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Old 11-26-2012, 05:28 PM   #1
verkuilb
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Tivo unit "slow crashes"

Hi, I'm having an issue with a Tivo HD unit that I'm hoping someone can help out with. It does what I call a "slow crash". Allow me to explain...

I've had the unit for about 2 years (very rough estimate) now. It has a lifetime subscription, and receives only OTA signals--no cable/sat. About 9 months after I got it, it had an episode where it stopped functioning and went to the gray screen. Unable to determine what else to do, I unplugged it and restarted it. Sure enough, it worked--for about a month. Then the same thing happened again. Rebooted, and it worked again--this time for about two weeks. Then about a week. Then about 3 days. Then about a day. The interval continued to get shorter and shorter, until I could no longer get it to power up at all. This is what I mean when I call it a "slow crash".

Researched the situation, both on line, and via phone with people from both Tivo and Weaknees. And was told by both that it sounded almost definitely like a defective hard drive. The unit was outside of Tivo warranty (I forget how long that warranty is--if it's 12 months, that means that my previous estimate of 9 months was too short, as it was definitely out of warranty), but Tivo offered their out-of-warranty service/exchange to fix it. Weaknees offered to instead sell me a size-upgraded hard drive, for about half the price. BOTH TIVO AND WEAKNEES INFORMED ME VERBALLY THAT IF I TRIED THE NEW HARD DRIVE, AND IT DIDN'T WORK, I COULD STILL DO THE TIVO OUT-OF-WARRANTY SERVICE PROGRAM. So I went for it, and bought and installed a new Weaknees hard drive.

And it worked. For a while.

About four months in, the same problem started happening. System locks up and goes to gray screen, and rebooting it causes it to start up again, but for a steadily-decreasing period of time, until finally it goes straight to gray screen. I contacted Weaknees, and they thought it sounded like the replacement drive had died too. So I sent it in for warranty replacement. But when they got it, they tested it--and found that the hard drive was functioning perfectly. So other than wiping it clean of content so I was starting with a fresh image, all they did was sent it back to me.

OK, I thought, I'll now just do the Tivo repair service/exchange program for it. But when I tried to do it, Tivo informs me that because I opened the box, my unit is no longer eligible for that service. Weaknees tells me the same thing--and both Tivo and Weaknees claim that they have no record of telling me otherwise, and therefore won't honor what they told me or help me in any way. (Despite the fact that their website explcitily says that opening the box voids the warranty--but does not say anything at all about opening the box voiding eligibility for the out-of-warranty repair/replacement program.)

Getting back to the history on the unit--When I got the Weaknees drive back, I put it in, and once again, everything worked, for a couple months, when once again, the slow-crash cycle started, until it once again wouldn't function. At that point, I was too busy with a construction project to worry about trying to repair it--so I simply unplugged it for a couple months. I then plugged it in again, and low-and-behold, it worked again--for a couple months, and then started another slow-crash. I once again left it unplugged for a couple months, which brings me to yesterday, when I plugged it in, and it seems to work find--but I wholly expect it to slow-crash again by February.

Any ideas of what could be going on here? It almost seems like something in the system may be building up a charge, and when it gets high enough the system shuts down, and having the unit unplugged for a lengthier time allows it to dissipate to the point of functionality again. But I could be completely wrong. I'm willing to potentially buy a part to try to replace something--but after the crappy customer service I got from both Tivo and Weaknees, telling me one thing and then denying it later, I'm highly reluctant to pursue any path which involves doing further business with either of them--but if buying a part from either one will get this problem solved, I'm willing to bite my tongue long enough to do that. But I'm definitely not buying another new unit with another new lifetime service plan to replace this one, if it means paying any money to either of those companies.

Any help/thoughts/etc. would be greatly appreciated!!! Thank you!!!
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Old 11-26-2012, 07:16 PM   #2
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Well, my guess would be a problem in the power supply. But there is no seal on the box. The only reason TIVO knows you opened it, is the fact that either you told them, or they saw the new hard drive. If you still have the original drive, I would put in back in. Play dumb and send it back to TIVO. I upgraded 2 of my 3 TIVOs but kept the original drives for just that reason.

Don H.
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Old 11-27-2012, 07:13 AM   #3
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I think the HD was the last model with a separate crypto chip. If all else fails and you know someone capable of soldering SMT chips you could swap the lifetime to a used HD.
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Old 11-27-2012, 07:23 AM   #4
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I agree it is most likely the power supply. Open the Tivo and carefully inspect the power supply for capacitor plague.

Look for bulging at the top of the capacitors.



