- Please help keep this thread short, so that newbies can easily find the info they need. (Huge threads make it hard for people to find what they need.)
- Please keep chit-chat to a minimum. There are other huge eSATA threads with plenty of chit-chat.
- If you have new info, please specify both the HR-model and the exact model of the eSATA box/cable.
- If you have have updates about info you posted before, please provide it by editing your previous post (not by making a new post).
Many people wish their DirecTV HD-DVR's had greater storage capacity. Many have added capacity. It isn't hard to do.
However, depending on which model HD-DVR you have, you must be careful about which products you use and a few other details.
The HR21 has been especially picky, and this has spawned numerous threads containing thousands of posts about eSATA.
Relevant threads are scattered across this forum and the HD-DVR forum. There is no one place to find available info.
This FAQ is an attempt to summarize what we know in one place, so people won't have to read a zillion posts in several threads.
Most of the info here is relevant to all current HR models (HR20, HR21, HR22, HR23).
The information here about specific drives and enclosures (item #4, below) is focused on the HR21.
It appears that HR22's and HR23's behave like HR21's.
HR20's are different: Some eSATA boxes that don't work with HR21's do work with HR20's. (Nobody knows why.)
1. Capacity of the HR's internal HDD:
- How many hours of programming a HD-DVR can store is based on 2 factors: (a) the kind of signal being recorded, and ( the size of the HDD
- Kinds of signal:
- The current HR's can receive and record SD plus 2 kinds of HD: MPEG2 and MPEG4. (The older HR10-250's TIVO's can't receive MPEG4.)
- Of the 2 kinds of HD, MPEG2 requires more HDD space per hour than does MPEG4.
- DirecTV is moving its HD offerrings from MPEG2 to MPEG4
- Size and capacity of the HR21's HDD:
- HR20/HR21's come with a 320GB HDD. D* says you can expect them to record 200 hours of SD, 30 hours of MPEG2-HD, or 50 hours of MPEG4-HD.
- HR22/HR23's come with a 500GB HDD. D* says you can expect them to record 400 hours of SD, 60 hours of MPEG2-HD, or 100 hours of MPEG4-HD.
- These are rough rules-of-thumb. They are not precise measures.
- Most users record a combination of SD and HD; the details of that combination govern how many hours can be recorded.
2. Adding more HDD capacity to the HD-DVR:
- The current HR's have an eSATA jack on the back that can be used to connect an external eSATA HDD. (The old HR10-250 TIVO's do not.)
- The term "eSATA" means "external SATA".
- SATA refers to a type of interface by which a HDD communicates with the device that uses it. The HR's internal HDD is a SATA drive.
- Most modern computers use SATA HDD's. (Older HDD's use an interface known as ATA, PATA, or IDE; all 3 mean the same thing.)
- The HR's eSATA feature is not officially supported by D*. This means D* doesn't promise it works and won't give advice about it.
- Nonetheless it does work... or not. It depends on 2 things: what you hook up to it, and how you do it. (Details in items 4 and 6, below.)
- When you connect an external eSATA HDD, it replaces the HDD inside the HR.
- You cannot add an eSATA HDD and have it and the internal HDD working at the same time.
- If you connect an eSATA 1TB HDD to an HR21, you do not get 1TB plus 320GB of storage. Rather, you get 1TB instead of 320GB.
- While you can't use them simultaneously, you can alternate between the internal and eSATA drives by turning the eSATA drive on/off, and then rebooting the HR.
3. How many hours of recording will you gain by using a larger HDD?
- The HR21's internal HDD is 320GB; D* says it handles about 200 hrs of SD, 30 hrs of MPEG2-HD or 50 hrs of MPEG4-HD (henceforth: 200/30/50).
- In the chart below, I have corrected what appears to be an inconsistency in the D* estimate:
- The 200/30/50 estimate originated when D* shipped HR20's with 300GB HDD's.
- Later, D* upgraded HR20's to ship with 320GB HDD's. While 320GB's hold more than 300GB's, D* never changed the estimate.
- In the chart below, I assume that the 200/30/50 estimate is based on a 300GB HDD and have adjusted the other numbers accordingly.
