When Dave and Sarah got their HDTV close to a decade ago, they gave us Dave’s old RCA Standard Def TV along with this snazzy Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8300 PVR. Since then the PVR and TV have graced our basement where Maria uses it to record soaps as a backup to our upstairs NextBox 3.0 HD-PVR. She often watches the soaps in SDTV down there. I don’t question her choice of soap viewing – nor of format.

All went well until last week the old PVR started to say “Disk Trouble – record and playback are not available.” Not a good sign. I tried to reboot the box and reformat the drive but no joy. All signs pointed to hard drive failure. It happens after 12 years or so. The tuner worked fine but Maria wasn’t happy.

Now this is old technology. Really old. I checked online and found out the hard drive was IDE/PATA – the old fashioned ribbon cable variety. Who has one of those archaic hard drives around today?

Well turns out I do. I checked my junk parts box and sure enough there was a perfectly serviceable 160GB PATA drive I took out of an old desktop PC years ago. Problem solved, right? Not so fast Mac.

I quickly ran into Ray’s First Law of Repair:

  • No matter how many tools you have collected over the years, you’ll never have the right one for the job.

The nimrods who designed the 8300 put three screws into it to hold the case onto the chassis. They were tamperproof Torx – and I did intend to tamper, believe me. I had to go to Home Depot and get a special security screwdriver set. An odd name don’t you think – because I was about to jailbreak the secure appliance. Anyway armed with this screwdriver I got the case off. Then I needed two more types of screwdrivers to remove the drive cage and free up the drive.

The rest was easy – just like replacing an old hard drive in a computer. Plug and pray, as they say.

Once I got the unit reassembled and hooked up, it started the reboot cycle – this time it flashed electronic messages like “HDD+” – which I took as an encouraging sign. When the reboot was finished, the recording capability was back.

Of course I had to reprogram the dam’ thing to record Maria’s soaps and I hope I did that right – we’ll see tomorrow. Old technology and the joy of tampering on a Sunday afternoon – can’t get any better than that.