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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi Guys,


Nice way to start the new year!!


A couple days ago my Pio 650 started acting strangely when I was in edit mode... some of the commands didn't respond, and it seemed to be having trouble displaying the thumbnail. Since it only had about 1.5 hours space available, I deleted a bunch of stuff, powered down, and noticed it went into HD repair mode when it powered up. Things were ok for a day, then yesterday the same symptoms occurred.


Now after re-starting, it's stuck in HD Repair mode. It responds to any command by displaying the 'Please wait' message for a second, then goes back to HD Repair message. I have to force power off by holding the power button for 5 seconds.


I seem to remember there's a reset somewhere. How do you do that?


Other than that, any other advice out there?


The thing is only about a year old... kind of disappointing.



Thanks.
 

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I think you should let the HDD Repair utility work as long as it needs, assuming you can get it to start up again. Not sure what effect stopping the utility will do or might have already done.


If not, you could try the hard reset: with machine on, press and hold the STOP and Standby/Off buttons simultaneously on the front of the unit until it powers down. Start back up and reset your settings, if it all "takes."

Here's a help file on HDD care and maintenance that might help in the future... main thing is for you now, if you can get things restarted, is to get things off the HDD in last-in first-out (LIFO) order cuz the last things you recorded, or latest dated, are prob. the ones that filled up the fragmented open spaces on your HDD. Doing this won't show any space gained back for a while, but suddenly will when the CPU sees enough clear space for normal ops again.
 

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Wajo gave excellent advice, and I suggest you especially follow his "last in, first out" drive clearance suggestion.


HOWEVER, before taking any further steps, I'd like to point out (as I have in several other threads) what has become an insidious and increasing problem for owners of any device with a SATA hard drive: the utterly rotten connectors which drift out of alignment, causing all sorts of resistant symptoms that make you pull your hair out until it finally dawns on you it might be the stupid drive connections. This just happened to me again for the umpteenth time last week when a desperate friend begged me to get her PC up and running after an apparent meltdown. Considering I had only recently upgraded the box to Windows XP Pro without a single hiccup, I was shocked to hear it was unusable so quickly. First I thought she might have picked up a new virus, but virus shield was installed and working. After repeated attempts to reinstall Windows failed, I thought perhaps the hard drive flaked off a bad sector (she got the PC from a neighbor who had left town a year before). When I opened the box to replace the hard drive, I was surprised to find the existing drive was SATA. As soon as I saw that, I *knew* it was a connector issue, and sure enough once I pulled out and reseated all the SATA cables the PC booted normally, resumed its reinstallation of Windows, and has worked perfectly since.


That was the long way around of demonstrating this applies to DVD recorders as well. Particularly if shipped some distance to you, SATA-based DVD-HDD recorders will randomly display similar bizarre symptoms of HDD breakdown. (Since the most popular of these are the Pioneers, we hear more reports from Pioneer owners, note this isn't Pioneers fault but a problem with generic SATA connectors.) If your new-ish DVD/HDD machine starts acting wonky, the first thing you should do is power it off, open it up, and pull out/reseat all of its SATA plugs. After you power back on, in 99% of cases the machine will return to normal, although it may need to complete its HDD self-test repair mode first.


Fred999, open your 650 and fiddle with its SATA plugs. Make sure you reseat them firmly, especially the one directly attached to the HDD. Turn the unit on, and see if it finishes its repair routine promptly (within a couple hours, it should show a progress bar). If it turns on and acts completely normal, you still need to help it reset: do as wajo advised, and back everything up to DVD or DVD-RAM media. After clearing the HDD, go to the Disc Setup menu and activate the "Optimize HDD" function. Within a few minutes to a couple hours this should complete successfully and the recorder will display an "optimization complete" on screen. You can then go back to using the machine normally. Every few months, open it again and replug the HDD SATA connector, as a precaution. Slight vibrations and oxidation are enough to cause SATA problems to re-appear otherwise. Good luck!
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by CitiBear /forum/post/15463866


HOWEVER, before taking any further steps, I'd like to point out (as I have in several other threads) what has become an insidious and increasing problem for owners of any device with a SATA hard drive: the utterly rotten connectors which drift out of alignment, causing all sorts of resistant symptoms that make you pull your hair out until it finally dawns on you it might be the stupid drive connections.

