External HDD

THIS IS BASED ON THE INITIAL VERSION OF THE FAQ ON THE TOPFIELD AUSTRALIA FORUM. IT WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN IN DECEMBER 2010 (initial draft was used in preparing the following discussion) Substantially updated by IanL-S 12-02-2014

Using External HDD with your Toppy PVR

All recent Toppy PVRs support in various ways external hard disk drives (HDDs). The precise nature of the support depends on the Toppy model and firmware version. Unfortunately, the user manuals do not fully describe the level of support for external HDDs. The objective of this Tips and Tricks posting is collate the collective wisdom of the users of this forum supplemented by my own testing of support in three models; the 7100, 7100+, and 2400/2460/2470.

Will my external HDD work with my Toppy?

HDDs up to 1TB 'officially' supported [Discussion relocated and expanded 12-02-14]

Officially supported: With the exception of the 7050/7060, the maximum external HDD is 1TB (only 500 gigs for the 7050/7060). This is determined by the partition size, not the physical size of the HDD. TMS Toppy will mount multiple partition on the one external HDD.

Unofficially supported: Drives of up to 2TB have been successfully used. Larger drives will probably not be recognised, and if they are there may be reliability issues.

The TMS Toppy firmware does not support 3TB or 4TB drives, as it uses a rather ancient Linux kernal. They do not support drives formatted as a GPT-formatted (which is used for drives larger than 2TB), only those with the older MBR-format, which has max size of about 2TB. If I recall correctly, it is possible to use MBR with 3TB and 4TB HDD, but you need two partitions to make full use of the HDD. It is not know if a Toppy with recognise such partitions. It is not known if more recent Toppys that use Android rather than Linux support GPT-formatted HDDs.

2TB Support: In early 2015 the TRF-2460 started shipping with a 2TB internal HDD, so it appears that the ancient Linux kernel used by TMS Toppys supports HDDs up to 2TB (the max size supported by MBR-format).

Only self-powered external HDDs 'officially' supported

While you may be able to get some external HDDs that do not have their own power supply to work with your Toppy, they are not designed to support them. This is sated explicitly in most, but not all, manuals. You can use them if you connect them by a powered USB hub. [Discussion of powered USB hub added 06-12-14]]

Drives with multiple partitions [Discussion added 12-02-14]

TMS Toppys will recognise multiple partitions on an external HDD. It is assumed that the max number of partitions is determined by the MBR specifications (Toppys do not support GPT).

Brand-name external HDDs

Powered external HDD from reputable manufacturers such as Western Digital, Seagate, Hitachi and Samsung should work with you Toppy.

External enclosures and docking stations

Some HDD enclosures have controller chips that have trouble talking to some or all Toppys.
Ones that seem to work
Astone USB2/eSATA
Ones that do not seem to work
Vantec NextStar CX USB3
Vantec NextStar CX USB2/eSATA combo

Interface supported

All recent Toppys have one or more USB 2 ports. Some models also have an eSATA port.

The USB ports will support USB 1, USB 2 and USB 3 external HDD; however, USB 3 drives are only supported in legacy mode (that is they operate as a USB 2 device).

While the USB ports on TMS and TMS+ Toppys are rated as USB 2, the firmware apparently does not make full use of the transfer speeds possible with USB 2. The transfer speed is also affected by the file system used on the particular partition.
[paragraph added 12-02-14]

Maximum number of external drives

A Toppy PVR can support multiple external HDDs. For example, a 2400/2460 can support up to 4 drives (3 via USB 2 and 1 by eSATA). It is also possible to use an USB HUB to access multiple drives. How successful this will be depends on the particular hub (particularly if it is powered) and the firmware of the Toppy.

Files systems support

It is often difficult to determine which file systems are supported by a particular model. Also, the file system used when the Toppy formats an external drive can differ between models and firmware versions.

For each supported file system type, the support can be:
1. Read and write: you can copy files to and from the external drive in addition to reading them.
2. Recording: The Toppy can record directly to the external HDD (direct recording is only supported by some models).

All models appear to support FAT formatted drives; however, the maximum file size of 4 gigs means that FAT format should be used as a last resort for video files. The other file systems that can be used include JFS, ext2, Silicon Graphics SFX and NTFS. The various file systems are discussed below. Since the Toppy's firmware is based on the Linux kernel, it is probable that is capable of supporting SFX as well as JFS, and ext2 file systems. Only the TRF-2100 and TF-T6000 "officially" support XFS. The TRF-7260 uses SFX file system on its internal HDD (TRF-7260_English_UserReference_v01_Jan2013, p40), although this has not been confirmed. The TF-T600 initially used XFS but in release firmware this was changed to JFS. [discussion updated 12-02-14]

The table below summarises support with the latest firmware at 31 December 2010 (Freeview crippled models are not included).
Support for file systems in red has not been documented - it may not be recognised by the Toppy.

