InstantCake - Poor Experience

Discussion in 'TiVo Upgrade Center' started by toddfan, Dec 15, 2011.

  1. toddfan

    toddfan New Member

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    Oct 14, 2002
    Kansas City
    The Hard drive in my TiVo HD recently tested as failing. I bought a new drive, and decided to try WinMFS for doing a backup and copy of the original drive.

    Well, the old drive was too far gone and would not copy. So, I looked for alternate solutions and decided to try (purchase) InstantCake, from DVRUpgrades. BIG $40 MISTAKE. I've built several computers, upgraded my old std. def. TiVo, swapped many a hard drive, even tinkered around in DOS Batch files. I gotta warn everyone, INSTANTCAKE is a bear to try to use. They don't tell you until you make the purchase and start the process...but you've got to be able to "identify" your drive(s) by terms such as hda, sta, etc. in order to be able to use the program.

    I found on their "support" (JOKE) forums, a post from them, telling how to use Page Up/Down, to scroll thru the Linux post messages to find which of the abbreviations the program assigns to the drives....I read every line....several times....I found one....hda...for the old drive, but the program would not "accept" that identifyer. I tried, over, and over, and over.....yeah, I know....it does not good to repeat a step that just failed...:rolleyes:

    After about 9 hours of this process...(not all of it with InstantCake, I admit)...I told the wife that I had to admit defeat. I put the old drive back in the TiVo, set up the std. cable DVR on her main TV.

    THEN....:eek:...I had the bright idea to search here, for an "image". (I thought I had looked earlier, but was not signed in.....so, I signed in here, did a search...and found the file with recovery images....
    :mad:(at myself, for being so dumb)
    I found a TiVo HD image (for FREE....:up:)....started taking the TiVo apart (again)...and, within an hour, we were back in the living room, with a new 1TB hard drive in our TiVo, going through the Welcome Screen, and guided setup :)

    The only slight issue, was the next day we discovered we needed to do a "Clean & Restore"...and, we've been enjoying our "new" TiVo HD now, without incident, for almost a week!

    I post this to let others know that INSTANTCAKE, from DVRUpgrades is a VERY FRUITY program...It would not accept the identifier it listed for the hard drive....I might mention, I had disconnected ALL drives in my computer, except the old TiVo drive, and the target drive...and a CD...just like the InstantCake instructions said.

    I DO NOT RECOMMEND INSTANTCAKE :thumbsdown::thumbsdown::thumbsdown:....use WinMFS and an image, which you can find here, for FREE.

    Don't repeat my mistake and hours of failure.
    Thanks to all the posters here....you saved my TiVo!
     
  2. Soapm

    Soapm Active Member

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    PM sent...
     
  3. mr.unnatural

    mr.unnatural Well-Known Member

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    Feb 2, 2006
    Ellicott...
    Lack of knowledge doesn't make it a bad program. Using any Tivo backup and restore app requires a minimally basic working knowledge of Linux in order to use it properly. InstantCake is basically an image restore program for dummies. All you have to do is assign the correct drive designations and the program does the rest. There are numerous tutorials on using InstantCake as well as performing an image backup and restore using readily available tools (hint: check out the sticky threads at the top of the forums).

    I've used InstantCake in the past and found it ridiculously simple to use. I prefer to do my backups and restorations manually, but if you don't have a backup image handy, InstantCake is about your only option. Granted, it's overpriced (it used to be only $19.99), but when you need it you need it.

    FYI - do a search for Hinsdale's How To for instructions on how to properly designate a drive in a command line when using a Linux app for backing up or restoring a Tivo image. Look under option 1, step 6 for the drive designations. It's not rocket science.
     
  4. Worf

    Worf Well-Known Member

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    Sep 15, 2000
    Just FYI, here's how Linux names it.

    hda - first IDE controller, master drive
    hdb - first IDE controller, slave drive
    hdc - second IDE controller, master drive
    hdd - second IDE controller, salve drive.

    InstantCake assumes that your normal OS drive is on the first controller (hda), and requires that you move your optical to hdb (set it to slave mode and unplug the cable from your OS drive to the optical drive. It's safer and avoids accidentally reformatting your OS drive).

    TiVo drives go in hdc (primary drive - holds TiVo's OS files) and hdd (secondary drive - for expanded storage).
     
  5. toddfan

    toddfan New Member

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    Oct 14, 2002
    Kansas City
    hmmmm.....

    Yeah...I read the Hinsdale. My computer has SATA drives which seem to make things even more "fuzzy". I understand how Linux was setting up the "hda, sda", etc. designations. Like I said, even when I entered those designations, the program would not accept them....if you do a search at google on InstantCake, you will see that there have been several others who have had similar problems with this poor program....I guess we are not all as brilliant as "mr. unnatural" who found it ridiculously easy to use....or, maybe his computer configuration is closer to what the program expects to "see". Further, I would disagree that InstantCake is basically TiVo backup/restore "for dummies"....I would give that kudo to WinMFS.