- This brings the estimate for a 500GB HDD in line with the D* estimate for the HR22/HR23 (which come with a 500GB HDD).
- I have also compensated for misleading HDD labels: "Nominal drive size" refers to the label you see when you buy an HDD; "Actual drive size" refers to what you actually get when a device uses the HDD.
- D* reserves ~100GB of HDD space for various info, including the search and autorecord info you enter, and other things D* stores on the HDD.
- Based on these factors, we estimate the capacity of eSATA HDD's as follows:
[b]Nominal Actual Space Capacity Capacity Hours Hours Hours Drive Drive for User versus versus of of of [u]Size Size Recording HR21 HR22 SD MPEG2-HD MPEG4-HD[/b][/u] 300GB 279GB 179GB x 0.90 x.0.49 200 30 50 320GB 298GB 198GB x 1.00 x 0.54 221 33 55 500GB 465GB 365GB x 1.84 x 1.00 408 61 102 640GB 596GB 496GB x 2.51 x 1.36 554 83 139 750GB 698GB 598GB x 3.02 x 1.64 668 100 167 1TB 931GB 831GB x 4.20 x 2.28 928 139 232 1.5TB 1397GB 1297GB x 6.55 x 3.55 1449 217 362 2TB 1863GB 1763GB x 8.90 x 4.83 1970 295 492All of the hour-numbers are guestimates, based on applying arithmetic to other guestimates. They are not measures.
Use them as rough rules-of-thumb, not as actual facts.
Some reports say 2TB is the most HDD space HR's can cope with. Other reports say that only HR20's have the 2TB limit, and other HR's can go higher.
As a practical matter, 1TB is the largest capacity HDD that is readily available and proven to work externally (so far).
While 1.5TB drives are available from Seagate, this HDD has been troublesome (in general, not just re: D* use). We don't know if this is about an early manufacturing run vs. something more generic.
At present, the only way to get 2TB is via RAID boxes (discussed below).
4. Which HDD's work and which ones don't:
- The answer depends on the HR model:
- HR20's appear to work with many eSATA HDD's.
- HR21's are much more picky about which eSATA HDD's they work with. Nobody knows why.
- Because most of the eSATA difficulties concern HR21's, the info below about eSATA HDD's is about the HR21's.
- HR22's and HR23's appear to behave like H21's re: eSATA HDD's.
- There are 3 possible ways to add HDD capacity:
- Method 1: You buy a prefab eSATA HDD, i.e., a box that is an eSATA HDD enclosure with a HDD already inside, no assembly required. (It must be eSATA; the HR's don't work with USB-drives.)
- Method 2: You buy an empty eSATA HDD enclosure and a "bare" HDD, and you put the HDD inside the enclosure. (The enclosure must be eSATA; the HR's don't work with USB-drives.) Most people who can follow directions and can operate a screwdriver can do the required assembly. It takes just a few minutes, and goes 3 times faster if you do it again. You may need a tiny screwdriver.
- Method 3: You open up the HR, remove the existing internal HDD and replace it with a new "bare" HDD. (This operation is similar to upgrading the HDD in a computer.)
- Below, we describe issues for each of these three methods.
- Method 1: Buy a prefab external eSATA HDD (no assembly required):
This would appear to be easiest. Sadly, most prefab eSATA HDD's don't work with HR21's. They should, but they don't. Nobody knows why. Here's what we know from user reports here:
- The "WD MyBook Home Edition" does not work with HR21's. Nobody knows why. [EDIT: We now have one report of success (confirmed after more than a month of use) vs. several reports of failure.]
- The "Seagate Free Agent Pro" (FAP) does not work with HR21's. Nobody knows why.
- The newer "Seagate Free Agent Xtreme" (FAX) may or may not work with HR21's, we're not sure yet. [EDIT: We have a few reports of success with 1TB units. For the 1.5TB's, we have a few reports of failure vs. 1 report of success. Nobody knows why.]
- We have mixed reports about AcomData PureDrive's. Some people report success with HR21/HR22, other people report failure.