I agree. This happened to me also with my HP PC. A new SATA HDD that I installed myself as Drive D: all of a sudden was no longer accessible. I opened the case and moved the SATA connection to another connector on the motherboard, and now the HDD is "there" all the time.


These SATA connectors suck...
 

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The problem I have with my Pioneer DVR 450 is that it shows a COPY ERR now when I try to burn a DVD-R. The unit worked for about two month, then started acting up after the hard drive was 90% full. I have a feeling a hard drive crash did this eBay purchased unit in. I tried the SATA connection adjustment, but no go. Pioneer DVRs are no match for Panasonics in terms of reliability, as far as I can see. Maybe I have that opinion because I got a lemon.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred999 /forum/post/15462202


Since it only had about 1.5 hours space available


Pardon me for being rude, but it is a really, really, dumb thing to do to let your HDD get that full. When I get down to 15 hours SP remaining in my 160GB Pio 640, I start cleaning out stuff, one way or another. All your SATA connectors could be as tight as possible, and you would still have trouble when you get it that full, and editing is a likely place for the trouble to happen. I have only had an editing problem once, and that was soon after I got my Pio, and let it get too full. I haven't made that mistake since.
 

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Re gerrytwo's Pio 450: you have a couple of possibilities. The 450s on eBay recently were the very last of a huge batch of CostCo returns and demo models from 2007. While they look mint, a few have actually seen hard use as demo units. This can wear the burners prematurely causing the "COPY ERR" display and failure. Also, current retail 16x media is now adulterated garbage, if you are using TDK, Maxell, Sony or even retail Verbatim the drive may just not be able to burn it. The Pio 450 drives usually burn just about anything, but I have heard a LOT of recent complaints from users saying they can no longer burn 16x media brands that worked for them in the past. This had been a problem primarily for older decks but now seems to be hitting more recent Pios and Pannys- media is getting worse by the day. Switching to 8x TY or Verbatim DataLife usually solves the burning problem, but if your 450 won't burn those either then its optical drive is shot and needs service. (The Pio 460s on eBay are more recent and less likely to be demos: you have to hit the liquidation curve at the right time- too early and you pay too much, too late and you get the demo dregs. The 460 right now is in the middle of the curve and a good buy.)


There is no reliability advantage to a Panasonic over a Pioneer: they each have slight issues that sometimes cause a breakdown but this is uncommon with either brand on models released 2006 or later.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for your suggestions guys.


When I got home last nite, I powered up, and the HDD Repair message came on, but only for a few seconds. It *seems* to be back to normal, but I notice sometimes when in Navigator, the bottom two thumbnails sometimes take a second or two to come up - can't remember if this was normal. It plays ok, but I haven't tried any editing yet.


kjbawc, that was 1.5 hours LP mode



As soon as I noticed the problem, I cleared a few titles, so it had about 30 hours free (LP). Rebooted, HD Repair for a few seconds, so I assumed it had fixed itself. I would think that the 30 hrs free space should have been enough, so I was surprised when I went back into edit mode the second time, and the problem returned. How much space does a simple edit take anyway? That must mean that the first HD Repair didn't fix everything.


During the time it was in HD Repair mode for 10 hours, until I forced power off, I didn't hear any HD activity, so I can't imagine what it was doing.


I took care on this unit only to do editing in the copy list, and only deleted titles in groups (ie 5-10 at a time, recorded in sequence), in order to minimize fragmentation, so I doubt there is much fragmentation.


Anyway, I'm going to baby it along, delete more stuff, before I try another edit.


I'll let you know what happens.
 

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I think if I was in your position I'd probably dump everything on the drive to unfinalized VR-Mode DVD-RW discs and delete everything from the hard drive. In theory that should eliminate any fragmentation problems and potentially corrupt linked lists on the HDD. Then I'd copy all of the titles back to the drive from the DVD-RWs if I still wanted them.
 

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What Sean said, absolutely. Back up every last thing on the disk, reset the recorder, then copy back what you want to keep on the HDD. This should clear any edit-HDD corruption.


To expand on Sean's mention of "corrupt linked lists", this is relatively rare on Pioneers but does occasionally happen with the x50 and x60 series because of their "auto chapter setting" feature when applied to the hard drive. Corruption occurs when the recorder errs and creates "illegal" auto chapters, or when the auto-chapters collide with modifications you make manually. This is more common with the Phillips/Magnavox editing system, but does pop up now and then with other brands as well.


