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Old 06-28-2007   #1
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Default Hard Drive Failures Cause Home Theater Hatred

Imagine you made an enormous investment in time and money to rip your entire collection of music and movies onto your computerís hard drive, or more likely an external drive or storage device. The power of having such a vast collection of movies and music at your fingertips is the unadulterated sex appeal behind the idea of PC convergence. There is motivation to buy networking devices and media center PCs loaded with software from computer companies over more black-box gear from traditional home theater companies. You could potentially transmit a DVD through your wireless system to your den. You could maybe even access a few albums from your hotel roomís Internet connection during a trip to Hong Kong, enabling you to have some new music on your iPod for the long flight home. You could also whip up a custom playlist for your themed dinner party. You would be the king of all things convergence.

That is until one of your hard drives loaded with your vast collection of media catastrophically and irrecoverably fails. Increasingly, this is happening to computer users and home theater enthusiasts alike.

Ten to fifteen years ago the most important element of a high-end audiophile or home theater system was sheer performance. Today, the custom installers and integrators of the world have proven performance to be far less important than reliability. But in a PC-driven world, the demand for bigger and faster hard drives results in products that meet mass market price points but leave consumers with components that fail quickly.

As an example, look at many of the most popular DirecTV TiVo digital video recorders in a typical home theaterís video system. Anyone who has owned a TiVo generally falls in love with its ease of use and simplicity, especially when trying to record and manage programming in HD. The problem is when a hard drive fails (and they fail frequently), leaving that old episode of The Sopranos or an interview you really wanted to see on Keith Olbermann stuck on your DVRís hard drive forever, with no hope of ever recovering it. To DirecTVís credit, they are quick to replace the hardware, however, in my system I must have cycled through six or seven different players Ė all with hard drive failures. The simple fact is, the parts that make up PC convergence products, like external hard drives, DVRs and many components inside the computers, use in the scope of a home theater component are not designed to take the abuse, or last as long as the home theater enthusiast is used to.

There is nothing a home theater enthusiast or even a home theater manufacturer can do to slow the growth of PC convergence. The idea, as well as the reality of convergence is coming to a home theater system near you, whether you like it or not. The moral of the story is, much like with your main computer, you must always back up your media Ė be it music, movies, photos or beyond - in a way that even if you have a massive failure in your system, especially on one of the growing numbers of hard drives, you can recover your loss. In my case, I have three backups of my music collection and when two of them went bad on the same day, amazingly I was safe. With the cost of DVD-R discs going down, many people use this vehicle as a backup. When recordable Blu-ray and or HD DVD discs hit the market with even larger storage capacities, it will be even easier to make a reasonable backup. Lastly, donít sell your discs. Legally, you need the discs in your possession to have the music or movies on your hard drive. While itís unlikely the hard drive police are coming to your house for an audit of your media center PC, another reason you want to keep your discs stored somewhere neatly, is that there is always the chance you may need them for a last-ditch backup.
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Old 06-29-2007   #2
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Smile Re: Hard Drive Failures Cause Home Theater Hatred

I have found it is better to run two reliable hard drives, and also partition the 1st hard drive into 2 partitions, 5-10 GB for program, and the rest of the drive for data. Then I backup the entire C drive to the 2nd hard drive. I also use Norton Ghost for DVD backups of my C and D drives.

I only purchase either western digital or Seagate cheetah hard drives. Maxtor and other drives typically produce more platter noise, and tend to crash.
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Old 06-29-2007   #3
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Default Re: Hard Drive Failures Cause Home Theater Hatred

One way to avoid this is to keep your music backed up on a second hard drive now that big drives are so cheap. Me? I want to hear the CD, not my computer.
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Old 06-29-2007   #4
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Default Re: Hard Drive Failures Cause Home Theater Hatred

This is why, if you're going to install a Media Center PC other HTPC device, you incorporate network attached storage running automatic backup software. The Niveus storage server comes with really good software that will automatically back up everything based on schedules you can set. The new Windows Home Server will also do a fantastic job of backing up all of the digital content in your home.

It's no different than backing up your digital pictures or finacial files - all digital content in the home should be backed up on a regular basis. To blame the Media Center of HTPC device for failing and losing all of your data is silly when an extra step could have prevented it. Look - if your home PC failed and lost your data because you didn't back it up you wouldn't suddenly come to the conclusion that a PC (or a MAC for that matter) just doesn't belong in your home. The same is true of a PC-based device running your media system.

I can't speak for TiVo - personally I had one for a month and hated it. The TV guide plus all of the other features on my Niveus Media Center detroys even the new HD TiVo. But I'm biased...
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Old 07-03-2007   #5
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Default Re: Hard Drive Failures Cause Home Theater Hatred

I can say I`m not ready for PC convergence. Though, while I can see the obvious convenience in having all video/audio/pictures/etc. together, I still believe that it should be separate. I will continue to have separate systems in different rooms, and use my PC or MAC when I need to. And I`ll just use my cds, dvds, blu-ray, whatever, no need for back up.

And while I`m not a computer junkie, in this world where most consumers are convenience first, sound quality a distant second, plug and play, how many consumers are backing up all their content? It makes sense, but how many people are really doing that?
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Old 07-06-2007   #6
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Default Re: Hard Drive Failures Cause Home Theater Hatred

I can say I`m not ready for PC convergence. Though, while I can see the obvious convenience in having all video/audio/pictures/etc. together, I still believe that it should be separate. I will continue to have separate systems in different rooms, and use my PC or MAC when I need to. And I`ll just use my cds, dvds, blu-ray, whatever, no need for back up.


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No matter what - PC convergence is here.

Your cable company or sat provider will force it on you. Your HD players force it on you. Your DVR will force it on you. And so on.

I could accept it better if Intel figures out how to make HDCP copy protection work better. Its a joke now. I am not trying to steal content. Why can't my system work right when copy protected?
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