Technical questions on the procedures below (or any UTV issues) should be asked in the UTV forum on www.avsforums.com.  The link to the UTV forum is currently here.  (the link will launch a new browser window)

7/15/02 UPDATE (mpardee) - According to a couple threads on the AVSForum it looks as though someone at Microsoft has taken care of the server issue(s) and upgrades are working as they used to again.  They are stating that you do not need an MSNtv account as a workaround anymore.  I can't confirm nor deny this since both of mine are up and running great, but this is great news.  As always, check the forums first before starting your upgrade!

7/14/02 UPDATE (mpardee)-  Before you begin the upgrade process, I think it would be worth your time to go over to the UTV forum at AVSForum  (link here) and see if others are experiencing success.  It looks like somewhere around 8/7 Microsoft must have made some kind of change to their MSN servers that handle the upgrade (when retrieved via modem) and a lot of people have not been able to get the upgrade completed.  It is being referred to as the "upgrade loop."  There have been a few provided "insider" posts that mention a workaround; you need to already have a MSNtv account for the upgrade to be successful.  I can not confirm or deny this, but as of late yesterday it looks as though some people are once again having success at the upgrade.  I have no idea if this is something that Microsoft will fix in the future or not since, in all honesty, the only thing they probably broke was people's ability to upgrade.  Although I am hosting this info, I am not an expert on the subject (that would be SteinyD and Noobie937).  I am a fan of UTV and the hacks that others have been able to figure out that allow all of us to improve this device.  Bottom line - do your homework over at the forums!  They are the best place for all UTV info.


Hard Drive Upgrade for RCA UltimateTV Receiver
David Steinman
steinyd@bellatlantic.net

NEW - How to reuse the original UTV hard drive (by noobie937)


The following text outlines the steps necessary to upgrade an RCA Ultimate TV Receiver to a larger hard drive. To date, the hard drives that are known to work are Western Digital 100 gig and 120 gig hard drives. Others who have successfully completed this upgrade have done so with varying drive sizes (80 gig) and speeds (5400 & 7200 RPM).

NOTE: This upgrade assumes you are using a brand new, out of the box hard drive that has NOT been partitioned or formatted in any way. This upgrade will NOT work with a partitioned, high level formatted drive.

Successful upgrader Peter Ely adds:
I have used a slower, replaced, 120Gig drive straight out of my PC (a WD1200BB) and, heeding your warning, I simply did a format on the drive as the last step before actually removing it from the PC. It was accepted fine by the UTV unit. So, if your readers wish to use a previously formatted drive, they should be able to do so if they format it first. Note - I formatted it with NTFS; I don't know if FAT32 or FAT16 would have worked. As I'm sure you know NTFS is standard with Windows XP.

Before beginning the upgrade, be sure you have copied any recordings on the current drive to VHS. Once the drive is removed all existing recordings will be gone! Instructions for recording to VHS are in the setup and operations guides provided with the unit.

Be sure you are properly grounded when doing the upgrade. Standing on a wood floor, touching a large metal object (other than the unit), using a grounding strap, etc., are all options to ensuring that you do not transmit static electricity to the unit and causing damage.

NOTE: This upgrade will void your warranty! Though this upgrade is relatively simple, this should be attempted by someone comfortable inside a computer, installing components.

The upgrade will take 10-20 minutes depending on your level of expertise.

This upgrade replaced the original drive - a Seagate 'U' Series 5 - 40 Gig drive with a Western Digital Caviar 120 Gig, 7200 RPM drive. Others who have completed this upgrade have found other size hard drives in their units and have also replaced the drive using Western Digital 80 and 100 gig drives.


Step by Step Instructions

1. Remove the access card. This is done by pressing on the access door on the front of the unit. The door will open. The card is in the left slot. Remove it and set it aside.

figure 1afigure 1b

2. To disassemble the PVR, shutdown the unit (power off) and disconnect ALL cables. Remove 2 screws at the top/back of the unit and lift the cover from the back, forward. There are two tabs under the front bottom of the case that keep the cover securely in place.

figure 2a

3. After lifting the cover, there is a short ribbon cable that connects a small circuit board in the cover with the main system board in the bottom of the case. Make careful note of the orientation of this cable prior to disconnecting. You may want to mark one edge with a felt marker to remember which side connects towards the left. Disconnect this cable from the system board in the bottom of the case by gently rocking it out of its connector. Set the unit's cover aside.

figure 3aP1000754.jpg (262136 bytes)

Complete the upgrade by standing in front of the unit. The hard drive will be closest to you, shielded by a silver, metal housing.

4. The hard drive is connected by a power cable and a ribbon cable at the rear of the drive (left side when standing in front of the PVR) and 4 screws in blue rubberized housing. These 4 screws securely hold the hard drive in place within the metal housing. Though not necessary, the metal housing can be removed by removing 3 screws that hold it to the bottom of the case. I did not remove the metal housing during this process. Using a slight but firm rocking motion, remove the power cable (cable closest to you at rear of hard drive) and use a needle nose pliers to remove the ribbon cable. Remove the 4 screws, 2 on each side which are held in rubberized blue casings. Once these screws are removed, the hard drive can be slid out of the metal casing towards the left. Set the drive aside.

figure 4aP1000741.jpg (229369 bytes)figure 4cfigure 4d

5. With the new hard drive in hand, remove the jumper connector that is connected to pins between the ribbon and power connectors. Once this jumper is removed, the hard drive will be configured for a standalone (single) or master drive configuration. This is required by the PVR unit.
4/10/03 UPDATE (mpardee) - make sure to follow the instructions that came with your new hard drive on how to configure the drive for single or master settings.  The instructions above refer to removing the jumper to configure the drive for single/master configuration.  This was correct for the WD drive used in this example, but may not be correct for the drive you are using.  Always refer to the drive's instructions on how to set this setting correctly.  Following the included instructions will save you a lot of pain and frustration later! (thanks to eddieb at the avsforums site for pointing this out)

figure 5afigure 5b

6. With the power and ribbon connectors facing left, slide the hard drive into the metal housing. Press down on the power and ribbon cables while inserting the drive as they will be below the hard drive as you insert it. Note the screw holes on either side of the hard drive. They will need to be aligned with the blue rubber standoffs on either side of the drive.

