"unsupported" eSATA drive on Premiere?

Discussion in 'TiVo Premiere DVRs' started by RepairDad, Nov 24, 2010.

  1. RepairDad

    RepairDad New Member

    Jun 9, 2003
    Hi all,

    I've searched the forums to find this answer but had no luck. I found considerable discussion on HD/XL and series 3 but not the Premiere.

    I have a fairly new Premiere and want to add an external drive. I already have a Fantom 1TB eSATA drive I'd like to use. But will it work? I would expect to plug it in and it should be configured just the same as the "supported" WD drive.

    But, is this the case? Does it *really* matter if I don't use the WD My Book AV drive? Are there extra steps to perform?

    And, out of curiosity, why does TiVo write files across both the internal and external drives? If one drive fails, everything is lost. Bad design in my opinion.

  2. ignavia

    ignavia 4 8 15 16 23 42

    Oct 4, 2004
    South Louisiana
    I'll start by saying I have no concrete info. But the board seems to be dead tonight, so I'll give it a go. =)

    I think the My DVR Expander is configured in a specific way to work with the TiVo. For starters, I bet it's formatted to ext2/3 rather than FAT or NTFS. And it's probably also got some data already on it that the TiVo is looking for.

    My question would be, is there some sort of hardware lockout? Or if I run an image off one of the WD drives, could I make my generic disk work?
  3. jdfs

    jdfs Unspecial Member

    Oct 21, 2002
    The eSATA drive I used with my SA8300HD cable box did not work with the Tivo. It says it is not supported. I have no idea if there is a way to trick it.
  4. RepairDad

    RepairDad New Member

    Jun 9, 2003
    I'm afraid taht may be the case. But I don't understand why TiVo would limit which drive would work.

    If it's a support issue, all they need to do is say "we don't support THAT drive". But don't reject other drives.

    I have several TiVo units, the oldest once since 2002. TiVo seems to be getting very particular what will work. It doesn't make sense to me.

    For example, I have a variety of wireless adapters for my other TiVos -- Linksys, Dell, etc. but the new Premiere will ONLY work with the TiVo wireless adapter.

    I've worked in the computer industry for over 35 years. In all that time, no company I have ever worked for has overtly prevented users from using alternative hardware/software. If a problem were to arise, the worst they were told was that hardware/software wasn't supported and they would have to use a supported product and re-create the problem before support could assist them. TiVo seems to have gone another direction. Shame on them.

  5. alexofindy

    alexofindy Member

    Apr 15, 2010
    I also very much wish TiVo would allow expansion hard drives other than the WD to work; they have deliberately designed their software to reject all drives other than one specific 1 TB Western Digital model drive.

    As I see it, the underlying problem is with how TiVo's do expansion. Once an expansion drive is added to a TiVo, the TiVo's file system is expanded to include the new hard drive. This means that if the external drive (or the internal drive, for that matter) fails then ALL shows recorded after the external drive is installed are lost. This is, in my view, very poor design, and severely limits how users can enjoy their TiVo's. Instead, TiVo should put a separate file system on the external drive. If the external drive were to fail, only shows recorded on the external drive would be lost. Further, the user could "swap" external drives and get virtually unlimited expansion.

    Given that TiVo does not do this, I can sort of understand why TiVo limits expansion to the WD drive, even if I don't like it. External drives may have all sorts of features that might interfere with the operation of the TiVo, many of them designed to be environmentally friendly by spinning-down the drive when the drive firmware thinks the drive is not active. Such "features" might cause the tivo to hiccup, and since a hiccup might cause loss of all stored programs, tivo simply doesn't permit expansion except with the WD.

    I have a "Mac compatible" USB (not eSATA) external drive on my iMac. Brand new. From Seagate, a "name brand." And I am always getting messages from my Mac about how the drive has disconnected itself without the MacOS's permission. Most likely powersaving "features." NO harm done, though the messages are off-putting, but I can imagine how similar behavior with an eSATA TiVo expansion drive might wreck havoc on a TiVo.

    So TiVo has had to avoid the problem by deliberating limiting expansion to one "TiVo certified" expansion drive that TiVo knows is fully compatible.

    A major inconvenience for me, but I sort of understand where they are coming from. Now, if only TiVo would change the architecture of expansion, to use a separate file system, so an external drive glitch would not jeopardize everything. This would be much better.

    One closing comment: There are two kinds of wireless adapters used by TiVo: those that connect to the TiVo's USB port (the TiVo wireless-G is such an adaptor), and those that connect to the ethernet port (the TiVo's newer wireless-N is such an adapter)

    The USB devices do need to be Tivo brand, since they require specific software drivers on the TiVo to work.

    But the ethernet port wireless adapters do not require such software. Formally, they are ethernet bridges, and many brands will work. During operation the TiVo neither knows nor cares that an ethernet-port adapter is in place. I use a Linksys WET610N wireless bridge, without problems. Other users have used other brands. Now, I had to use the software and instructions that came from Linksys with the bridge to configure it, and I'm sure that if I had trouble TiVo tech support would not have been able to help. But the Linksys software was easy to use, and the bridge works fine with my Tivo Premiere XL.
  6. PedjaR

    PedjaR Member

    Jan 4, 2010
    Cary, NC
    I guess that from Tivo perspective it probably is something along the lines of:

    easier support (maybe much easier)
    probably some $$ from WD for exclusivity
    some customers would be mad enough about it to not buy a Tivo
    Tivo may get some bad press about this that could cause harm

    and they probably estimated that pros win. I don't like that they did it, but that was not anywhere close to being an important factor affecting my decision whether or not to buy a Tivo. If I were them I might have made the same decision.
    The fact that Tivo splits each recording among the two drives is a lot bigger issue, IMO. The fact that Moxi does not do the splitting was one of the largest pluses for it when I was comparing the two (not nearly enough for Moxi to win, though).
  7. smbaker

    smbaker Well-Known Member

    May 24, 2003
    Money. They cut a deal with the seller of the authorized drives.

