- Pay about 570 Euros to have it sent off for repair.
- Attempt to source a replacement PATA drive that meets the original hard drive’s automotive specifications (almost impossible).
- Clone the working hard drive and replace it with a Compact Flash card, whilst preserving the original Hard Drive and Disk Image.
A little Background
The NG4 system is made by Harman Becker Automotive and is powered by the QNX RTOS (Real-Time Operating System) developed by QNX Software Systems. QNX were founded in 1980 and are based in Ottawa, Ontario. They were acquired by Harman International in 2004, but RIM (Research In Motion), those behind Blackberry Phones, reached a deal in 2010 with Harman to acquire QNX.
QNX is used in many automotive systems and is the software that runs car digital dashboards, ADAS , Infotainment, Telematics, etc., and is used by Audi, BMW, Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Maserati, Porsche and PSA amongst others.
The Original NG4 Hard Drive
As you would expect, the Hard Drive has to be able to operate under extreme tolerances of altitude, humidity, shock, vibration and temperature. It is a specialist drive, generally exceeding laptop drive specifications. The drive is manufactured by Toshiba and the model is either an MK4036GAC or MK4050GAC, the latter supporting ATA-7.
The MK4036GAC drive has a 40GB capacity and supports the ATA-2 to ATA-6 PATA IDE interface, with a spin speed of 4,200 RPM and can withstand tolerances of temperature between -40 to +85 degrees C and operate at -30 to +85 degrees C.
For those interested, detailed specifications on the Hard Drive can be found here:
Toshiba MK4036GAC HDD Specification Sheet
So despite this high level of reliability, like all drives they still have a finite life and will wear out at some point or may develop a problem where they can’t boot.
These systems were a near £2k option, so are not cheap and it is near impossible to get an identical new replacement hard drive on the retail market today. I’ve yet to find a specialist repairer in the UK for these specific units, although I believe the Clarion Service Centre has now added some of the Harmon Becker units to their list.
Faced with these extreme costs to repair or replace, and given that the Head Unit interfaces with many of the car’s systems, it is not practical to replace the head unit with an after-market double DIN unit, which will probably cost as much as a repair and won’t have the operational functionality of the current system.
My Preferred Solution
One possible solution was to look at backing up and replacing the Hard Drive while it is still in good working order and not exhibiting any errors. My drive is already 7 years old, so I decided now is a good time to make a duplicate. The problem is that although QNX is an extremely fast and reliable OS, there is very little you can do to recover any data using conventional Windows based systems as the file system is completely different. Also, you don’t really want Windows to be messing about with your drive and writing ‘System Volume Information’ files or any other data to your drive, as that will corrupt it for sure. (Why Microsoft ever forced the unnecessary writing of these files to removable media on the public with no way of permanently preventing this is on later Windows 10 systems is an ongoing issue, but that’s another story).
Choice of Replacement Drive
One point to remember is that the system was developed years before it came into production in 2008, with the later SATA 3.0 specification drives being produced about the same time the NG4 was already in service throughout the PSA group.
The most important thing about this system is primarily the read speed, as it needs to be able to read-in and process the mapping data as fast as possible. The only real write operations are when you save a location or an address book / phone entry, or when you copy music to the Hard Drive to use with the Jukebox function and of course, update the firmware or map versions.
Solid State Drives (SSDs)
I tried a PATA SSD drive previously (an SSD with an IDE interface), but this failed miserably. The system got stuck in a loop and would not work at all.
There have been those that have tried an SSD, but many find it works for a while, then the whole system starts to slow down and grind to a halt. Delays in navigation processing, route calculation, system reboots, freezing and other odd behaviour have all been exhibited when using an SSD.
Apart from compatibility, this may also be due to the drive running out of free data blocks to write data to. Without OS level TRIM support, the system slows down as a result of the intense delete/ re-write cycles that occur. As SSDs only work with whole data blocks, in order to write any data, the SSD has to first erase the whole block and any existing data held within it, then re-write the whole block again with the new data. These additional data writes slows down the system, causing delays and extra wear, reducing the life expectancy of the drive. The TRIM function can work with the actual data pages that are contained within the data blocks, so saves unnecessary writes. Additionally, with an OS that supports TRIM, the OS sends a TRIM command to the SSD controller when specific data is redundant or no longer required. TRIM can then erase this data area in advance of the OS needing the space and so speed things up considerably.
