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Do Your Own TiVo Upgrade

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When devices are based on Linux, the worldwide community of developers can extend them in ways that the manufacturer may have never intended. Through the efforts of the open source community, you can extend TiVo to add another hard disk or replace the existing hard disk altogether. Using a combination of these techniques, people have been able to get close to 200 hours of recording time on their once 14-hour TiVo units.
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When devices are based on Linux, the worldwide community of developers can extend them in ways that the manufacturer may have never intended. Through the efforts of the open source community, you can extend TiVo to add another hard disk or replace the existing hard disk altogether. Using a combination of these techniques, people have been able to get close to 200 hours of recording time on their once 14-hour TiVo units.

Expanding your TiVo can be a fun exercise; if you know your way around the inside of a PC, you'll find yourself on familiar ground. 9th Tee Enterprises sells a bracket for a second hard disk at http://www.9thtee.com/tivomtgbracket.htm. There are a number of caveats, however, as follows:

  • Read the entire TiVo hacking FAQ at http://www.tivofaq.com/hack/faq.html. Although it doesn't include information on the technique described here, it's full of great tips, such as why you should never put a Sony disk in a Philips model, or vice versa. (Although the upgrade will appear to work at first, TiVo's servers will eventually get confused.)

  • Unlike most PCs, the power sources of TiVos, like most consumer electronics devices, are not shielded. Be very careful around the power supply.

  • The software that makes TiVo work is copyrighted and impossible to replace without sending it back to the company.

  • Opening up your TiVo voids the warranty, so proceed at your own risk.

To get the most out of your TiVo, you'll need one or two replacement hard disks, depending on the method you use. We recommend using the new method designed by community member "TiVoMad" because it provides for the greatest capacity if you use two disks, and it automatically provides a backup of your existing TiVo disk. To upgrade your TiVo using the TiVoMad's method, follow these steps:

  1. Shut down your TiVo, and let the hard disk spin down.

  2. Open the TiVo (you'll need a Torx screwdriver), and remove the hard disk. Note that TiVo upgrades work only on units with one hard disk. Check your model against the list at http://www.tivofaq.com/Hardware.html#Philips.

  3. Attach your original TiVo drive on the secondary IDE channel in your PC as the master drive, and attach your higher-capacity TiVo disk as the slave device on the same chain.

  4. Boot your PC with Dylan's boot disk, available at http://pvrhack.sonnik.com/tivo/downloads/tivoboot_v3.zip. This floppy actually boots off Linux.

  5. Use Dylan's boot disk to back up your original TiVo disk to the larger hard disk. Note that it can take eight hours to transfer data from your TiVo disk to the new disk.

  6. When the backup is complete, shut down and make the disk that was formerly the slave disk the master disk. Add a second hard disk as the slave disk.

  7. Boot with Dylan's boot disk again, but after logging in, replace it with the TiVoMad disk, available at http://pvrhack.sonnik.com/tivo/downloads/upgradeav3.1.zip. You won't need to keep swapping disks because Dylan's disk creates a RAM disk.

  8. Run the script on TiVoMad's disk, following the prompts for things such as the size of target disk. The script will "bless" your second upgrade disk, making it suitable for use in TiVo, and "marry" it to the first upgrade disk so they operate as a set. Note that once TiVo disks are "married", there is not yet a way to break up the set.

  9. When done, insert your new disks back into your TiVo, and boot up the machine. TiVo will restart and then you should have your supersized TiVo.

Note that if your system has been upgraded to TiVo version 2.0 or higher, you will experience a loss of about 12 hours of recording time; but the new features that the software upgrade brings, such as a season pass manager, are well worth it. If the thought of cracking open your beloved TiVo sends a chill up your couch-cushioned spine, outside companies will do the deed for you, but the warranty will still be voided. For more details, see http://www.ptvupgrade.com/.

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