Thoughts on Using an External HDD With a Bolt

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

  1. V7Goose

    V7Goose OTA ONLY and Loving It!

    1,598
    502
    May 28, 2005
    New Mexico...
    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
    kellison and kpeters59 like this.
  2. Mikeguy

    Mikeguy Well-Known Member

    27,636
    9,192
    Jul 28, 2005
    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
     
    pl1 likes this.
  3. V7Goose

    V7Goose OTA ONLY and Loving It!

    1,598
    502
    May 28, 2005
    New Mexico...
    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. V7Goose

    V7Goose OTA ONLY and Loving It!

    1,598
    502
    May 28, 2005
    New Mexico...
    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
  5. Mikeguy

    Mikeguy Well-Known Member

    27,636
    9,192
    Jul 28, 2005
    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

    1,401
    318
    Nov 5, 2008
    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.
     

Share This Page