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Removing the 4GB Microdrive from a Hitachi Muvo2 MP3 Player

by Adam Eberbach, 1997


[Editor's Note: This article is being presented for information only. If you decide you want to try this, you are on your own. Neither photo.net nor the author of the article is responsible if what you try doesn't work. It's possible the MP3 player you obtain will not contain a removal microdrive which will work in your camera. It's possible you won't be able to install a smaller memory in the MP3 player. It's possible the microdrive won't work in your camera. It's possible the microdrive will be mechanically, physically or electrically different from those sold for use with cameras. Basically there's no guarantee of compatibility. However, if you want to experiment, here's some information you may find useful].

I heard almost too late about the Muvo2 and the Hitachi 4GB Microdrive inside that could be had cheap. By the time I found the forums on dpreview.com and fatwallet.com and the descriptions of procedure people were already talking about having ten backordered Muvo2 units and eBay was full of OEM Microdrives and gutted music players. I almost didn't bother... but sometimes being in Australia pays off. A local retailer had stock, I ordered, and here is what followed.

The following talks about disassembly of a reasonably expensive electronic device. I don't recommend you do this unless you've done this kind of thing before, successfully. Even then I don't recommend you do it unless you are prepared to throw everything in the trash with no regrets. The only tools you need are a small philips head screwdriver and a small slotted screwdriver. Warranty? We don't need no steenkeeng warranty!

The Muvo2 4G functions well as a music player, but if I wanted a music player I'd probably choose iPod Mini. As I want a Microdrive I choose a Muvo2, because I've not read that anybody has successfully reformatted a drive from the Apple product and had it recognized by their camera. Opening it up was nice and simple. Four screws hold the plastic case together. Once you have them undone and the case open, just lift up the PCB by gently getting a fingernail or screwdriver tip under one of the connectors that passes through the cutout in the top of the case.

I_1_case_open.jpg (33525 bytes)

Battery door removed, four screws removed and case separated

Do this carefully and slowly because it is not supposed to lift right out at this point. There are two things tethering it to the case still, the ribbon cable for the Microdrive and the flat copper shield. Just lift it up enough to see three screws. The reason you may not see four is that the last one might be covered by some tape - use the small slotted screwdriver to push the tape back. Now unscrew all four screws and the whole thing will come away from the plastic. Don't put strain on the ribbon cable, it is not designed to support any weight nor is it designed for what you are about to do.

I_2_lifted_PCB.jpg (50626 bytes)

Main PCB lifted up to expose drive shield and control sub-PCB

I_3_case_off.jpg (23659 bytes)

The works removed from the case

Turning the electronics over you see a 4GB Microdrive lying inside a metal shield! Along one edge is a connector. Using the slotted screwdriver, gently and gradually push it away from the Microdrive along its whole length and you will see pins appear. When you have as much out as is shown in the photograph you can detach the drive. There are two things left to do now - format the drive for use in your camera, and rebuild the microdrive with either another (probably 1GB) Microdrive or a compact flash card.

I_4_CF_connector.jpg (14393 bytes)

The CF pins being removed from the Microdrive

Formatting the Microdrive is done like this if you have a PC. If you place the drive in a compact flash card reader that supports type II media or use a PCMCIA adapter (careful, not all of these support type II either) you can mount see it with your PC just like a full-sized hard drive or other compact flash media. Open (in Windows XP) Control Panel->Administrative Tools->Computer Management and click on Disk Management in the left-side pane, you should see a disk that appears unformatted with a size of roughly 3.8GB. Be careful - you don't want to format any drives other than this one. Format it with FAT32 (and only FAT32!) - when done, you're ready to try it in your camera. In part II I put the drive in a Canon 10D and perform some tests.

Users of other operating systems - it can be done but I can't describe how. Sorry.

Rebuilding the Muvo2 is not hard at all but I found that of four compact flash cards I had available only one would work. SanDisk 128MB (1999), Lexar 12x 256MB and some off-brand 256M would not work. Sandisk Ultra II 512MB did work - it's expensive to leave in there, but for the purposes of seeing if the Muvo2 can work without its expensive heart it will do fine.

