Thursday, June 16, 2011

Boss BR-1180 hard drive backup & replacement

The victim, a Boss BR-1180.

One beautiful day, while we were recording some gangsta rap our trusty home studio Boss BR-1180 gave up and went insane. After a reboot, the thing gave a HD read error. The beat must've been too fat...

So it was time to change the internal hard drive, and see if I can safely back up all our white ass beats from it.

In addition to this guide I'm writing, there's another repair guide on the net by some "PJ". It's a good guide, but it has some problems. You don't need to format the new hard drive, even though PJ's page claims so.

If you're planning to follow my footprints and change the internal hard drive, I recommend first updating the firmware of the BR-1180 to v.2.01. After the update, you can initialize one partition a time with it, which gives you a bit more freedom.

OK, back to the issue. Opening the thing wasn't too hard, just had to keep note of all the different screws on the thing. If you manage to mix them up, PJ's page has them color-coded.

Backside of the BR-1180... Why do I take these pictures?
All opened up...

The hard drive, with some foam to get rid of vibrations.
The hard drive has a nice suspension rack that's easy to open. Some silicone pieces minimize the movement of the drive in case the BR-1180 gets hit. The IDE and power connectors are covered with some plastic foam, to kill resonances and vibrations. You have to destroy part of it to get the connectors out. I carefully shredded the foam with scissors and knifes, spilling just a little blood.

The hard drive and it's metal holders.
The internal hard drive is a 5400RPM Matrox 541D Ultra ATA/100 Hard Drive with only 20GB of capacity. The drive is one third thinner than a normal 3.5" hard drive (only 17mm thick). There's no space for a normal HD in the BR-1180. If you can't find a small HD like this, you could just use a longer IDE cable, extend the power wires, and connect a hard drive externally! That would be AWESOME. Stupid, but AWESOME.

Close-up on the hard drive.

The hard drive can be easily read with an USB-IDE adaptor or hard drive enclosure. Or you could just shut down your PC and put it in the IDE bus, but then you might also need to make some changes to the HDD jumpers (to select master / slave / cable select).

My Black Box USB IDE HD enclosure has been well worth the 20€ I paid for it...
So I put the drive into my USB enclosure, plugged into my PC and there you go! A drive popped up, containing all kinds of cryptic files that I backed up to my internal HD.

Listing of the hard drive contents. The .BR1 directories contain the individual songs, and there's also some other shit.

You can supposedly turn the BOSS track files into WAVs with this piece of software. I haven't tried it out yet though. 

Properties of the BR-1180 hard drive.
The backup process took some time, but eventually it finished and there was no errors. So it looks like the HD is not totally dead yet.

I used chkdsk to correct errors on the old hard drive, just for fun (yea I know, I'm fucked up).

Correcting the old HD's errors.
There was 50 megabytes of lost information on the disk. I'm quessing it was the track that was being recorded at the time of the crash.

Even though the internal hard drive seemed to work fine now, it would be a good time to change to a new one to minimize any future troubles. I could also increase the HD space...

I happened to have a hard drive with similar dimensions at hand: a seagate ST340015A. This one is also an Ultra-ATA/100 drive and has twice the capacity of the original one (40GB). You could also use UATA/133 according to the comments on PJ's page.

The new HD, a thin one like the factory HD.

I plugged the new HD straight in. The HD had some old Linux Ext2 partitions on it, but that was no problem for the BR-1180 to format again. Again, you don't need to format the HD, the BR-1180 does it for you.

When I started the BR-1180, it asked "New HD, initialize now?". I hit no, since it would by default create a single partition on the HD. I have been experimenting with the partitions and it seems the BR-1180 cannot handle more than 20GB partitions. Or, you can use bigger ones, but only 20GB of them will really be in use.

So the best way to initialize the HD is to go to UTILITY -> HDD -> INITIALIZE and from there, select the format mode to be DIV 2, DIV 3, or so on, depending on how many partitions you want. Since I had a 40GB, I wanted to have two 20GB partitions, and I selected DIV 2.

Now initializing...
After the initialization, I checked the partitions from UTILITY -> HDD -> INFO, and two partitions, both 19072 megabytes in size, were listed.

Then I shut down the BR-1180, took the hard drive out, put it again to my USB-IDE enclosure and copied all the old files I had backed up from the old drive. I put the old stuff to the first partition and left the second partition empty as it is (or actually it has one empty song automatically generated by the BR1-1180).

After the copying was done, I put the drive back to the BR-1180 and voilá! I had the old stuff there, and an extra 20GB partition that could be used for new recordings. 62 hours more remaining recording time for free... nice!

Fuck you BR-1180, I win.

But still, one more thing to do: put some plastic foam around the HD like Boss had done. It probably reduces some resonances the hard drive causes. For this purpose I used an old mouse pad. What do we learn from this? Always have a couple of mouse pads ready, you can do anything with them!

Hard drive in it's place, before adding the foam.

After gluing the foam.

That's all, folks.