TRF-2400 Masterpiece HD, TRF-2400 Masterpiece HD Plus, TRF-2470, TRF-7170 and TF7100HDPlus
JFS and ext2: r, w, c, rec
NTFS: r, w, c

JFS and ext2: r, w, c
NTFS: r, w, c

TRF-7260 [discussion added 12-02-2014]
JFS and ext2: r, w, c
NTFS: r, w, c

TRF-2100 [discussion added 12-02-2014]
JFS and ext2: r, w, c
NTFS: r, w, c
XFS: r, w, c

TF-T6000 [discussion added 12-02-2014]
JFS and ext2: r, w, c
NTFS: r, w, c
XFS: r, w, c
August 2014 firmware the external HDD needs to be formatted by the Toppy in order to be recognized for recording:
Menu> Installation>System recovery>Format Ext hard drive.

TF-T6211 [discussion added 18-11-2014]
ext2: r, w, c
NTFS: r, w, c

TF7100HDPVRt and TF7000HDPVRt:
JFS and ext2: r, w, c, rec
NTFS not supported

NTFS: r, w, c
JFS and ext2: r, w, c

TRF7060 and TF7050HDRt:
FAT: r, w, c
JFS and ext2: r, w, c

r = Toppy can read files on the external HDD
w = Toppy can copy files to the external HDD
c = Files can be copied from the external HDD to the internal HDD. For models other than 7160, 7100+ and 2400/2460 video file limited to files previously copied from the internal HDD to the external HDD.
rec = Toppy can record directly to the external HDD. Some firmware versions do not support recording to external HDD; in post October 2011 firmware external recording can only take place in very limited circumstances. Only 1 timer can be present, which makes it effectively useless facility.

Copying files to and from external drive while recording

Files can be copied from the internal HDD while the unit is recording to the internal HDD, but files cannot be copied from an external drive while the unit is recording (only tested on 2400 and 7100+).

You cannot copy files from an external HDD while the Toppy is recording to the internal HDD, however, you can copy from the internal HDD to an external HDD.

Formatting external HDD

With the 7000, 7100, 7100+, 7160 and 2400/2460/2470 you can format an external drive using the Toppy. Depending on the model, the drive will be formatted as either JFS (7100+, 7160 and 2400/2460/2470) or ext2 (7100 and 7000).

Which file system is best?

The file system used will affect the speed at which files can be copied between the internal HDD and external HDD. Testing by JaffaMan (see below) the fastest speed is achieved using JFS, the ext2 followed by NTFS. The XFS file system which is recognised by the TRF-2100 and TF-T6000 is very slow. All recent versions of Windows have native support for NTFS, but do not support JFS, ext2 or XFS . There is selection third party software that will allow Windows based PCs to read, and sometimes write to, external HDDs formatted using ext2, JFS and XFS files systems. [paragraph updated 12-02-14]

Test results from JaffaMan:

The following is from a 2460 running May 2010 firmware:

  • NTFS formatted external disk over esata 17GB/hr
  • EXT2 formatted external disk over USB 2.0 22GB/hr
  • FTP - Filezilla over wired ethernet 40 GB/hr (For those interested 40 GB/Hr is about the physical limit of 100 Mbps ethernet. (100 Mbps = 100/8 MB/s ~ 12 MB/s = approx 40GB/hr).
  • JFS formatted external disk over esata 78GB/hr

From a 7000 with ext2 formatted external drive over USB 2.0 running 1.00.10 firmware:

  • EXT2 formatted external disk over USB 2.0 26GB/hr

Formatting drives using JFS ext2, and XFS; reading JFS, ext2 and XFS drives

These file systems being native to Linux, you need to be running Linux to format a hard disk using that file system. To read and write to JFS, ext2 or XFS partitions you can use a Linux live CD or possibly a Linux virtual machine using virtualisation software such as VMware. The latter can be fiddly. This will also allow you to format an external drive as either JFS, ext2, or XFS. With some Linux distributions, the live CD does not include a graphical interface for disk formatting and you have to use the command line (which is also used if you use a Linux recovery CD). For this reason, the Ubuntu 10.10 live CD should be avoided, but (if my recollection serves me well) there is one in Ubuntu 10.04. [updated 12-02-2014]

Reading JFS, ext2 and XFS drives under Windows

There is no native support for JFS, ext2 or XFS under windows. There are utilities that allow you to read partitions formatted using these files systems, and there are some that can do file recovery for such partitions. Some are free and others must be purchased. My tool of choice is UFS Explorer Standard Recovery which can read and recover files on on partitions using a wide range of file systems. Last time I checked it cost about 40 Euro.

There is a report on the Topfield Australia Forum by 2460user with fxproxy. It was slow (ie 8 hours overnight for about 180GB) but easy enough to use.

Link to Windows Version
Link to Linux Version

In November 2016 the ability to read JFS drives was added to TFtool

7000 and 7100HDPVRt External HDD Support

Using an external HDD with these older HD Toppys is discussed here, as is file system repair.

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