Plugging the CF into the connector is easy except for one thing - which way did it go? The connector isn't keyed so I hope you remember which way the Microdrive came out. Just joking - front label faces away from the metal plate. After that just screw the drive/control assembly down to the front panel and then put the main board on top, replace the plastic and screw that down too. The control sub-board may have come away from the metal drive shield if you removed that screw-covering tape earlier, if so just put it in place first with the shield on top, it only fits one way.

When replacing the main PCB try to make sure there is no dust in the viewing window and no dust on the LCD display. Some scotch tape cut to the width of the panels will do a good job unless you stuck your greasy fingers on them, then they need a proper clean. Careful of both but especially the plastic, it is very soft and easy to scratch. I have dust in mine and will need to open and clean it. Make sure the ribbon cable leading to the storage medium is not sticking out, you should not need to force the case together. If it is out too far tuck it in with your finger before replacing the plastic shell.

When replacing screws in plastic do it like this - if you turn the screw backwards you will hear a series of clicks as the tip of the screw rides the thread up and then drops down. Just after a click and a drop, screw it in - it should go in easily, do not overtighten. You don't want to be forcing another thread because two threads is basically no thread. If you took the door off like I did for the photographs just click it back in once all the screws are tightened.

Next comes the software. "Recovery Mode v1.0.0" should appear when you power on the unit.

I_5_recovery_mode.jpg (3499 bytes)

On booting with a new card you should see this

Since you don't know whether your CF/Microdrive is compatible you will see one of two responses to what you are about to do - "Media Error" or other things. I believe "Media Error" means you are out of luck with that particular media, since the successful test (SanDisk Ultra II 512MB) never showed that message.

I_6_format_all.jpg (3174 bytes)

"Format all" is what you need to do next

I_7_media_error.jpg (3178 bytes)

This may indicate your CF card is not compatible

You need to choose option 3, erase, then option 4, reload firmware. I could not find the firmware updater on the Creative web site. The version that I used, which I found with Google, is "Creative_MuVo 2_4.0gb_1.10.01.exe". After erasing and then reloading the firmware you have a Muvo2 player with reduced capacity, it should operate as normal with the original software and display the correct media size under the "Information" menu item.

There has been much talk about when this bonanza would stop. One hoaxed picture on dpreview.com showed a Muvo2 with drive soldered in place - obviously done by by hand, but it fooled a lot of people into thinking that new stock would be somehow protected. One person said that there is a secret hidden file on the drive and the player will never work as a player unless you move the secret file to any new media with Norton Ghost or similar - I did not find that to be the case. Recently I have seen people say that unless the Muvo2 has a sticker saying "hard drive by HITACHI" it isn't a good candidate.

Packaging and appearance differs from place to place. I have read that a new bubble-style package shows back and front of the unit and that it is possible to check whether the sticker is in place. Some people have said that "powered by HITACHI" means a special OEM Microdrive is used which either does not have a CF connector or does not have full firmware but nobody has shown pictures of one of these "protected" units. I'm skeptical. Would Hitachi really create a new SKU just for Creative? On the other hand there are the Microdrives from the Apple players, which reportedly do not work in a camera.

Why would Creative care about what happens to their media players? They're selling all they can build at the asking price. I'm guessing Hitachi are not too happy at the bottom falling out of the $499 Microdrive market, and that Creative's supply might be threatened. Don't expect this situation to last forever. There is some stock out there, especially outside the USA, but new stocks when they arrive may well protected

I believe the first guy to do this was Andy Mack, and you can read his experiences at www.andymack.com (select log, then Jan-2004 under look back). Thanks Andy! I never saw the "Media Error" message - probably we have slightly different revisions of firmware in our devices. That might account for the other discrepancies mentioned too.

Where to buy

Amazon is listing a Muvo 2 4GB MP3 player. It's not 100% certain that this device contains a removable 4GB hard drive which will function in digital cameras, but the specs say "cutting-edge high capacity 1" hard disk drive storage", so it seems quite possible.