7. Reconnect the power and ribbon cable. Screw in the 4 screws to stabilize the hard drive. DO NOT overtighten these screws.

figure 6a

8. Take the cover of the unit and hook the front tabs underneath the bottom of the case. Reconnect the ribbon cable to the system board, again being careful to reconnect it in the same orientation as it was. The cover should fit snuggly to the bottom of the case. Reinsert the two screws at the back.

9. Reconnect all cables and reinsert the access card into the LEFT slot. Power on the unit.

10. The first screen you will notice has a black background and suggests that it is connecting to WebTV (MSN) to check for updates. After it dials and makes the connection, the screen changes and the following is reported:

"MSN: Update Needed.
We have developed a free upgrade for your satellite receiver.
To continue using UltimateTV, you must upgrade to the latest version. This should take less than 74 minutes."
<prompt to press 'go ahead'>

After I selected 'go ahead' (after pressing once using keyboard or remote, this will take a few seconds), the screen changed again and displayed the following:

"Your satellite receiver is being updated automatically. This will take about 74 minutes and then you can use MSN TV again.

It then begins counting parts being downloaded up to 206 with a graphical bar scrolling from left to right. This will take every bit of the 74 minutes suggested.

11. When the update is complete, the screen will quickly change and then the WebTV screen saver logo will flash across the screen. Tap any key on the remote or keyboard to get back to the last screen. The information seen will be:

"MSN: Updating Complete.
The update is complete. Chose 'connect now' if you want to connect to MSN TV.
Press the power button to switch off your satellite receiver.
<connect now> prompt.

Whether you press 'connect now' or not, the unit will be powered off. I recommend powering the unit off in order to recycle the system and allow the newly downloaded software to be activated.

Power the unit back on. The system will now walk you through the initial system setup procedures to configure the type of satellite and number of LNB's installed.

12. The system will need to download the Guide and update local channel information (if you subscribe to the local channel package). This could take several minutes or significantly more time. It is possible that the local channels will not show up for an hour or more after the guide has been updated with the 7 days of information the unit will hold.

For non-beta testers and current system software units, the system info will continue to inform you that it is capable of storing up to 35 hours of recorded programs. This indication will not change for this software release.

It is possible that the discarded hard drive can be re-used in a PC. Others who have attempted this have not completed this successfully. It appears that Microsoft / Seagate have protected the content of these drives so that they cannot be recognized by the BIOS of PC's or have their partitions removed or reformatted. However, if you wish to attempt this you will need to be familiar with hard drive partitions, low level and high level formatting of drives.


TESTING NOTES
After several days of testing, I recorded nearly all movies from the premium channels of HBO, Showtime and Cinemax. There are 2 or 3 programs mixed in from non-premium programs. The oldest programs started rolling off at about 79 hours of recorded shows. This is about 2.6 times the amount of recording space compared to the factory installed 40 gig drive.

Note to SONY PVR owners: Though these instructions are specific to the RCA receiver, Sony owners have been successful in upgrading their units with the same hard drives identified in this set of instructions.


Pictures by mpardee@blindsquirrel.org (they do not do David's excellent write-up justice)


How to reuse the original UTV hard drive in a PC

Information provided by noobie937 over at the AVSForum.com's UTV forum, an excellent source of UTV information...


For this to work, you will need the following, two utv boxes, and the courage to mess with hot ide cables...
(note: although noobie937 mentions using 2 UTV receivers to make this work, others in the forum have shown that it can be done using only 1 UTV receiver as well.  The following steps are still basically the same...)

It is really simple actually. But here are the steps you will need to follow, I'll post the explanation below as to how I tested and finally got it all to work. I will call my two receivers sony and rca, just to keep them straight. For these steps I removed the factory drive from sony and wiped it in the rca.

  1. take disk out of sony
  2. put disk in rca and connect ide and power connector
  3. plug in power to rca receiver
  4. let the red, green, and orange lights flash for 1-2mins
  5. while the lights are still flashing and power is still turned on pull the ide cable out of the drive, leaving the power connector in
  6. wait for a about 40mins for a 40GB drive (you can put your ear next to the drive and see if it is still writing to the drive)
  7. unplug power from the rca
  8. remove disk from rca and put in computer
  9. use fdisk or your partitioning program of choice on drive
  10. enjoy your extra 40gbs of space!

It all comes down to the way UTV formats drives. When a drive is installed in a UTV it will check for two things. The first is if security is turned on, if it is it will try it's user password, if that works you are good to go. It will then either boot if the OS is on the disk, or will prompt to go download over the phone line. If security is turned off it will try to set the master password, set the user password (individual based on hd and receiver), and then set the security level to maximum. If it is unable to do these commands (ie maxtor drives) it will tell you to call UTV. Both sony and rca use the same master password, if security is turned on and the user password does not match then the receiver sends the erase prepare command, followed by the erase command, followed by the universal master password. It will then turn off security, erase the user password, and write all 0's to the disk, and before it shuts off it will reset the master password, generate a new user password and turn maximum security back on. By removing the ide cable while it is writing all 0's the receiver is not capable of re-initializing the security features.

I hope this helps everyone out there. I am glad I found a way to do this without publishing any passwords or hopefully not giving away any microsoft secrets. Worse case that I'm hoping for is it will just void your warranties...