either a failing capacitor related to the CableCARD controller chip, or the chip itself? Or could my cableco have pushed new code out to the aging S-Cards that made them not play nice together on a single host? I don't really need more than one TiVo for myself, so I'd like to sell off my S3, but it's not lifetimed, and I don't want to sell it and claim it's OK if it's not (even though other than the oddness with two digital cable channels, it seems perfectly fine). Has anyone seen this sort of failure mode?

Edit: I popped the case on mine, and on the power supply board, the capacitor marked C701 (a fairly large radial electrolytic cap) is visibly bulging, but I don't see any signs of the electrolyte leaking. Could that do this?
That capacitor is pleading "Replace me, replace me!"

Seriously, it won't heal itself, it'll only get worse.

Low ESR, rated for 105 degrees Celsius, same uF, same voltage rating or next notch higher if necessary, don't reverse the polarity when you install the new one, and always know where both ends of the power cord are at all times.
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Old 03-10-2013, 08:15 PM   #4
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Were the capacitor problems with a certain batch of S3s? I have an early S3 and don't see any cap problems on mine.
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Old 03-10-2013, 08:27 PM   #5
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Were the capacitor problems with a certain batch of S3s? I have an early S3 and don't see any cap problems on mine.
From the Series 2 TCD240xxx models (at least) up through the three different Series 3 models (at least).

And all sorts of other electronic devices using switch-mode power supplies or converters, like LCD TVs and monitors and PC motherboard CPU power conditioning circuitry, and lots of other stuff, over a period of a decade or more.

You might find the Wikipedia article on "capacitor plague" interesting and informative, though not necessarily entertaining.
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Old 03-10-2013, 10:26 PM   #6
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I have an early S3 and don't see any cap problems on mine.
Some lucky people may never have a problem. More likely than not, it's a matter of WHEN, not IF.
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Old 03-11-2013, 08:27 PM   #7
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Were the capacitor problems with a certain batch of S3s? I have an early S3 and don't see any cap problems on mine.
Just FYI, we have 2 S3 OLED Tivo's with one purchased in December 2006 and one in January 2007 and both have capacitor issues. Only one has failed where I had to replace the capacitors. The other has 2 capacitors which are bulging but aren't causing issues yet. Just waiting for summer to replace them pre-emptively.

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Old 03-13-2013, 06:16 AM   #8
mather
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Our S3 is from May 07', last problem I had was a HDD issue in the end of 12', which caused me to open up and examined the inside entirely when I was researching the issue. Didn't see any capacitors out of the ordinary. I guess we'll continue to wait and see.
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Old 03-25-2013, 10:20 AM   #9
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Thanks for the info, guys. I ordered replacement caps for my S3's power supply over the weekend, and should receive them in a few days.
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Old 07-07-2013, 07:49 PM   #10
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Success, at last

Just wanted to follow up and let anyone who cared know, I was finally successful. I ended up having to buy a thermally regulated soldering rig, which I'll be able to use again in the future - but I did it. I had been busy for a couple months with a video editing project, which took up all my weekends, so fixing the S3 got backburnered. I finally got the replacement caps all installed and tested the power supply, and it worked. Cleaned up the leads, reinstalled the power supply in the box, and now it's set up in my office/work room connected to a Samsung monitor, happily humming away. Thanks for the information and direction.
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Old 07-07-2013, 10:01 PM   #11
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Glad to hear it's back up and running again!

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