- The Cavalry external eSATA drives with model numbers beginning with "CAX" appear to work with HR21's. However, some people report problems with the Cavalry drive itself. It's not that the Cavalry's don't work with HR21's, but that some users report that Cavalry drives fail on them. Others report having good luck with them.
- We have one report of the "WD My DVR Expander" working with an HR21. No additional confirmations as yet. Capacity of the unit is limited to 500GB.
- For reports about prefab RAID boxes, see the section on RAID below.
- Method 2: Install a bare HDD inside an eSATA enclosure:
- Most eSATA enclosures don't work with HR21's. Nobody knows why.
- Many people have had success with one specific eSATA enclosure: the "Antec MX-1". Prices yo-yo up and down; if you can be patient, they can be found for about $30 (google is your friend).
- We have a couple reports of the "Vantec Nexstar3" eSATA enclosure working.
- For reports about installing HDD's in empty RAID boxes, see the section on RAID below.
- Bare HDD's:
- When choosing a HDD, be sure to get a SATA HDD with a 3.0 Gb/s rating. (Most modern high-capacity HDD's meet this requirement.)
- Various WD bare drives work fine with HR21's when installed inside the Antec MX-1. These include the WD10EACS as well as newer, more expensive ones such as the WD1000 and WD1001. The WD10EVCS also works with the Antec, but some folks have had to return an otherwise functioning unit for replacement before getting one that works with the HR21 and Antec. Nobody knows why.
- Reports are mixed about using Seagate Barracuda 1TB drives in the Antec MX-1 with HR21's. Some people swear by them, while others report problems with pauses, lags, and stuttering. Nobody knows why.
- The Seagate 1.5TB HDD has elicited many problem reports. These are not specific to use with D* HR's, just in general.
- We have a few reports of success using Samsung and Maxtor HDD's.
- Method 3: Installing a new bare HDD inside the HR, replacing the original internal HDD:
- There are several reports of success with opening up the HR21 and sticking a larger capacity 3.5" drive in there, replacing the original HDD.
- This is analogous to replacing a HDD in a computer. Technically, it is not difficult. A Torx T10 screwdiver (or bit and a bit driver) is required. Some people report that a special "security" Torx T10 screwdriver is needed to deal with the small Torx "security" bolts (not a "normal" Torx T10 bolt head); others report that normal Torx bolts are used. (Perhaps different bolts are used in different units.) Some people report using a small normal screwdriver (the wrong tool for the job) with no problem.
- This method triggers much discussion about warranty, terms of lease vs ownership, etc. Some folks believe it is risky and/or illegal; other folks believe it is neither.
- The controversy concerns the warranty and/or lease implications of opening up the HR box, not the technical part. If you own the box (which most people do not) and if it is not under warranty, then it's up to you. There is no technical reason why it won't work if done properly. We have no reports of it failing.
- Discussion of the best step-by-step procedure for replacing the internal HDD can be found in other threads devoted to that topic.
- RAID boxes:
- The term RAID refers to a way of combining multiple HDD's together, such that a computer or other device treats them as a single HDD.
- Depending on which version of RAID is used, RAID can:
- Increase capacity by treating the HDD's in the RAID array as a single larger HDD, or
- Increase safety by making redundant copies on mulitple HDD's, or
- There are several RAID versions:
- They go from RAID-0 and RAID-1, up to RAID-10.
- Affordable RAID boxes provide a choice of RAID-0 and RAID-1; other RAID versions can get very expensive.
- Affordable RAID boxes typically have room for 2 HDD's in the box.
- Both HDD's should have the same performance characteristics (including size, to get the maximum benefit).
- If you're new to this, it's perhaps easiest and safest to use 2 HDD's of the same model.
- If you choose RAID-0:
- You gain capacity. If you use two 1TB HDD's, you get the effect of a 2TB HDD.
- Parts of each recording are spread across the two HDD's ("striping"). If one HDD fails, you lose all the recordings.
- People who prefer RAID-0 care most about maximizing storage capacity; they place a lower priority on using RAID to protect against HDD failure.
- If you choose RAID-1
- You gain protection via redundancy. You do not gain capacity. If you use two 1TB HDD's, you get the capacity of a single 1TB HDD.
