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Legend
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Okay, before anyone smart makes the comment, I'll note that it is quite obvious that one way you can make your HR20 virtually silent is to unplug it and put it in the garage. But that would defeat the purpose.

Anyway, I've had my fair share of beefs with the HR20 beast, one of which is that it is noisy as heck. The primary culprit is the hard drive, both seeks and idle noise. (Seek noise is that bright "popping" or "chirping" that you hear. Idle is the fan-like whine. Both are annoying.) Another way the hard drive makes noise is that it vibrates and those vibrations cascade throughout your cabinet. The vibrations will resonate more in some cabinets than others, but it almost none can an HR20 be truly silent -- at least out of the box.

I had some time tonight to play around with my mostly unused HR20. Even though I don't use it, it's normally on, and the constant chiriping and whine was getting on my nerves.

I knew about the eSATA option and hoped that by plugging a quiet hard drive (more on that later) into it, the unit would be smart enough to power done the stock Seagate inside the box. Alas, it didn't. On the bright side, seek noise disappeared. But the idle noise was as bad as ever. Not enough of an improvement to justify eSATA on noise alone.

So I decided to open up the box and unplugged three simple cables. The red sata cable connecting into the hard drive, the black sata power cable next to it (which is connected to the mainboard) and the two-pin fan connector. I knew that the unit would make almost zero noise by doing this; I just wasn't sure if the unit would freak out and refuse to start up. Fortunately, it overlooked the unplugged hard drive and fan and booted up quite normally.

Sweetness! Now the HR20 makes almost zero noise aside from the hard drive I have attached via eSATA and a slight bit of electrical noise coming from the power supply (at least that's my guess).

I am going to have to monitor the unit to make sure temperatures don't get to high now that I have unplugged the fan, but the orientation of the fan leads me to believe that it was only there for the hard drive which was the major temperature polluter. It doesn't seem like there is a very hot CPU in this box so I'm thinking that passive cooling will work.

You're probably wondering how I make the HR20 silent by doing all this. After all, I'm just trading out one hard drive for another. Shouldn't they both be noisy?

The answer is not all hard drives are created equally -- and not all hard drive enclosures or mounting methods are either. For starters, Seagate hard drives have a reputation for having decent idle noise but pretty loud seeks, partly because they don't support a feature called automatic acoustic management. Secondly, these particular Seagates seem to have louder idle noise than the ones I'm used to (but not much louder). Finally, they don't seem to be mounted particularly well in this case. To be fair, it's pretty hard to mount hard drives well in such a small space. But they seem to have done the worst possible job of it, mounting the drive up front. Probably they do that for thermal reasons, but the mounting still sucks.

Anyway, I used a western digital 500 se16. This is one of the quiet 3.5" HDs on the market. Much quieter than Seagates. Moreover, I enclosed it in a noise reducing enclosure made by Scythe (you can get it for under $30 at newegg). The enclosure eliminates almost all of the drive's seek noise and a lot of the idle noise. It doesn't get rid of the vibration though, so I simply placed the drive on a piece of bubble wrap.

Note that this enclosure is designed to be used inside a PC, so I had to bring my own power, which I did from an OKGEAR eSATA enclosure.

Now if you follow this method, you can both increase capacity and lower noise all in one step. But if you just want to lower noise, you can probably get adventurous and remove the seagate from inside the HR20 and put it in a Scythe enclosure. You'll still hear some seeks, but it will be much much quieter. All for about $30. (I'd proabbly recommend leaving the case cracked open and getting power for the drive from the HR20 itself using a molex extension cable.

If you do decide to get a drive, I highly recommend the Samsung 501LJ. It's 500 gigs and only $150 at newegg and it is the quietest 3.5" hard drive I have ever heard or seen. I'm actually in the process of setting up 6 of them in a RAID for my HTPC. I never thought I'd find a hard drive quiet enough to put in the same room as my TV, but I think the Sammy qualifies. I'm pretty confident that if you get a Sammy with a $30 eSATA enclosure (comes with its onw power supply) you wouldn't even need the Scythe enclosure. Just put it ona piece of bubble wrap near the case and presto -- it's all quiet.

Also, I should point out that I actually OWN my HR20. Somehow I got lucky and 2 of the 3 HR20s I have I own, despite having paid a total of $200. You are definitely violating your lease and voiding the warranty by doing this. You should not do this if you have never worked inside a PC before. But as long as you know what a sata cable is and what a molex to sata power converter is, you should be more than fine.

You've been warned. But the rewards are worth it. Silence from your DVR while watching a good movie on HBO-HD --- well, that's priceless.
 

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AllStar
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Hi,

Right now I have my HR-20 in my livingroom and don't notice any noise (I own mine too). If it was in a bedroom then I would be scrambling to quiet the box down. Anyway, I'm interested in upgrading the HD for more space. Don't you have to clone the internal HD to the new HD before it'll work. I beleive Linux is used for this. You copy the HR-20 HD and then write that image to the new HD. Please describe more on how you did this?

Thanks in advance
 

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Hall Of Fame
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Wow. Seems like a lot of work to me, but then again, mine's in my living room and the only time I hear it is if the tv is off, which it usually isn't if we are in the living room.

But good job. I'm sure it will help others out there.
 

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traderfjp said:
Don't you have to clone the internal HD to the new HD before it'll work. I beleive Linux is used for this. You copy the HR-20 HD and then write that image to the new HD. Please describe more on how you did this?
The OP is referring to mounting the drive in an EXTERNALO enclosure. You just have to plug it in and it runs. The OS is stored in Flash, unlike the old Replay or Tivo boxes that had to have a new drive cloned.
 

