WARNING: EVERYTHING DONE TO THE APPLETV IN THIS TUTORIAL WILL VOID ANY WARRANTY YOU HAVE OR EVEN THINK YOU MAY HAVE ON YOUR APPLETV AS WELL AS QUITE POSSIBLY RENDER IT COMPLETELY USELESS.
WARNING: I MAKE ABSOLUTELY NO GUARANTEES THAT I WROTE THIS CORRECTLY. ITS FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY. IF YOU HOSE UP YOUR ATV DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT CRYING ABOUT IT HERE.
This process requires that you have some understanding of taking things apart and that you are familar with imaging a new hard drive for use in the AppleTV or that you are at least moderately comfortable with the terminal for the imaging process.
Abbreviations used in this mod:
PATA: Parallel ATA (sometimes referred to as IDE)
SATA: Serial ATA
eSATA: External Serial ATA
My ever growing expanse of movies, music etc. is overwhelming my current ATV internal hard drive. As well, I use my MacBook Pro for all of my iTunes needs and sometimes I do not have it at home, or not turned on to stream (plus I hate streaming if I don't have to). So streaming is not a solution for me, as well I prefer the performance of sync'ed content. The largest hard drive to come in the ATV is currently 160GB. Furthermore the hard drive interface for the ATV is PATA in a 2.5 inch form factor (same as a notebook drive) which limits the internal hard drive replacements currently available to 250GB.
The Current Solutions:
Other than installing the largest available internal hard drive replacement you can also hack the ATV software itself to enable using a usb hard drive from the AppleTV's usb port for storage ( the factory apple software only allows this port to be used for "diagnostic" purposes) however you are still booting from the internal hard drive and have to use 3 party software to allow accessing the media on the usb drive. The AwkwardTV crew has done a remarkable job hacking the ATV OS to enable all sorts of wonderful things including using the usb port for a remote drive. However, in my case I do not want to hack the Apple ATV OS. Frankly I like the stock ATV software and enjoy getting my updates from apple trouble free without having to rely on the crew over at AwkwardTV coming up with a hack/patch to re-enable my software mods. Call me lazy, but thats just me. I also do not really care for the slow performance of the USB interface.
So, I want a much larger hard drive for the atv and I want it easily upgradeable as digital media can eat up a ton of space. I also want to be able to use the Apple ATV OS completely un-hacked so I do not have to worry about my ATV being broken by an apple update etc. I also do not want to have to crack my ATV open any more than I have to down the road as I have to do it at night as the rest of my family has become solidly addicted to the on demand nature of using the ATV.
This Solution: AppleTV-eSATA (informally known as AppleTV-Rex, at least by me) .
The general idea here is to use an eSATA capable external hard drive as the ATV's main drive (read: no internal drive whatsoever). eSATA capable external drives up to 2 TB are getting more and more common and cheaper and cheaper. As a bonus almost every eSATA external drive also has a USB 2.0 interface which comes in handy for actually installing the AppleTV OS on the drive. In my case, I am using a Western Digital MyBook 500 GB Home Edition which has a triple interface (USB2.0, Firewire 400, and eSATA). I know, these drive have a notorious reputation for problems, but one: I already have it and two: I think many of the issues are due to people using the crappy WD software that comes with the drive. Since imaging it for the atv involves a complete repartition, that software is a non issue. One attractive feature of this is that since I am not modding the external hdd in any way, if I ever (gasp) decide to revert back or go to an even larger hard drive I can simply reformat the current external ATV hdd and use it for anything else I want like my ever growing media collection.
First you'll need a few parts:
- 44 pin hard drive extension cable ( NOT a standard laptop hdd cable) http://www.cablesonline.net/644fetomaide.html
for $9.99 U.S.
- 44 pin to 40 pin pata converter http://www.cablesonline.net/44pinto40pin.html
- Pata to Sata Bridge (local over the counter for me, you can order it online here): http://www.nanosys1.com/hd-cnt-cu-satahd-ide.html
or here even cheaper (thanks Cave Man) http://www.outletpc.com/c5573.html
- Sata to eSata Cable: Take your pick, many available all over the place I bought mine over the counter for about $10.00 US.
So, for about $47.00 plus shipping (depending what you have to order over the counter and what you can get online) plus the hard drive cost you can free yourself of the AppleTV's internal laptop drive limitations.
So, moving forward here we go.Getting the ATV Software off of the existing internal drive an onto the remote drive:
If you are using a mac you can try using a gui app I wrote to make this process much easier than using the command line. Its called AtvCloner and can be downloaded here for free:http://dynaflashtech.net/
Otherwise, here are some external links to some tutorials on how to do the same thing using the command line (note these are third party and I have not tried all of them nor do I vouch for them, they are merely listed here for reference) :
- Image the ATV software onto your mac: http://wiki.awkwardtv.org/wiki/Backup_y ... Hard_Drive
- Install the ATV software onto your new drive from the images you created above: http://wiki.awkwardtv.org/wiki/Prepare_a_Hard_Drive
Here are a couple of other useful tutorials that have worked well for some:
- Engadget using command line tools: http://de.engadget.com/2007/03/23/how-t ... -apple-tv/
- Engadget using iPartition: http://www.appletvhacks.net/2007/03/23/ ... e-process/
- Macworld's tutorial: http://www.macworld.com/article/57079/2 ... drive.html
So with that done and out of the way, how do we actually modify our ATV to be able to use the newly ready-for-primetime eSATA drive ? Take a deep breath and read on.
