Trouble with Panasonic DVD recorder

Discussion in 'Off Topic Lounge' started by Revell-Fan, Jul 24, 2013.

  1. Revell-Fan

    Revell-Fan Co-Administrator Administrator

    Hi, guys!

    Some of you might have wondered why the updates of my threads are coming in so sparingly lately. Reason for that is my malfunctioning DVD recorder.

    My first was a Philips, bought nine years ago. A simple drive-only one with direct recording. A really fine thing which served me well. After 18 months of use it refused to recognise any DVDs (even commercial ones) and would burn the dics "to death" so-to-speak. In the following 2.5 months it experienced quite an odyssey. It went from my place to my TV shop, from the TV shop to the Philips service center, then back to the shop and to me - three times in a row. Even though the error was still apparent the service center claimed the device was working properly. In the end the service center confirmed that there was an error which they couldn't fix. They offered me a replacement - with lesser features. That was it. I thrashed the damned thing with a hammer (gee, what a joy :twisted:) and switched to Panasonic.

    The Panasonic DMR EH 56 came with a 160 GB hard disk and worked well - till it broke down one day (shortly after the warranty had expired) and refused to burn any DVDs. There was still some data on the HDD which could be played but not tranferred to DVDs any longer. It was not lost and could be transferred onto a new DVD recorder via Scart. So the problem could be solved by getting a new device. The quality degradation during the transfer was negligible.

    Since Panasonic offered (and still offers) the best sound and picture quality the choice was easy to get another Pana DVD recorder. This time it was a DMR EX 635 with a 250 GB HDD. It served me well - till (you may guess, shortly after the warranty had expired) the recorder broke down. It mixed up new recordings with old recordings and suddenly showed me a blue screen with a text reading "The hard disk has to be be formatted. Do you want to format the hard disc?" with the option "NO" greyed out. That was quite a bummer. The disc was almost completely full - and the data couldn't be transferred to any other disc any more! A quick check at the TV shop revealed the bitter truth: The device couldn't be re-instated unless the hard disc was formatted. I told them to pull the plug immediately in order to minimize the data loss.

    There I was. With 210 GB of unique data (mainly live shows and documentaries) trapped inside a machine which was unable to access them any longer.

    I had one last hope: If the recorder worked like a PC the data could still be on the disc. Invisible but still there. You have to know that data which is deleted from your machine is not gone; it just doesn't appear in the machine's directory. The same is true of the data when a hard disc is formatted. The information is still on the disc unless it is overwritten by new data. So I spent many many hours surfing the www for instructions and tutorials on rescuing and retrieving data from a defective hard disc or a defective machine. One evening (it was way past midnight) I was googling for the possibility of rescuing data from a Pana DVD recorder HDD - and found the site of Stefan Haller. A German guy - and a genious. He successfully managed to retrieve all the hard disc data from a broken EH 56! Moreover, he wrote a powerful python script called "dvr-recover" which made it possible to find movie files in the hex code of the device, sort them and save them on your PC.

    The next days I worked hard to regain access to my data. I got a 1 TB external hard disc for the rescue attempt, plugged the recorder HDD into my machine, copied the hex code and ran the script. It found almost 15800 video files, partially heavily fragmented, including one 1.86 GB big file consisting of 316 (!) chunks. Unlike Stefan I managed to get everything wih Windows only :twisted: (he used Linux).

    Now you know what I was "cooking" behind the scenes. At the moment I'm still re-arranging and sorting the fragments which hasn't been re-combined by the script in order to restore my recordings which may take a while.

    When the rescue operation is complete I'll put the HDD back into the recorder to see if I can still use it as a backup. Meanwhile I have bought my third Panasonic DVD recorder. Some of you may think this is crazy since they tend to bite the dust after 2.5 years but as I said they offer the best picture and sound quality. And if anything goes wrong with it I am confident that I will be able to solve the problem.

    If anyone has the same problem with his / her Pana DVD recorder and would like to get a step-by-step tutorial on my successful rescue operation please feel free to make a post here.

    CU and thanks fo reading! :wave:
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2015
  2. Rogerio Silva

    Rogerio Silva Active Member

    Although I don't have that equipment, I would like to thank you for sharing your experience. That was very thoughtful of you, man. WAY TO GO!
  3. Rhaven Blaack

    Rhaven Blaack ADMINISTRATOR Administrator

    I am glad to hear that you are able to recover all of that data and video.
    That is one hell of a process to go through. This could a little local side job for you (Recovery of lost data and video from DVD recorders). You could be the only one in your town.

