How to Upgrade Your AppleTV with a 160GB Hard Drive

I have posted many times about how much I love the AppleTV, and more importantly, how much my son Jacob loves the AppleTV. But after ripping about 20 DVDs, the original hard drive had just run out of room. 40GB is just not enough.

This afternoon I took an hour and upgraded the AppleTV to a 160GB. The upgrade went pretty smoothly, but I thought it was worth sharing my experience here.

First, instructions. I found a lot of these on the web, but many dated from the original launch, and I found after investigation that they were overly complex. I ended up using these excellent instructions from Engadget, and for the most part, they were complete and easy to understand.

Since I’m linking to the instructions, let me highlight some of the things not typically covered. For example, what did I buy?

I bought the following things:

I love getting new tools, and the Husky Torx set is finally going meet my needs long term. It’s so cool. And you need a T8 and T10 to open the AppleTV, because there are 2 sets of screws. From my old Mac repair days, I had a T10, but not a T8.

I spent a little more on a hard drive case for the old drive because I figured a 40GB portable USB hard drive might come in handy, and this case doesn’t require 2 USB plugs for power and had good reviews.

Step 1: Removing the Old Drive

This went according to plan, except that I ripped the rubber bottom a little when I was removing it. There was no warning about this, so just be really careful when you peel it off. It actually isn’t a big square – it wraps around the edges more than I first thought.

The first set of screws actually come in 2 sizes! Make sure to remember where the long ones go vs. the short ones. It’s easy to tell because when you look inside the box, one set of holes is on posts and doesn’t need a long screw.

Two things are on the original hard drive – a flat, peel off pad between the hard drive and the case, and a small stick-on pad between the hard drive and the internal components. In order to get the hard drive out, it’s best to wiggle the ATA plug free with your fingernails, and then peel the drive free. The instructions didn’t really cover this.

Step 2: Disk image of the old drive

This was much easier than I thought. I just plugged the old AppleTV HD into my new case, and plugged it into my PowerMac G5 running Mac OS 10.4.9. Open up the Terminal application, because as they said in Jurassic Park, “Oh, it’s a UNIX system!”

The drive actually has two partitions: OSBoot & Media. The instructions given by Engadget actually have you back up the entire drive, but since you only need OSBoot, I improvised. OSBoot is only 900MB, and Media is 36GB. Since the copy over USB was handling about 2MB per second, I didn’t have the patience to copy 36GB that I was never going to use.

So, here is the command line sequence that I used:

PowerSmash-G5:~ adamnash$ diskutil list

#: type name size identifier
0: GUID_partition_scheme *37.3 GB disk6
1: EFI 34.0 MB disk6s1
2: 5265636F-7665-11AA-AA11-00306543ECAC 400.0 MB disk6s2
3: Apple_HFS OSBoot 900.0 MB disk6s3
4: Apple_HFS Media 36.0 GB disk6s4

This gave me a much longer list, which I’m truncating here. diskutil list gives you the complete list of mounted drives, and most importantly, gives you the actually volume name for your AppleTV drive (in my case, /dev/disk6)

I then modified the “dd” command that Engadget recommends, truncating it to the size I needed:

PowerSmash-G5:~ adamnash$ dd if=/dev/disk6 count=1335 of=/Users/adamnash/Desktop/AppleTV.img bs=1024k

1335+0 records in
1335+0 records out
1399848960 bytes transferred in 1055.788885 secs (1325880 bytes/sec)

So now I had my AppleTV.img disk image sitting on my desktop. Awesome.

Step 3: Create New Drive

This was a lot more command line fun than I thought. Engadget’s instructions here were spot on. Since Engadget actually doesn’t explain the steps in plain english, here’s what you are actually doing:

  1. Moving the old disk image to the new hard drive
  2. Deleting the “Media” partition, since it’s too small
  3. Creating a new “Media” partition that is as big as your new drive will allow
  4. Formatting the new “Media” partition as HFS+ Journaled
  5. Deleting any Spotlight directories from OSBoot and Media

Through it all, I became really impressed with gpt and diskutil as command line operators. Very powerful.

