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Visit for daily news, reviews and updates from the world of digital TV, or join our forums . Want to see more? Step-by-step guides to making the most of your digital TV PROJECT Replacing your Sky+HD’s hard disc FREESAT FREEVIEW EURO TV SKY The best kit, The best programmes

Replacing your Sky+HD’s hard disc

Feb 20, 2016



Swapping the hard disc in your Sky+HD for something larger isn’t that difficult if you follow our practical guide
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    Step-by-step guides to making the most of your digital TV


    Replacing your Sky+HDs hard disc

    Freesat Freeview euro tv skyThe best kit, The best programmes
  • 2 What Satellite & Digital TV

    Replacing your Sky+HDs hard discSwapping the hard disc in your Sky+HD for something larger isnt that difficult if you follow our practical guide

    When Sky HD started nearly three years ago, there were only eight hi-def channels to choose

    from (including BBC HD). By February 2008 that number had increased to 31.

    But in that time the capacity of the internal hard disc drive that the Sky+HD box uses as a recording medium has not been increased proportionately. Odd, given that the price of high-capacity drives has plummeted.

    The Sky+HD has a 300GB drive (320GB in the latest models), which was admittedly enormous by 2006 standards. This has been partitioned, so that a fixed 140GB of this capacity is reserved for Anytime the surprisingly useful service that automatically captures high-profile programming Sky thinks you might be interested in. Only the drives remaining 160GB is available for your recordings.

    This may be acceptable for standard-def PVRs like Sky+, but hi-def video has a voracious appetite for drive space. You need only schedule a handful of docs or films for it to disappear! And with all those HD channels now on tap, that 160GB is showing its limitations more than ever.

    When Sky+ was launched (with a whopping 40GB of capacity) about 10 years ago, it was discovered that you could upgrade the hard drive for more capacity (and so recording time). The same, thankfully, is possible here. All Sky+ units Im familiar with employ hard drives with a ribbon-cabled interface known as IDE or PATA. Drives with this interface are now obsolete and difficult to obtain for the benefit of Sky+ users we hope to discuss a workaround in the near future.

    Doubling Sky HD capacityThe news for Sky+HD subscribers is much rosier. Their boxes use the newer SATA interface which is the current mainstream so theres a wide choice of suitable drives. If you want to use a drive with a capacity of between 300GB and 500GB with your Sky+HD, then you can simply replace the old drive with a new one following many of the steps here.

    Carry out a full system reset (quickly

    press: [services] 4, 0, 1 [select] and choose option 8) and the replacement drive will be initialised. Sub-500GB drives may be acceptable if the drive in your machine has failed, or you just want a little more capacity. Hard drives of much greater capacity arent much more expensive, and if you have access to a reasonably modern PC and are prepared to put in a little extra effort, then you can more than double the capacity of your Sky+HD PVR.

    Here, we detail the steps involved in replacing the standard 300GB unit with a 750GB one in this case a Samsung HD753LJ. Bigger drives are available, but some users have reported problems with drives larger than 1TB (e.g. 1.5TB). This is apparently due to a Sky firmware bug.Youll keep your existing recordings important, given that many of the films that Sky has broadcast in HD arent yet out on Blu-ray. When I carried out my upgrade the programme planner showed 4 per cent remaining capacity. With the new drive that became 74 per cent with all my recordings intact. The reason for the disproportionate jump in capacity is

    because the proportion eaten up by Sky Anytime has not similarly increased; its partition size is unchanged at 140GB. And so with a 750GB drive, 610GB is available for your recordings! You cant talk about increases in recording time because channel bit rates vary enormously (and thats before you start considering HDs requirements).

    Sky+ and Sky+HD dont directly use PC disc formats like FAT32 and NTFS. They rely on a proprietary FAT32-based one, known as XTVFS, that has been optimised for the efficient storage of the large files associated with TV recordings. Were you to connect up a Sky+ or drive to a PC, you would not have much luck.

