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

Discussion in 'TiVo Bolt DVR/Streamer' started by barnabas1969, Sep 15, 2019.

  1. barnabas1969

    barnabas1969 Member

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    I am so glad that I found this method.

    I bought a Bolt VOX with a 1TB drive. Everything that I found on this site told me that the only way to get 4TB of storage (which is what I want) was to drill a hole in the Bolt and connect an external drive to the internal SATA port on the Bolt.

    The above advice is NOT the only way to skin this cat. There is a way connect an external drive to the eSATA port without cutting any holes in the Bolt's case.... without paying hundreds of dollars to a 3rd party company (which shall remain nameless).

    Yes, that's right. You are not limited to using the (discontinued) Western Digital (WD) DVR Expander line of products.

    For the naysayers among us:

    Yes, I realize that two drives means twice the possibility of hardware failure, and that if the external drive fails... I will lose all of my recordings.

    I am willing to live with this risk until the end of my 24 month warrantee.

    Also:

    Advice for anyone who wants to do this: Choose a 3.5" external drive that uses PMR, not SMR. (If you don't know the difference between PMR and SMR, click here: LMGTFY)

    I am new to Tivo (I am a Windows Media Center user since 2011). I just converted to Tivo and I really don't want to drill holes in my brand new Bolt until after the warrantee is expired.

    So... are you ready to learn how to do this?

    First, go to the link below. Download either the ISO or the USB/HD file.
    MFS Tools 3.2

    Next, burn the ISO to a CD/DVD... or use Balena Etcher (balenaEtcher - Home) to create a bootable flash drive (requires a 2GB or larger flash drive). You could also use Balena Etcher to write the image to an HDD, and use that as the boot device.

    Then, configure BIOS on a PC so that it will boot from the CD/DVD, flash drive, or HDD that you created in the step above.

    NOTE: I connected the drives to the SATA ports inside an old desktop PC that I had lying around. If you don't have access to an old PC with SATA ports, you can use USB-to-SATA adapters.

    WARNING: I wrote the below paragraph because my Bolt was brand new, so I had to go through the setup process on the Bolt before I could use MFS Tools to configure the external drive so that it can connect to the Bolt's eSATA port. If your Bolt already has recordings on the internal drive, following these instructions will delete all of the recorded shows on your Bolt's internal drive.

    After you finish the normal setup process on your Bolt, unplug the Bolt and remove the internal hard drive. See video at the link below for instructions on how to disassemble your Bolt:

    NOTE: The video says that you need a T10 Torx bit (he calls it a "security" bit). My Bolt VOX needed a T9 bit, so YMMV. Perhaps the older version used a T10? I don't know.



    Remove the internal HDD from the Bolt, and connect it to your PC.

    Connect the HDD that you plan to use as an external HDD to the PC. I used a Western Digital (WD) WD40EFRX. I purchased it from Amazon here:
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EHBERSE/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    Turn on the PC and boot into MFS Tools. It runs a Linux variant.

    Once the PC is booted and ready for you to login... enter the username "root" (without quotes) and the password is "tivo" (without quotes). Make sure that CAPS LOCK is turned off. Username and password are lower-case.

    Now, type the following command to identify the drives that are connected to your PC:

    Code:
    lsblk -o name,size,vendor
    ^^^ those are lower-case L's (ell), not I (eye) or 1 (one).

    My Bolt came with a 1TB drive, so the original Bolt drive was something like 997GB. It was "/dev/sdc". My new 4TB drive showed as something like 3.7TB. It was "/dev/sdb".

    Now, type the following command, where sdX is the original drive from the Bolt, and sdY is the drive that you will use as the external eSATA drive:

    Code:
    mfsadd -xfm 2040 /dev/sdX /dev/sdY
    It should finish in less than a second, with a "success" message.

    Now, install your new drive into an external enclosure that has an eSATA port. I used the Rosewill RX304-APU3-35B enclosure. I purchased it here:
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00N1Q2M6A/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    The Rosewill RX304-APU3-35B comes with all necessary hardware, including an eSATA cable.