The system Pioneer uses for "auto chaptering" on the hard drive is too fluid and subject to broadcasting errors, since it relies on commercial blank frames to position the chapters instead of allowing you to set your own preferred intervals (a better method, which it strangely only uses on removable DVD media). Since the Pioneer hard-drive auto-chapters are almost always placed randomly anyway, I usually advise turning the feature off in the home menu>disc menu. It takes the same or less time to place manual chapter marks exactly where you want in a hard drive recording than it does to remove the random unwanted auto-markers, and eliminating auto-chapters eliminates a small but potential corruption risk.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred999 /forum/post/15472425


kjbawc, that was 1.5 hours LP mode
...


...I took care on this unit only to do editing in the copy list, and only deleted titles in groups (ie 5-10 at a time, recorded in sequence), in order to minimize fragmentation, so I doubt there is much fragmentation.


It was probably your safe editing style that saved your machine. Otherwise, that 45min. SP remain would probably be 50 or 100 fragments. But, I agree with Sean and CitiBear, clear out your HDD completely. Dump everything on VR mode -RW discs. Then, optimize your drive. That will probably only take a few minutes.


At that point, watch what you want from the RW discs. If you want to keep them, transfer them at highspeed to your HDD, edit if necessary, then burn them at HS to -R discs, even in "Video Mode" if you want. Then, reuse the -RW discs. That should cure all your ills.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Well, so far so good
and I even recorded another movie yesterday



Appreciate all your thoughts...


I have auto-chapter turned off, and I've only deleted a few blocks (maybe 4 or 5) of titles since I got the thing, so I can't imagine there would be much fragmentation. I suspect whatever links were corrupted was because of trying to do edits with too little available space.


So the question is, how little is too little?


As for clearing the HD, I have about 100 movies on it, which would take about 50 disks, and I can't do all that
They're mostly movies from TCM, and I notice they often repeat , so.... no big loss.


I think I'll watch and delete until I'm about 50-60% full, then do a defrag (if I can avoid recording more stuff until then
)


Citibear, I'm going to remember your advice about re-seating the cables, if and when the situation re-occurs! Do you need any special tools to open it up? I haven't looked closely at the box, and I don't want to pull it out right now.


Thanks again.
 

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No special tools needed: there are two Phillips-head screws on each side of the cabinet, and another 5 or 6 on the back. When you remove these, keep track of where they came out: sheet metal screws tend to go back in easier to their original holes. Once you slide/pull the cover off, you'll see the exposed hard drive and its SATA plug immediately. These are very very loosely plugged- it should pull out as soon as you touch it (thats the problem with SATA). Pull it out completely, and plug it back in firmly. Repeat two or three times to remove any oxidation, and seat the plug as firmly as you can one final time. Screw the cover back on and you're good to go.


The "cushion" of open space you need on a hard drive recorder varies with the capacity. On 160GB or 250GB drive I'd say leave 8-10 hours free at SP as much as possible. On smaller 80GB drives you can get away with 5-6 hours but 7-8 is preferable. Using such a recorder to hold 100 TCM movies in long-term storage is not a good idea, especially if you have other things coming and going you would like to edit. Try to back up as many of the movies as possible to DVD-R in your spare time, and remove some from the HDD. The cataloging system on consumer recorders is brutally simple and becomes overloaded as you approach or pass 100 titles.


It isn't commonly understood that the capacity of the hard drive is unrelated to size in GB, it is tied in with the recorder OS, which can only reliably cope with a certain total number of titles. Each title contains several data points (name, thumbnail, location, size, chapters) and too many data points increase the risk of corruption on your next edit session. You're close to the borderline with 100 movies on a 250GB drive, I wouldn't go much higher than that and would probably get some off there. If you've never trimmed the beginnings or ends, and haven't set custom chapter marks in those movies, then you can pile on another 20 movies. But if you've done any editing at all, best to clear a few off to open up the catalog a bit.
 

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Here's my story about this model and HD problems.


