Possible Cause of DVR Freezing? - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 15 Old 03-29-2017, 02:25 PM - Thread Starter
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Possible Cause of DVR Freezing?

I have a Samsung 5500 Series Smart TV, Charter Cable service with a Motorola DVR and an external hard drive.

For some time, on a very irregular basis, when I would finish and delete a DVR recording, the system would crash and reboot itself. A few weeks ago, again on an irregular basis, we started getting a message to unplug and replug the external hard drive. Then, again on an irregular basis, we started having problems with the DVR freezing, sometimes for just a minutes and then for a long time.

I contacted Charter via phone last week. The automated system sent a signal to the DVR and the system rebooted. I then talked to a customer service person who told me the solution to my problem was to reboot the system. She had no other possible explanations for the problem and I wasn't too keen to have to reboot every day if not every couple of hours.

Apparently, as a result of the signal sent or just magic, things were fine through the weekend, all day Monday and Tuesday morning. I would typically be watching something recorded several times during the day for about 2 hours total and then about 2 1/2 hours in the evening. Last night, however, the system started freezing again. We managed to get through a show, but it would freeze about every 10 minutes for a minute or two. I will mention that the freezing typically occurs in the evening. Also, we have not been receiving the message to unplug the external hard drive.

This morning I did a live chat with Charter which was really frustrating. She asked questions about things I had already told her and basically said I could replace the DVR or call to chat again when the system was frozen.

I really don't want to have to replace the DVR and lose the programs on it if I don't have to.

Questions:

Does this sound like a faulty DVR?
How can I tell if the problem is the DVR or the external drive?
Given that this happens infrequently and usually only in the evening, could something else be going on? e.g., something electrical or having to do with reception. We have been told we are at the end of the Charter cables in our neighborhood. Obviously in the evening there are likely more people using Charter. Could that be causing this all of a sudden?

Thank you for your help,
Ellen
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post #2 of 15 Old 03-29-2017, 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Ellen149 View Post
Does this sound like a faulty DVR?
How can I tell if the problem is the DVR or the external drive?
Given that this happens infrequently and usually only in the evening, could something else be going on? e.g., something electrical or having to do with reception. We have been told we are at the end of the Charter cables in our neighborhood. Obviously in the evening there are likely more people using Charter. Could that be causing this all of a sudden?
If the DVR is freezing or rebooting on its own, it's most likely the DVR. The quality of the cable signal shouldn't impact whether the DVR freezes or not. It might be the external hard drive but, in my opinion, less likely. If you have a spare USB drive, you can substitute it and see if the problem disappears. Otherwise, if Charter Cable provides the DVR, I'd have them replace it to see if that resolves the problem.

Do you use the DVR more in the evening than the daytime? If not, then it is a bit odd that it fails more in the evening.

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post #3 of 15 Old 03-29-2017, 06:52 PM
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Easy way to find out if it is the external drive is to simply remove it from the equation. Take out the drive and test. Put a different drive in and test.
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post #4 of 15 Old 03-30-2017, 05:48 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mdbratch View Post
If the DVR is freezing or rebooting on its own, it's most likely the DVR. The quality of the cable signal shouldn't impact whether the DVR freezes or not. It might be the external hard drive but, in my opinion, less likely. If you have a spare USB drive, you can substitute it and see if the problem disappears. Otherwise, if Charter Cable provides the DVR, I'd have them replace it to see if that resolves the problem.

Do you use the DVR more in the evening than the daytime? If not, then it is a bit odd that it fails more in the evening.
mdbratch - Thank you for your response. I am clearly not an AV wizard. It does make sense that the level of the signal wouldn't impact what is on the hard drive and it isn't impacting what we watch live, so it would appear that isn't the issue. To you and to eherberg - after one try I was under the impression that if I unplugged the hard drive I couldn't watch anything on the DVR. I tested that last night and realized that I clearly can. I just have to find the programs on the DVR. That test also helped me see that I could tell which programs were where if I went through and tested everything. So - I think I am going to have to replace the DVR. It was really bad last night. That leads me to one more question. Will the new DVR recognize what is on the hard drive?
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post #5 of 15 Old 03-30-2017, 05:49 AM - Thread Starter
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Easy way to find out if it is the external drive is to simply remove it from the equation. Take out the drive and test. Put a different drive in and test.
Thank you - see my other response.
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post #6 of 15 Old 03-30-2017, 06:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Ellen149 View Post
That leads me to one more question. Will the new DVR recognize what is on the hard drive?
Good chance if it's same manufacturer, and remote chance if it's not. It's not guaranteed. The folks at Charter Cable support may know the answer to that. If it doesn't, then it's possible that the old files could be reorganized in a different folder structure and that could make them visible (assuming the video format of the files themselves is common).

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post #7 of 15 Old 03-30-2017, 08:17 AM - Thread Starter
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Good chance if it's same manufacturer, and remote chance if it's not. It's not guaranteed. The folks at Charter Cable support may know the answer to that. If it doesn't, then it's possible that the old files could be reorganized in a different folder structure and that could make them visible (assuming the video format of the files themselves is common).
When I figured I would have to exchange the DVR, I was feeling hopeful this morning when I went through and determined that most of the shows I wanted to keep were on the external drive not the DVR. However, the DVR is Motorola (from Charter/Spectrum) and the external drive is a WD 1 TB My Book AV DVR Expander External Drive. From what you are saying, if I replace the DVR, I likely lose what is on the hard drive.

