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08-04-2012 08:04 PM
August 4, 2012 - Success with adding an external eSATA drive to a Verizon FIOS DVR
I just upgraded from a Comcast DVR to a Verizon FIOS DVR. I upgraded because my old DVR was limited to 500GB (1/2 TB) on the internal drive and the new FIOS DVR allowed for a much larger external eSATA drive. Selecting a viable external drive for the FIOS DVR was easier said than done. The three drives listed on the Verizon web site as compatible with FIOS DVRs are no longer manufactured by western digital and are not available on the market.
The DVR that I received from Verizon was a Cisco "CHS 435 HD DVR" that came with a 500GB (1/2 TB) internal drive. This is one of their "Multi-Room DVRs" that allows other set top boxes (not DVRs) to watch videos recorded on it.
I selected a western digital "WD30EURS" eSATA disk drive because it was a follow on product to one of the three listed as acceptable by Verzion on their web page and it was 3TB in size. I ordered from amazon.com for $170.99. This drive is a "bare drive" so it does not come with an external encloser or a eSATA cable.
According to the Western Digial web site this is a AV-GP drive: "These drives are designed to last in high temperature always-on, streaming digital audio/video environments such as PVR/DVR, IPTV, and video surveillance systems."
I got a "Macally G-S350SU Hi-Speed eSata/USB2.0 External Storage Enclosure for 3.5inch SATA HDD" to hold the drive for $34.39. I chose this one because it does not use a fan that could cause continious noise. The box is made out of metal so it cools itself as long as it is exposed to air (not covered up). This box comes with an external power supply that has a small transformer that plugs into a wall outlet.
Then I needed a eSATA cable. I got a "StarTech 6-Feet Shielded External eSATA Cable M/M (ESATA6)" for $6.50 and a 3-foot version for $5.90. I went with the longer one so that the cable would be less likely to become accidentally unplugged if I need to move the drive or the DVR. The cables and the drive houseing came from the same Amazon provider so it saved me on shipping. The drive came from Amazon/Western Digial directly but they do not have external housings or eSATA cables on that site.
The total cost was $255.56 including shipping for all these items.
I went with the largest (3TB) drive from western digial's AV-GP line to avoid a future upgrade from a smaller drive to a larger drive. There is no way to copy videos from one external eSATA drive to another drive because they are formatted by the FIOS DVR in a propriatary format. That would mean that any future upgrade would require losing all recorded files during an upgrade. That also means that there is no way to back up the contents of the drive to protect yourself from hard drive failure.
The installer who setup the DVR did not want me to plug in the drive while he was there and explained that I was on my own when I attached this kind of personal device to the DVR. When I plugged in the new eSATA drive it was automatically discovered. I was asked by the DVR if I wanted to format the new drive. I answered yes and within 2 hours the drive completed formatting. I did not watch the boring format so it could have finished faster.
When I started recording new videos they go directly to the external drive automatically and avoids the internal drive. It had no trouble recording two HD shows and playing a recording at the same time. I now have 20 hours of HD video recorded and the 3TB external drive is 17% full. So far my experience with the external drive has been great. No problems or issues. Learning the new remote control, new DVR menu system, and web browser control of the DVR from a laptop is another story. It will take some time to figure out how to make all the new features work.
It took me a while to figure out how to make this work since the verizon web site made useless suggestions and pointed me to products that are not available any more. I could not tell if this really would work until I plugged it in and then I was pleasantly suprised that it did. I have had this working for 3 days without any issues. I hope this post makes it easier for you to add an external eSATA drive to your DVR.
Here are the three items ordered from Amazon to make this work:
08-06-2012 05:52 AM - edited 08-06-2012 12:55 PM
... I now have 20 hours of HD video recorded and the 3TB external drive is 17% full ...
Following up on the comments of Anti-Phish, I currently have an external 1 TB drive with c.40 hours of HD material. The DVR indicates that the drive is 27% full. A quick comparison with your usage numbers seems to indicate that your system is not making the full 3 TB drive available, but rather registering perhaps only 1 TB. I am not sure that this means you will not be able to record a full 3 TB on the drive, or only that the method that shows used space is not working. Hope this helps.
08-07-2012 07:18 AM
You are right. I can only access 2TB of my 3TB external drive. That gives me a total of 2.5 TB counting the internal (0.5 TB) and external (2.0 TB) drives. This is a significant improvement over the just the 0.5 TB internal drive. I have not been able to find a reason for this limitation. Cisco and Verizon do not mention any limits that I can find. I hope that a future BIOS upgrade could provide access to more space but this would probably require me to reformat the drive and lose everything recorded.
I paid $170.99 for the 3 TB WD30EURS drive at amazon. I could have gotten away with spending only $116.99 for the 2 TB WD20EURS drive. Not worth returning at this point so I will stay with it. Makes me glad I didn't buy the most expensive 6 TB external monster drive available from another company.
I bought: 3TB drive: Western Digital 3 TB AV-GP 3 TB SATA 2 Intellipower 64 MB Cache Bulk/OEM 3.5-Inch Internal Bare Drive WD30EURS by Western Digital
I could have bought: 2TB drive: Western Digital AV-GP 2 TB SATA II Intellipower 64 MB Cache Bulk/OEM Internal Hard Drive - WD20EURS by Western Digital
Details of what I learned:
The external 2 TB drive now has 41 hours of HD video recorded and claims to be 34% full (66% free). My estimate would allow me to have aprox 120 hours of HD on the external drive (2TB) and 30 hours of HD on the internal drive (500GB) for a total of 150 hours of HD. This will keep me happy for the near future.