Step 4: Install New HD in AppleTV

This was really easy. The key for me was to put the sticky pads from the old HD on the new HD first, then reattach the IDE cable. Once that was done, I screwed the HD in place onto the base. I then put the base back on the AppleTV, and put in the 4 screws that hold it together. I then re-applied the rubber.

Step 5: It’s Alive!

I rushed it back to my bedroom and hooked up the power & HDMI. Worked perfectly, and now has 145GB of space for media. Basically, it acted like a brand new AppleTV, so I did have to walk through setup and connect it with my iTunes. But it just worked.

Epilogue: Do I recommend this?

Ironically, Apple started selling a 160GB AppleTV this week for $399. That’s $150 over the $249 for the 40GB version. So why would you ever do this?

I thought about this today, and basically, the only reason you’d do this is:

  • You already have a 40GB AppleTV
  • You love to play with command lines and hardware

Fortunately, these both apply to me. Your mileage may vary.

I’d rate this install as harder than installing a new hard drive in a laptop computer, but only because of the rubber and the command line fun.

Investment Lessons from 1957

Wow. Who knew cartoons from 50 years ago were this educational?

Many thanks to Get Rich Slowly for this one.

Here’s a 1957 cartoon about the virtues of stock market investing from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Fred Finchley is a family man with a good job, a lovely wife, two rambunctious children, and all the conveniences of modern life. What he doesn’t have, however, is enough money to pay for his dream vacation.

When Finchley’s boss gives him a raise of $60 a month, he faces a dilemma. Should he use the money for savings? For a couple of nights on the town with his wife every month? The NYSE suggests that Finchley put his money to work in the stock market with a “monthly investment plan”.

“Working Dollars” does a good job of explaining how dollar cost averaging works. The cartoon makes a case for small, regular investments. Investing isn’t just for tycoons — using a monthly investment plan, even the average family can begin to acquire wealth.

It may not seem like it, but this cartoon was extremely well thought out, and the personal finance advice it offers is just as applicable today. Of course, I’m not sure how excited anyone would be with a $60/month raise right now, but I’m pretty sure the point is made with $600/month or more.

The most interesting subtlety is highlighted well by Get Rich Slowly, and I couldn’t agree more. The biggest danger in personal finance is lifestyle inflation, the tendency to increase expenses with any increase in income. The danger is, of course, that income is hardly reliable, but once you get used to a certain lifestyle, it’s incredibly hard to dial down expenses. This is particularly topical for people who work in high risk/high volatility jobs, like technology and sales. Even if you have steady pay, retirement often involves a shock to the system in terms of income.

A neat find.

Battlestar Galactica: Season 4 is the End

Earth or bust.

There has been a lot of coverage of this, so I’ll just point to the best article on the topic that I’ve read on SyFy Portal. The 22 episodes that will begin in January 2008 will be the last of the series.

Kudos to the producers and writers for capping this series off with a game plan and a strong finish. With these serial dramas, I’m beginning to have more and more respect for the teams that have the sense to not draw them out endlessly. Check out this quote from Ronald Moore:

“The temple gave D’Ann (Lucy Lawless) the glimpse of the Final Five that triggers the beacon that points the way to Earth,” Moore said. “At that point, you’re promising the audience that you were moving toward revelation. By the end of the season, we had taken that moment to decide that we were going to reveal four of the Final Five, and one of the characters had been to Earth and seen it.

“That’s probably the moment when we started feeling it. If we don’t start moving in that direction, you get to a place where you just feel like you’re jerking off the audience or treading water instead of just moving forward and pushing limits. We didn’t want to be in that position.”

Another interesting tidbit was some additional detail on “Razor”, the BSG made-for-TV movie airing this fall.