However, now I am more confused. With the external drive disconnected from the DVR, as a test this morning I watched a one hour program on the DVR. It did not freeze once. However, since yesterday (after I had unplugged and plugged back in almost everything possible), I am once again getting the "Alert 13" message to unplug the hard drive and reconnect. I now can't use the DVR with the hard drive connected. In the past, I was able to get rid of that message - it was either time or rebooting. In the past, when the hard drive was connected, I was able to watch shows in the morning and mid-day, so I am not sure what is going on. But perhaps the problem is in the hard drive or the connecting cable. I will keep testing to see what happens.
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post #8 of 15 Old 03-30-2017, 09:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Ellen149 View Post
When I figured I would have to exchange the DVR, I was feeling hopeful this morning when I went through and determined that most of the shows I wanted to keep were on the external drive not the DVR. However, the DVR is Motorola (from Charter/Spectrum) and the external drive is a WD 1 TB My Book AV DVR Expander External Drive. From what you are saying, if I replace the DVR, I likely lose what is on the hard drive.
I'm referring to DVR manufacturer. If your new DVR is a Motorola, good chance it will read your external HDD as is. If it's not Motorola, it's more iffy. But even then, what I'm saying is that there's a good chance you might be able to rearrange the files on the HDD to be visible to the new DVR if they aren't right out of the box. It might just have a different way of organizing them (different file system folder structure). Hard to tell until you get into it. But I wouldn't lose hope at this juncture.

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However, now I am more confused. With the external drive disconnected from the DVR, as a test this morning I watched a one hour program on the DVR. It did not freeze once. However, since yesterday (after I had unplugged and plugged back in almost everything possible), I am once again getting the "Alert 13" message to unplug the hard drive and reconnect. I now can't use the DVR with the hard drive connected. In the past, I was able to get rid of that message - it was either time or rebooting. In the past, when the hard drive was connected, I was able to watch shows in the morning and mid-day, so I am not sure what is going on. But perhaps the problem is in the hard drive or the connecting cable. I will keep testing to see what happens.
Well, that's interesting. Perhaps this is indeed an indication of a faulting external HDD. And I would think, in that case, it's more likely the enclosure electronics, not the HDD itself, but could be either. The morning and mid-day thing might be a coincidence, or perhaps it is because it's heated up a bit over the course of the day from use, but I'm speculating at that point.

If Charter Cable provided the external USB drive, then they can provide you a replacement to try, keeping the original one until you know whether the problem is fixed. Supposing the new external drive fixes the problem, you can probably use a PC to copy the files off of the old one onto the new one (as long as the electronics on the old one hold out without error in that process), or it may be possible to swap the actual HDDs between the new enclosure and the old one.

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post #9 of 15 Old 03-30-2017, 12:50 PM
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Actually - I would expect the hard drive to *not* be accessible by a new DVR. Most cable systems (and Dish boxes also) have the contents encrypted to that device only.

In fact - a quick check on the Spectrum site shows the following under the external drive support section:
If an external hard drive is disconnected, programs stored on the device won't be accessible until reconnected to the same DVR.
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post #10 of 15 Old 03-30-2017, 03:18 PM
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Actually - I would expect the hard drive to *not* be accessible by a new DVR. Most cable systems (and Dish boxes also) have the contents encrypted to that device only.

In fact - a quick check on the Spectrum site shows the following under the external drive support section:
If an external hard drive is disconnected, programs stored on the device won't be accessible until reconnected to the same DVR.
Well, that's rather draconian of them, and really sucks. It's still worth confirming for sure that the same is true with the Charter Cable provided equipment, but I'm supposing it's likely. It still gets back to Charter Cable: if it's their equipment, they need to resolve the issue.

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post #11 of 15 Old 03-31-2017, 08:31 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks both of you for your help. I wanted to give you an update: When I first tried watching programs with the external drive disconnected, I kept getting the message that I needed to connect that drive. I thought that means it had to be connected to watch any program. Obviously what had happened is I had just chosen programs that were on the external drive. Once I realized that we could watch programs that were on the DVR with the external drive disconnected, that opened up trouble shooting options.


I should mention that I purchased the external drive. It didn't come from Charter.


Yesterday I/we were able to watch programs that were on the DVR with the external drive disconnected and absolutely no pausing. Yea! That would seem to suggest that the problem is in the external drive or the connection to the DVR – right?


This morning I attempted to work with the external drive. Connected with the eSATA cable, I continued to receive the Alert 13 error to unplug and reconnect the drive. I then tried connecting with a USB cable – that didn't work. In investigating why, I learned that the Charter Motorola DVR wouldn't recognize that cable. I discovered that on a site I hadn’t encountered. That site included a troubleshooting process that neither the Charter phone person or the chat person mentioned and which I did this morning. That was to turn the DVR off. Unplug it for 15 seconds and then wait 20 minutes for turning it on. I had of course done the unplugging thing in the past, but never the waiting part. After I went through that I was able to successfully watch a program that was on the external drive. However, there were small occasional pauses. I am hopeful that we can nurse this along for a bit and will see what happens today and the next few days.


