Tip: Reception vs HDD lifespan (and added an SSD to my quad)

I’ve been happily using a Tablo Quad since 2016 when I cut the cord. My original setup was an original-style Quad and a WD Elements 2TB usb drive. Around mid-2021 (5-years later) I started to have reception problems, periodic signal loss with checkerboard video and audio loss that happened once every 5-seconds to once every minute. It was always worse between 5pm and 9pm. In the end, I replaced the Tablo, my antennas, amplifiers, RG-6 cables, installed 600MHz LTE filters. I was convinced (and so was Tablo support) that it was RFI from a new-band UHF 5G cell tower between me and the transmitter swamping my amplifiers. I even replaced my WD Elements drive with a new WD Elements 2TB drive… The problem finally went away seemingly on its own around March of 2022, after I had given up trying to fix it.

Last week (Dec 27, 2022) it started again with the same symptoms on my second (now much newer) Tablo Quad… After looking at my purchases from last year, I noticed that the very last purchase was the replacement HDD. So I bought an internal 2TB SSD (Crucial MX500) for my newer Tablo quad, and the problem has now immediately vanished. (Completely gone, and without a trace.)

I can now confidently identify the problem as something that has changed in the Elements USB HDD… Not sure what it is, because the drive formats perfectly on my PC, but perhaps error detection replaced (by substitution) bad sectors have caused response to slow to the point where it’s no longer good (or fast enough) for video recording.

Somewhere around January of 2020 I started recording four daily news broadcasts so I could time shift them. I only kept one copy, so it was a daily repeated record/erase cycle, probably at the same HDD sector locations. I suspect that’s why the second HDD failed so quickly, because I was repeatedly hammering one small section of the disk. Purely speculation, but it fits my usage. So hypothetically I may have beat both disk drives to death with repeated small record/erase cycles caused by how I was using the system.

This is just to let everybody know that a failing HDD can behave like a deficient antenna or an RF interference problem. Also, that the installation of the internal SSD in the quad was very smooth. I’ll keep everyone posted if I have longevity problems with the SSD. (I picked an SSD with a high write/erase count, and I’m depending on the SSD wear-leveling algorithms to slow future degradation.)

My new SSD is a Crucial MX500 - CT2000MX500SSD1

I hope someone finds this useful. Happy 2023 everybody!

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Thanks for posting! Had a similar hardware issue a few years ago, would have swore it was a reception problem.

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I’ve been seeing the same thing recently; reception errors on recordings when there was no obvious reception problem.

Having read your message, I tried powering down the Tablo, disconnecting the USB hard drive, and connecting it to a Linux server that supports the ext4 file system.

I ran fsck.ext4 on that disk, with the -cc option, which does a simple read/write check. I then unmounted the drive, plugged it back into the Tablo, and powered on.

The result; so far this week at least, zero reception errors associated with recordings, and no discernible damage to any existing recording.

Thanks!

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@billm that’s great, glad you were able to recover the disk. Also proves the theory much more elegantly than just replacing the disk like I did. I wish I had thought of trying that myself, but my Linux machine is a VM, and I have too many Windows devices hanging on my USB to let the VM touch anything USB. My loss…

Glad that you’ve given people an option other than replacing hardware… I hope it continues to work for you.

These solutions may prove helpful for others so thank you guys. The price of SSD’s has really been dropping in the last few years. SSD’s simply handle the above issue automatically if you get a decent quality (such as the Crucial above). If a sector becomes un-writeable the software will simply pull if from the list of sectors to ever be used. FSCK will most definitely work in the early stages of “spinning platter” ugly sectors starting, but at some point wouldn’t it be easier to simply use an SSD where its done without your intervention? I love linux and use FSCK to repair filesystems regularly so believe me I know its a powerful tool in the right hands.

Candidly, FSCK may buy you a few more years with an older drive. My whole point here is: if you are going to replace a drive in any Tablo you will not regret using an SSD. Less power consumption, cooler, faster, quieter, etc…

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@MO-Tablo-user - I 100% agree with everything you said… I just want to add a word of warning that not all SSD devices are created equal. Before I replaced my WD Elements drive with a new one, I purchased a USB connected SSD to try. I’m sorry to say that it didn’t work at all with my Tablo. The access on the specific SSD device I bought was too slow. (It was not a no-name, but I don’t remember the specific model number. I don’t want to paint the brand as bad due to one specific model.)

I highly recommend an internal 2.5 inch SSD if your Tablo will accept one, but USB connected SSDs have not been successful for me. Your mileage may vary…

I would never use an SSD, going to fail so fast with constant non stop use and would not make any different at all with devices like these. That is why they are never recommended to use for DVR’s.

I got the WD 5Tb Tablo recommended on their site.

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Use Tablo Ripper if your concered about losing recordings, I run it 24/7 and it backs up everything I record to another HD connected to my computer.

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@rkkeller - Both of my failed drives were WD Elements units, and they both failed within one year after I switched to repeated short write/erase cycles (recording several daily news programs and keeping only one copy of each). I’ll certainly be able to make a comparison between the Elements drives and SSD because I’ve already switched my Tablo to internal SSD and I’ve kept the same recording/erase schedule. I’m depending on the wear-leveling in the SSD to keep it alive for longer than the magnetic media survived.

But time will tell. I’ll let you know if or when I start seeing problems. Not a single hiccup so far though, works perfectly … for now.

People’s various experiences are interesting. I’ve been running a 1TB WD Elements drive for about 4 years now and also have a watch and delete routine where several things record each day and they are watched and deleted within a few days of being records.

I have 2 2-tuners each with WD 1TB element drives. they have been spinning away for over 8 years.

There is a backup script if you want to actually backup your drive and have a restoration path.