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All material and images ? Copyright 2004 Adam Eberbach

Readers' Comments


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Scott Stadler , March 08, 2004; 01:17 P.M.

For the ipod users out there, if you want to use it for photo storage you can just get the Belkin iPod Media Reader and plug it into your ipod and then load your media cards right on the the iPod. It works great and you don't have to destroy your ipod to do it. Plus you have up to 40GB of storage available. Now if they would only make and iPod with a color screen that you could preview your photos on, that would be great.

Antoine Gailliot , March 09, 2004; 03:47 A.M.

"Now if they would only make and iPod with a color screen that you could preview your photos on, that would be great."

It's called an Archos. Works perfectly well, large screen, will even play divx movies and mp3s. The CF card reader is included.

Pyramid Head , March 09, 2004; 10:38 A.M.

Have any EOS 300D users tried this?

Tom Verbeure , March 09, 2004; 12:12 P.M.

About the Belkin iPod Media Reader: I have one and it works... sort of. Basically I bought the Media Reader as a way to justify to myself the cost of buying a 40 GB iPod. I used the Media Reader extensively on my recent Australia trip and couldn't have done without it without buying more than my 2 512MB flash cards. That's the good news.

The bad news: other than 'it works', it's just bad in any possible way. - it's horrendously slow. Copying a full 512MB flash card takes 25 minutes. Forget about the claim on the box that it uses the firewire interface. - during this very slow copy operation, the HD of iPod keeps spinning. As a result, copying 1 flash cards completely drains the iPod battery. To avoid unpleasant surprises because of this, I also made sure that the flash card was only 75% full before committing the data to the iPod. - the Belkin device itself contains 4 AAA battery's. 10 512MB copies are sufficient to drain it too. I found this quite incredible, but it's true. - operation is not very stable. Sometimes it stops copying for no apparent reason and you have to restart from scratch. Not very comfortable. Clear error indications are virtually non-existant.

All in all, it's a very badly engineered contraption, but in the end, it was the only choise and it worked.

Tom

Jon Austin , March 09, 2004; 01:40 P.M.

Antoine:

To which model Archos are you referring?

Thanks!

Neil Whitaker , March 17, 2004; 05:39 A.M.

I also had a bad experience with the iPod and the Belkin CF reader. Several minutes after I started copying a 2 GB card, I realized what I was in for. It was taking forever. The iPod batteries died somewhere duringt the operation. Does anyone want to buy a used Belkin compact flash reader for the iPod?

Elliot :) , March 22, 2004; 06:03 P.M.

It seems like all of the muvo2 mp3 players have already been snapped up. Does anybody know where these might be available?

Karl Warwick , March 24, 2004; 09:32 P.M.

Ok, I've got the situation of receiving a Muvo2 shell with 1.11.01 firmware preloaded. It seems this unit doesn't want to recognize any of the 4 cards I've tried. Sandisk 32mb, 64mb, Canon 32mb, Lexar x12 256mb all give me a "Media Error" regardless for any of the recovery mode options I choose. I'm getting suspicious that 1.11.01 introduced a block to not recognize non authorized CF cards. Problem is since I get a media error I can't do firmware download from my PC. Any ideas?

Richard Chandler , April 07, 2004; 03:08 P.M.

I believe that I have killed two 4GB Muvo’s myself. Both were pre-loaded with firmware 1.11.01 which I believe to be the reason for the failure. I suspect that Creative has designed the new firmware to disable the unit if it doesn’t recognize the preloaded drive. Here is what happened.

Since I had no luck with Norton Ghost recognizing the USB driven CF card, I decided to just flash my new drive (Magicstor 2.2GB microdrive) inside the Muvo. I found two versions of the firmware out there: 1.11.01 & 1.10.01. I chose to flash my first Muvo with the newer 1.11.01 version. The process was moving along smoothly until it had completed updating and the dialog box on the pc said that the Muvo was rebooting. It never worked again. The display is dead, no life. I figured the problem was the newer firmware and since I had a second unit I decided to flash the remaining unit with 1.10.01. Same exact problem! My theory is that it’s because of the pre-loaded 1.11.01 firmware.