So SSDs would be great, except that it seems the TRIM function isn’t supported by the 6.3.0 version of the QNX RTOS used in this system and does need to be supported by the both the OS and the hardware to work. Although most controllers will have some form of internal controller to undertake wear levelling across the drive, it is a much slower system than having native file support.
Compact Flash (CF)
One possible solution is to use a CF (Compact Flash) card.
Compact Flash is a removable mass storage device that electrically complies with the PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) ATA standard, and supports True IDE mode, being electrically compatible with an IDE disk drive. Compact Flash cards support both +5V and +3.3V operation and can function at either voltage level. Compact Flash uses the standard ATA registers and command set, and has automatic error correction, retry capabilities and error correction code.
Apart from the obvious advantages of using flash memory storage and having no moving parts, they consume much less power. Typically, CF cards use a single watt of power, compared to 20-30W for 2.5” and 3.5” HDDs, so should generate far less heat inside the unit. Heat is another issue for electronics. Although the NG4 has a built in fan with a larger volume of air to circulate being a double DIN unit, having less heat to dissipate will be an advantage. It has been known for the fan to stop working, causing overheating problems, so may be worth checking if proceeding with the drive replacement.
There aren’t any 40 GB sized CF cards on the market, so the nearest was a 64 GB version. You will have to lose the extra 20 GB, as the partitions must be identical to the original drive. Trying to increase the partitions (for example to try and increase the 10 GB partition dedicated to music storage) will not work as the partitions are expected to be a certain size by the OS.
When selecting a Compact Flash card, I recommend that you ensure it is UDMA 6 as some people have had issues with UDMA 7 cards not writing data properly when trying to copy the image back or later during system operation. This may be down to the firmware on your card reader though - so I would stick with a UDMA 6 and 600x speed at least. Considering that the original drive supported was ATA 6 (100 MB/s) this will do fine as UDMA 6 supports up to 133 MB/s. I used a UDMA 6 CF 600x Card with min 90MB/second sequential read and Min 60MB/second sequential write. Link here:
CF Card Link
There are also many reports on the Web that many SanDisk and SanDisk Extreme cards are very ‘twitchy’ and have a reputation for not working in many devices including Dash Cameras and Digital Cameras. The CF card linked to above is about £29 as of writing, so is a cost effective alternative.
Compact Flash to IDE Adapter
You will need a CF to IDE adapter that can be bought very cheaply. For our purposes, we would need a CF to IDE 2.5” 44 Pin adapter, not the 40 pin type that are designed for the 3.5” Desktop versions. Pins 41 to 44 carry the 5V power supply that would normally be supplied by a Molex connector in a desktop version. The one pictured below happens to be a dual CF card adapter. I only bought this one instead of a single adapter because I mistakenly assumed from the pictures that this one had a metal bracket with screw holes that would allow it to be mounted in the NG4 HDD tray enclosure (there are additional holes along the sides of the metal support too). It didn’t! The screw holes are completely wrongly spaced when compared to the mounting screws on a 2.5” drive, but it still does the job.
HDD Cloning Software
Cloning the Hard Drive will allow you to keep an image of the drive in its current state, so that you will always have a working image if your hard drive starts to fail in the future. Obviously if your system is already exhibiting data errors related to the Hard Drive, these will also be copied over.
Choosing the software to make a copy of the HDD is also important, some do not work very well. I have tried Acronis, Clonezilla and Paragon, and these failed to create a usable copy in my case (probably too many options). So my solution in the end was to use the free Open Source HDD Raw Copy Tool, from HDD Guru, which worked flawlessly, has a simple and easy interface with no complex options and is available from here:
HDD Guru Open Source Software
With the HDD Raw Copy tool can make an exact duplicate of a SATA, IDE, SAS, SCSI or SSD hard disk drive regardless of the Operating or file system on the HDD. It will also work with any USB and FIREWIRE external drive enclosures as well as SD, MMC, MemoryStick and CompactFlash media. The tool is free for home use.