    Thank you for sharing this with us.
  4. zathros

    zathros -----SENIOR---- Administrator

    Did you try and flash the firmware? It is available here (at least your model is listed):

    I have regularly flashed firmware on DVD players to remove the HDCP (copyright protection ) that does not allow high definition to be played out of the YPrB RCA plugs. If you have a corrupt system, formatting is not the way to go, flashing the firmware destroys the old data and then replaces it with the new data. Usually you download the firmware, then convert it to an .ISO format, use ImgBurn (best DVD burning program in the world, and it's free), and then insert the CD into the unit. This will then activate a new menu with the options you need. All Blue-Ray players are backwards compatible with CD, DVD, DVD+/-R, some RW, DVD+R is the best format to do as it can be book typed. In any event, I would try to flash it over again before I tossed it. The link above had your model listed. In the U.S.A. it is impossible to get a DVD recorder without HDCP. That is why I rip anything I want using various other "free' programs that are out of scope of what we are talking about. My DVD player says Zenith but is made by L.G., by flashing the firmware, it now Upscales any DVD from 480I/P to 1080I and plays this through the YPrB output. This works very will for my LCD Projector which is pre-HDCP. My projector does not play 1080P but at 100" inches, it looks better than any theater around here at 720p or 1080i depending on what I am watching. Don't know if any of this helps. One reason they go bad is the Laser assembly floats in a magnetic field and is guided by a very tight tolerance of plastic pins. After a while, they wear down and too many I/O misreads bring the failure. There used to be tracking gain, tracking balance and a couple of other potentiometers to adjust but the truth is, it was buying time and this is better down with a microprocessor built into the board/player. You could always try and find the Laser Diode assembly and replace it (the whole unit pops out) and it might work, but it might not. :)
  5. Rhaven Blaack

    Rhaven Blaack ADMINISTRATOR Administrator

    Since this is very important information that EVERYONE can benefit from, I have decided to make this thread a "STICKY"!
  6. Revell-Fan

    Revell-Fan Co-Administrator Administrator

    No, no, no, it was not an issue of the firmware. In this case a firmware update may cause much more trouble since it overwrites the information on the hard disc. There were several people who did that and who lost the whole content of the disc.

    I don't know what caused the problem but the recorder wouldn't have corresponded to any course of action unless his wish to format the disc was fulfilled). I will re-assemble the device when the restoration process is complete and see if the recorder can be used again. If not I could format the HDD with Windows and use it as a regular PC hard disc. :cool:
  7. zathros

    zathros -----SENIOR---- Administrator

    This is a burner with a built in hard disc? You could always stick in another hard disc, (unless it is some proprietary system), update the firmware, and if it is working, unplug it, put in the previous hard disc. It is fails, then you know it is a hard disc failure. It would also give you the opportunity to stick in a bigger hard disc. Also, the firmware overwrite the systems software which is usually in an EEprom, not on the hard drive. It would be like having the BIOS of a computer for the motherboard on the hard drive, it would never boot. :)
  8. Revell-Fan

    Revell-Fan Co-Administrator Administrator

    Panas use a proprietary system which is unaccessible for Windows and Mac. The firmware is saved on a certain portion of the HDD located near the outer rim. Firmware updates are made by downloading an *.iso file, burning it to a DVD or CD and then inserting it into the DVD drive of the recorder. The update is copied to the HDD and then the recorder re-starts (in most cases ;-) ). You would be able to exchange the HDD, however, the update would only affect that new HDD since the update info is written to only that and not to the malfunctioning one. I know, it makes little sense, but that's the way it is. And that is exactly why so many customers were in so much trouble when their system broke down. Panasonic's service is not very helpful (at least here in Europe); they go the easy way, exchange the HDD, and don't bother about fixing the original drive.

    In addition, the firmware contains the specs of the size of the HDD: If you insert a bigger HDD the recorder would only recognize and use the size of the original HDD. So installing a bigger HDD would certainly be no problem (but not very effective since it is used only partially). However, do never insert an HDD of a smaller size because that would cause severe problems and even could damage the hardware (just imagine, the recorder thinks it has a 250 GB disc installed whereas it has only a 160 GB disc in reality; it would try to fill it up at any cost).