If you don't see any bulging, use a multi-meter to check the output voltages on the power supply, preferrably after it has been running for a while.
Be careful, the Tivo's power supply is unshielded. Take appropriate precautions.
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Old 11-28-2012, 11:10 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ggieseke View Post
I think the HD was the last model with a separate crypto chip. If all else fails and you know someone capable of soldering SMT chips you could swap the lifetime to a used HD.
The last model with the separate surface mount Atmel chip that could be moved to another motherboard was the original S3, the OLED display TCD648250

The S3 HD and HD XL, and of course all the S4s--you're out of luck without your own factory.
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Old 11-28-2012, 02:34 PM   #6
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The last model with the separate surface mount Atmel chip that could be moved to another motherboard was the original S3, the OLED display TCD648250

The S3 HD and HD XL, and of course all the S4s--you're out of luck without your own factory.
Yeah, but given his symptoms, I find it fairly unilkely the problem is with the motherboard.
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Old 11-28-2012, 03:13 PM   #7
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Yeah, but given his symptoms, I find it fairly unilkely the problem is with the motherboard.
Just didn't want him, or anyone else, mis-believing that it was an option for HD owners.

But yeah, I'd say he's got new capacitors in his future.
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Old 11-28-2012, 05:10 PM   #8
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The last model with the separate surface mount Atmel chip that could be moved to another motherboard was the original S3, the OLED display TCD648250
My bad.
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Old 11-28-2012, 05:18 PM   #9
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My bad.
By putting a big HD on the box of the original S3, and then coming out with an S3 called the HD, TiVo created a certain amount of uncertainty about what's named what, so I thought it best to specify the model number and clarify which were and weren't "unchippable".
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Old 11-28-2012, 05:47 PM   #10
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It occurs to me this might be a heat related problem, at least in part. What is the temp of the TiVo prior to failure? Have you checked out the fan? 'Blown out any dust accumulation with a can of air?
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Old 11-30-2012, 11:50 PM   #11
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Latest follow up...

OK, after being truly out of commission for the past 3+ days with the flu, I've finally been able to follow up on this.

First of all--The cycle appears to have started far earlier than usual. This morning, the unit rebooted on me. And when it did, it never got past the yellow "Powering up" screen.

Tonight, I opened the unit up, and swapped the OEM hard drive back in. Looked at the capacitors on the power supply--I think they visually look OK, although there may be one or two which are questionable. Not bulging to the degree shown in the picture above, but possibly not entirely flat on top either? One of those questionable ones is the large (1.5" high) one near the middle of the power supply. I haven't touched them--I'm not sure what all is/isn't safe to touch here.

When you say to use a multimeter to check the power supply's output--I have a multimeter, but I'm not sure what/where I should be checking, or what the expected results should be. Any tips?

Regarding heat--I agree that it was definitely worth asking, but I don't think that's the issue. The fan is running fine, the dust in it is minimal, the air flow from it is good, and the Tivo unit is kept on a well-ventilated closet shelf, with several inches of open space on all six sides (and by six, I mean six--the shelf it sits on is wire, so there's even air flow to the bottom).

Thanks to all of you for your help!!!

Bill
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Old 12-01-2012, 10:06 AM   #12
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OK, after being truly out of commission for the past 3+ days with the flu, I've finally been able to follow up on this.
Oh, yuck. Few things that won't actually kill you will make you feel worse than the flu.

Quote:
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First of all--The cycle appears to have started far earlier than usual. This morning, the unit rebooted on me. And when it did, it never got past the yellow "Powering up" screen.
That is significant, although not deterministic. That screen pops up prior to loading the OS from the hard drive. It will show up even if no hard drive is installed. The fact nothing further happens suggests the hard drive is not being accessed, whether due to a bad hard drive or a problem with the power supply or motherboard.

Quote:
Originally Posted by verkuilb View Post
Tonight, I opened the unit up, and swapped the OEM hard drive back in. Looked at the capacitors on the power supply--I think they visually look OK, although there may be one or two which are questionable. Not bulging to the degree shown in the picture above, but possibly not entirely flat on top either?
They should be perfectly flat. That they are bulging at all suggests possible failure. I would replace them. Even if they are not bad, replacements are really inexpensive and it can save you grief in the future even if not now. It is also possible for a cap to be bad even though it is not bulging.

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One of those questionable ones is the large (1.5" high) one near the middle of the power supply. I haven't touched them--I'm not sure what all is/isn't safe to touch here.
With the power cord unplugged, it is safe to touch anything in the TiVo with your bare hand. Keep metal objects (like a screwdriver or a soldering iron) away from the large capacitors for at least a few minutes after the unit is unplugged.

