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Posts Tagged ‘1.5TB’

Advanced Format Hard Drives

July 21st, 2011 6 comments

So as you all know I bought the 1.5TB WD drive from Scan and blogged about how to format it for your HDR T2… Well, after serveral months of working just fine in the PVR, it broke! :(

Thankfully, it was not the Humax that broke it, as I had to remove it and attach it to my Linux box, Windows PC, Apple Mac to verify that it was the drive that was the problem, and sure all reported it faulty (Linux refusing to even boot the system with it attached!)

I was gutted that all recordings had been lost, but the nightmare did not end there. Scan.co.uk, where I bought it from took an age to replace the drive. I also found out they sold me an OEM drive (I was not aware) as I went on the WD support site to return and found there was no warranty on it! When I first went through Scan’s return system, they wanted me to pay the postage to return the faulty drive to them, and finally when I was ready for a replacement, they could not replace it with the same drive but offered me the WD15EARS instead.

I don’t think I will buy from Scan.co.uk again, and I recommend that you shouldn’t either. This is not the first time I’ve had poor service from them but it will certainly be the last. Buy from a reputable online retailer who knows how to deal with customer returns and service.

Well, my misfortune is your advantage, as the WD15EARS is an Advanced Format Drive – you know the new HDD type with the 4K sectors… Read more here on Wikipedia.

What is the issue with AF Drives?
Initially when AF drives were released users discovered that there were performance issues with them on certain OS platforms – mainly Windows. You can read such articles about this from lots of places, here is one. They go on to explain about 4K sectors and how to align them for Windows use.

The question, when users here buy AF drives, is whether they will perform OK in a Humax PVR… Well, now I have a chance to answer!

Opening the WD15EARS and looking at the label it says:

Advanced Format Drive. To achieve full performance:

  • Windows XP, multi partition and cloning software users – use WD Align software available on www.wdc.com/advformat
  • Windows XP, single partition – set jumpers 7-8 prior to installation or use WD Align SW
  • All other OS configurations – drive is ready for use as is

So according to the label, using this HDD with the Humax PVR (we know it uses EXT3 filesystem) is to use it as is. We don’t need to do anything special to the drive like align the 4K sectors!

I did however, go onto the WD website to read what they say about using AF drives with Linux (EXT3), on this page. It says:

The Linux kernel has had specific support for the alternate sector sizes and offsets used by WD Advanced Format disk drives since version 2.6.31. However, distributions based on Linux 2.6.34, the latest stable version of Linux, will provide the most thorough support. Advanced Format parameters are available in the sysfs file system from this kernel version onwards. Kernel versions older than 2.6.31 will not specifically detect Advanced Format Drives, but with proper alignment the system performance will be maintained.

So it look like Linux is safe with AF drives if the kernel is v2.6.31 or later. Who knows what version Humax use for the HDR? So to be safe, I followed WD’s instructions to align the 4K sectors.

The Linux partition editor: parted, has an alignment option to ensure that Advanced Format drives are correctly configured from version 2.1:

-a alignment-type, –align alignment-type

valid alignment types are:

none Aligns to 512 byte sector boundaries.

cylinder Align partitions to cylinders.

minimal Use minimum alignment: 4KB on AF drives

optimal Use optimum alignment: 1MB boundaries

The default from parted 2.2 is to align to 1MB boundaries – optimal. Use minimal or optimal for Advanced Format drives. For example if your drive is sda:

parted -a optimal /dev/sda

will ensure that parted creates partitions on 1 MB boundaries.

So what I did was to partition the disk using the GParted Live CD as per blog instructions, cancelling the formatting of the large ‘recordings’ partition, and then used the command line parted on the GParted Live CD to format the partition ‘optimally’.

So with my WD15EARS, I created the 3 partitions needed the for the HDR, ‘onegb’, ‘restofdisk’ and ‘tengb’ using the graphics gparted (breaking out of formatting the restofdisk partition, and then opened a root terminal, and executed the parted command:

# parted -a optimal /dev/sdc
GNU Parted 2.3
Using /dev/sdc
Welcome to GNU Parted! Type 'help' to view a list of commands.
(parted)

Where /dev/sdc should point to the HDD device you are working with.

Welcome to GNU Parted! Type 'help' to view a list of commands.
(parted) mkfs
WARNING: you are attempting to use parted to operate on (mkfs) a file system.
parted's file system manipulation code is not as robust as what you'll find in
dedicated, file-system-specific packages like e2fsprogs. We recommend
you use parted only to manipulate partition tables, whenever possible.
Support for performing most operations on most types of file systems
will be removed in an upcoming release.
Warning: The existing file system will be destroyed and all data on the
partition will be lost. Do you want to continue?
Yes/No? y
Partition number? 1
File system type? [ext2]?
writing per-group metadata... 92% (time left 00:00)
(parted)

Repeat this for all 3 partitions. Note parted can only deal with EXT2, and the HDR need the partitions to be in EXT3. EXT2 is easily converted to EXT3 using the tune2fs command. So after the optimised format with parted, you need to run this command on all your 3 partitions:

# tune2fs -j /dev/sdc1 (onegb)
# tune2fs -j /dev/sdc2 (restofdisk)
# tune2fs -j /dev/sdc3 (tengb)

Well, I will insert this into my HDR FOX-T2 and see how it behaves…

Upgrading the HDR-FOX T2′s internal 500GB hard disk

March 2nd, 2011 12 comments

It looks like blogging is easier and faster than authoring pages in the wiki, so I will start here and learn wiki authoring later…

Recently, my internal HDD on the HDR T2 was getting full, especially because I was recording more programmes from the HD channels than the SD ones. So I decided to upgrade the internal drive for more recording capacity.

