Replacing WebTV (MSN TV) Hard Drives

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If the hard drive in your WebTV/MSN TV box has failed for any reason (which is a concern 20+ years after manufacture), or you're replacing the hard drive as a form of preventative maintenance, this article goes in depth on helping you choose the correct hardware. Lists of known compatible hardware is given.

Before You Proceed

Before you tear apart your unit, it would be wise to verify that the hard drive has failed. If your unit displays a message saying "Your Internet terminal is connecting to WebTV to check for the latest update.", it most likely means the internal hard drive has failed. To avoid damage to your unit, please first read Backing Up WebTV (MSN TV) Hard Drives.


Minibrowser on LC2 (Old Plus)


Minibrowser on Japanese Plus

Choosing a Replacement Storage Medium

WebTV/MSN TV hard drives use an IDE connector to deliver data and a molex cable for power. This gives you a few choices for your replacement, ranging from least to most costly.

  • Your own IDE hard drive
  • SD to IDE converter
  • CompactFlash to IDE converter

If you have any of the devices listed above, you can install it into your unit in place of the original hard drive. You can obtain the original WebTV/MSN TV firmware for your unit either by downloading an upgrade from the service you are connected to, or use your original hard drive image. If the service you connect to offers flashrom downloads, your unit will download the upgrade and appropriately partition the installed storage medium, if supported. WebTV/MSN TV hard drive support tends to be hit or miss, so it is recommended that you check the "Tested Devices" list below.

Tested Devices
Manufacturer Model Capacity Type Notes Supported
Seagate ST31012A 1.1GB Hard Drive Stock drive Yes
Seagate ST31013A 1.1GB Hard Drive Stock drive, used later in production Yes
Seagate ST38630A 8.6GB Hard Drive Stock drive, used in EchoStar Dishplayer 7100 Yes
Western Digital WD80EB-28CGH2 8GB Hard Drive Box kicked to minibrowser No
SanDisk Extreme 60MB/s 32GB Compact Flash WebTV OS loads slow, MPEG video choppy Yes

Before purchasing any items, old IDE hard drives are prone to failure, and Compact Flash cards can be expensive depending on the capacity and speed.

Conversion Technology

Your WebTV/MSN TV box, as mentioned before, only supports IDE devices as the main storage medium. It's possible to buy converters to alleviate this. Below is a list of tested converters.

Tested Converters
Manufacturer Model Type Notes Supported
StarTech IDE2CF CF to IDE Set jumper JP2 to position "1-2", needs floppy to molex power cable Yes
Generic ( ??? SD to IDE WebTV OS loads slow, MPEG video choppy Yes
Generic ( ??? CF to IDE Mounts in vertical position, too tall to fit inside unit, needs floppy to molex power cable No
Generic ( ??? SATA to IDE Box does not attempt to boot whatsoever, does not power on No

Final Notes

Before installing any devices, check that the device's "master" jumper position is set, otherwise your unit will not boot off your storage medium. Make sure to take care when mounting a new storage device inside of the box, as it could come in contact with the case or motherboard of your unit and cause permanent damage. You can avoid damage by attaching a non-conductive flat item to the bottom, such as a thin sheet of bubble wrap, cardboard, or anti-static material. No appropriate mounting devices exist for most solutions, but regular IDE hard drives can reuse the original unit's hard drive bracket.