January 2007

After a few days off due to other priorities I’m back at the TiVo restoration again. Since last time the computer I was using would simply not boot the InstantCake CD I thought perhaps it was the computer itself (as I tried booting various other bootable CDs to no avail). This time I’ve taken my primary family desktop computer, unleashed it from all of it’s cables, disconnected the two HDDs in it and the secondary CD-RW drive and hooked up the TiVo drive as the Primary Master and the CD-ROM drive as the secondary master.

Powered it up, set the BIOS to boot from the CD-ROM, restarted, inserted the CD-ROM and waited…. and it booted from the CD after about 20-30 seconds of delay post-BIOS.

I read back through the mess of stuff that is displayed by the Linux kernel when I finally got to the InstantCake Prompt (waiting for me to press enter) by hitting SHIFT-PAGE UP to scroll back through the text. I noted that it detected the Maxtor TiVo drive as hda as well as the CD-ROM drive.

hd1: C/H/S=0/0/0 from BIOS ignored

hda: Maxtor 6E040L0, ATA Disk Drive

hdc: _NEC DV-5800A, ATAPI CD/DVD-ROM drive

ide0 at 0x1f0-0x1f7, 0x3f6 on irq 14

ide1 at 0×170-0×177,0×376 on irq 15

hda: 80293248 sectors (41110 MB) w/2048KiB Cache, CHS=4998/255/63, UDMA(100)

Being pleased with this information (which basically just confirms that the two drives I have connected are being properly detected by the InstantCake software), I proceeded. But first I took note of another bit if info it provided about the hda (Maxtor TiVo drive I’m attempting to fix).

Partition check:

hda: [mac] hda1 hda2 hda3 hda4 hda5 hda6 hda7 hda8 hda9 hda10 hda11 hda12 hda13

That just says that there are 13 logical partitions on the disk (which I find surprising, but not problematic). Onward we go, then. I hit SHIFT-PAGE DOWN to get back to the InstantCake prompt and it said hit enter to bake my InstantCake, so I did.

I came to the InstantCake novice mode screen where it said that it expected my drives to be configured as follows

CDROM drive ——————————- primary slave
New Drive #1 for TiVo ———————- secondary master
New Drive #2 for TiVo ———————- secondary slave

Since this doesn’t match my configuration I decided to enter advanced mode which would allow me to reconfigure the drives in the software (i.e. I can tell the software the actual hardware configuration of my drives rather than reconfiguring the hardware itself). To do this I hit ‘a’ and ‘enter.’

The next screen was the advanced mode screen wherein it stated that I should be confident as to how my drives are configured and later the software would ask me to tell it the configuration. I hit ‘enter’ to continue.

The next screen asked how many TiVo drives are in my setup (one or two). I said one.

The next screen says, “How is your new TiVo A drive currently connected?” It is the Primary Master, so I typed hda according to its directions.

The next screen says, and I quote fully

We are now going to build a single-drive system using the drive you installed on /dev/hda.

This process will erase everything on the drive you connected.

Are you ready to continue? [y, n]?

I typed ‘y’ hit ‘enter’ and away it said “This distribution contains the following InstantCake image: TiVo Series2 TCD540 Models Version 7.2.0-oth-01-2-540 Standard Release” and then told me to ensure I’m installing the proper TiVo software for my particular model. Iam, so I continued.

The next screen said, “Your cake is in the oven! Please do not interrupt this process, it may take awhile…” The uncompressed backup size it reported was 754 megabytes. It proceeded to display a progress indicator which lasted for less than a minute until it said the restore was done. The output of the screen when it was all said and done was

Starting restore
Uncompressed backup size: 754 megabytes
Restoring 754 of 754 megabytes (100.00%) (83.30% compression)
Cleaning up restore. Please wait a moment.
Restore done!
Adding pair /dev/hda12-/dev/hda13
New estimated standalone size: 40 hours (39 more)

Please hit to continue…[]?

I hit enter and it told me to verify the success of the installation by checking the recording capacity under Message & Setup -> System Information and then run guided setup by going to Messages & Setup -> Restart or Reset System and then selecting ‘Repeat Guided Setup’ and follow the prompts. And it said now I should power down my PC and move the drive to the TiVo. So I did.

After connecting the drive to the TiVo, ensuring all connections were in place properly, I powered it on and watched what happened.  It went through the typical process of “Welcome! Powering up…” to “Almost there.  Just a few minutes more…” and then to “Preparing the service update.  This may take up to an hour, possibly more.”

This looks promising.  We’ll see what happens.

When I checked it today the green screen was still there so I eventually shut it off (well after 12 hours had lapsed). After waiting a few minutes I powered it back on and this time sent it into the Panic mode and gave it the 52 sequence to perform a complete reinstall of the system.

It went to the green screen again shortly after than and then shortly after that it rebooted.

Then it went through the sequence, “Welcome! Powering Up…” to “Almost there. Just a few minutes more…” and then back to the green screen.

