- By Jeff Field -
When I did my TiVo Series 2 review, I had no idea I would get the response I did. One of those responses was a simple question -- how to upgrade Tivo's capacity.The question was about a Series 1 TiVo, but the answer is roughly the same for Series 2, on which I will focus.
There are plenty of resources for upgrading your TiVo on your own, all of which tell you how to use a Linux bootdisk and a variety of tools in order to modify a normal hard drive to work with your TiVo. However, this sometimes results in a unit that is unworkable, which may not be something you want to risk on a $400 piece of hardware.
If you are the sort of person who enjoys a technical adventure, perhaps this is not so bad, or perhaps the hard drive in your TiVo went bad anyway, and you have nothing to lose. For those who are either less technically adept, or who have better things to do with their time than tinker (such as watching TV!), there is still a solution for you which will give you more capacity in roughly ten minutes.
As TiVo has gotten more popular, the community of hackers modifying their TiVos has gotten both larger and more elaborate. Now there are TiVos that store up to 344 hours of programming at the lowest quality. The person who currently wears the crown as "TiVo king" is Lou Jacob, owner and operator of PTVUpgrade. PTVUpgrade focuses on upgrading all makes and model of TiVo, from the oldest Series 1 box to the newest Series 2. There are varying levels of service, from getting the basic pre-built installation kit for your model and installing yourself, to sending your unit in to be upgraded professionally by Lou and his staff.
I opted to try out the PTVUpgrade upgrade process. For $249, you receive a kit that includes an 80 gigabyte Maxtor hard disk, a new, shielded ATA66 cable, a Y-splitter for the power cable, the Torx driver needed to open and operate on the TiVo, and directions. The directions were printed in color with pictures and step-by-step detail. First unplug the unit, then open your TiVo with the Torx driver, gently sliding off the cover. Once inside you'll see TiVo really is very much like a computer - careful, however, of exposed power-supply parts. You may wish to take this opportunity to use and aircan to blow out any dust that has gathered. Dismount the mounting bracket for the hard drives, mount the second drive, replace the TiVo IDE cable with the new one, attach it to the drives as shown, attach the power cables, and you are done.
My only complaint about the instructions, and one that has been fixed in new copies, is that you are told to disconnect the cable for the internal fan of the TiVo and never told to reconnect it. Most people would pick up on this right away, but if you do not, you could damage your TiVo by causing it to overheat.
When I started this process, I was skeptical - I assumed something would go wrong, or that it would take longer than advertised. I am happy, however, to report that my TiVo Series 2 unit has been running with 170 hours at basic quality for about a week now. I doubt I will ever watch all of this TV, but I am glad I got the upgrade - with the 60 hour unit I was scrambling to watch movies and shows I had recorded before they were deleted, with this I have no such worries. The installation could not have been easier - installing hardware into a PC is not as easy as this upgrade was. It was simple, and the directions were almost perfect. I believe anyone confident in the most basic PC internals could do this, and probably even someone with no experience installing PC hardware.
This solution would not be possible without Linux and the free tools available under the GNU license, which the tools to expand and upgrade your TiVo drive are based on. PTVUpgrade.com's service is just another example of viable business models based on software that is freely available to anyone who wants it. The PTVUpgrade website is located at http://www.ptvupgrade.com.