tivo upgrade

I’ve been wanting to do it for a couple of months – add a new hard drive to my TiVo to allow for tons more storage space for recordings. Ages ago I managed to find a really good deal on a 120Gb hard drive*, and also got the TiVo upgrade kit from Weaknees.com, which specialises in these things. The kit was excellent, with all the tools and pieces needed (including all the screws, a bracket to hold the old and new drives in the box, cables and a fan to ensure that the extra drive doesn’t overheat the TiVo box) plus very clear instructions. The main reason for not doing it sooner was just finding the time.

So Saturday evening I thought I’d get on with it, seeing as Toby had gone to bed early. First I had to set up the new hard drive – you need to “introduce” it to the existing TiVo drive so that they’ll work together and so that your TiVo knows that it now has all this extra space. This involves taking both drives and hooking them up to a PC and booting the PC up with a free Linux utility which you get from the TiVo upgrade instructions site and need to burn to a CD. This was where I ran into my first problem. I got the PC to see the drives correctly, by setting the drive jumpers to indicate which one was primary/secondary master/slave, and the PC’s BIOS could see the drives just fine. However, neophyte that I am I didn’t know that you need to do a special action when you put a .iso (bootable disk image) onto a CD. You can’t just copy it over using Mac Finder or Windows Explorer – you need a utility to make the disk bootable. So after a bit of frustration with this on Saturday night I just put the TiVo back together and asked around at work about what to do. I ended up getting drop to CD which allows you to burn the .iso image on to your CD and state that the CD is bootable. Easy to use, and did just what I wanted.

So last night I burned my bootable CD and once I had the drives all hooked up I put my bootable CD in the CD drive and the PC booted right up into Linux. Fantastic. It saw the drives just fine with their correct capacities, and I thought I was home free. My second problem was my inability to follow simple instructions. The upgrade instructions site says that you have to boot to Linux and check the drive info (which I had done) then restart and boot again so that you can run the disk add utility, which as noted above allows the TiVo system to see the new drive. However in my wisdom I thought it was just a mistake in the instructions to have to restart, and the system couldn’t find the disk add utility. After a few minutes of trying I decided to read the manual and of course it worked just fine.

Then it was a matter of putting everything together – attaching the drives to the drive bracket, installing the fan, hooking up the power and data cables and putting the box back together again. I took the box downstairs for the moment of truth when I started it up, and it had all worked smoothly. The settings and programming I had recorded were still there, and I’ve gone from a max of about 40 hours of space to 186 hours, although that’s on almost unwatchable low quality, so on decent quality it’s now at about 85 hours, but that’s plenty.

* It’s worth noting that if you’re planning on doing this, the word is that you should look for a non-super-fast drive. Most drives these days spin at 7200RPM or more, which is great for intensive PC stuff but not so great in a TiVo box because they get much hotter, and you don’t need something that fast. It’s a bit of a challenge finding 5400RPM drives but somewhere like Tiger Direct will have them.

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