- Each HDD stores a copy of each recording ("mirroring"). If one HDD fails, you have a copy on the other HDD.
- People who prefer RAID-1 care most about preventing lost recordings due to HDD failure; they don't place as high a priority on maximizing capacity.
- Note: if the HR-box fails, then you lose recordings even if you have good copies on an HDD. Each recording can be played only by the HR that made the recording.
- Which RAID boxes work?
- RAID boxes are available for both Method-1 (prefab eSATA RAID) and Method-2 (you install HDD's in an empty eSATA RAID enclosure). There are no RAID solutions for Method-3 (internal SATA).
- Some RAID boxes connect via USB and/or Firewire, but not eSATA. These definitely won't work. You need one with eSATA interface.
- Whether an eSATA RAID box will work with an HR is another question. As with other eSATA boxes, the HR20 appears to work with a wider variety than do other HR models.
- We have far fewer reports about RAID boxes than we do about normal single-HDD boxes.
- Here's what we know so far:
- We have a couple reports that prefab Cavalry RAID boxes do not work with HR21's (but do work with HR20's).
- Several people have tried using the "DS3R PRO". One person reports that it works with his HR21. There are several reports of it not working with HR21's. (One person repeatedly posts about his success. The failure stories include reports from other people who said they followed his instructions, but to no avail.)
- We have one report of success with both HR20 and HR21 boxes using the Sans Digital MS2UT. This report is based on several months of use.
- We have two reports of success with HR21's and the Ampaq XtraStor XS-2B35U-R-BK. (BK is the black model, there is also a silver one). This is an older model that is cheap but evidently out of production. Some are still around if you look for them.
5. The info you enter about what to record (searches, autorecord, etc.):
- All the info you enter about searches, autorecording, etc. is stored on the HDD.
- Before you add an eSATA HDD, all that info lives on the internal HDD.
- When you successfully connect an eSATA HDD, the HD-DVR "sees" the eSATA drive, and doesn't see the internal one.
- This means that you have to enter all that info again. The HD-DVR will store the new info on the eSATA HDD.
- Therefore, before connecting an eSATA HDD, you should make notes about what you have entered into the HR, because that info won't be available while the eSATA drive is connected.
- Some people ask if you can copy that info (and existing recordings) from the internal HDD to the eSATA HDD:
- The answer is "Only if you do linux-stuff with your computer hooked up to each of the HDD's."
- In other words, for all practical purposes, for most people the answer is really "No".
- (If you're geeky enough to use linux tricks, you're geeky enough to search for the details in other threads.)
6. Other issues:
- Cables and connections:
- You need an eSATA cable to connect the eSATA HDD to the HR. Some enclosures come with an eSATA cable, some don't.
- There is a small but important difference between SATA cables and eSATA cables. At first glance, they might appear to be the same thing, but close inspection shows that the connectors are different. You need an eSATA cable.
- The connector at each end of an eSATA cable is not symmetrical. Close inspection shows that the connector has a top and a bottom. If you insert it upside-down, it will go in just a bit, and then stop. Don't force it, and don't do surgery on it. Instead, flip it upside down so that it will go into the eSATA jack without forcing it.
- Some brands of eSATA cable work with the HR21, and some don't. Nobody knows why.
- The Antec MX-1 enclosure comes with an eSATA cable, and that cable seems to work fine.
- For those who purchase an eSATA cable separately, we have multiple reports of SIIG eSATA cables working fine. They're expensive.
- Some cheaper no-name cables work, others don't. Sometimes reversing a cable makes a difference. Nobody knows why.
- HDD jumper settings:
- Modern high-capacity SATA HDD's are capable of 3.0 Gb/s. Most are capable of operating at a slower rate to accomodate older computer equipment.
- Some bare HDD's permit the user to change between faster and slower settings via small "jumpers" that can be placed across "pins" on the HDD.
- Some bare HDD's also allow the user to turn on other performance features by using jumpers.
- Some people aren't sure whether they need to change the default jumper settings that the HDD's arrive with.
- The basic fast setting is what you want. You don't want to slow it down, and you don't want to activate other features.