This software will create a compressed image of an exact duplicate of the entire drive, sector by sector, so all the partitions and data will be replicated.
IDE to USB Card Reader
You will need some form of USB to IDE converter in order to copy the data from the original Hard Drive to an image file and again to write the image back to the CF Card.
I already had one of these from Startech that are reasonably priced. They are available in USB 2.0 or 3.0 specifications - but be advised that my USB 3.0 version failed to write back to the CF Card when connected directly to the IDE adapter and when connected to the USB 3.0 Port. In the end, I used the Compact Flash Internal PC Card Reader I have and this worked fine, albeit at a sustained 2.8MB/s write speed. I was happy with this as at least the data was copied back correctly without incident.
This is probably down to the USB 3.0 speeds being too fast for the CF card to handle as you have to remember that the USB 3.0 SATA / IDE converter is designed to send through data at the fastest speed available and also that the CF IDE Adapter is passive. It should be fine with USB 2.0 though.
In order to get inside the NG4, you will have to remove it from the vehicle - normally if replacing just the Hard Drive, this would be accessed from the left hand side where there is an access flap secured by a single screw and the drive will slide out on a runner. In this case we can’t work through the small gap as the CF to IDE adapter will need to be carefully secured and supported.
1) First thing is to disconnect the battery (follow BSI reset procedure for battery removal / connection) as the unit can will remain powered on even with the ignition off.
2) Ensure either 6th gear on a manual or the shift selector on an Auto is as far back as possible to allow room for the unit to be extracted.
3) Use four of these DIN removal keys and insert them with the curved edge facing inwards towards the NG4 unit. They will click into place. Partially ease the unit out to allow enough room to get your hand in through the back to allow access to the connectors:
4) Remove the connectors
A word of caution. It is very important that the LVDS screen connector at the rear of the unit arrowed in yellow in the picture below is not disconnected when the unit is powered, as this can cause failure of the multifunction screen! This is a Citroen documented warning.
- Always remove the 40 way Quad Lock connector (the large black one) first as this carries the power. It has a swing over locking mechanism that must be moved gently and this will release the connector.
- The same locking mechanism applies to the pale blue connector above.
- The LVDS connector can be carefully wiggled out and has no other securing latch.
- The GPS / GSM and Aerial Antennae arrowed in red, are locked in place by a small plastic lug at the top. Use a small flat blade screwdriver to gently press down on this while gently pulling the connector away.
- The USB and other connectors should be easily removable.
5) Carefully slide the unit out, supporting the weight at the rear as it is quite heavy!
Back at your workbench:
6) Next, you need to remove the 4 torx screws on the top of the unit indicated with green arrows.
7) The whole of the top of the unit is basically loosely hinged at the rear (connector end). You must be extremely careful here, as immediately attached to the inside of the lid is the DVD player and the ribbon cables, so do not go poking about inside with any instrument.
8) Using a small flat bladed screwdriver or blunt instrument, you need to gently lift the top of the unit working from the front of the sides, working towards the back on each side. Use a gentle pressure to lift the unit lid up, but do not use too much force as it may suddenly release and you may pull or damage the ribbon cables.
9) Be aware that the unit is not secured at the hinge - it can easily lift off so be extremely careful not to leave the unit unsupported as there is a lot of weight on the top of the lid. Also be very careful not to put any strain on the ribbon connector.
10) Undo the small torx screw on the left hand side, and use a small flat blade screwdriver to lower the metal flap. You can now slide the hard drive enclosure out of the unit.
11) Remove the 4 screws securing the drive to the enclosure - be aware that there is some ‘thread lock’ type adhesive on these - so they will be quite tight - also make sure that your torx bit is the right size to prevent damage to the head.
12) Gently lower the Lid back down and put the NG4 unit safely to one side.