Since doing the steps above required you to already disassemble your ATV to the point where the base is removed and the stock hard drive is out. You have already voided your warranty (if you still *had* one) and part of the hardware work is done. The general idea here is we need to go from the ATV logic boards 2.5" PATA interface to an eSATA interface. There is no single adapter I am aware of at this time, so we need to do it in steps.Step 1: Replace stock hdd cable with new 44 pin pata extension cable.
Now in my previous attempts this seemed easy but proved to be a bit of a tough nut to crack, at least with my knowledge (or lack there of) of ide interfaces. We cannot simply plug the 44-pin to 40 pin adapter and pata to sata bridge into the board *and still close the AppleTV*. However you can to temporarily test your setup but you have to leave the bottom off of the atv and hook it up upside down as the card and adapter will point straight up off of the logic board (actually down but its up if the atv is upside down, capisce ?).
So we need to use a ribbon cable to get things laying flat so it can be crammed back into the atv case and closed up. The stock atv hdd cable *WILL NOT WORK*. Nor will any other hdd cable. Even though the ends have the same pin arrangement, ide hdd cables are paralleled in other words the two rows (top and bottom, depending on how you look at it) are reversed, the pata hdd's are pinned accordingly, our pata to sata bridge is not (since its meant to plug into the logic board). So you end up needing a 44 pin hdd extension cable http://www.cablesonline.net/644fetomaide.html
which will maintain the correct pinout as the logic board has. The one downfall to this particular cable is that the plastic on the end of the connectors is wider than the shroud that surrounds the pins on the atv's logic board. I simply used an exacto knife and cut the ends of the shroud to allow the wider connecter to fit. Pretty easy, the shroud is weak plastic anyway and has no real function as far as I can see. I would imagine that a more exhaustive search might turn up a cable that has ends that fit within the shroud though.Step 2: 2.5" 44 pin PATA ( End of our ribbon cable from step 1 ) to 3.5" 40 PIN PATA.
To do this I used a fairly common adapter used by techs, etc. to be able to connect a 2.5" notebook drive to a 3.5" IDE computer for troubleshooting etc. but I actually use it in reverse. Here is one link to get one http://www.cablesonline.net/44pinto40pin.html
These adapters run the pins straight through so they match pin for pin except for the power pins off of the 44-pin side which go to a molex connector. In this application it passes 5 volts and a ground. So connect the 44 pin female end of this adapter to the male pins on the 44 pin cable in step one. Note: at this point our ATV is setup for a 3.5" 40 Pin ATA interface.Step 3: 3.5" 40 Pin PATA interface to SATA interface.
For this step we need to use a PATA to SATA bridge adapter. This is a bit more complex than the adapter above as it requires its own board and chipset and power supply since we're adding a new controller layer to the ATV from PATA to the newer SATA. In my case, I used this http://www.nanosys1.com/hd-cnt-cu-satahd-ide.html
NOTE: There is currently no picture of this adapter on the website, furthermore it came in a Cables Online package but I cannot find it anywhere on their website either, but from searching and comparing in minute detail the specs, photos etc. I believe it to be this sata bridge http://www.syba.com/Product/Info/Id/295
from SYBA. It comes with a sata cable and a power plug with leads.
Warning: These bridges are a one way affair, in other words unlike the first adapter that can be installed in reverse, these cannot. For instance General Nanosystems also has a very similar looking adapter designed to connect a PATA Hard drive to a SATA logic board http://www.nanosys1.com/hd-cnt-cu-idehd-sata.html
. This will not work. I know because I made the mistake. Make sure whatever you do you get a bridge to go from a PATA logic board to a SATA hdd and not the other way around unless you find one specifically designed to go both ways.
Another bridge adapter that has been tried I've heard is the pata2sata bridge adapter from StarTech.com http://www.startech.com/item/PATA2SATA- ... apter.aspx
which has two sata ports (don't think thats of any use on our ATV mod) as well as looks to be physically larger at least in the pictures. I have no experience with this board but I mention it here as an option that could be tried.EDIT: The PATA2SATA bridge above has proven *not* to work for whatever the reason.
