Like many people, I was finding the default HDD size in the Amstrad DRX890 Sky+ HD box to be a bit small. Too many HD recordings were taking up too much space and it was a constant battle to watch stuff in order to free up enough room to record new stuff! I regularly ran out of space when recording the F1 Grand Prix on Sky Sport F1HD.
So I finally bit the bullet and decided to embark on an upgrade. As usual I had to read pages and pages of forum posts, and couldn’t really find anything that just told me how to do it.
So here is my experience!
After a bit of research I settled on a 2TB Seagate Pipeline HDD model no. ST2000VM003. This drive runs at 5900 RPM and seems to be a good compromise between speed, economy and noise. Some people had said that other faster drives were either too noisy or drew too much current and placed too much strain on the Sky box’s PSU.
I was a little concerned after ordering it as I stumbled across some forum posts (e.g. here) that said people had also been having problems with this drive, but others had said they had managed to get it working okay after using a jumper to set the drive to SATA-II (3.0 Gbps) mode rather than leaving the drive set at it’s default SATA-III (6.0 Gbps) mode.
NOTE: Since this article was written the Seagate drive has failed and I lost all recordings stored upon it. I have since replaced the Seagate with a WD AV-GP WD20EURS, which is working fine and doesn’t require any jumper configuration. The rest of this article still refers to the Seagate drive but I can’t recommend it, I would go for the WD drive if you can, specifically the AV-GP version, which I gather is optimised for video streaming applications.
When the drive turned up, I noticed it was a bit fatter than the drive that came out of the Sky box and on the label it said it drew more current than the old drive (0.55A vs 0.316A). So straight away I was a little worried that this wouldn’t work!
Old drive on the left, new drive on the right.
To give me the best chance of this working, I decided to jumper the drive straight away and not bother trying it without, it’s such a faff taking the Sky box apart that I didn’t want to keep doing it just to have to put the jumper on later if it didn’t work.
Trying to track down info about how to jumper the drive was quite hard, the docs for this drive says the SATA mode can be set in software and doesn’t say anything about jumper settings, but if you look hard enough there are instructions for jumpering older, smaller Seagate drives, so I just used the same process. You will have to find a jumper from somewhere, I was lucky I had one on an old laptop drive I no longer needed, so used that. You have to jumper the two pins that are farthest away from the SATA connector.
Jumpering the drive
So I already had my Sky box in bits, there’s various guides on the net if you google it. Note, you don’t have to remove the back panel nor the little circuit board on the top.
Next step involved copying all the programmes off the old HDD. I was originally going to use Sky Copy Plus, but this doesn’t seem to be compatible with the latest version of Sky+ (something called “Darwin”), so I opted for some other software called ExPVR – it does cost £20 but it’s worth it.
Also I purchased a USB 3 SATA drive caddy so I could just plug it into my laptop and copy everything off it. This one from ORICO here worked a treat.
If you do use ExPVR, you just need to select all the programmes and create a drive image. I didn’t have enough room locally so stored it on my NAS – it did take a few hours. Also it reported an error, it seems the version I downloaded (v3.9.12) is not bang up to date for the latest Sky+ planner, however, everything copied across and it all worked a treat.
After copying everything back onto the new drive, I put the Sky box all back together, as you can see from the pic, although the drive is thicker, it still fits fine.
The new drive installed and ready for action.
Finally I plugged it back in, turned it on and checked how much space was free. Whereas before I only had about 15% free, now I have 88% free. Result!
There have been people reporting failures and weird issues after running this drive for a little while, so I will report back here if I experience any issues.