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AllStar
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Is the Sata connection on the back of the unit active? Can I mount a new drive (any drive) inside the HR-20? Wouldn't I have to format it? How is this achieved?
Thanks in advance

Thanks

dervari said:
The OP is referring to mounting the drive in an EXTERNALO enclosure. You just have to plug it in and it runs. The OS is stored in Flash, unlike the old Replay or Tivo boxes that had to have a new drive cloned.
 

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Lifetime Achiever
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traderfjp said:
Is the Sata connection on the back of the unit active? Can I mount a new drive (any drive) inside the HR-20? Wouldn't I have to format it? How is this achieved?
Thanks in advance

Thanks
Very active and so is this thread: http://www.dbstalk.com/showthread.php?t=66201. The HR20 automatically formats any drive it doesn't recognize. No program code is stored there, but many configuration settings are, alas.

Cheers,
Tom
 

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Since I have not seen it mentioned yet in this thread, it should be noted that opening the HR20 case voids the warranty and some of the leasing terms. I would advise against it.
 

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Legend
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
PoitNarf said:
Since I have not seen it mentioned yet in this thread, it should be noted that opening the HR20 case voids the warranty and some of the leasing terms. I would advise against it.
I did explicitly point that out but it is absolutely worth reinforcing. This is really something only for enthusiasts to do -- it's pretty low risk if you know what are you doing, but it does void the warranty and violate the lease. As I mentioned in my post, I actually OWN two of my units.

Also, as some folks have mentioned, the drive noise does not bother them. Part of this is personal preference and part if it is normal variance in manufacturing. Also part of it is where your unit is stored; some cabinets will muffle the noise, others will make it louder.

I will say that anyone who is having heat issues with their case might benefit from turning off the internal HD. Since the HD seems to be the biggest heat source in the HR20, turning it off might let you store the unit in areas with less airflow -- you'd only have to make sure the external HD gets enough air.

One other thing i didn't mention is that the scythe enclosure not only silences the drive, but it acts as a huge heatsink. the noise reducing material in it actually conducts heat, so the hd won't overheat.

None of this would be necessary if there was some way to turn off the internal HD when you use the esata port. That should be a relatively easy software fix for the engineers. Or perhaps there is some way of doing it now that I am unaware off. In either event, it would be vastly preferable to have the internal HD power down on its own when using the esata.
 

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Legend
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
mtnagel said:
Wow. Seems like a lot of work to me, but then again, mine's in my living room and the only time I hear it is if the tv is off, which it usually isn't if we are in the living room.

But good job. I'm sure it will help others out there.
It was actually super easy -- the hard part was opening the case (one of the screws was stubborn). The rest of it literally took less than 2 minutes to plug in.

What you say about not hearing it is more evidence to my suspicion that part of the problem some people are having with HR20 is hardware inconsistencies. I have 3 units, and each of them seem to have different noise characteristics. Now that is a subjective observation, but really they should all sound the same unless there are manufacturing inconsistencies.

Another thing is that I have more than 1 HR20 in the same room, plus an HTPC. Those folks who have lots of components that make noise would benefit from making each of them quieter. A little bit of silencing on a lot of components leads to a big reduction in noise.
 

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Humm, my guess is that the some of the HR-20 systems make a large ammount of noise. I am quite pleased with how quiet mine is, the only time I can hear it is when I am directly on top of it. Might be due to the fact that my fish tank is in the same room though
 

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Godfather
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I wouldn't really recommend anyone doing this just for the purpose of taking the internal drive, and making it an external drive. Sounds like a lot of work and risk for minimal benefit. Personally I don't notice any noise problems from the device, but even if I did, I don't think I could encourage someone to take their unit apart for the sole purpose of just making the internal drive slightly quieter by plugging it into an external enclosure.

Good information in your post, in general.
 

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Legend
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Get an XBox360 to use as a media extender. Then you'll realize that the HR20 is as quiet as a mouse! The 360 sounds like a helicopter in your living room! :)

--Mike
 

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Legend
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
greenie95125 said:
Get an XBox360 to use as a media extender. Then you'll realize that the HR20 is as quiet as a mouse! The 360 sounds like a helicopter in your living room! :)

--Mike
lol. not_a_chance!
 

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Legend
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Mine makes no noticeable noise
 

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I guess if I mute my sound and really listen hard, I can detect a noise. Hmmm, I usually fall asleep watching TV and the little bit of noise that the HR20 makes is certainly overpowered by the audio anyway.

I guess the sound doesn't interrupt my sleep. But that is why I got a DVR, so I could finish watching the show I snoozed through! :lol:
 

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Legend
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I don't seem to notice any idle noise (which was quite bothersome with my HR10, BTW). But, the seek noise is a very irritating "clicking" sound that will eventually drive me to try this or some other solution. Perhaps they have mixed up mfrs in the drives used. I can't think of any other explanation why some would hear this and others not.
 

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Legend
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Spanky_Partain said:
I guess if I mute my sound and really listen hard, I can detect a noise. Hmmm, I usually fall asleep watching TV and the little bit of noise that the HR20 makes is certainly overpowered by the audio anyway.

I guess the sound doesn't interrupt my sleep. But that is why I got a DVR, so I could finish watching the show I snoozed through! :lol:
Allow me to suggest no-doze! ;)
 
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