    And, Worf....thanks for the lesson. I understood those designations....like I said, the program would not accept them.

    Hopefully my post will alert someone else to not waste their money on InstantCake....when there are other, free alternatives (WinMFS and an image) which will work much better.

    Thanks to Soapm, who sent an instant message and was kind enough to try to help me out without feeling the need to prove how "smart" he/she was. I appreciate your kindness.

    :p
     
  6. mr.unnatural

    mr.unnatural Well-Known Member

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    Feb 2, 2006
    Ellicott...
    SATA drives have different designations in Linux. I suppose I should have been clearer about that. Hinsdale's and many of the original tutorials were written for older Tivos that used IDE interfaces and not SATA. Still, the basic concept is exactly the same, just slightly different syntax. I've been working with Tivos so long that it didn't dawn on me that using InstantCake with newer drives may require a different command set. I've got a dedicated PC that I use strictly for upgrading Tivos (I used to do them quite often) and I only use IDE connections.

    The latest Tivos I've worked on are the S3 models, which do have an SATA interface. I use a Rosewill IDE to SATA adapter that allows me to install my SATA drive as if it were an IDE drive in the PC. The drive designations I use are the same whether I work with IDE or SATA drives.

    FYI - I checked the DVRUpgrade website and found several links that tell you how to use InstantCake with a series 3 Tivo or Tivo HD. Here's but one of them:

    http://www.dvrupgrade.com/forums/showthread.php?t=517

    The trickiest part of the install is knowing how to designate the drive. If you observe the boot screen as InstantCake is booting up you'll see info about the installed drives scroll past as Linux is being loaded from the CD. If it's going by too fast to read, you can hit the Pause key on the keyboard to freeze it. You can also scroll back up once it stops and displays a prompt. You should see the SATA drive designation (i.e., sda, sdb, etc.) along with the drive information (i.e., model number of the drive) listed. Write down the various designations for your C drive, CD-ROM, and new Tivo drive and use them according to the instructions when running InstantCake. Make sure you only have one optical drive connected or it will confuse the software and you won't get InstantCake to run.
     
  7. lillevig

    lillevig Cold in East Iowa

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    Dec 6, 2010
    Marion, Iowa
    Yeah, I'm a big fan of WINMFS. I prefer using a USB to IDE/SATA cable instead of cracking open my desktop. I had problems with Instantcake because it would boot but would not recognize the DVD drive on my laptop when it came time to mount it for accessing the image. Ironically, I found the posting shown below (on their forum) that gives instructions for copying the image to a flashdrive and then mounting the flashdrive to burn the image. I booted up MFSTools on the laptop to verify that this procedure works.

    http://www.dvrupgrade.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1734
     
  8. toddfan

    toddfan New Member

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    Oct 14, 2002
    Kansas City
    Gee...this sounds pretty familiar...I think that I said that I did that....and it still would not accept.

    Obviously, I was doint something incorrectly....and I am sure that it would not have been even the slightest challenge, for You.

    I appreciate your contributions!

    I stand by my statement that InstantCake should be avoided. If this company is going to charge $40 for their "sloppy" program...then they should at least update it to run with current state of technology.
     
  9. mr.unnatural

    mr.unnatural Well-Known Member

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    Feb 2, 2006
    Ellicott...
    All I can say is that there are far more satisfied customers of InstantCake than disgruntled ones. I've voiced my opinion about it being overpriced in the past, but like I said, if you need it you need it. AFAIK, DVRUpgrade is the only vendor licensed by Tivo to distribute copies of the Tivo software. The users that do gripe about it are generally clueless how to use it in the first place. Upgrading a Tivo drive is pretty straightforward, but you do need to understand a few basic rules first. My only response is that you didn't do your homework before taking the plunge. It appears that you looked for help in all the wrong places.
     
  10. toddfan

    toddfan New Member

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    Oct 14, 2002
    Kansas City
    sounds like I should have asked for YOUR phone number....:rolleyes:
     
  11. toddfan

    toddfan New Member

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    Oct 14, 2002
    Kansas City
     
  12. unitron

    unitron Well-Known Member

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    semi-coastal NC
    Yeah, but lack of bothering to update anything except the price does.
     