I encourage people to let us know if they are having the same problem. That way we’ll know if it’s just my screw up or truly a distructive firmware from Creative. Can’t say I’d blame them for doing that, but we can figure a way around that. We always do. Things to try if it’s not my mess up is Ghosting a new drive, but my fear is that you must truly purge 1.11.01 from the Muvo’s memory, which I don’t think is possible with the recovery options. I did in fact choose the reload firmware option which says that it’s removing the firmware, but in upgrading the firmware it stated that it was running 1.11.01. Meaning it didn’t get rid of the onboard firmware.

Karl Warwick , April 09, 2004; 11:46 A.M.

Just an update on my previous problem getting a MuVo2 with firmware 1.11.01 to recognize compact flash cards. Surprisingly, I was able to get it working with a SanDisk 1GB card even though two smaller SanDisk brand cards were a no go. No tricks were needed, just inserted the card, formatted, and downloaded firmware 1.11.01. At that point I wasn't willing to play around any further to see if downgrading to 1.10.01 would make the smaller cards work.

Alberto Freire , May 06, 2004; 02:58 P.M.

After putting a 512MB flash card, I installed the old firmware. The PC told me that the firmware was older than the current. I installed it anyway the MUVO restarted and its been working since then.... Has anyone elso noticed how slow the microdrive is?

Bruce Foster , May 06, 2004; 05:23 P.M.

Success I destroyed the player getting the drive out, and initially had problems with the drive, but in the end it is working well, and can take 310 raw images on my Fuji S2 Pro.

I had to re-format the drive, and can not be done successfully from a windows-XP PC. You need an old windows-98 one and you need to format it in FAT (otherwise known as FAT16) format.

Windows-XP has problems doing a 4gb format to FAT.

I dont actually have a windows-98 PC, so I tried formatting it on the Fuji S2 Pro, but it came up with errors.

In the end, I popped it into an old camera (Nikon Coolpix 995) and formatted it from here. This worked a treat, and the drive now has enough space for a whole day's shooting, or (if my wife restricts my photography time) a whole weekend away.

Two things to note thought.

Although the Nikon formatted the card first time, once formatted it could not read the card. I thought it had failed and I only spotted that it worked when I popped it into the PC card reader.

Secondly, the firmaware on the Fuji S2 Pro is obviously slightly 'buggy' as it does not come up with the right number of available photos to take.

I have tested it extensivly, and the card takes 310 images every time, but the display is random !

I hope this is of help to a few of you.

Bruce Foster

Jon Kroninger , May 19, 2004; 05:23 P.M.

I too had problems getting Windows XP to format the 4Gb Hitachi drive - it just won't do it. I was able to format it to full strength using Windows 2000 by first formatting it with NTFS file system at 2Gb, going into Computer Management, Disk Management, right click on the 2 Gb primary partition and delete it. Right click on the now unformatted full 4Gb partition, and reformat it using the FAT32 file system.

Stuffing a normal speed Sandisk 512 Mb CF card back into the Muvo, I got the media error over and over again. I just kept going thru the 1,2,3,4 sequence on the Muvo reformat, plugged the USB cable in when it told me to, and reloaded the firmware. It looks like you have to purge and reload the firmware regardless of which edition it is. Works great. The latest firmware is available at the Creative Nomad site.

Now who says Bill Gates and Microsoft are going in the wrong direction?

Jon

Mr Berko , June 03, 2004; 05:38 A.M.

Hi

i have read some of your posts etc.

I have just got a Creative muvo2 with the 4gb MD.

I would like to remove the Hitachi 4gb microdrive and put a other, smaller memory, to the mp3-player. (Scandisk Ultra II 512mb for example? or an other)

I see that not all other memory is working with this player well and that some of you post about problems with the firewire and that even that it's possible to crash the creative muvo2 player or the microdrive.

the player has the firewire 1.11.01 (was never updated)

What should i and should NOT do to get the MP3-Player getting working well with an other (ScanDisk Ultra II 512MB for example?) before and after removing the 4GB Microdrive?