    The capacity reported in My Computer, if its seen at all, will be the raw capacity of the drive. But with some free software, known as Copy+ (downloadable from, on a standard Windows XP or Vista PC you can migrate your recordings (and Anytime content, if desired) from your original drive to the new higher-capacity one. Well tell you how next month n Martin Pipe

    Polite disclaimer:THeSe inSTrucTionS are for THe firST THoMSon-MaDe Sky+HD box (MoDel nuMber DS18215). THe SaMe baSic ProceDureS aPPly To all boxeS, THougH. if youre noT enTirely Sure WHaT youre Doing, leaVe iT To SoMeone WHo DoeS! neiTHer THe auTHor nor fuTure PubliSHing can be HelD reSPonSible if you bloW uP your box or yourSelf.


    a Sky+HDs hard disc can be extended beyond the basic 300gb
  • What Satellite & Digital TV 3


    Project: Supersizing your Sky+HD

    Completely-disconnect the unit from the outside world (LNBs, TV, mains and so on).

    Leave it in this state for a few hours (ideally overnight) thereby giving the power supplys high-voltage smoothing capacitor sufficient time to discharge safely.

    After removing a screw at the back of the receiver and prising up three front-

    mounted retaining tabs, the metal-cased receiver will slide out of the plastic outer enclosure. The metal top panel is tab-hinged to the box on one side; three screws secure it to the opposite side.

    Undo these and dont forget to carefully remove the top-mounted control panel, which is held in place by two countersunk screws. The lid can be swung open and removed, revealing the units complex circuitry.

    The hard drive can also be seen typically made by Maxtor, it resides in a plastic cradle

    and is partially covered by a self-adhesive synthetic sheet that either dissipates heat or reduces vibration.

    Not all Sky+HD units are equipped with such sheets.




    These are the power (left) and data (right) cables that connect the hard drive to the

    Sky+HD motherboard. Carefully pull out the plugs from the hard drive they should require little force.

    Remove the four screws that hold the cradle to the chassis. The cradled drive can

    then be carefully pulled out to reveal the cooling fan cable. Carefully unplug this from the motherboard.

    The cradled drive can now be pulled completely clear of the Sky+HD chassis.

    Turn it upside down so that its cooling fan can be seen. Youll now have access to the four screws




    that secure the drive to the cradle. Note that one of the relevant holes is covered by a tamper-proof label. If your receiver is out of warranty, then youre OK. If its not, then you might want to reconsider and wait until the warranty has expired.

    The next stage requires a PC, but dont connect your drives to it yet.

    The safe-but-slow way is using an external hard drive USB-to-SATA enclosure or even just a USB-to-SATA data cable. An enclosure is better because data copying could take several hours and it will protect the new drives .Your computer must have USB 2.0 ports, or copying will take a very long time indeed, but it saves you opening your PC and works if you have an older PC that uses IDE/PATA hard drives.

    Connecting direct to SATA inside your PC is much faster, but carries the risk that some BIOS and motherboards have issue with SATA/PATA drive configurations. Having such drives connected at startup runs the risk of Windows running a disc check on them at startup. However, I experienced no such problems with direct SATA connections to a PC based around a Gigabyte GA-MA69GM-S2H.

    If youre happy to open up your PC, then do so and discover if your PC uses SATA drives. Chances are that it does if its a modern design. Look for spare SATA ports on the motherboard youll need two of these if youre going to transfer recordings from your old drive to your new one. Youll also need the appropriate number of SATA power cables, which will originate at the power supply. Maplin also sells a handy four-way SATA power supply cable. Fed from a PC power supplys spare AT/ATX drive power-connector, this provides four SATA power-connectors. The photos show typical motherboard SATA ports, a


    toolkitn Set of Pozidriv screwdriversn Disassembly guides for all Sky+ and Sky HD boxes: A modern PC running Windows XP or Vistan Samsung Spinpoint F1 HD753LJ 750GB SATA hard drive (e.g. 69.49 including postage from SATA data cables (e.g. Maplin A40AX, 45cm length, 4.99 each) and SATA power supply adapter cable (e.g. Maplin A17GG, 5.99) OR USB SATA external drive enclosures (e.g. Maplin A83HQ docking station, 29.99)n Copy+ and XTVFS:

    only 4 per cent free

    removing top cover retaining screw

    SaTa power and data connections

    remove four screws holding HDD bracket to chassis

    remove bracketed HDD

    unplug HDD fan connector from motherboard

    HDD and bracket top view

    removing HDD retaining screws from bracket (bottom view)
  • 4 What Satellite & Digital TV

    Project: Supersizing your Sky+HD (continued)

    data cable and a power cable. If an insufficient number of SATA ports is available, consider external hard drive enclosures.