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Originally Posted by verkuilb View Post
When you say to use a multimeter to check the power supply's output--I have a multimeter, but I'm not sure what/where I should be checking, or what the expected results should be. Any tips?
The outputs of the supply are what are significant. Those wires go over to the motherboard and to the hard drive. Do not unplug them from the motherboard or the drive, but be very careful not to touch anything on the power supply board while the unit is operational. You may be able to insert the probes into the back side of the connector to make contact with the connector pins. If not, you can take a bit of solid copper wire (telephone wire works well) and wrap it around the probe tip with an end sticking out in order to make contact with the connector pins. I believe the TiVo supply provides +12V and +5V. It may also supply +3.3V.

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Originally Posted by verkuilb View Post
Regarding heat--I agree that it was definitely worth asking, but I don't think that's the issue. The fan is running fine, the dust in it is minimal, the air flow from it is good, and the Tivo unit is kept on a well-ventilated closet shelf, with several inches of open space on all six sides (and by six, I mean six--the shelf it sits on is wire, so there's even air flow to the bottom).
OK, it was worth checking.
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Old 12-02-2012, 01:36 PM   #13
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They should be perfectly flat. That they are bulging at all suggests possible failure. I would replace them. Even if they are not bad, replacements are really inexpensive and it can save you grief in the future even if not now. It is also possible for a cap to be bad even though it is not bulging.
Agreed. If in doubt rip 'em out - they're bad.

I learned that lesson after replacing 4 Hughes satellite receivers over the years. They just went black. The 5th replacement unit had one cap with a silver case instead of the brown case that all the previous units had. After looking back at the dead ones I could see the slight bulge, but it was really tiny and now I have a bunch of spare working sat receivers if anyone wants one.

They just don't have the decency to explode and burn to charcoal like they did back when I fixed vacuum tube TVs for a living.
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Old 12-02-2012, 05:49 PM   #14
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They just don't have the decency to explode and burn to charcoal like they did back when I fixed vacuum tube TVs for a living.
Ah, I long for the old tube tester at the local TV repair shop.
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Old 12-02-2012, 06:05 PM   #15
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Ah, I long for the old tube tester at the local TV repair shop.
He retired and moved in with his daughter and son-in-law and tells them all about how he defeated the Kaiser single handly.
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Old 12-02-2012, 06:17 PM   #16
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He retired and moved in with his daughter and son-in-law and tells them all about how he defeated the Kaiser single handly.
No, no, no, it was a stand alone machine that you could plug the tubes from your TV into and find out if they were good or bad.

I still have a McIntosh tube stereo amplifier.
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Old 12-02-2012, 06:41 PM   #17
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No, no, no, it was a stand alone machine that you could plug the tubes from your TV into and find out if they were good or bad.

I still have a McIntosh tube stereo amplifier.
Whooooosh!


The stand alone machines were usually in drugstores.

Actual repair shops had more sophisticated units built into things kind of like suitcases, so they could be used on the bench or in the field.

Which is older, you or that Mc?

(once upon a time I'd have just typed Mac, and not worried about somebody thinking I meant a computer)
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Old 12-03-2012, 07:40 AM   #18
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Which is older, you or that Mc?

(once upon a time I'd have just typed Mac, and not worried about somebody thinking I meant a computer)
OUCH! Unfortunately, me by far.
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Old 12-03-2012, 02:59 PM   #19
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OUCH! Unfortunately, me by far.
Did you see your first McIntosh in an Allied-Knight-Kit catalog?
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Old 12-03-2012, 03:41 PM   #20
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Did you see your first McIntosh in an Allied-Knight-Kit catalog?
No, but I did build a Dynaco solid state amp and preamp. They were great kits with a lot of bang for the buck back in the day. A little better than Heath IMO.
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Old 12-03-2012, 04:09 PM   #21
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Another option to soldering capacitors is just buy a used Tivo HD on Craigslist if they're cheap and use it for parts e.g. the power supply. Here (Seattle), I see a couple for $30 and one for $40. If you're handy and have the time, go do the soldering. Otherwise buying a used Tivo for parts might make more sense.
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Old 12-03-2012, 06:20 PM   #22
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Which is older, you or that Mc?

(once upon a time I'd have just typed Mac, and not worried about somebody thinking I meant a computer)
BTW you don't sound like a spring chicken yourself!
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Old 12-03-2012, 07:04 PM   #23
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BTW you don't sound like a spring chicken yourself!
Well, I remember a picture attached to an article in the newspaper of something that looked like a funny looking capital K, which was actually the schematic symbol for this newfangled thing called a transistor.
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