    NOTE: The developer of MFS Tools told me that external enclosures which encrypt the contents of the drive do not work well. Fortunately, this Rosewill enclosure does not encrypt the contents of the drive.

    Next, reinstall the original drive into your Bolt. Reassemble the Bolt (helpful instructions are in the video linked above).

    Connect all cables to your Bolt, EXCEPT the power cable. Do not connect the power cable yet.

    Connect the eSATA cable to the Bolt and the external HDD enclosure.

    Connect the power cable to your external HDD, and turn on the HDD.

    Wait a few seconds for the HDD to spin-up.

    Finally, connect power to your Bolt.

    The Bolt will already be configured for external storage (MFS Tools configured it for you).

    Enjoy your newly expanded storage!
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2019
  2. barnabas1969

    barnabas1969 Member

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    Aug 22, 2013
    The lack of replies tells me that this is well-known information.

    I hope this post helps other newbies.
     
  3. jmbach

    jmbach der Neuerer

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    It is known but how well known, I am not sure. It certainly is nice to have a nice write up on it. It certainly will help future users.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2019
    LegoZ likes this.
  4. barnabas1969

    barnabas1969 Member

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    jmbach, thank you very much for your work on MFSTools.

    I hope that many other people will find this thread... so that they can build an external eSATA drive which works with their TiVo.
     
  5. barnabas1969

    barnabas1969 Member

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    This information was very difficult to find. I hope that this topic will become easier for other people to find.
     
  6. UCLABB

    UCLABB Well-Known Member

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    Nice work, but frankly, how hard is it to drill a hole in the case? I’ve got an external working and this week plan to cut a small notch in the edge of the cover over the hdd to provide room for the cable. Then I’ll put it all back together. And I won’t have to worry about the 2.5” internal going bad which has happened to me twice now in two years.
     
    CIR-Engineering and nyjklein like this.
  7. jmbach

    jmbach der Neuerer

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    Not hard but in his case, he wanted to wait until after his commitment is up which looks like includes a warranty.

    Personally, I want something to look professional and have contemplated adding a eSata port to externalize the internal SATA port.

    I am still working on trying to figure out why some drives work and others do not. I have yet found a 3.5" drive that does not work when connected internally to the Bolt. 2.5" drives is another matter.
     
    CIR-Engineering likes this.
  8. UCLABB

    UCLABB Well-Known Member

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    I think perhaps you could use a slightly modified PC esata connector and install it on the left side of the case (on the hdd cover) or maybe on the back of the hdd cover if you removed or moved the fan. I’m not one to worry that much about aesthetics or how professional it looks. I just want it to work!
     
  9. barnabas1969

    barnabas1969 Member

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    Correct. It's a 24 month deal with a 24 month warrantee.

    I saw one thread where someone added an eSATA port above the existing eSATA port. My enclosure came with an eSATA port that is intended to be mounted in place of one of the card slots on the back of a PC. I took it off of the metal bracket and checked to see if it will fit in that spot in the Tivo, and it does fit perfectly. So, after my 24 month warrantee is up, I'll probably do that.
     
  10. shwru980r

    shwru980r Well-Known Member

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    Is 4TB the largest drive you can use for this method?
     
  11. barnabas1969

    barnabas1969 Member

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    According to what I read, you can go up to 8TB.

    Forget what I wrote above. Please refer to post 12 below. User jmbach actually wrote MFS Tools.

    Just make sure to find a PMR drive, not SMR.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2019
  12. jmbach

    jmbach der Neuerer

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    It depends. The MFS can be expanded 4 times via conventional methods which means you can add up to 8 TB external drive to a standard layout internal drive. Depending on how the internal drive was expanded, that number will go down.