13) Connect your Hard Drive to your IDE to USB converter first before powering up the converter (if applicable) and then connect the converter to your USB port.
14) Launch HDD Guru, which should detect all the PC Hard Drives as well as the NG4 Toshiba. You can check the correct drive by looking at the Serial Number on the HDD and matching this with the serial number shown in HDD Guru.
15) You first select the Toshiba as the source drive from the list, then you select the target location. In this case as we want to keep a source image of the drive, so select a target location on one of you PC Hard Drives that has at least 40GB free space. The tool makes a compressed image of the drive which in this case will result in roughly 24GB on completion.
16) Once the image has been copied and there are no errors reported, you can prepare to copy the image back over to the CF Card.
If using an IDE to USB converter:
17) If the CF to IDE adapter card has any jumper settings to configure, ensure the CF card is configured as ‘Slave’, as the NG4’s DVD Drive is the ‘Master’.
18) Ensure the USB connection of your IDE to USB converter device is removed from the PC. Insert the CF card into the CF to IDE adapter and in turn, connect the adapter to the IDE to USB converter device. Ensure that the pins are lined up properly then connect to the USB 2.0 port of your PC.
If using an Internal PC Card Reader:
17) Insert your CF card directly into the CF slot of your internal PC Card reader
18) Open up HDD Guru and this time select the ‘File’ - in the case below ‘IMAGE of TOSHIBA MK4036GAC’ Image that you created earlier as the Source and select the CF card as the Target (Drive M: in my case).
19) Select ‘Continue’ and leave the drive to copy - it will take longer to write than it took to copy. As I used the Internal Card Reader is only wrote back at 2.8MB/s, so will take an hour or so minimum.
20) Once completed and assuming there were no errors, power off and remove the CF Card Adapter or eject the CF Card from the Reader.
21) Depending on the type of CF to IDE adapter you have, you may need to support it once it is plugged into the NG4’s PATA connector. Although these adapter cards are quite light, you do not want any vibration bouncing the card up and down, weakening the pins. Also, depending on your adapter, you must not allow any part of the underside of the pins or solder joints to come into contact with the drive enclosure metal. I used some ‘coin’ type adhesive foam pads and positioned a few of these under the card to act as both a cushion and an insulator. These worked great in keeping the adapter card level.
This picture shows one of the foam pads in place - I used 2 in all.
22) Now carefully position the CF Card adapter into position and connect the pins ensuring they line up correctly. Check that there is no excess play and that the adapter is well supported.
23) Secure the drive bay rail flap and replace the screw. Carefully close the lid ensuring you don’t trap the ribbon cable. I would suggest securing with one screw, just to keep the lid shut, until you connect the unit back up and check the system, in case you need to remove it again.
24) Re-connect the cables at the rear, ensuring that you connect the 40 pin Quad lock connector last. Gently slide the unit in, but don’t lock the unit back into place until it has been tested. Follow the battery connection procedure.
25) Start the engine and wait for Navidrive to initialise - it may take a little while after switching on for the first time after the replacement. Go through all the screens and check the functionality.
26) If you have any issues with the system playing up. Just ensure you have the latest firmware available on a USB key and insert this into the USB port in the central armrest. Version N42C (42.03) is the latest available, PM me if you require this. On insertion the system should pick this up and offer to update the system. It will take about 30 minutes or less, but keep the engine running, so the car doesn’t go into economy mode.
27) If all is well, you can then replace the remaining 3 screws and lock the unit back into place. Calculating a route is a lot quicker and the boot time should be noticeable shorter too.
So keep your original NG4 Hard Drive somewhere safe, sealed up in an anti-static bag. You now have the NG4 disk image stored on your PC in compressed format, so keep that safe and you can always copy the image to a new CF card in the future if needed.
This is the solution I chose to implement on my own system and have been using it now for some time without any problems to date.
The usual disclaimer applies here - should you decide to follow this guide, you do so of your own choice and at your own risk and neither myself, nor the French Car Forum Admin Team will be held responsible for any damage to persons, vehicles or equipment, howsoever caused, as a result.