eSATA Cables - What a load of Snot!

Discussion in 'TiVo Series3 HDTV DVRs' started by V7Goose, May 10, 2011.

  1. V7Goose

    V7Goose OTA ONLY and Loving It!

    May 28, 2005
    New Mexico...


    I know this is an old topic, but I still see folks asking about use of external drives and what cables every week or so, so I thought I would share my recent experience. I have quite a bit of experience with external drives on S3 and THD boxes, but the unbelievably bad eSATA cable design still bit me again.

    I have been running an S3 with an external 1TB drive for years - almost never a problem with the cable because I try to make sure neither the drive nor the S3 are ever touched/moved. But recently I decided to swap my bedroom THD with the S3; that's when the fun began. I have the TV system in the bedroom in an armoire that requires the TiVo to be pushed back into an opening that is only just a tad bigger than the box. This means that the cables must all be connected first, then the box pushed into place. With the THD before I upgraded the internal drive to 2TB, I kept the expander drive on the shelf above behind the TV, with the cable running out one hole in the back and into another hole behind the TiVo. Never had a problem with that setup for over two years. But this routing of the stiff eSATA cable and the way the TiVo has to be pushed back into a blind hole is significant.

    Soon after I moved the S3 to the bedroom, I began hearing some minor head chattering from the expander drive. Although I had never noticed this before, I chalked it up to a different drive sitting in the wood armoire where the slight noises could be amplified and directed out like a speaker. But a few weeks later I began getting some random reboots on the S3 - not much, but maybe one or two a week. Most of us jump to the conclusion that these two symptoms probably indicate a drive heading south, so I started running tests. BOTH drives passed all the most exhaustive kickstart tests, including the detailed drive tests that ran over 24 hours. Not a single error. The only kickstart test I did not do was the software reload.

    But the random reboots not only continued, they got more frequent. So I pulled the drives and connected them to my PC to run Western Digital diagnostics - again, BOTH drives passed every single test I could throw at them without a single error. So I put it all back together and things seemed fine for about a week, then a spontaneous reboot loop started! Getting pretty tired of this about that time, so I figured I needed to do the kickstart software reload, but I first had to clear that danged reboot loop. So I pulled out the S3 to reach the power cord. And I also spent time making sure none of the other cables back in that blind hole seemed to be balled up or anything. And this is where I got more worried about how that really stiff eSATA cable didn't really have anywhere to go when I slid the TiVo back; the solid cover on the back of the shelf with the small hole in the corner for cables meant that the cable slack just had to kind of curl up behind the box as it was pushed back, and that is really not going to work with a stiff eSATA cable! So this time I managed to squeeze my arm back on top of the TiVo so I could use my fingertips to hold the cable in place while I pushed the box back, then I carefully moved the cable around the best I could to make sure it had no sideways pressure on the connector.

    And that's it - I didn't run the software reload or any other tests. And it has been running perfectly for about a month now - no more reboots, and no more drive noise.

    Regular SATA drive cables have locks that hold them into place, but the bozo that decided an external drive cable should be designed differently really ruined it for all of us! So my point of all this is to simply reiterate the common advice to avoid using an external drive with a TiVo unless you have some really strong reason for it - much better to simply upgrade the internal drive. And if you DO have an external drive, not only do you need to have one of the good cables, but make sure that it is squarely inserted into the eSATA jack and does not have any opportunity to get moved or pushed sideways. On an S3, it can help to carefully trim about 1/8" of the plastic covering on the cable to allow the contacts to fit a bit further into the jack.

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