I let it sit the three hours and nothing happened so I yanked the plug, popped open the case, pulled the drive out and hooked it into another computer configured to boot from CD-ROM. I found this article about fixing a blown TiVo using InstantCake so I decided to blow the $20 to get an ISO image of it to burn to CD-ROM. I used the free ISO Recorder to burn the image to CD.

For reference I’m going to quote the InstantCake README.

InstantCake README

Please Read This Document in its Entirety Before Downloading

Please note that the download product you have ordered can be between 50MB and 500MB. If you are not using a high-speed connection (ie. DSL, cable, etc) consider doing so before attempting your download. Additionally, if you are using a wireless network, please ensure your connection is stable and not subject to signal loss. You will be given 3 attempts to successfully download your software product, and if you are unsuccessful, your download link will expire. If you experience problems with your download, and all of of your attempts expire, you can contact us with your order information and we will regenerate your download links. Please note that if all of your attempts expire, and you need to contact us, it will take us some time to verify your order and regenerate the links – so please be patient and careful when attempting to redownload after a failed attempt. Ensure you have enough space on your computer, as well as a good network connection before attempting any large file download.


We are not responsible for ensuring you can successfully download your product, or problems caused by faulty network equipment or problems with your ISP. Additionally, some ISP’s limit the sizes of your downloads (HughesNet, for example). Once you have completed your download, please ensure you make BACKUP copies of your software; this is your responsibility.

InstantCake download files are distributed as either ISO files, or .BZ2 or .ZIP files which can be uncompressed as ISO files. The .BZ2 or .ZIP file can be uncompressed using a standard unzipping utility such as WinZip, or WinRAR in Windows environments, or bzcat or unzip in Unix/Linux environments. Once you have uncompressed your ISO file, you can record it to CD by using the “Burn Image” feature of many standard CD burning utilities. There are many guides to doing this which are easy to find using Google.

Please ensure you read and follow ALL instructions. When you boot your InstantCake CD you will be given the opportunity to read additional information before proceeding with your upgrade, please read it.

As a reminder, InstantCake and our other utilities are inexpensive DIY products and are offered without support or warranty. If you have a problem using these products, or a questions about their use, chances are that the question has already been asked or answered on DVRplayground or TiVoCommunity. Please proceed there with your questions, and if you can’t find the answer, please do join and post. We do monitor the forums, and your question is likely to be answered, as long as it hasn’t already been asked and answered many times over!

Requirements for using InstantCake

You will need an x86-based Personal Computer (PC) with two IDE interfaces which can be accessed as the PRIMARY and SECONDARY devices, and a CD-ROM which you can use to boot our CD. You do not need to be running Windows XP or any specialized software, in fact, we recommend you disconnect your hard disk drive(s) to ensure their protection, as well as disable any SATA devices supported on your motherboard. The InstantCake software boots and runs from a CD we supply you or can be burned if you’ve downloaded it as an ISO. You will need one or two blank hard drives which will be formatted for use in your TiVo. We do not recommend you use your existing TiVo disk drive for InstantCake installations, in fact, in many cases it will not work: the target drive is expected to be larger than the original – please keep your TiVo drive in a safe place as a backup; at least until you’ve used InstantCake successfully at least once.

Directions for using InstantCake

  • Step 1: Configure your PC such that your CD-ROM drive is connected as the primary slave device. You may need to adjust a jumper on the rear of the CD-ROM; many CD-ROM drives have the jumper set for cable-select (CS) and you can simply move the jumper to the slave position (SL) to ensure it is configured properly. To ensure the CD-ROM is connected as the primary IDE device, use the IDE cable connected to your PC’s C drive; this is typically connected to the primary IDE interface in your PC. If you hvae more than one CD/DVD device in your system, please disconnect all but one of them. We recommend you disconnect your PC’s primary hard drive (and any other hard drives that are installed in your PC) to ensure they are not accidentally overwritten by the InstantCake software.
  • Step 2: Configure your PC’s system BIOS so that you can boot from CD-ROM, and ensure your CD-ROM is installed as the primary slave on your PC.
  • Step 3: Configure and connect one or two new drives destined for your TiVo on the PC’s secondary IDE interface. You will need to refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines for master and slave settings for your hard drives’ jumpers. Do not use the cable-select jumper settings for your new drive(s); it is important to know which drive is the master and which drive (if you are building a dual-drive kit for your TiVo) is the slave to ensure they are properly installed in your TiVo.
  • Step 4: Apply power, and boot the InstantCake CD. The CD will auto-boot and prompt you with a few questions before building your kit.
  • Step 5: Please take note of all messages, warnings and instructions which may be displayed when the InstantCake program is done running. Knowing these important details may make a difference, especially if you need additional support.
  • Step 6: Install your new drives in your TiVo; you can use our hardware installation instructions as a reference.

Release Notes and Additional Support Resources

Please refer to the official release notes and instructions for your specific version for more details. Support discussions for InstantCake and other DIY software products are hosted at DVRplayground.

My TiVo HDD was configured as Cable Select, and according to the InstantCake directions it should be set as the Master when running the InstantCake software against it. So I did that.