- Should I just remove the microdrive without doing anything else before and after with the player (without any firewire update). - Should I maybe update it before or after to an older (v1.10.01?)firewire?

- From your experience; Which other memory works with the player (ScanDisk Ultra II?) correctly? - is there still a warranty to the player and Microdrive after removing the original MD??

many thanks in forward for help

btw. dont look at my sucky english <-;

sincerely

berko

berko666@uni.de

Adam Eberbach , June 03, 2004; 06:53 A.M.

Hi berko! When I did this I was in just the same situation as you - my spare card was a Sandisk Ultra II 512M, which sadly I lost recently. However it should present no problems working in the Muvo 2 as a music player. Others have commented, and I found too, that 512M is the smallest CF that would work.

As you see in the article the firmware I used to re-flash the unit was 1.10.01, filename "Creative_MuVo 2_4.0gb_1.10.01.exe". I do not know whether any other version will work. Note that others have reported problems using other versions. It might be a good idea to flash your player to this version BEFORE removing any screws because if it fails at least there is the possibility Creative or service agents might re-flash it for you - I doubt they would touch any Muvo 2 with broken seals these days. Once you take the cover off you almost certainly have no warranty unless local laws say you do.

Like the disclaimer says you can DEFINITELY break all your toys, Muvo, CF and all, doing this. Don't even try it unless you can afford to lose everything. It should be seen as an academic exercise rather than one that saves you lots of money. To be cautious I would probably try disconnecting the 4G drive and connecting the 512M CF first, and trying the recovery mode & re-flashing process before doing anything to the Microdrive, don't even put it in your camera. At least you then have the firmware still on the Microdrive if it doesn't work and you can put everything back the way it was, format your CF and forget about it.

I have since reassembled the Muvo 2, amde sure it was working the way it originally did and sold it. Who knows if the owner decided to extract the Microdrive? It was just too slow to use in the Canon 10D. Even at double the price CF is the only acceptable storage for me.

Andrew Peng , June 07, 2004; 05:48 P.M.

I bought a muvo2 on JandR, waited about a month on backorder, and got it a few days ago. Guess what? It had the "hard Drive by hitachi" sticker on the back. Opening it was easy, taking the drive out is easy (never stick it in a device without an eject butten ie: a Dell Axim X5, you will die trying to get that drive back out) formatting on a CF reader was easy, sticking it in a 10D and 2 pockerpc's (asus mypal and dell axin x5) was bad. All three devices refused to recognize the drive. And on top of that the CF-board cable was damaged because i tried to plug it back in so many times. Time to put that warrenty sticker back on and "exchange it!"

atomicfire@patmedia.net

Alberto Freire , June 08, 2004; 12:43 A.M.

I have a Hitachi 4GB that came from a Muvo2, my minolta wouldn't pick it up until I formated it on my canon digital camera funny huh?

Also I made some speed tests between a: 1GB Kingston (Flash mem.) 1GB SanDisk (Flash mem.) 4GB Hitachi (MicroDrive)

Here are the results this was a test transfering a 50MB file. It was done 3 times per card to weed-out any problems. The SanDisk won at almost twice the speed on the Hitachi the Kingston was right in between, these are all low speed cards I have nothing high-speed to compare them to.

KingSton*****************************************

G:\>readfile 2.mpg File= 6887 Kb/Sec with 51918868 bytes : 2.mpg Average = 6887 Kb/Sec with 51918868 bytes (total : 7537 msec)

G:\>readfile 2.mpg File= 6905 Kb/Sec with 51918868 bytes : 2.mpg Average = 6905 Kb/Sec with 51918868 bytes (total : 7518 msec)

G:\>readfile 2.mpg File= 6905 Kb/Sec with 51918868 bytes : 2.mpg Average = 6905 Kb/Sec with 51918868 bytes (total : 7518 msec)

Hitachi******************************************

G:\>readfile.exe 2.mpg File= 5573 Kb/Sec with 51918868 bytes : 2.mpg Average = 5573 Kb/Sec with 51918868 bytes (total : 9314 msec)