    Via non standard methods, you could add up to 16 TB external drive to a standard layout internal drive if you use coalesced partitions rather than standard partition pairs.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2019
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  13. CIR-Engineering

    CIR-Engineering Video Calibration & Electronics Repair Engineer

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    Well I didn’t know you could do this. I don’t think I would want to set up my TiVo this way because of doubling the risk of losing a drive, but it’s good information nonetheless.

    I wonder, could you possibly do the same thing with the internal HD removed or just unplugged. Making the eSATA port live would be wonderful!

    Thanks,
    craigr
     
  14. barnabas1969

    barnabas1969 Member

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    Aug 22, 2013
    I read some other posts that asked the same question. Apparently, the answer is no. You need a drive that is plugged into the internal SATA port *AND* a drive that is plugged into the external SATA port to make this work.

    In my case, I have a 24 month warrantee on the Tivo box, so I did not want to drill holes in it.

    After the 24 month warrantee is expired, I plan to add an eSATA port above the existing eSATA port. The new port will be connected to the internal SATA port, and I will use an external 3.5" drive as the primary (and only) drive.
     
    UCLABB likes this.
  15. jmbach

    jmbach der Neuerer

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    I can confirm that externalizing the internal drive by attaching it to the eSata port does not work. This was attempted on a Premiere XL.
     
    CIR-Engineering likes this.
  16. Sam L

    Sam L New Member

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    Jan 12, 2018
    @barnabas1969 - excellent writeup! thanks for putting this together

    I'm curious, are there any lag/speed issues using this external drive setup? Also, does the external drive always have to be plugged in or does the configuration get messed up if tivo is ever powered on without it (ie: is the external HD plug and play)? Finally, can I unplug the external drive and move it to another tivo box that has the external drive link enabled?

    Thanks!
    Sam
     
  17. jmbach

    jmbach der Neuerer

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    I do not have any lag issues with my setup which is a 3 TB Bolt + and 8 TB external drive.

    Yes the external drive always needs to be plugged in. If the external drive is ever disconnected, the TiVo will ask to divorce the external drive. If you do, you will lose your recordings from the time the external drive was added.

    You cannot move the external from one TiVo to another and retain recordings.
     
  18. Sam L

    Sam L New Member

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    So it works just as well and seamless as the original, unmodified tivo bolt? I just want to be extra sure before I move forward with this setup. I think it's great and I'm excited to do the same as you have! :)
     
  19. exdishguy

    exdishguy Active Member

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    Excellent write up! Thanks for the contribution. I'm having trouble coming close to filling a 3TB but if I ever need more storage this could be a nice option.
     
  20. V7Goose

    V7Goose OTA ONLY and Loving It!

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    Using an eSATA drive as a TiVo expander "works", but I do NOT recommend it unless it is really the only option you have to meet a specific goal. The biggest issue is that if EITHER drive fails, you loose everything on BOTH drives. This is an especially worrisome risk with a Bolt, since we all know they have built a TERRIBLE record of early internal drive failures with that toy 2.5" format they use! There are very good reasons why the standard advice in these forum (not just from me) is to NOT attempt to use any eSATA expander now; there are just much better options to expand your storage space.

    I used two different eSATA expanders for may years with a couple of S3 boxes - this was back when our largest internal option was 2TB. What I found during this time was that the eSATA plugs are absolute total garbage - they are touchy and finicky, easily unplugged, and often just develop problems even when they haven't been touched at all (poor pin contacts). In fact, just yesterday I pulled one off the shelf to do a full backup of a computer, and I had to plug the cable in several times before it started working properly!

    So if you do decide to use the eSATA expansion method, I suggest that you make sure the TiVo and the external drive are located where they are NEVER touched/moved (think about dusting issues and getting behind them to reach wires going to other components). I do not use an eSATA expander with any TiVo anymore, and I would never Never NEVER consider using one with a Bolt. If I didn't want to modify the Bolt case, I would simply leave the back edge of the drive cover popped up 1/4" to snake a SATA cable in to the main connector so I could get rid of that toy internal drive completely.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2019
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