Back around March 2008, I started to get various messages indicating HD problems. My drive was likely about 2/3 full. I started removing stuff from the drive, and got down to where it was only about 15% full. At that point, I was unable to recover as I had been able to previously by defragging etc. The unit starting failing to respond to commands not related to the HD, and finally I couldn't record to removable disks, which I'd been able to do for w while even after I couldn't record to the HD.


The warranty ran till around May 5, so I took the machine into Pioneer's authorized repair shop in Toronto. A few weeks later, I picked up the machine, but didn't get around to hooking it up for a couple of weeks (you can see what's coming :-( ).


So now, at some point in late April I hook up the unit and it works fine, until a few weeks past the warranty expiration date, whereupon all the same symptoms come back, but in a much faster sequence -- no "graceful" failure like last time! I talked to the repair shop, learning that there's no warranty at all on the repair.


I removed the HD from the machine, hooked it up to my PC and ran various tests on it with different types of HD analysis software. The PC would not recognize the drive in the My Computer, but strangely, most of the HD analysis programs recognized the drive, so I was able to run various diagnostics on it. It shows very high error rates on some of the read-write tests. So far, I'm not able to reformat the drive.


Using the model number for the drive, I found several sources on the web where I can buy drives in this series, which has drives up to at least 500GB, and maybe 750GB. I talked to the repair shop about buying a drive and bringing it in to them. If I understood them correctly, they might be willing to install a drive for me for $60 Cdn. I'm contemplating buying a 500GB drive and having them install it, even if it's more than $60. I don't think I can get them to warranty the situation, though. They also don't seem to be able to tell me in advance how large the capacity of the drive can be.


I also suspect that if the last replacement drive failed so quickly, that the problem wasn't the drive alone, and that a new drive would also fail quickly.


I've been using a PIO 543 with an measly 80GB drive for the last six months, stalling as to what to do with my 650 (temporary, I hope) paperweight. A couple of days ago I bought the 660 in Toronto for $299. I'm going to sell the 543. I've been wondering about trying to install a larger drive in it. I opened it up to see what model the drive was. It's an IDE drive.


Suggestions welcome.


Cardano
 

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Over time, reports from members here and elsewhere indicate the third (top) model in any years lineup of Pioneers is somewhat more problematic than the "lesser" models, except in 2006 when the 540-543-640 showed no difference in problems reported. Out of all these, so far the 2007 DVR-650 has had the most complaints by a small margin. I would guess thats because it was the first to employ the new encoder and the first to switch from IDE to SATA hard drives. I won't repeat my diatribe against the use of SATA in consumer products, suffice to say they cause a lot of grief. Any slight amount of jarring during shipping or installation can loosen the SATA plug by a hair, which is just enough to make the machine seem functional until progressive hard drive corruption occurs. DVD recorders in general lose their minds once the HDD starts failing, which causes a lot of unrelated symptoms.


Hard drive replacement in Pioneers is very easy if one owns the special service remote and service DVD. In Canada these cost about $110 to buy from Pioneer parts suppliers. Alternately, there are instructions on the excellent pioneerfaq site and on other AV forums that explain how to create your own service remote from an existing remote you already have, and how to locate an affordable service disc (Pioneer issues new discs periodically with new models, often the older one will work with your particular recorder and be cheaper). If Pioneer service tries to charge you more than $70, Cardano, consider buying the tools to do it yourself: it might be more cost-effective.


Repairing and refurbishing Pioneers is one of my hobbies, so I have some experience working with almost all the different models dating back to 2003. Overall, I would not recommend going higher than 500GB with any of them: their navigation systems have a maximum limit of how many recordings they can handle. 250GB is much closer to the mark, and for some reason 320GB drives seem to work particularly well in DVD recorders so those are good too. If you can't find anything smaller than 500GB for a good price, 500GB is OK, but restrain yourself from filling the entire 500GB or you risk some unpleasantness: navigation can bog down and the more a drive holds, the more you can lose when it crashes. Avoid filling a 500GB drive to more than 70% capacity at SP speed. The hard drives in DVD recorders are formatted with a "secret" file system thats unreadable by computers and difficult or impossible to repair.