There is a hidden "diagnostic menu" that is not normally accessible or documented by CISCO or Verizon. This menu has a lot of interesting info on the inner working of the DVR. There was an obscure reference to this menu on another forum.
To access this diagnostics menu:
1) Get the DVR into normal live tv mode (no menu, no guide, no pause ...)
2) Go to the Cisco CHS 435 HD DVR (not the remote control) and press these buttons on the front of the DVR: Press both the Left Arrow "<-" button and "OK" button at the same time and hold them both down for aprox 5 seconds.
3) The "Verizon FiOS TV Diagnostics Menu" menu will appear. The menu can then be used by the remote control.
4) I chose "D03 Memory / HDD" and then "Hard Disk Information" and finally "OK"
A five page disk report appeared. With a little bit of interpretation I discovered:
The Internal Drive is know as "drive 1/hdc1" has 461 GB total space with 454 GB free.
The External Drive is split into two partitions "hdc2" and "hdc3" (aka two mount points).
"drive 2/hdc2" has 1007 MB total with 317 GB free
"drive 3/hdc3" has 1007 MB total with 974 GB free
The normal DVR menu has an "Eject" feature that allows you to stop the external drive and make it safe to remove it from the DVR without losing anything via an unplanned drive removal. This can be found at "DVR" button on remote then "Settings"->"External Hard Drive"->"Eject".
08-07-2012 08:58 AM
plargent thanks for all the info on how to set this up.
Let me ask this, i'v heard that when you set up the external DVR, you will lose all the stuff you recorded on the internal DVR.
Is this true?
08-07-2012 06:07 PM
No, the DVR left the internal disk untouched. I recorded two shows before I added the external drive. The two shows were still available and working after the new disk was formatted. I could see that they took up space on the internal drive.
Yes, the DVR did format the external drive. It is now formatted in proprietary format and it is 'married' to this one DVR. The external drive can not be read by any computer or any other DVR.
After formatting the external drive all new recordings go to only the external drive. I have read that the internal drive is now holding the one hour live TV buffer so I can pause/rewind live TV. When the external drive fills up then the internal drive will be used to store more files.
I let the Verizon installer/technician install the new router, the multiroom DVR and two set top boxes. The communications paths between the boxes, routers, cable and Ethernet was not obvious and did not make sense until I made the installer explain it. Each set top box actually talks TCP/IP to the DVR over the cable coax wire and then the STB can play recordings off the DVR when it is sent back to the STB via TCP/IP over the cable coax wire. One of the set top boxes has both an Ethernet connection and a coax wire. I am glad I paid Verizon the $60 to do the installation. Not that I had a choice, Verizon would have charged me the fee (setup/configuration) even if I had done the installation.
The Verizon installer setup everything and handed the working system over to me. He did not want to be present when I installed my non-Verizon external drive. He wished me well and told me to call 800-Verizon if I had any questions or issues. I did the install of the external hard disk. I am a computer geek and it was easier than hooking it up to a PC. When I plugged it in the DVR instantly recognized the new external disk. It then asked me if I wanted to format the new drive. I answered yes and the DVR formatted the drive and did all the setup automatically.
I did ask the installer for an extra remote control so I could still operate when one of the remotes magically disappears. These are not tracked by serial number and he gladly gave me an extra one at no cost.
FYI - Verizon replaced my older router with a new one when they did the install. I went from having 25Mb download speed and 15 Mb upload speed to 75Mb download and 35Mb upload. The improvement is impressive and evident while using any browser or PC application that stresses the Internet. I used speakeasy.net to measure the results. I consistently get >60Mb download speed and > 25Mb upload speeds on the Ethernet. The new router is a 1Gb Ethernet hub with only four ports and it is also the 802.11g Wifi hub. It also has one port to talk Ethernet to the FiOS box mounted at the edge of the house and a coax port to talk to the DVR and STBs. The 802.11g speed is limited to 54Mb speed but the speed improvement is also very obvious on my Wifi laptop. The laptop sees measured speeds of >40Mb download and >25 download on the Wifi.
10-20-2012 08:19 AM
Hi I recently added an external WD HD on a Cisco435 DVR. I want to confirm the set up and size is being recognized. I tryed your diagonostic prooceedure with no luck. I also tried the prooceedure with all the other arrows, to no success. Do you or anyone else know of another way to access this information. When the Verizon guy set up the system he was having problems setting up caller ID he went to a screen and I remember seeing the 500GB size of the internal drive on my screen.
12-01-2012 03:07 PM
I just tried the diagnostics menu again. I pressed the left arrow and the round OK button on the DVR at the same time. A menu system appeared. It still works for me. Once the menu appeared I could use the remote to navigate the menu. This is the only way I know to access the diagnostics menu. I hit these keys when in normal TV viewing mode. Normal means the DVR is on and playing live TV.
After some time with the system I have come to believe that only 750 GB of disk space is actually available. It appears that I can save roughly 50% more on the external drive. I believe the internal drive is 500 GB in size.
Today it is saying:
61 hours of HD takes up 80% on the internal disk.
84 hours of HD takes up 67% on the external disk.
The DVR did have a bunch of odd errors that mostly went away 3 weeks away when the system upgraded to newer code and rebooted overnight. The only oddity I see now is that sometimes I delete a recording but it still appears on the recordings list. When highlighted these items claim that they are deleted and will be removed if I leave the screen and return. They do eventually (days or weeks) disappear.
One nice thing about the software upgrade is that new recordings are distributed to both the internal and external drive. It appears they go to the drive that has the most available space (% of total space). Some of the weird items that appeared previously where when the external drive was 100% full. Neither drive has hit 100% since the upgrade.