After setting things up according to the instructions (including BIOS settings) I had my CDROM drive as the Primary Slave (i.e. attached as the Slave device on the first IDE controller) and the TiVo drive as the Secondary Master (i.e. attached as the Master device on the second IDE controller).  The only other device attached was the Floppy drive.  All other drives were unattached and disconnected from the power supply.

I booted up with the InstantCake CD in the CDROM but it didn’t find it — couldn’t boot from it.  I slipped a bootable Linux Floppy in the drive and it booted from that (only after first attempting to boot from the CDROM).  So I decided to grab the mfs2floppy.zip file from WeaKnees.com and create a bootable floppy disk to at least see if I could get booted to something.  My first attempt failed with some spurious errors (wanted to root floppy after spitting out what looked like normal Linux boot-time stuff).  So I grabbed another floppy, formatted it and ran the MakeDisk.bat command from the mfs2floppy.zip file again.  This time it booted from the floppy.

But I didn’t know what to do then.  Tried mounting the CDROM but /dev/cdrom was not in the fstab.

Tried booting various other Linux CDs — no dice.  I’m beginning to think this machine won’t boot from CDROM despite the fact that it is configured that way.  Perhaps tomorrow I’ll try with another machine.

I’m up way too late and have to work in the morning.

I did some further reading on the TiVoCommunity.com forum thread I mentioned in my last post and found a post that indicated that the problem (for this fella) was the IDE drive cable.  So I decided to check out the cable installed in the replacement unit TiVo sent me.  It’s a 40-wire cable.  I checked the model number of the HDD (Maxtor 6E040L0, 40G) and then looked up the Quick Specs for this drive on Maxtor’s site which indicate that the drive requires an 80-pin cable.  So I replaced the cable to see what would happen…

Got to the green screen that says

The DVR has detected a serious problem and is now attempting to fix it.

This will take about three hours.


If you have a plasma TV or are concerned about screen burn-in, you should turn off your TV for the next three hours.

If, after three hours, the DVR does not restart, please call Customer Support.

So I guess I’ll let it go and see what happens.  I wanted to get it working tonight, but as it’s already late I’ll let it go overnight and check it tomorrow, Lord willing.

My TiVo died recently — a couple weeks ago. It was working fine until one day I flipped on the TV and saw nothing but a black screen. I figured it was a fluke, turned it off and went to bed. Turned it on the next day and it was still black. So I decided to unplug it, wait a minute, then plug it back in. I thought for sure that would fix it…

Nope. It took over an hour on the second screen that comes up which says, “Almost there. Just a few minutes more…” Clearly it was more than a few minutes and it had never taken than long before so I decided to unplug it and try again. This time after a while of sitting at the “Almost there” screen it pulled up a green screen that said it detected a serious problem and would try to correct itself and that I should not turn it off for at least three hours. I waited overnight and nothing was happening.

I called TiVo Customer Support, went through their automated help line until it couldn’t help me. Then I got a person on the line and she decided that the hard drive had basically died and I needed a new one. She’d happily process an exchange for $150. “Nothing doing,” I said, “so I guess I’ll cancel the serice.” She transferred me to the cancellation department, I waited ten minutes, got disconnected and had to call back (directly to the cancellation department this time).

Dallas was the name of the CSR that helped me and it was in virtually no time flat that he said he’d be pleased to process a no-cost exchange since I’ve been a good TiVo customer for over two years and he’d hate to see me cancel now just because the unit broke.

So I said, great, let’s do that. I had to fill out a form and send it in with my old unit and then a few days later I received the replacement unit (refurbished, but looking just about as good as it would if it were brand new).

I was looking forward to getting it hooked up and being back in business.

But when I hooked it up I didn’t get past the second “Almost there” screen. Very disappointed after a few hours, I turned it off and went out of town.

When I got back I turned it back on and let it go for 24 hours. Never left the “Almost there” screen. This didn’t leave me feeling that it was almost there.

So I got online and searched to see if others were having the same problem. I found this thread over at tivocommunity.com where many people were having similiar issues, supposedly due to a bad hard drive.

After reading through a few pages of that thread I found a link to a TiVo Diagnostics page which contained some panic codes that you could enter from the remote at startup to tell the TiVo to perform various diagnostics on itself.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Rebooted and waited for the green light to turn yellow, then hit the Pause button on the remote.
  2. Keyed in 57 to do the mfs check
  3. Waited… it went to the “Almost there” screen and then rebooted.
  4. When the green light changed to yellow this time I hit Pause and then keyed in 58.
  5. Waited…it went to the “Almost there” screen and then changed to a screen that indicated it was installing an update, then it rebooted.
  6. I waited to see what would happen on this reboot … it went to a green screen indicating that it detected a serious problem and would try to correct itself … wait three hours, don’t turn it off, etc.
  7. I pulled the plug — had enough — seen this before, not waiting three hours, taking matters into my own hands.
  8. Now I’m going to yank the drive, hook it up to my other PC following some directions I found, and try to get a fresh image on there (after verifying the drive is good).
  9. If the drive is bad, I’ll probably just go get a new (and bigger) one (this is the 540040 model, so just a 40G drive).
  10. If the drive is not bad, I’ll throw a fresh image on it and try again.

Stay tuned….