    Boot up the PC, and then install the software you need.

    First and foremost is Copy+, which may be downloaded free of charge. Also available from the same site (see Toolkit box) is XTVFS.

    Using these read-only drivers will prevent Windows from corrupting your Sky+ and Sky+HD hard disc drives by attempting to write to them.

    Now you should shut down the PC and disconnect it from the mains.


    Now its time to get the drives connected to your PC, so that the new drive can be

    appropriately formatted and copying can begin. As you can see from this picture, we have opted for the internal SATA approach. However, the same principles apply if youre using external USB-interfaced drives. Once everything has been connected, reconnect the PC to the mains and reboot it. Disable any virus-scanners, disc optimisers and anti-spyware software.

    Windows (and thus Copy+) wont recognise a factory-fresh hard drive, like the 750GB

    Samsung were migrating to here. Youll need to initialise it first. Were using Vista, but the same principles are also used for XP. Click on the start button, and highlight My Computer (XP) or Computer (Vista). Right-click, and select management. Select the storage/disc management option. The new hard drive can be identified by a black bar, which denotes that its storage hasnt yet been allocated. Right-click the relevant disc number note this down and select initialize disc. On the pop-up that appears, ensure that the relevant disc and the MBR partition-style are checked. Then click OK.



    Run Copy+. This friendly and well-designed program will automatically deal with the

    trickier settings (like the disc format used by a specific Sky box). From the source drive pull-down menu, choose the original 300GB drive. After a while, Copy+ will the display the drives recordings. Next, specify the destination drive choose the drive (0 to 3) as it was displayed in Windows Disc Management. Then click on the big start copy button and let the program work its magic! With a direct SATA connection, it took us 90 minutes to copy a nearly full (only 4 per cent free) drive. With external drive enclosures, you might have to wait longer because the USB interface slows things down somewhat.


    SaTa data connectors fitted to Pc motherboard

    SaTa power connector (pin side)

    SaTa data connector

    xTVfS diver install

    xTVfS2 reboot prompt

    Pc-based HDD copying setup


    right-click on disc in windows disc manager to initialise it so it can be

    recognised by copy+

    Select source drive

    Source recordings shown

    Select destination drive
  • What Satellite & Digital TV 5


    Project: Supersizing your Sky+HD (continued)

    This is how the original and new drives appear under Vista. C and E are the guinea

    pig PCs NTFS (Windows) formatted drives; E and G are, respectively, the old and new drives. The free capacity reported by Windows is the same as the unused capacity, despite the recordings. Windows is incompatible with the XTVFS format used in Sky PVRs; thats why we use those XTVFS read-only drivers. Shut down the PC, disconnect from the mains; disconnect the drives. When booting the PC, re-enable any disabled software.


    Screw the HDD cradle to the Sky+HD chassis, and connect the SATA power and

    data cables to the drive.

    Carefully peel the synthetic pad from the original drive if one is present and stick

    it onto the top of the new one.

    Reconnect the display, power and LNB cables to your Sky+HD box, and then turn

    on. Now its time to carry out a Sky+ Planner Rebuild (quickly press: [services] 4, 0, 1 [select] and choose option 7). This will take a few minutes when your box is restarted, you should have access to all of your original recordings and Anytime content in addition to a useful increase




    in free capacity (from 4 per cent to 74 per cent in our case).

    Check that all is well by playing a few recordings and trying to make some new

    ones. As soon as you are completely satisfied that the hard-drive transplant has been successful your box can be reassembled. First of all, disconnect the box. Re-fit the top plate, and screw the control panel to it. Finally, insert the unit into its plastic jacket and fit the retaining screw. The reconnect your supersized Sky+HD to the rest of your system and you are ready to enjoy all that extra recording time.


    copying roughly midway through

    Drive copying finished

    How the Sky drives appear under Vista

    Screw new drive into HDD bracket

    Screw HDD bracket to chassis

    replace SaTa power and data cables

    new drive in situ

    Screw the new drive into the Sky+HD boxs plastic cradle, and reconnect its fan to the



    unpeeling thermal sheet ftom old drive

    connect and test

    now 74 per cent free

    Disconnect and replace top lid

    replace top cover