If there are problems it would appear the next step is to investigate options for dealing with the external drive. However, this entire process is driving me crazy and wearing me out. If doing anything with this drive is too complicated, I may just be willing to lose what is there and watch what I really want to watch via On Demand or my computer connected to the TV.

After writing above, I just looked over reviews of the external drive on Amazon and a number of people talk about it crashing, often suddenly, after a time. I have had mine for 2 years. That could be what is going on I suppose.


Thanks again for your help.


Ellen

Last edited by Ellen149; 03-31-2017 at 08:46 AM.
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post #12 of 15 Old 03-31-2017, 10:31 AM
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I did a little more research on your external drive and your DVR (which I'm guessing is a DCX-3510M or something similar...). Here's what I think we know so far:
  • The external drive must be connected with eSATA - not USB (the drive supports USB, but the DVR only wants to use eSATA for the DVR functionality)
  • The information on the external drive is encoded such that it will only play on that particular DVR unit
  • The problem being experienced is associated with the external drive. That is, you can do some DVR without the drive and that works fine.

I suspect, then, you are indeed in the market for a new external drive that supports the eSATA interface. Up until now, I thought we were dealing with a USB connection, but that was my mistake. The remaining question would be: is there a way to rescue the data on your current external drive? I believe there is, but it would involve copying the old drive contents literally to the new drive contents (I assume that the association of the external drive to the DVR is through the contents of the files, but I don't know for sure). If I had the old and new drives here, I could image one to the other through one of my Linux servers.

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post #13 of 15 Old 04-02-2017, 06:29 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mdbratch View Post
I did a little more research on your external drive and your DVR (which I'm guessing is a DCX-3510M or something similar...). Here's what I think we know so far:
  • The external drive must be connected with eSATA - not USB (the drive supports USB, but the DVR only wants to use eSATA for the DVR functionality)
  • The information on the external drive is encoded such that it will only play on that particular DVR unit
  • The problem being experienced is associated with the external drive. That is, you can do some DVR without the drive and that works fine.

I suspect, then, you are indeed in the market for a new external drive that supports the eSATA interface. Up until now, I thought we were dealing with a USB connection, but that was my mistake. The remaining question would be: is there a way to rescue the data on your current external drive? I believe there is, but it would involve copying the old drive contents literally to the new drive contents (I assume that the association of the external drive to the DVR is through the contents of the files, but I don't know for sure). If I had the old and new drives here, I could image one to the other through one of my Linux servers.
Thanks for your comments mdbratch. I have been trying a few things and thought, for about 36 hours, that all was well again. Then last night the picture totally froze and the only way I could get it off the TV was to disconnect the external hard drive. I have now resigned myself that everything that was on it will be gone. It is a great lesson in non-attachment. Many things weren't that critical and there other ways to watch some of what was there on my computer connected to the TV. My big question now is does that mean that the drive is totally shot or is there some way to repair it. That will be my next thing to investigate as I have time. For now I will just use the DVR and be more judicious in my choices about what I save.
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post #14 of 15 Old 04-03-2017, 11:48 AM
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...

My big question now is does that mean that the drive is totally shot or is there some way to repair it. That will be my next thing to investigate as I have time.

...
That's really hard to say. I've personally not used one of those kinds of drives and not taken one of them apart, so I don't know exactly how they're built. But I would suppose that, internally, it's a standard HDD (probably SATA) connected to a small interface board. The fault in the unit is in one of those two areas, which would be most easily determined by swapping in a different HDD and checking if the problem "follows" the interface board or "follows" the HDD. If the problem is in the small interface board, then, in theory, you could rescue all of your old videos by swapping the old HDD into a new unit chassis that has the new interface board. That does, though, still involve buying a whole new unit anyway since I don't think you can buy the interface board separately anywhere.
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post #15 of 15 Old Today, 02:52 PM - Thread Starter
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Final Update for the both of you and also for anyone who may be hunting and find this in the future - I corresponded with Kenneth from Western Digital Services and Support. Under his direction plugged the external drive into my computer and then I downloaded and ran a diagnostic evaluation of the drive. The message I got was that evaluation could take some time - hours even. After about 2 minutes, I got a message that there was a corrupt area that could be repaired. I ran the repair and then started the process again. After about another 2 minutes the message was that there were too many corrupt sectors to repair. When I reported that back to Kenneth. He said that my drive was past warranty, but they could offer me 25% off the purchase of a new disk. I then went hunting on how to get at the disc. I looked at pictures, tutorials etc in the "manual" and online. However, I could not see any screws on my box. When I reported that to Kenneth, he said that my box was one of those in which the disc could not be replaced. Hence - it is dead. Oh well. At this point I will simply be more judicious with what I record and save and make greater use of other ways to watch older programs. This box was only just slightly over two years old when I started having problems. That is disappointing. All in all I suppose a good learning experience.
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