Thoughts on Using an External HDD With a Bolt

Discussion in 'TiVo Bolt DVR/Streamer' started by V7Goose, Apr 2, 2020.

  1. Apr 2, 2020 #1 of 17
    V7Goose

    V7Goose OTA ONLY and Loving It!

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    The subject of using an external hard drive with a Bolt is well covered in many older threads, but a new thought concerning cooling that I had not written about in the past just came to mind. So I thought I would try to post a brief summary of the process in a new thread so it would be easy to find.

    For reasons well covered elsewhere, many of us have come to the conclusion that there are no longer any reliable options for anything larger than a 1 TB 2.5" drive in a TiVo. For this reason I now only recommend using an external WD Red or Purple 3.5" drive for upgrading the Bolt. The procedure for this is extremely simple, and I will attempt to briefly reiterate it here:
    • Buy a 3.5" drive in whatever size you desire. Anything up to 3 TB is a simple plug-and-play swap, so that is the only thing I will cover here.
    • You should use an external power supply for the drive - no external enclosure is really needed, but that is generally the preferred method. An external case with its own fan is also a good idea to extend drive life since this drive will be spinning 24x7.
    • Open the Bolt case and disconnect the internal hard drive from the motherboard (no need to actually remove the drive; just make sure it is not powered).
    • Connect the new external drive directly to the Bolt motherboard in place of the original drive, using a standard SATA cable connected directly to the drive SATA connector. This requires that you bypass any eSATA or USB connections that are available on an external enclosure, so you will need one that has separate power and data connections to the drive (older drive cases that also work for IDE drives are a great choice).

      Note that a SATA cable with a right-angle connector on one end will make the connection to the motherboard easier, but do be aware that those cables come in either a left or right bend direction, so make sure you buy the correct one.
    And that is it - just power the external drive first, and when the Bolt boots up it will format the drive automagically and then take you into Guided Setup just like a new box.

    So the only remaining question is what to do with that external SATA cable that needs to get into the Bolt case. Some people choose to notch the rear of the case to that they can put the cover back on normally, but this is not really necessary. Another option is to just leave the back of the Bolt drive cover loose so that the cable can snake in through the crack. But if you do this, make sure you cover that opening with tape of some sort so that the already marginal cooling of the Bolt is not changed!

    You see, the only air inlets on the Bolt are tiny little holes under the bottom left and right edges of the case, and that weak little fan must pull that air over top of the motherboard to cool it. If the back of the case is left open, then all the air will get sucked in there and do no good at all. Of course, there are many other solutions to solving the Bolt cooling problems, but that is not the subject of this thread. Just make sure to close up any new openings you make in the case when you add the external drive. And as an added bonus, not having an internal drive adding its own heat to the Bolt will give you some improvement to the cooling issue all by itself.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2020
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  2. Apr 2, 2020 #2 of 17
    Mikeguy

    Mikeguy Well-Known Member

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    Sorry, I've found otherwise, for the present: the Toshiba 2.5" 2TB drive from the original Toshiba series that people were using still is available, and at a killer $49.99 price; and the 3TB drive in the series also still can be obtained, my just having found it from Grooves in the UK (with free int'l shipping) at a great $97.14 price. Note, however, that these drives have been EOL'ed.

    Toshiba MQ03ABB200 -- https://www.amazon.com/TOSHIBA-MQ03...d=1&keywords=MQ03ABB200&qid=1585884118&sr=8-2

    Toshiba MQ03ABB300 -- https://www.grooves-inc.co.uk/toshi...iba-hardware-electronic-pZZa1-2098341320.html
     
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  3. Apr 8, 2020 #3 of 17
    V7Goose

    V7Goose OTA ONLY and Loving It!

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    I did not start this thread to discuss the merits of buying an old discontinued drive and hoping it will work for a long time. I wouldn't do it, but if that is what you want to do, then please ignore this thread.
     
  4. Apr 8, 2020 #4 of 17
    V7Goose

    V7Goose OTA ONLY and Loving It!

