August 7, 2017

Sony Bravia Recording: Migrating hard disks

Sony Bravia Recording: Migrating hard disks

So you bought a Sony Bravia TV in the last couple of years.

No doubt you’ve found and tried the TV record function which enables native TV recording from freeview channels to a USB flash drive or external USB hard disk. If not, you should.

As Sony warns upon connecting your disk, attaching a hard drive to the TV and enabling it for recording will completely wipe it. All data will be lost. This isn’t the only restriction with Sony’s Bravia recording function. As required by broadcasters, Sony also encrypt recordings to your disk so that you can’t copy them to a computer or another TV. Most PVR set-top boxes do this, but it’s more apparent on your Sony TV because the recordings are on a disk that can easily be connected to a computer.

Thanks to Sony’s encryption, recordings are protected using a key that includes the TV serial number, so there’s no way to view them on another device (that I have heard of) and this leaves us with a slight problem if you wish to migrate your recordings to a new hard disk.

There are two potential reasons you would want to migrate your Bravia hard disk to a new one;

  • If the disk you attach fills up with recordings before you’ve had a chance to watch them all, Sony would suggest that you either delete some recordings or detach the disk, store it, and attach a second disk (you’re allowed to register up to 8 disks), then swap back to the old one if you want to watch something from it.
  • If the disk you attach starts to become unreliable, or if you want to swap it for a more responsive disk such as an SSD you would theoretically lose all recordings from the old disk.

But it IS possible to copy the content…
(for use on the same TV as it originated)

Using a Mac, I've been able to successfully copy the contents of one drive to another, with a larger capacity. You can only play the recordings on the TV from which they originate of course, thanks to the Sony encryption. However, to upgrade to a bigger drive without losing my current recordings or having to constantly swap disks was a huge win.


Here’s the guide for those who want to upgrade / change the hard drive they’re using to record:

  1. Much to the irritation of PC users: Get/beg/borrow a Mac.
    I tried this process on a PC, and the Sony formatted disk is unreadable. That is as far as I got. It’s probably also possible to do this in Linux, but I don’t have the time to test. Do comment if you succeed on Linux / Windows.
  2. Ensure that your current disk is not in use, then detach it from the TV.
  3. Connect your new disk to the TV.
  4. On the TV, go to:
    Menu > Settings > System Settings > Recording Set-Up > HDD Registration.
  5. Register your new disk to the TV (all data will be lost).
  6. Once registered, turn the TV off and wait for the new disk to turn off, then detach it from the TV.
  7. On your Mac, download and install the following software:
    NTFS for Mac
    Background: In a bizarre twist, the TV formats your disk as NTFS, Microsoft’s proprietary file system. OSX can read, but not write to NTFS volumes for licensing reasons. NTFS for Mac allows OSX to write to NTFS volumes. A license costs $19.95, but the free trial is good enough for this purpose.
  8. Connect both your old drive and your new drive to the Mac.
    TIP: When I connect my old drive, I purposely open it’s window and move it to the left side of my screen. I then connect my new drive, open its window and move it to the right of my screen. Simple stuff, but this helps me remember which drive is old/new. You don’t want to lose your recordings by accident.
  9. You should see at the root level, each drive has the same files/folders;
    db
    db_bak
    diag
    selfrec.reg
    video
  10. Having made yourself certain which drive is which (if you’re unsure which is which, consider repeating step 8), you now need to copy all files from the old drive to the new drive.
  11. Select all files (COMMAND + A) on the old HDD, copy them, then go to the new HDD and paste them.
  12. When prompted, overwrite all files. The copy will take a while depending on the speed of your disks and their connection.
  13. Once complete, eject the new HDD from your Mac and connect it to the TV. You should see your existing recordings as well as any extra disk space.

At this point, you can safely format your old drive to use on a Mac/PC again. Remember, you’ll lose the recordings from your TV, so be absolutely sure the new drive has copied them successfully and plays them properly on your TV.


It would be great to hear from people who find this guide useful.

Good luck!