WD15EADS

Western Digital WD15EADS 1.5TB HDD

I was ready to purchase and upgrade to a 2TB HDD, but after a bit of researching, I found that the HDR-FOX T2 can only deal (internally format) a drive up to 1TB in size. I also read that the 2TB hard disk technology is a bit roppy and the 2TB size of HDD is still waiting to be proven on reliability (at least 6 months ago – see here).

So I opted for a compromise – a 1.5TB HDD. This size drive should last me until a 2TB or 3TB become standard ;) So I went for Western Digital WD15EADS from scan.co.uk for about £60. Even though I really ought to have sourced out a drive designed to be used in a PVR – a ‘CE’ hard disk.

Next thing to do was to disconnect the HDR T2 and pop off the lid and install it…

Underside of HDR

Humax warranty seal

Warning! Of course the HDR T2 is protected by a warranty seal on the bottom of the unit, so the warning is: Do not open up this box to replace the hard disk as this voids your warranty! And remember your warranty last for 2+ years!

Nevermind I say, I have two other Humax PVRs (the 9200T bought in 2006, and the FOXSAT-HDR bought in 2008), both have had their internal HDD replaced and they are still going strong…

3 screws hold lid in place

Make sure you unplug all the cables from the HDR, especially the power and aerial before opening. Also make sure you earth yourself to remove static electricity on you body.

So there are 3 screws holding the lid on and they are at the back (see pic). A Philips screw driver will uncrew them. Slide the box back and lift up.

The inside of the Humax FOX-HDR T2 is wonderful sight – with shielded twin tuners, heat-sinked processors, standard SATA and power connectors and the enclosed HDD with fan.

There are 4 screws holding the HDD enclosure to the motherboard. Disconnect the fan power connect from the motherboard by squeezing the clip, before unscrewing the four screws and lifting the enclosure up slightly.

Inside the HDR T2

With the enclosure lifted slightly, undo the HDD’s SATA and power interface, before removing the enclosure completely.

The 500Gb internal HDD is a Seagate Pipeline HD2 hard disk – a special ‘AV’ or ‘CE’ disk designed to be used in a PVR. If we were smart and had enough money, we would replace like for like. Ideally we would put a 1TB/1.5TB/2TB Seagate Pipeline HD2 drive in place of the 500Gb. But instead we thank Humax for using a stardard 3.5″ HDD (some PVR makers use 2.5″ ones which cost twice the price to replace) and that we are able to use any 3.5″ in the HDR T2.

My replacement is the WD15EADS and others which are known to work in the HDR T2 are: Samsung HD204UI SpinPoint F4 and WD20EARS – both are 2TB.

Undo the four screws holding the HDD in the caddy, and then replace it with your chosen 3.5″ disk. Notice the blue vibration dampening gromets…

1.5TB HDD hooked up

From the picture, you can see that I’ve just hooked the 1.5Tb disk instead of putting it in the caddy and replacing, as I needed to test whether it would work with this disk. It is known that the HDR can not format a 2TB drive, but maybe it can a 1.5TB drive… After hooking it up, I booted the HDR and it informs me that it can see the drive and I ought to go to the Data Storage menu to format it…

HDR T2 detects the 1.5Tb drive

Formatting the internal HDD

Unfortunately, I think I did not leave it long enough to find out whether the HDR could format the drive or not. Maybe this is the same mistake others who’ve installed a 2TB drive made too..? This thought is with hindsight, because I stopped the formatting process thinking it was taking too long. I then plugged this 1.5TB drive into my Ubuntu Linux PC to format the drive, only to realise that the format process does take a long time, as the drive it so big!

Screengrab of ubuntu desktop with original 500GB HDD

I also plugged in the original 500GB HDD from the HDR T2, to inspect the partitions. Above is a screengrab of the desktop with the 3 partitions of the hard disk and dmesg log. The HDD is partitioned into 3. The first partition is 1GB for the EPG. The third partition is 10GB for streaming applications (such as iPlayer, I suspect) and the second is the size of the rest of the disk and is for the recordings, photo, music and buffer…

I need to partition my 1.5TB HDD in the same way.Three partitions: a 1GB, a 10GB, and rest of HDD partition. I’m going to use the gparted paritioning utility included with ubuntu to do this. The first partition has to be the 1Gb one and the last parition has to be the 10Gb. The middle partition will be the rest of the HDD, and this will be the usable storage for  your recordings, photos and music.

Partition new HDD using gparted

Doing this using Gparted will be in a wiki article I will post, as you can use this for formatting a drive in EXT3 to be used on the FOXSAT-HDR or HD-FOX T2.

It was at this formatting stage that I found partitioning 1.2TB of space in EXT3 format takes a long time – over 20 minutes! So this fact left me wondering if I had left the HDR-FOX T2 formatting my 1.5TB replacement HDD, it might have done so without me having to plug it into a Linux PC to manually format…