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    The instructions I posted have always worked just fine for any Bolt running either TE3 or TE4, but there is absolutely no guarantee that Bad_Rovi will not make new changes to the TE4 software to prevent user replacement of the drive. They HAVE made such changes at least twice since that horrible software was released: Back around 2017 virtually any model of drive would work fine in the Bolt (at least for a while), and you could even use a SATA to eSATA adapter cable with an external enclosure. They made a software change that broke the ability to use the eSATA adapter cable, and then about a year later they put out another update that caused many drives that had PREVIOUSLY WORKED JUST FINE to fail in the Bolt.

    I have never heard of any problem using a WD Red or WD Purple 3.5" drive for this upgrade. But if your Bolt is already dead and a new drive does not boot right up, then consider that your power supply might be the real problem.

    NEW CAUTION concerning drive choice: I STRONGLY recommend avoiding any and all SMR type drives in a DVR. This has been a major problem with the toy 2.5" drives, but until recently not so with the majority of 3.5" drives. Unfortunately, WD has recently started secretly sneaking 3.5" SMR drives into lines that have always been exclusively CMR/PMR technology. These garbage WD Red drives currently include "EFAX" drives between 2-6 TB. In contrast, Seagate has openly stated that NONE of their Ironwolf drives are or ever will be SMR technology. So do your research, and be sure to get a "good" drive for this hardware upgrade to your TiVo.​

    I will also note that just switching to an external drive with its own power supply will reduce the load on the Bolt power supply, so it is is possible that a failing Bolt power supply might initially allow the Bolt to start working fine with a new external drive, but crap out totally on some later date. Failure of Bolt power supplies are not a chronic problem like failure of those toy 2.5" drives are, but they have been reported often enough that I would always suggest trying a new one if you see unexpected problems.

    And just in the past week I have noted a number of folks on these forums claiming that they have been seeing a new problem with replacing drives in a Bolt where the box would not boot even using drive models that have been known to work fine in the past. I do NOT have any specific knowledge of this reported problem, but I would certainly replace the power supply first if I saw it. If that does not fix the problem, then refer back to the first paragraph in this post - maybe Bad_Rovi has screwed us again?

    If your Bolt is NOT already dead, I would strongly suggest that you revert it BACK TO TE3 before you make any drive changes - just reduces the chance of unexpected problems. Since the Bolt software is not stored on the drive, a Bolt will format a new drive to use whatever software version it was using at the last shutdown. Of course, if you have a Bolt OTA, then you do not have that choice. Good luck.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2020
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  5. Apr 8, 2020 #5 of 17
    Mikeguy

    Mikeguy Well-Known Member

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    LOL. Just providing the balance as to what others of us actually have found (despite the insinuation otherwise).*

    * Also, as to the drive being "old," it only came out in 2015 or 2016; we're not talking Windows XP. ;)
     
  6. tommage1

    tommage1 Well-Known Member

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    There is now. Someone replaced a bad drive with a 2TB 3.5 WD Red. Unfortunately the latest model 2-6TB WD Reds are SMR. The EMAZ models. And it did not work. They ended up buying an external from Weaknees. Which worked fine. And has a Purple inside. Reds ain't what they used to be in some cases, stick with purples or golds if you like WD.
     
  7. Dec 6, 2020 #7 of 17
    LeeStewart11

    LeeStewart11 New Member

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    First timer here!....
    I was given a new Bolt OTA, 1TB as a gift.
    Haven't set it up yet (still new in box).
    It's essential for me to use an external drive. I'm pretty tech savvy with drives and would be using a WD/HGST enterprise drive (not SMR) for high reliability purposes.
    I'm completely unfamiliar with the upgrade process and there's a good deal of outdated info. online regarding this.
    I spent a good deal of time with a knowledgeable (oddly enough!) tech rep. at Tivo yesterday. He insisted that all that was necessary was to mount a brand new drive in an external (self powered) enclosure.
    Then just connect it via the esata port on the Bolt and configure it as the primary drive on the Bolt. He mentioned something about larger drives being compatible but it may slow down the access time as it fills up.
    I'm actually considering either a 6TB or 8TB.
    I'm confused! Based on the info. above, the suggestion is to run a cable from the interior of the box. I get that....but why would there be a problem connecting an external drive to the esata port on the rear of the box?
    Wasn't that the intention originally?
    According to the rep. that I spoke with, there shouldn't be any problems with utilizing the esata port on the Bolt OTA.
    Any and all comments/suggestions would be very much appreciated!
    I'm sorry if this was discussed previously!
    I'm starting from the very beginning.....but it's essential for me to use a high capacity external drive with the Bolt OTA.
    Thank you in advance for your time!
     