- AFAIK, modern high capacity SATA HDD's arrive with the basic fast setting as the default.
- As a general rule, there is no need for D* users to mess around with jumpers before installing a HDD in an eSATA enclosure.
- Formatting the external HDD:
- Some people aren't sure whether they need to connect the HDD to their computer to format it before using it with the HR.
- As a general rule, there is no need to do this. When the HR first sees the new drive, it looks to see if it has been formatted and written-to by an HR. If the HR doesn't see that, then it formats the HDD automatically.
- Getting the HR to "see" the external eSATA drive:
- Once the HR is looking at one HDD, it does not look to see if there is another one. So, if your HR is on, and you plug in an eSATA HDD, nothing will happen.
- For the HR to see the eSATA HDD, the HR must be powered off and then powered up again.
- Some people report that it's an iffy thing to get the HR to see the eSATA HDD, and that it takes them multiple reboots to do it. Most of these reports come from people who were using the HR's own controls to reboot it without removing power from the HR.
- The best, most reliable method is as follows:
- Remove power from the HR. (Do not rely on restarting the HR via the HR's controls.)
- Connect the eSATA HDD to the HR.
- Turn on the eSATA HDD and give it several seconds to spin up to speed.
- Then, and only then, restore power to the HR.
- Reboots accidentally erasing what's on the eSATA HDD:
- Some people report that a reboot of the HR causes the HR to reformat the eSATA HDD, erasing everything on it.
- This shouldn't happen.
- An HR first looks at the HDD to see if it's new (and needs formatting). If the HR's "first glance" at the HDD fails to see any previous files written there, it will reformat the HDD. So, why would the HR fail to see existing files on the HDD?
- It might be caused by a funky eSATA cable connection.
- It also might be caused by not letting the external HDD spin up to speed prior to repowering the HR.
- Therefore, be sure that the eSATA cable is firmly connected, and that the HDD gets a chance to spin up to speed before restoring power to the HR.
- Power flickers:
- Some people recommend getting a small UPS (uninteruptable power supply) to prevent a momentary flicker in your electric house current from causing the HR and eSATA HDD to reboot. Ideally, when it reboots, you will be there to ensure that the external HDD can get up to speed before the HR tries to connect with it.
- This does not mean that a power-flicker is likely to cause the HR to not see the HDD or to reformat it. It appears that most people have had zero problems with reboots causing either problem. Rather, this is cautionary advice from those of us who tend to worry too much ;-)
- You can search for other threads where people discuss which UPS they prefer to use with their HR's.
- Moving an eSATA HDD from one HR to another HR:
- You can do this if you wish. If done properly, it should not cause a reformat of the HDD
- The info you entered about searches, autorecord, etc., will be on the HDD, and will move with the HDD from one HR to another.
- The recordings will also move from one HR to another, but each recording is "tied" to the HR that made that recording:
- If you have two HR's and move the HDD back and forth between the 2 of them, both HR's will be able to see all the recordings on the HDD, regardless of which HR made the recordings.
- Thus, all the recordings will appear in the list of available recordings.
- However, each HR will be able to actually play only those recordings that it made. Recordings made by another HR can only be replayed when the HDD is connected to that HR.
- Connecting the HR's eSATA HDD to your computer:
- Some people would like to access the D* files on the external HDD from their PC, so they can edit them, copy them, etc.
- Forget it, that's not gonna happen.
- DirecTV has an app ("DirecTV2PC") that permits viewing DirecTV recordings on a PC. However, that app streams data for playback from the HR over a home network to a PC; it will not permit you to use your PC to directly access, edit, or distribute the D* recordings.
- Connecting an HDD full of D* recordings to your computer is not useful for anything. It's not like having a disk full of mp3's or unencrypted video files. Each D* recording is tied to the HR which recorded it, and can be played only from that HR.
There is no reason to be discouraged. Many people have added bigger HDD's to their HR and are very happy with the results.
It's not that the HR's can't handle it. Rather, you just need to be careful about what you do and how you do it.
Once you do it properly, that extra HDD capacity is a very nice thing to have.