    This is really the only reason for limiting consumer choice. I'm surprised people are able to swap out drives internally. You'd think that loophole would have been closed up in order to allow only authorized ($$) drives to be installed.
  8. Worf

    Worf Well-Known Member

    Sep 15, 2000
    This has been around since the TiVoHD eras. The Series 3 can use any eSATA drive only because people have been experimenting with its functionality prior to it becoming an official feature.

    The only TiVo drives supported are the MyDVR Expanders - Western Digital paid a nice sum to TiVo, Cisco (Scientific Atlanta), Motorola and others to enable just their drives to have support. IIRC, it's a special firmware in the drive itself.
  9. Gregor

    Gregor save the princess save the world TCF Club

    Feb 18, 2002
  10. RepairDad

    RepairDad New Member

    Jun 9, 2003
    I read that thread before posting this (original) message. It doesn't really address the Premiere, other than saying TiVo severely crippled allowing the Premiere to be upgraded for extra disk capacity.
  11. plazman30

    plazman30 Member

    Jan 22, 2005
    The author of the tool that allows you to stick a 2 TB HD in a Tivo was going to write something to allow unauthorized external storage. It was then discovered that the Tivo has a physical 2 TB limit for all storage. So, it didn't help anyone, since once you added the 2TB drive internally, you were maxed out.
  12. RepairDad

    RepairDad New Member

    Jun 9, 2003
    Well, this is rather short-sighted. What about the folks who don't want to open up their Premiere to swap out the internal drive (and void their warranty) but would rather simply add an external drive?
  13. Worf

    Worf Well-Known Member

    Sep 15, 2000
    AFAIK, on the TiVoHDs, if you wanted to use an unsupported drive you had to hack the unit (which involves taking out the drive).

    The only way to expand it on TivoHD and keep the original warranty is to buy the MyDVR Expander drive itself. It's either hack it and use any drive (and lose warranty), or buy a supported drive.
  14. RepairDad

    RepairDad New Member

    Jun 9, 2003
    Well I don't have a TiVo HD, I have a TiVo Premiere.

    I'm not happy TiVo is forcing me to purchase the Western Digital drive. I've had very poor quality with WD drives. Almost all the ones I've purchased have failed early.

    But -- must I purchase the "supported" WD drive from TiVo or can I purchase it elsewhere?

    Amazon sells this drive for $119 where TiVo sells it for $149. I hope TiVo doesn't expect me to pay full price from them just to get a "supported" drive.
  15. dianebrat

    dianebrat wait.. I did what? TCF Club

    Jul 6, 2002
    It doesn't matter where you buy the approved DVR expander, you just need to but the "official" approved unit.

    It's pretty clear they're using a specific string in the hardware of the drive, be it a firmware ID or model ID so that only approved drives are PnP, you can even put the drive from the expander into a better external case and it still works fine if you wanted to use a case with active cooling.

    I know a lot of people get upset over having to use an approved device, but we already saw what happened with the unofficial S3s using the eSATA devices that there were compatibility issues, and I can certainly understand why Tivo wants to eliminate those issues, it's the same reason they trimmed the approved wireless adapter list down significantly as they went to the S3 and THD.

    Keeping your bottom line low means keeping CSR and support calls to a minimum, and fewer hardware variations helps keep it that way.

    The S3 family, and I include the THD, had the best compromise, you could put unapproved devices on them, but you had to do some work to make it happen. While I'm disappointed that the Premiere didn't keep this approach, it's become clear that there were a lot more under the hood changes to the file system for the Premiere, and some of this might wind up being easier in the future after a few smart folks have come up with a new generation of Tivo-based drive manipulation tools.
  16. ltxi

    ltxi New Member

    Feb 14, 2010
    I've assumed this is just the common RAID 0 approach.
  17. CharlesH

    CharlesH Member

    Aug 29, 2002
    I heard somewhere that this was done deliberately to make it impossible to move the external drive to another box, under pressure from content providers.

    What happened with original Series3 is that testing code that permitted other drives to be attached was accidentally released to customers. In a concession to customers who had already used that functionality, TiVo decided that, while the "bug" would be fixed for other models, that they specifically would not remove the "bug" from the Series3. This according to a TiVo marketing person who used to post in this forum.
  18. jmill

    jmill New Member

    Feb 22, 2010
    to make it short answer:

    As of today, you can add exeternally "supported" drive to your TiVo. Your own external drive will not work as of today.

    As others have suggested, go with an internal upgrade if you want to use your own drive. Note that opening and upgrading the drive will possible void your TiVo warranty.
  19. CoxInPHX

    CoxInPHX COX Communications

    Jan 14, 2011
    Phoenix, AZ
  20. dianebrat

    dianebrat wait.. I did what? TCF Club

    Jul 6, 2002
    You're missing the point, the drive you're referring to will *NOT* have the proper ID string for the Tivo to use it, and as has been said here, it is *not* the case that is used for the ID but the firmware string on the drive itself.

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