    Here is a link to the thread which helped me a great deal and which gave me new hope:

    This is a link to the homepage of Stefan Haller who managed to salvage the data:

    and his blog (German):
  9. Revell-Fan

    Revell-Fan Co-Administrator Administrator

    Tutorial - pt. 1

    Since RB has made this thread sticky I have decided to give you a step-by-step guide on retrieving the data from a defective Panasonic DVD recorder. This tut will be made as a series of posts in this thread which are marked as "Tutorial - pt. x" so that you can tell the tut parts from ordinary posts and / or comments.

    DISCLAIMER: I do not give any guarantee that this procedure works for you and I do not guarantee that the data is not damaged or lost during the process described in this tutorial. The procedure worked VERY fine for ME though and MAY work for you, too. At least this is one FREE solution to the problem.

    Situation: A Panasonic DMR EX635 is blocked, it doesn't recognize its pre-installed hard drive properly and insists on formatting it.

    This procedure may work with a HDD which has been formatted by accident, too. When you are unable to access the HDD of your recorder DO NOT RECORD ANYTHING and DO NOT FORMAT THE DISC because this will delete the programmes on the disc.

    EDIT: Be aware that you will lose the guarantee when you open up your device. So please perform this action only if the guarantee has already expired or if you know what you are doing. ;)

    Unplug the recorder and take out the drive. To do so unscrew the two big screws on the sides and the three small screws on the back which hold the cover in place (see attachments). Pull out the interior.




    Last edited: Nov 22, 2015
  10. Revell-Fan

    Revell-Fan Co-Administrator Administrator

    Tutorial - pt. 2


    EDIT: This is the opened up DVR. The HDD is in the bottom-right corner of the device.

    Unscrew the HDD (four screws at the location marked by the red circles) and carefully pull out the two cables which are attached to the recorder. Take the HDD out.


    Last edited: Nov 22, 2015
  11. Revell-Fan

    Revell-Fan Co-Administrator Administrator

    Tutorial - pt. 3

    Carefully unscrew the four screws on the bottom and pull off the two cables. Put them into a small plastic bag so that they don't get lost.


    The dark thing on the right is the hard disc. Put it into an external hard disc housing as shown in the instructions which comes with the housing.


    Get an external HDD which is big enough to store the data. You need a disc which is at least twice the size of the recorder HDD.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2015
  12. Revell-Fan

    Revell-Fan Co-Administrator Administrator

    Tutorial - pt. 4

    I am using a 1 TB drive with three partitions. Each partition should be at least as large as the Pana's drive. Partition 1 will get a copy of the Pana drive, partition 2 is used for getting the exported data, partition 3 can be used for possible back-ups of either the first or the second partition or for (test-)editing the exported files.

    Download this hex editor HxD:

    I'm using the portable version. It is very fast and efficient.

    Launch HxD. Go to Extras > open device > HDD 1 (this is the HDD of your system) > OK > and write down the number in the upper right corner. This identifys your system's HDD. It is important that you know it in order to tell it from the Pana's drive.



    Last edited: Nov 22, 2015
  13. zathros

    zathros -----SENIOR---- Administrator

    Revell-Fan, I would seriously consider getting a PCI video capture card, and you can avoid all of this if you are trying to record off of a DVR . If you are trying to record/copy DVD's, I can show you to to do that too, using your computer only. Very easy and free. I used to record using these all the time. I am not sure of what you are recording, or trying to record, but if you send me a P.M., I will show you how to record any DVD and most Blue Rays free of charge. (strictly for personal use) using your computer and slaved big hard drives. :)
  14. Revell-Fan

    Revell-Fan Co-Administrator Administrator

    Thanks for the advice! :thumb: I know what you are talking about and this was my first idea. But a PCI video capture card is of no use when you are unable to access the recordings on your HDD.

    The EX635 has two drives, a DVD player / burner and a hard disc. If it works properly you are able to record TV programmes on the HDD (for further editing such as removing commercial brakes and adding chapters) or directly on DVD. After editing the recordings on the HDD can be copied to a DVD in high-speed. You may also use an adapter (or a DVD-RAM) to transfer the videos from this device to another device or a PC. However, all these actions require the recorder to be able to read the data stored on its HDD.