  13. mr.unnatural

    mr.unnatural Well-Known Member

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    Feb 2, 2006
    Ellicott...
    Well, I'm not here to defend InstantCake. I've used it in the past and it did what it was supposed to do. My main beef with it is the jacked-up price increase and I've been quite vocal about it on more than one occasion. I've only had a need to purchase it one time, and that was back in the days when we were hacking our S2 DTivos using an S2 standalone image to get MFS working. I didn't have an S2 SA Tivo so InstantCake was my only option for getting an image legally. I've made backups of every Tivo I've ever owned since day one so I never had a need to pay for one other than the one instance. In fact, I've probably still got it on a CD-R somewhere.

    In any case, it's always a smart idea to create a backup image whenever you get a new Tivo or take a software update. That way you can always restore it using WinMFS or the utility of your choosing. Unfortunately, most people don't think about that when they get a Tivo and then have to resort to using InstantCake or some other means to get their Tivos working again when the drive dies. The OP should just consider it as a lesson learned.;)
     
  14. toddfan

    toddfan New Member

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    Oct 14, 2002
    Kansas City
    :eek:

    yes...lesson learned. TiVo image and copy of WinMFS, now safely tucked away in TiVo box...:D

    InstantCake "boot" CD = new $40 COASTER :p
     
  15. lew

    lew Well-Known Member

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    Mar 12, 2002
    Do you have any statistics or facts to support your claim?





     
  16. mr.unnatural

    mr.unnatural Well-Known Member

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    Ellicott...
    I'm just making a rough estimate based on threads I've read in these forums. The biggest gripe with InstantCake, aside from the price hike, has been the inadvertent download of the incorrect image for a Tivo and not being able to get a refund. The DVRUpgrade website has disclaimers posted that you need to make sure you have the right image identified before downloading it because once you've downloaded it you've bought it. This is actually one of the first threads I've read where anyone has described having this much trouble getting IC to work.
     
  17. unitron

    unitron Well-Known Member

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    semi-coastal NC
    Perhaps it's changed, but it used to be that IC expected you to be using IDE drives, so it only worked if the drive could be accessed as /dev/hd'x', and it expected the cd drive to be in a particular place (I think it was hda, but don't remember) that it ordinarily wouldn't be.
     
  18. mr.unnatural

    mr.unnatural Well-Known Member

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    Feb 2, 2006
    Ellicott...
    I believe this is the original drive layout used by IC and MFSTools:

    hda = FAT32 drive (i.e., the C:\ drive)
    hdb = Tivo B drive
    hdc = Tivo A drive
    hdd = CD-ROM

    I haven't used any of the latest versions of IC that work with SATA drives, but it should basically work the same way. The instructions for using it are posted on the DVRUpgrade website. The only difference is that the SATA drives are designated as sda, sdb, sdc, etc. This is easily discernible by scanning the data that scrolls by when IC boots into Linux. The drive designations are easy to spot if you simply scroll back up after the prompt is displayed. I believe you just need to jot down the designation for each drive and type them in when prompted to do so. IC will then restore the backup image automatically and set up the various partitions.
     
  19. unitron

    unitron Well-Known Member

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    Apr 28, 2006
    semi-coastal NC
    According to the instructions for the S1 and S2 version, the cd has to be hdb, and the target drive has to be hdc (and if doing a 2 drive setup, the other one has to be hdd)

    Lots of motherboards out there with only one IDE channel.

    Lots of 2 IDE channel motherboards out there where the user set the cd up as hdd (and told Windows to call it Z:\ ), and it's a hassle to have to re-route the ribbon cables.

    Lots of motherboards out there with only SATA which could be used to setup a SATA for an S1 or S2 which could then be used in the TiVo with an adapter.
     
  20. mr.unnatural

    mr.unnatural Well-Known Member

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    Feb 2, 2006
    Ellicott...
    I knew it was one or the other but couldn't recall exactly from memory. I should have figured I'd get it wrong.:eek: I remembered that the CD-ROM and Tivo B drive both had to be configured as slave drives. I just had them swapped.

    Shows you how long it's been since these programs were developed. Ever since SATA became the norm, most motherboards only come with a single IDE channel and some don't have any at all.

    That's why I've always kept a dedicated PC around for working with Tivo drives, even though I don't do it anywhere near as much as I used to. I leave the side panels off of the mid-tower case so I can easily access the IDE and power cables. I just sit the Tivo drive on one of the internal drive bay shelves and plug in the appropriate cables.

    I can still upgrade my S3 drives using an SATA to IDE adapter on this antique. I had to re-image a drive for my S3 about a month ago and it still does the job. It's funny because I was thinking about retiring the PC when the S3 started freezing up on me. I guess something was trying to tell me to keep it around.

    You can pick up a full working PC with dual IDE channels, hard drive, and CD-ROM for $25 or less on ebay. Considering what you'd pay for InstantCake, it's not a bad investment if you still have older Tivos in use. If you're using WinMFS then an external docking station is also a good investment. I've got several and use them all the time.
     

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