Related links:
Boss BR-1180 owner's manual
Boss BR-1180 owner's manual - addendum
Boss BR-1180 applications guide

PS. PJ, smoking around your equipment doesn't cause hard drive failures. I'm pretty sure the fag packs would have a warning sign for that.


  1. Thank you for this guide. I will try it when the HDD I ordered actually arrives in a few days. I agree on the "smoking" issue - I checked about 5 sites that explain the causes of HDD failure - and NONE OF THEM mentioned even one word about smoke. Heat, magnetism, shock, yes - and age. Mine sounded funny too - check - mine made the first Maxtor sound listed. Thanks again - I hope BAD HDD was the only problem - if not, I only lose $20 USD to find out.

  2. Fuck you BR-1180, I win TOO - thanks to you!
    Feels good to say that.
    Thanks again!

  3. thanks for the help im fresh now

  4. Just been trying to repair one of these for a friend. It wouldn't turn on but it will if I unplug the HDD. Suspecting a f'ed up HDD, I took it out and tried to connect to a docking station, but with the HDD connected, that wouldn't turn on either! So, I cannot get the files off the HDD. Do I need them or when I put a new HDD in and format it will it put any system info required on there? Obviously any songs stored on the old HDD are now forever gone!

    1. I had identical issue with a recent used BR-1600CD. It would not power on , but if I removed the bottom Steel plate from BR-1600CD and removed the 4 pin Molex HDD power connector, then BR-1600CD would power on. IMHO there is a lot of heat generated by the 3.5" HDD, which leads to failure of the internal HDD power Input being shorted to ground = BR-1600CD that will noty power up until the bad drive is removed & replaced

  5. the br 1800 will create the needed files when you "INITIALIZE" the drive.

  6. Eric: I hope you're still monitoring this blog. I had the fatal error thing on my BR1180-CD, and was able to upload the files to my laptop drive, and to a spare 40 GB HDD I placed the 40GB HDD in the boss and had to initialize it anyways, so I did like you dis and created 2 20 GB partitions. I then did exactly like you said and copied all of the files onto one of the partitions. When I put the drive back into the Boss, NADDA. I'd really like to retrieve the 189 songs I had (mostly because my Dad was on 2 hours of it). He's passed away 5 years ago, and I would really like to archive the files for future grand kids. HELP, please.

    1. In the BR-1180 UTILITY -> HDD menu (or somewhere around there) there's an option to change the partition currently in use. Try if you can find the songs that way. You could also try to put the data on both partitions? If all else fails, you could try getting another BR-1180 second hand. The track data is also readable with any PC but AFAIK there's no software that would do the job for you and sync all the tracks up, so it would be a huge job.

    2. I quess your data looks something like the picture above, with folder names like "SONG0001.BR1" etc? And you put them in the root directory of the partition? Then everything should work...

    3. " The track data is also readable with any PC but AFAIK there's no software that would do the job for you and sync all the tracks up, so it would be a huge job."

      check out

  7. Yes, the root directory looks the same as what you did show, and I had 89 songs. I am going to try again tomorrow. Thanks.

  8. Eric: I tried to post last night, but failed. I had the old HDD and transferred the files again to my laptop, then transferred to the root directory of the initialized new HDD. When I plugged the newer HDD into the BOSS, it started clicking and it failed. Are the files on the directory Read Only? I am going to get another HDD and try again. Thanks.

  9. SUCCESS - Thank you so much. Your blog has been very helpful, and I so appreciate that you took the time to explain how to salvage my files. I listen to my DAD playing sax and clarinet, and I got misty - to say the least. Thanks.

  10. Yeah my hard drive crashed it was burnt beyond repair im currently getting another hard drive there hard to find but its worth I'm use to the Br 1180 its easy to use i guess I'll have to learn pro tools one day

  11. The Maxstor drive can be difficult to find, and there are few other 3.5 inch desktop drives that are thin enough for the enclosure. I used an old 100gb ATA 44 pin IDE 2.5 drive (laptop drive), together with a 44pin IDE to 40 pin IDE convertor I picked up on E-bay for £4, and it worked fine, and formatting using the utility menu produces 5 volumes of just under 20g each for a total of over 300 hours recording. Be sure and get one that you can plug the power into (4 pin molex connector). More recent laptop drives are SATA (serial ATA), but probably a SATA to 40 pin IDE adaptor would work, also £4 on E-Bay. The BR-1180 can only use up to 160gb (formatted as 8 volumes), but should still work with larger drives, but will just use the first 160gb.

    You'll need to glue some foam onto the drive, and attach it to the enclosure for the larger drive. Be careful not to block any of the holes in the drive (other than screw holes), and leave most of the drive uncovered so it can dissipate heat. These laptop drives are a bit slower, but are fast enough, and are quieter. You should be able to screw one side of the drive to the original bracket, and support the other side on a quarter inch of foam, top and bottom (remember it will be pointing down. BTW, remember that the side without the writing will be facing up (as you are installing - it will face down when using the 1180) when installed correctly