Quiet Tivo Disk Mod (for UK Series 1s)

Ever since I upgraded the disk in my Tivo to a Samsung SP1213N the disk has been noisy – with a low frequency hum that resonates with the case and also the dimensions of my room. Having found the normal tricks of padding under the feet and so on didn't damp the noise enough I decided in some radical surgery to try and fix the problem. I also wanted to improve the cooling of the hard disk as part of another project to disconnect the fan as well!

This page shows how I made the mods to quieten the hard disk. It only works on single-drive machines (for reasons which will become obvious). The results are very impressive. The hard disk is now completely inaudible on the Tivo.

Please note that this modification risks damage to your Tivo and also to yourself. Proceed at your own risk!

Doing the Hardware Modification

The basis for my mod is the Zalman ZM-2HC1 hard disk cooler and noise isolator. Mine came from QuietPC.com, but there are quite a few suppliers in the UK. The Zalman kit contains a cradle for the disk which includes heat-pipes to cool it and rubber insulated feet to isolate the case from any disk vibrations. The rubber feet are much better than the blue rubber grommets which are part of the Tivo's normal hard disk mounting bracket.

To install the disk with the Zalman kit I wanted to avoid making any changes to the main Tivo case if I could, but I was happy to make changes to the disk mounting bracket. It is in fact possible to mount the disk and the Zalman kit directly on to the normal Tivo hard disk bracket, but this doesn't leave enough room to get the lid back on the Tivo! You therefore need to lower disk inside the case. To do this I decided to remove the two flanges that normally hold the disk on to the Tivo hard disk bracket. In order to be able to fit the screws through the bracket with these removed you have to adjust the positioning of the bracket in the case so that it sits between the two normal mounting points. This lets the screws for the hard disk hang in to the space below the Tivo's hard disk frame (the photos make this all a lot clearer in a minute)!

To start the modification: power-off and disconnect your Tivo. Open the case and remove the disk. (see Hisdale's Guide for how to do this). Disconnect the drive from the mounting bracket by releasing the four screws on the bracket.

Now is a good time to make sure that Samsung's acoustic noise control is active on the drive. To do this you need to connect it to your PC and use the DOS program “hutil” from http://www.samsung.com/Products/HardDiskDrive/utilities/hutil.htm to set “Automatic Acoustic Management” to “Quiet”. I recommend you make a backup of your Tivo drive (see Hinsdale again) before you run this utility. Remember you must not boot Windows 2000 or Windows XP when there is a Tivo drive attached to your PC.

Take the Tivo hard disk bracket and remove the four screws and also the four brass collars and the four blue rubber grommets that hold the disk in place. To remove the grommets first push the collars out, and then squeeze the grommets through the slots in the side of the hole.

Now comes the fun part – modifying the bracket to take the disk with the Zalman kit installed.

Take a deep breath. Take the bracket and saw off the two flanges used to mount the the disk (figure 1). Its a good idea to leave a bit of the edge of the flange still in place as this gives the bracket some more rigidity.

Figure 1 – Cut off the flanges

Having cut off the flanges you now need to cut slots so the blue grommets can be inserted in the remaining frame (figure 2).

Figure 2 – Cut slots in to the mounting holes

Now you need to add two holes the the bracket to allow it to sit in between the two normal mounting points. The first hole should be on the front end of the bracket 3cm in from the inner one already there as indicated on figure 3. Make this hole the same size as the pre-existing one. The second hole should be added to the bent-over end of the bracket in the same relative position to the existing hole.

Figure 3 – Drilling the first hole

Now use a fine file to take off any rough edges and loose metal from the bracket. Reinstall the blue grommets and brass collars exactly as they were on the unmodified bracket. You now need to take the four screws that used to hold the hard disk to the bracket and cut about 3mm off the ends to make them fit in the smaller rubber feet from the Zalman kit.

Install the heat-pipe cradle around the hard disk as shown in the Zalman instructions. Screw the four rubber feet from the Zalman kit in to the bottom of the hard disk. Now use the Tivo screws to fix the bracket to the bottom of the feet on the disk. The sideways on view in figure 4 shows how the whole assembly fits together.

Figure 4 – Disk and Zalman kit screwed to bracket

Now you are ready to install the bracket back in the Tivo. The bracket sits between the two normal disk mounting points in the Tivo and uses one fixing position from each side. Refer to figure 5. Note the position of the screws to hold the bracket in place (marked with a red dot).

Figure 5 – Bracket reinstalled in the Tivo

You can now reconnect the drive, replace the lid of the Tivo case and off you go. Enjoy some peace and quiet.