  8. Dec 6, 2020 #8 of 17
    V7Goose

    V7Goose OTA ONLY and Loving It!

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    The fool you talked to at TiVo was absolutely NOT knowledgeable! In fact, he told you many totally wrong things about their product.

    TiVo NEVER intended the eSATA port to be usable for connection of a replacement main drive. In fact, they have taken great pains to BLOCK the use of that eSATA port for virtually any connection at all. For a few years long ago they sold a very over-priced TiVo-branded WD external drive that you could use with that port to EXPAND the total capacity of the box (but not replace the internal drive - had to be used in conjunction with the stock setup). Those two specific models of eSATA drives were the ONLY things they ever allowed you to use that way. All other drives connected to this port are specifically blocked by the software.*

    This and more is all discussed in great detail in many threads on these forums - please spend some time doing more research here, and we will be happy to help clarify anything you do not understand.

    * On the other hand, I suppose there could be a microscopically small chance that the new TiVo owners have decided to change the software to open up the ability to use that eSATA port as the rep described. Yeah, right... That would be the first intelligent thing this ridiculous company has done in over 10 years. Not much chance of that.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2020
  9. Dec 6, 2020 #9 of 17
    WVZR1

    WVZR1 Active Member

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    The WV...
    A gift with 'LIFETIME/ALL IN' service OR just the device and you need to subscribe to the service?
     
  10. LeeStewart11

    LeeStewart11 New Member

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    Thanks for responding!.....
    Interestingly, I questioned whether there was a SW/FW update that made this possible.
    His response was that he wasn't sure but he knew for a fact that a brand new drive, mounted in an (esata compatible) enclosure would be recognized and configured by the Bolt OTA. I'm not doubting that he could be wrong but he said that he was with the company for 8 years and wasn't just making an assumption. If he's wrong, I'm going to make it a point to call back and speak to a supervisor about their representatives providing false information! I'm not a vindictive person but I don't like being mislead! It would seem pointless for him to do this, although nothing surprises me!!
    It's not as if they're selling expansion drives, so I would expect an honest answer!
    I called Tivo specifically because of what you mentioned here (the fact that the external storage port was mislabeled and actually doesn't function!). I was well aware of that from doing my homework on this forum (and elsewhere). However, I still had serious difficulty trying to digest the fact that they labeled the esata port for that exact purpose but yet it doesn't work!! They even produced new units with this labeling! If it wasn't their intention for people to use it, why not either remove the port altogether or (at the very least) remove the labeling?
    Regardless, unless he was correct (and the new owners are more being more human), why would those (obsolete) "expander" drives work? What's the "magic"? Did they have some "arrangement" with WD (that would benefit both companies)? Just curious as to why those drives worked and others didn't?
    Could it be possible that they "unlocked" the esata port and users aren't aware of it?
    I did ask him if the USB ports would function for expansion purposes. He said no.
    The newer "Edge" has USB ports. I'm not at all familiar with it (vs. the Bolt).
    Is expansion a possibility with that model?
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2020
  11. UCLABB

    UCLABB Well-Known Member

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    You’re new here? When you call TiVo you are getting someone in a foreign country that knows very little. Hell, if you were to get what remains of engineering, they probably wouldn’t know much these days with all the turnover.
    The old WD drives were encoded so only they would work with the TiVo. Who knows what the financial arrangement was and it certainly is irrelevant now.
    Now, as someone tried to explain to you, the expander drives supplemented the drive in the box. It didn’t replace the drive in the box. Content was written to both and if either failed, all content was lost. Maybe because the problematical situation, they stopped supporting the concept.

    why did TiVo continue to put the esata connection on the boxes? Who knows. Maybe they thought one day they would revisit it, but the advent of larger, cheap drives made the concept of an expander drive unnecessary.
    Bottom line is you need to deal with your failed drive. You can’t just connect a drive to the esata port. Replacing the drive is a relatively simple matter.
     