G:\>readfile.exe 2.mpg File= 5259 Kb/Sec with 51918868 bytes : 2.mpg Average = 5259 Kb/Sec with 51918868 bytes (total : 9870 msec)

G:\>readfile.exe 2.mpg File= 5540 Kb/Sec with 51918868 bytes : 2.mpg Average = 5540 Kb/Sec with 51918868 bytes (total : 9370 msec)

SanDisk******************************************

G:\>readfile.exe 2.mpg File= 9043 Kb/Sec with 51918868 bytes : 2.mpg Average = 9043 Kb/Sec with 51918868 bytes (total : 5740 msec)

G:\>readfile.exe 2.mpg File= 9131 Kb/Sec with 51918868 bytes : 2.mpg Average = 9131 Kb/Sec with 51918868 bytes (total : 5685 msec)

G:\>readfile.exe 2.mpg File= 9131 Kb/Sec with 51918868 bytes : 2.mpg Average = 9131 Kb/Sec with 51918868 bytes (total : 5685 msec)

Mark Stowe , June 11, 2004; 11:32 A.M.

Maybe the party is over.  Bought a 4gb directly from Creative Labs.  Removed the microdrive but can't get camera to format it ("bad card") or my two new HP pavillion PC's running XP with CF I/II slot to even recognize it ("please insert card", doesn't show in Disk Manager).  When I reassemble Nomad, it works fine.  http://www.steves-digicams.com/microdrive.html quotes a Hitachi official "Other OEM drives with different part numbers are also not CF compliant and meet the requirements of that customer. All are subject to change without notice as well. So if you have an OEM drive that works now, one from that same mfg may not work later on...."
Any suggestions?
Mark  

Mark Stowe , June 14, 2004; 07:33 A.M.

This thread http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1019&message=9153930 and others on digital camera forums confirm that the MD in newer Nomads do not work in CF devices (it even says so on the package in fine print)

sadanandan iyyany , July 05, 2004; 09:01 A.M.

I successfully removed and formated the Hitachi microdrive from the MoVo2 4GB MP3 player. But when I put this in to my Fuji S2 Pro "Card not initialised" Message is showing. I formated the drive from my PC which is running Windows XP. I tried both FAT and FAT32 options available in XP. Interestingly this drive is working fine in a Cannon EOS D10. I even tried initialising the drive in the D10 and putting it back to S2PRO without success. Any one who was successfull in using this drive in Fuji S2 Pro, please help me. Sadanandan@hotmail.com

anil warrier , August 06, 2004; 08:44 P.M.

Woo hoo, just used the Viking 512 MB card in the Muvo. I had taken out the microdrive a while back, but my initial efforts with the Viking were unsuccesful. Now it works beautifully.

Juan Su , August 16, 2004; 01:17 A.M.

For all the people that have managed to get the Hitachi 4gb card out of the Muvo2 mp3, player, can you please tell if your the packaging of the move said:

FG Part No. 14 Partition Part No. 28 Rev A

thanks so much, I have one of these, but I dont' want to open the package unless I know I can get the 4gb card to work. Thanks.

Honggang Ye , September 11, 2004; 09:17 A.M.

Haven't try this myself, but this link on dpreview might offer the solution to these 44C drive. You will need a Carbon shell.

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1023&message=10224662

On the RioCarbon firmware update readme file, "...Contents on players internal and external memory may be lost during the upgrade!"

2c

bubba clinton , December 08, 2004; 07:31 P.M.

This is in regard to the comment about the difficulties of removing the Hitachi Microdrive from a Dell X50. I made a custom "device" to extract the microdrive out. An industrial-strengh velcro strip cut to the size of the back of the microdrive. Affix the velcro strip to the microdrive, and use the other half to velcro to remove it. If you cut the velcro carefully, it's not even ugly ;)

James Dixson , December 19, 2004; 04:28 P.M.

Well the fun is over. B&H has the 4gig Hitachi MicroDrives for $189.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=productlist&A=details&Q=&sku=353704&is=REG


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