The Pio 543 is very rugged and well worth having its 80GB drive upgraded (the only difference between a 543 and a 640 is the 160GB HDD in the 640). Any decent IDE hard drive will do, again with 250-320GB being optimal. If someone like Cardano has two Pioneers to upgrade simultaneously, the service tools pay for themselves almost immediately. Although in his case, it might be worth making a fuss and asking the service depot to upgrade both recorders for the price of one service fee. Since their original repair failed quickly, they might be willing to give a 2-for-1 discount as a concession. It never hurts to ask.
 

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Thanks for all the information and advice, Citibear. In the light of your comments about the 543, perhaps I'll upgrade the drive to the 250 - 320 size and keep it, as opposed to selling it.


I will be looking into acquiring the tools you recommend, the disc and the special remote.


WRT SATA connector corrosion:


I understand how that could corrupt the files on the drive, but could it actually go so far as to cause the drive to fail physically?


Are some SATA cables and connectors better quality than others? I notice that the price for SATA cables varies quite a bit.


Another question: If the drives in these machines are so vulnerable to failure, could one do the following as a preventative solution:


Remove the drive (before any recording takes place) and make a clone on an identical model drive using a PC and cloning software. When the drive in the machine starts acting up, just replace it with the clone. This would save having to set up a replacement drive with all the complexities of special remotes and discs, or would it?


I thought of this last idea because drives are so cheap these days (maybe that's why they fail so easily).
 

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Cloning doesn't work- its been tried in every imaginable way and fails. The Pioneer recorders match data on their motherboards against data stored in the firmware/boot blocks of their HDD and optical drives upon power-up. If the match fails, you get error displays and limited functionality. As it happens, the ONLY thing the Service Remote and Service Disc actually do is create this initial matching profile for the unit to rely on. Once the new HDD is installed in the recorder, it takes less than a minute to finish the install by creating a profile.


Loose or oxidized SATA connections are capable of all sorts of havoc. Among the worst is when they are just off enough to allow what seems to be normal use, but in the background everything is getting written to the HDD with errors until eventually the drive crashes. Recovery is difficult, because not only is the recorder file format proprietary and unreadable to most PCs, but the data has been further corrupted by the SATA glitches. Ugly all around. If you can find better-grade SATA cabling for your recorder, I'm sure it would help, but I think the connection on the motherboard may be non-standard. Pioneer, like several other recorder mfrs who switched to SATA drives, are not really "pure" SATA machines. They moved to SATA plugs on the actual drives, because SATA drives are now easier and cheaper to source than the older IDE drives. But the motherboard converts the SATA connection back into EIDE for its own internal use. This make replacing the crummy generic cables in consumer SATA products a little tricky, because one end is often custom-configured. With a PC, you can just swap in a higher-grade ordinary SATA cable.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Just to add an update...


It had been working fine all week, so on the weekend I was planning to delete a block of titles from the end, and try a defrag. Except on Sat night, I set a 30 minute recording. On Sun morning, I noticed it only recorded 21 minutes, and when I powered up, it did some more HDD Repair, but only for a minute. I thought, uh-oh.


After I watched and deleted the 21 miutes, I powered down and up, and it went into HDD Repair all day. I tried forcing power down a few times and powering up, after about 8 hours, but it always went back into HDD Repair. I powered down overnight.


However, this morning it seems fine again. I'll try a defrag, but after reading Cardano's story, it looks like that probably won't last.


I suppose the next thing will be to check the connectors, as Citibear has suggested.


These confounded machines... the only bright spot is being able to come here and get all this info and assistance!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Further update, ...


I did an optimize yesterday evening. Before starting, I noticed when going into Navigator, the thumbnails took a lonnnnnng time to display, every time I paged down.


It started off at about 889 minutes, I watched for a couple minutes, saw it go down to about 884 minutes, went away for about 15 minutes, when I came back it had ended with a message "Optimize not complete, try again".


I tried again, it started around 885 minutes, after about a minute it went to 0, with the same message as before.


I went to Navigator, played a couple titles with no problem, powered down and up, watching for any HDD Repair message, but nothing came up. I tried optimize again, this time it started around 660 minutes, I watched it count down for a few minutes, after about 15 minutes it finished with the message Optimize Complete.


Now when I go into Navigator, the thumbnails snap up quickly.


I tried watching a few titles, and then tried another Optimize. It came right back with Optimize complete.


Now it'll be interesting to see if the damage was temporary or a sign of things to come...


For sure I'll be keeping a larger buffer of free space...
 
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