  12. LeeStewart11

    LeeStewart11 New Member

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    As a general rule, you're right about the level of knowledge with these offshore call centers. However, I've had considerable experience dealing with (so-called) experts on the phone and this particular representative was more tech savvy and more intelligent than most.
    You can't assume that every single one of them isn't qualified to do their job.
    Most....but not all!
    He may have been wrong. I'm not denying that....but perhaps there was a change of attitude and they actually did "unlock" the esata port.
    I suppose it's a "trial and error" situation.
    I agree with you that replacing the original drive is a better option.
    Just for clarification, would the new drive (connected internally) require formatting on a computer prior to use?
    I'm asking this only because he insisted that a new, external drive would basically be "plug and play" if connected to the esata port. I was (and still am) skeptical about this!
    BTW.....I upgraded several "ReplayTV" units years ago and the drives required formatting prior to use. That's generally the case with these upgrades, so I'm not assuming that he was correct about it being that easy!
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2020
  13. V7Goose

    V7Goose OTA ONLY and Loving It!

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    Asking that question makes it abundantly clear that you have done virtually no research on these forums at all; there are few things that have been answered so many times in so many different threads. IT is even clearly answered in my first post in this thread!

    That and your somewhat argumentative approach to our attempts to help you understand makes me wonder what your real purpose here is? You could have tested all this in less time than you have spent trying to convince us how experienced you are and how well you can evaluate someone based on a single phone call.

    I am glad you think you have found a new best bud who is all-knowledgeable about all things Tivo. Please, just go do everything he told you and enjoy your new TiVo. There is nothing more you can learn from us.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2020
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  14. tommage1

    tommage1 Well-Known Member

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    This is how I did it

    TE4 Bolt upgrade with external drive

    Yeah, there are ways to use the eSata port on the Tivo but would end up with two drives, if either one fails you lose everything on both. The Esata port on the Tivo cannot be used as a replacement for the main drive, only as an add on. Stick with one external Sata to Sata CMR 5400RPM drive in enclosure for best result, IMO. Your enterprise drive would work but may be 7200RPM. 7200RPM will work but could be noisier and run hotter and is not needed for a Tivo, no benefit for 7200. Other than probably a 5 year warranty Enterprise drive ;)
     
  15. LeeStewart11

    LeeStewart11 New Member

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    No!....firstly, I've done extensive research (here and elsewhere)!
    In reality, asking that question was for the purpose of getting further clarification (vs. condescension!), as there has been contradictory information here (and elsewhere). If you were at all open-minded and actually took the time to read what I'm trying to convey (as opposed to being so abrupt and dismissive), you may have noticed that I actually agreed with you and had my doubts about what the Tivo rep had told me!
    There's also the fact that sometimes changes do occur with SW and FW that might meet consumer's demands.
    Yes, oddly enough, that has been known to happen!
    In the interim, you make a ludicrous statement that there's nothing more that I can learn from "us"!
    Please change that to "you", since you're the one that's actually being argumentative here and who prefers to be impatient and critical (vs. helpful)!
     
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  16. barnabas1969

    barnabas1969 Active Member

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    Lee,

    Go try it. Try connecting your external drive to the eSATA port. Report back here to let us know what happens. You have nothing to lose since you don't have any recordings yet.

    It will either a) not recognize the external drive, or b) use both the internal and external drives.
     
  17. barnabas1969

    barnabas1969 Active Member

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    BTW, Lee... if you really want to connect an external drive to the eSATA port, you could follow my guide. You will still be using BOTH drives, which means that if either drive fails, you will lose ALL of your recordings. But, I did it this way because I didn't want to drill holes in my brand new Bolt VOX (with a 2 year warrantee). When my warrantee is up, then I will modify the case and connect the external drive directly to the motherboard's SATA connector.

    Here's my guide:

    Use the eSATA port with an external drive (up to 8TB DVR Expander) - simple method!
     

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