    In this particular case the recordings were still on the hard disc but the recorder wouldn't play them any more (because it insisted on formatting the drive which would have made the recordings unaccessible completely by the device). In addition, a proprietary file system made it impossible to simply plug the drive into a PC or accessing them via PCI and simply copy the video files. I was unable to access the drive from Windows AND from Knoppix / Linux. Both systems showed me the drive in their drive manager but I was unable to open it.


    Last edited: Nov 22, 2015
  15. Revell-Fan

    Revell-Fan Co-Administrator Administrator

    Tutorial - pt. 5

    Connect the drive to the PC and open HxD. The hex editor is able to access the data on the drive. Write down the number in the upper right corner because that identifys the Pana drive.

    Connect the other external HDD to your PC.

    Open HxD > open the Pana drive (look at the number!) > File > Save as... > choose the first partition of the external HDD > enter a short file name (I chose "00") > OK.

    Do not add a suffix, just save everything on the drive. This may take a while depending on your USB type. I have a 2.0 so it took about 7 hours to copy the whole 250 GB. Do not interrupt the process because then you would have to start the copying again. :p

    When copying is complete, turn the Pana drive off, disconnect it from the PC and put it in a safe place.

    Now you have a bit-wise copy of the Pana drive stored on partition 1 of the external HDD which you can work with.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: If your drive is making strange sounds (scratching, beeping or anything like that) it is highly probable that there is a physical damage. In this case turn the drive off immediately and disconnect it from the PC in order to prevent further data loss. Do not proceed on your own unless you know exactly what you are doing and contact a specialist who is able to rescue the data.



    Last edited: Nov 22, 2015
  16. Revell-Fan

    Revell-Fan Co-Administrator Administrator

    Tutorial - pt. 6

    Now go to the first partition where the hex file was saved and add the suffix "img" to the file. This is necessary so that the script which has to be run next can detect and use the file. Despite the new appearance the file still contains Pana's hex data only, it has not been turned into a real image file even though the explorer shows it as an image file. So opening it with WinRAR or Universal Extractor makes no sense.

    Last edited: Nov 22, 2015
  17. Revell-Fan

    Revell-Fan Co-Administrator Administrator

    Tutorial - pt. 7

    So, and now the magic happens:

    Get Stefan Haller's great script "dvr-recover" from here:

    and a Python interpreter from here:

    The script was tested with Python 2.5 and up; I used Python 2.7.

    Unpack the archive containing the script somewhere on "C:\" and open the command shell. Enter the location of the script and it will display the specs, usage info and change log.

    Take a close look at the readme file; the commands are explained there. Enter the import file (00.img on partition 1), the output directory (partition 2) and a min_chunk_size of 400.

    Execute the script (" create") and have a BIG cup of coffee because the process will take quite a while.

    The script crawls through the entire hex code of the drive and collects all video files it can get.

    If it makes you feel safer you may work with a copy of the 00.img file however I found out that you can't do any damage to the file when the script is run.

    When the script has finished, enter the "sort" command. It re-combines many fragments of the shows into bigger parts. This may take a while, too. You may turn the external HDD off during the sortation.

    Finally run the "export" (with the external drive switched on again). This may take another while (7.5 hours on my system). Do not interrupt the process because then it will start all over again when you call the command again.

    The script now writes all video files it has found to the 2nd partition of the external drive.

    Last edited: Nov 22, 2015
  18. zathros

    zathros -----SENIOR---- Administrator

    This is really awesome! I am pretty sure, not entirely but pretty sure that we, in the U.S., are not allowed to have that machine because of all the DMCA laws. It bites, and I can get around them anyway, but that sounds like a nice unit. :)
  19. Revell-Fan

    Revell-Fan Co-Administrator Administrator

    Oh, to make one thing clear: This procedure does not encode or decrypt anything, it only rescues the videos you have recorded to your disc from free TV, your digital camera etc. The video files on the disc are not protected by DRM or such. If they were you would of course violate the DMCA laws. I could imagine that it wouldn't be possible to rescue DRM encoded programmes (which means that if the device is broken you won't be able to play your recordings any longer even if you have paid for them in the first place :-( ). It is like rescuing the pictures you have taken from a defective camera or SD card.
  20. zathros

    zathros -----SENIOR---- Administrator

    It's surprisingly easy to crack DRM from anything. In the U.S., there is question as to whether you can even capture and record onto DVD or Blue Ray format from over the air, cable, or satellite. They're being real stinkers here. :)

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