Pioneer DVR recorder harddisk recovery

By dose | November 14, 2014
Under: Uncategorized

I recently was asked if I could take a look at a Pioneer DVR-633H Harddisk-Recorder as it always booted up with the “Hdd Error” message. So this was quite obvious: A dying harddisk.
When I opened up the case, I found a Seagate 250GB IDE drive in it and after finally dismounting it and connecting it to a PC, I was happy to see that it was still accessible. There were bad sectors on it, for example the first 2 sectors were bad, but I was lucky: A lot of sectors of the harddisk were still readable!
So next I searched the internet to check how to recover data from it.
I found a few scripts that people wrote to recover their harddisks, for example this one by Mike Knoop and – even better – this one by Stefan Haliner that supports multiple recorders.

However, I wasn’t really satisfied with the results. Both scripts just dump consecutive MPEG-chunks to files and leave the task of manually merging them to the user.
The first one spit out over 1700 chunks, reassembling them would have been a tedious task. Most notably the splitting was often also wrong. The second one was a bit better, there weren’t so many chunks left, but it also required me to look through all the chunks and merge/split them to reconstruct the movies.

So these solutions didn’t really satisfy me, I didn’t want to have so much work just to recover data from them. Therefore I decided to analyze the disk image myself with a Hex-editor. I found out that there are some block directories on it that looked like pointers to the blocks a movie is made of. This encouraged me to look further and after some days of analysis, I finally found out how data is stored on these drives and was able to write a litte Windows-program that parses the drive structure and dumps the movies together with their names and their recording date.

I hope that this is also useful for other users suffering from the same problem. Of course it’s written entirely in C, no scripting languages needed. If you want me to port it to Linux, just write a comment or send me an e-mail. I explained the recovery procedure and the technical deatils about the on-disk format in the README file.
You can find everything here: >> Download <<.

I’d love to hear from you if this possibly also works for other recorders or even other brands.. Who knows, maybe it’s a standardised format, it mostly looks a bit like something from the DVD-Standard.

7 comments | Add One

Comments

  1. Martin - 12/16/2014 at 12:14

    Hallo, nachdem in der “About”-Seite steht, dass es sich um einen deutschen Blog handelt, versuch ichs zunächst auf Deutsch.
    Ich habe einen DVR 545H, bei dem der oben genannte HDD-Fehler auftritt. Die HDD scheint aber lesbar, ein erster beauftragter Datenretter konnte lediglich mit den enthaltenen Daten nichts anfangen, da er die Verschlüsselung nicht erkannt hat/sich nicht ausgekannt hat.

    Nun habe ich zwei konkrete Fragen: Da ich selbst technisch nicht völlig unbegabt bin, aber einerseits gerade nicht die Zeit habe mit stundenlang einzuarbeiten und andererseits auch mein Knowhow möglicherweise nicht reicht, hätte ich die Frage, ob es Ihnen möglich ist, sich – gegen großzügige Entlohnung – meines Problems anzunehmen und die Rettung der auf der HDD enthaltenen Filme zu versuchen, da Sie das Problem gelöst zu haben scheinen.

    Oder, falls Sie dies nicht machen wollen und können, wissen Sie, ob Ihre Lösung auch für andere als das beschriebene Gerät 633H funktioniert, oder können Sie das Programm anpassen?

    Bitte kontaktieren Sie mich unter der genannten Mailadresse. Viele Grüße,
    Martin Oltsch

  2. Denis Barrachina Claudio - 04/3/2016 at 12:35

    Hi,

    habe versucht dein Programm für den 550H anzupassen, also dachte ich mir ich geh vom 545 aus, leiser stoße ich immer auf Probleme. Wäre es möglich das du mir Helfen könntest?

    Wenn ja schreib mir einfach eine E-Mail.

    Danke^^
    Denis

  3. Jelle Jelsma - 05/8/2016 at 23:03

    I can confirm that pioneer_rec for the DVR-663H works as well for the DVR-530H. Thanks for your mighty fine work. I recovered quite some irreplaceable videos thanks to you.

  4. Scott - 05/15/2016 at 15:58

    Hi,

    Just wondering if it would be easy to add a feature that allowed the user to just plug in the Pioneer’s HDD into the computer and just read the MPEG files from it – without having to create an image first?

    I still have a working HDD and would like to transfer my family VHS to this device but I’m finding it very slow and tedious to have to create DVDs to transfer them to my computer.

  5. Jon - 09/13/2016 at 10:41

    Great work! It turns out that the DVR550H version also works for Sony RDR-HXDx90 disks as well, since it is essentially a Pioneer machine.

    I had been trying to do the same as you in a hex editor when I came across your post.

    My real aim is to be able to transfer files from an original hard disk to a new, larger one. So far I have been able to clone a drive, by identifying the hardware-specific portion of the new drive and keeping that, but using a bigger disk is proving trickier.

    Thanks for your excellent work!
    Jon

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