So, onward with our mod. The bridge/adapter will have a power cable designed to go to a floppy connecter in a mini tower. This connector is a four prong connecter with four leads one red, two black and one yellow. The red is 5 volt, the yellow is a 12 volt lead and the two blacks are both ground. The ATV supplies 5 volts out of its 44-pin pata socket and when you installed the 44-pin to 40-pin pata adapter that 5 volts is transferred out of the red wire in that adapter to the molex connector. So I cut the molex connector off and soldered the red wire and the black wire from that adapter to the red and black wires on the sata bridge/adapter power plug (use the black lead on the bridge adapter right next to the red one). You can do whatever you want with the yellow and 2nd black lead off of the bridge as they dead end anyway and the bridge does not use them. Voila, now we have our atv powering our new SATA bridge/adapter. Step 4: SATA to eSATA.
Now we can simply connect our new SATA port to our eSATA external drive via a SATA to eSATA cable. I am using a 1 meter cable. There is really no big deal to these cables except for two different style ends and eSATA cables are shielded better than SATA cables as they are intended for external use. Anyhow these are in plentiful supply. Here is an example of such a cable http://www.satagear.com/eSATA-100_SATA_Cable.html
though its not the one I used. At this point our ATV should go ahead and boot up off of the external hard drive if we power everything up. I suggest going ahead and doing this with the ATV open so if you need to change anything you can power down and do so without messing about with the enclosure. Just do not touch *anything* as long as your powered up. In my case, to be sure I was good to go on my drive imaging (especially since this is the first time I could even check it to make sure I had it right ) I went ahead and booted it up, checked Settings -> About to make sure the atv was correctly reading the hard drive size ( its kind of a shock to see almost 500GB or whatever on your AppleTV screen) then went and did a factory restore. Checked the drive space again, then did an upgrade to the latest AppleTV software rev. So now I have pretty good confidence all is well with my drive formatting.
Oh, and probably should put something around the card so it doesnt come in contact with anything metal. I had a piece of this silicon rubber anti slip stuff which is perforated for some airflow. I used that temporarily in this pic. Obviously something a bit nicer looking could be had easy enough.Step 5: Close it up:
We now have one last issue before we can call it a done deal and have a cold one. We need to modify the ATV case so we can close it up with the eSATA cable still running to our remote hard drive. Note that this is the only real modification of the ATV hardware itself. Since the back of the ATV is pretty crammed already with ports and I did not want to tangle with the aluminum/plastic top case, I decided to cut and bend an opening in the perforated metal bottom of the apple TV were it mates to the top at the back where the existing ports are. Just enough for the new eSATA cable and a bit of rubber around the cut so the eSATA cable is less likely to get nicked. This is the best place to create an opening in my opinion especially since all of the ATV's internals are mounted to the top. The bottom plate is an easily modified piece of sheet metal void of any delicate electronic parts, etc.
Now screw the bottom plate back on making sure that the eSATA cable is running out your new opening in the back/bottom. Leave that stupid rubber pad off and get yourself some cheap felt furniture leg feet at Home Depot or the like and stick those suckers on the bottom, they are about 3/16 inch thick and leave enough clearance under the ATV to allow for the eSATA cable opening out the back. Step 6: Hook up your remote hard drive and fire up the AppleTV eSata
So just plug your esata cable into your eSata port on your hard drive. Power up the hard drive and plug in your AppleTV ( I know, I know its a mess back there, I have since routed all of my cables better but you get the idea).
Then fire it up ...Step 6: Enjoy your beverage of choice while you sync hundreds of gigabytes of digital media to your ATV-eSata!
So far ... : So far I have had it running for a week or so and it has been used quite a bit. No issues that I can determine. After firing it up the first time I did do a factory restore and then updated to the latest version 2.2 software and it all went without a hitch. The AppleTV has no idea it is running on an external 500GB eSata drive. I have every reason to think that this will not be broken but future AppleTV updates. So yes it is a somewhat invasive mod initially, however the long term benefits should outweigh that imho as the need to fix software hacks etc as the latest and greatest comes forth from cupertino should be non-existent.
TO DO: I am thinking what would really cap this off would be an internal SATA Male to Female cable inside with some kind of screw mount to the ATV bottom (like here http://www.macgurus.com/productpages/sa ... Cables.php
second from the bottom), so you would actually just have a nice looking and convenient female eSATA port on the back instead of a couple feet of cable hanging out. Then you could plug in whatever eSATA cable you want from the ATV to the external drive without opening up the case again if you change your component layout in your entertainment system etc. . It would have to be pretty short though, the ATV doesn't have much room to coil up extra cable inside if its not the right length. Oh well, food for thought.
Final Note: As most of you know I absolutely hate writing and you can see my career as a pensmith is pretty much on the rocks. I am sure I forgot something somewhere but ... oh well. I will edit this and/or add to it for anyone that want's to have a wack at it. Now that its done would I do it again ? Ab-So-Freaking-Lutely. Now that I got it to work and scrounged the right parts, I would in a heartbeat. Just get a 40GB AppleTV (if you don't already have one) and your good to go. The AppleTV's are pretty sturdy actually, you can see by the base plate I have had mine apart like 100 times and hooked the ribbon cable up backward and all sorts of stuff testing different cable/adapter configs and it would always bounce right back when the original internal drive was hooked back up. I am actually pretty impressed with it.