TiVo - Buying it, etc.

If you want to just buy a TiVo, that's pretty easy - even Walmart has the 20-hour units. But if you want to buy one and think you might want to hack yours someday (either to increase storage, or just play around with it), then read on; I'll describe what units to buy, which ones are currently "hackable", where to buy drives to add to your TiVo, where to buy mounting brackets, etc.

Sorry, didn't get a chance to edit the Buying Tivo page before making the web site public on September 19th, 2001 (Laurie's Birthday!!).

This is an old page I wrote up long before Tiger's mfstools hack existed, so the importance of buying a backup drive has changed since then and this page doesn't reflect that (though I still think backup drives are a good idea, and backups in general are mandatory). Prices are also wrong, etc. The page itself isn't formatted well, either. Still, I figured that rather than omit it, I'd include it with this warning.

If this notice is still here by November, do me a favor and nag me about it (mention which page it is!).



Ok. First, decide which type of person you are:
  1. The type of person who would never open his/her TiVo to upgrade it (or give it to a friend to upgrade for you)


  2. Either the type of person who wants to upgrade it someday yourself, or have a friend upgrade it for you.. (knowing full well that this voids the warranty)
If you're the first type, then your choices are pretty open. You need to decide how large a TiVo to get - they come in 14, 20, 30, and 60 hour sizes (at least at the time that I'm writing this, on 12/31/00). Those sizes are at BASIC QUALITY MODE. (TiVo lets you record at 4 qualities: Best, High, Medium, and Basic). A 14 hour TiVo can hold 14 hours at Basic quality, and about 4 hours at Best Quality. Basic Quality is okay for old episodes of Seinfeld or The Simpsons, but you don't want to record The Sopranos in it. If you're never upgrading your TiVo, consider it carefully, and get one with more space than 14 hours.. (30 at least). If you have DirecTV, you may want to get a DirecTiVo box (I don't know much about them, since I haven't played with one myself).

If you're the second type of person, you want to be pretty careful about which TiVo unit you buy. To be able to upgrade a TiVo to a larger storage capacity, the TiVo has to have originally come with only one drive (at least today, with the current known level of reverse-engineering). All 14 and 20 hour TiVos ship with one drive only, and are therefore upgradable. ONLY SOME 30 hour units come with one drive - some ship with two, and currently those cannot be hacked. Here are the model numbers of the units, along with the number of drives that come with them:

TiVo model numbers (SA = StandAlone, Combo = DirecTV/TiVo combined unit)

  • Philips HDR110 SA - Original 14 hour, with one hard drive
  • Philips HDR112 SA - 14 hour, with one hard drive
  • Philips HDR212 SA - 20 hour, Available August 2000 - $299 [one drive]
  • Philips HDR310 SA - Original 30 hour, with two hard drives
  • Philips HDR312 SA - 30 hour, with two hard drives and 1.2.1 software
  • Philips HDR31201 SA - 30 hour, with one hard drive and 1.2.1 software
  • Philips HDR31202 SA - 30 hour, with one hard drive and 1.3 software
  • Philips HDR31203 SA - 30 hour, with one LCT15 hard drive, and 1.3 software. The drive is locked, if that matters to you, but it is still fully upgradeable. tom_h: Drive locking merely makes it take 2 seconds longer to make a copy of the system drive...you have to run a utility to unlock it.
  • Philips HDR612 SA - 60 hour, Available September 2000 - $699
  • Philips DSR6000R01 Combo - DirecTV Receiver with TiVo Service (formally known as DirecTiVo). "Up to 35 hours", with 2.0 software. Two hard drives as originally shipped.
  • Sony SVR 2000 SA - 30 hours, with one hard drive and 1.3 software.
  • Sony SAT-T60 Combo - DirecTV Receiver with TiVo Service (formally known as DirecTiVo). "Up to 30 hours", with 2.0 software.
  • Thomson PVR10UK SA - 40 hour, two hard drives and 1.5.1 software. Best: 12hrs 0min, High: 19hrs 14min, Medium: 25hrs 20min, Basic: 40hrs 53min ( TiVo UK FAQ ).

(I got that from the TiVo Forum FAQ) Again, one drive = good, two drives = bad. If/when you purchase a second drive to add it, it will be "wed" to the TiVo, and can't be removed without making your TiVo useless. That implies two things: 1) It's a damned good idea to make a backup of your original "A" drive, and 2) You want to buy the largest "B" drive you can when you upgrade, since upgrading to a larger drive later is a lot of work (restoring a backup, etc). If you're interested in upgrading, make sure to check out my TiVo Hacks page.

Ok, so you've figured out which type of person you are. If you were the first, you probably stopped reading by now, and went out to buy your new TiVo. Congrats - let me know how it went. Enough with you people, you can stop reading now. :)

If you're going to upgrade, here are the four things to buy:

(Note: You'll probably buy the last two from the same web site, so be aware of that before you accidentally place two separate orders)
  1. A single-drive TiVo.
    I own two 14-hour units, one of which I added an 80 gig Maxtor drive to. (I also purchased my parents a 14 hour unit and added an 80 gig Maxtor to that as well). I suppose I wish I'd gotten a 30 hour unit so I had an extra 15 hours - you may want to consider that with prices dropping over time. Today (12/31/00) you can get a 20 hour TiVo from Walmart for around $250.
    Where to buy: Walmart, or just about anywhere else. I bought mine from Walmart, and my parents' from www.needadish.com and didn't have any significant problems.

  2. An 80-gigabyte Maxtor IDE hard drive for your "B" drive.
    I highly recommend buying the largest IDE drive that you can purchase, since within a year or two you'll be wishing you had if you don't (what with the continued dropping price of storage and all). As of today (12/31/00), the largest IDE drive you can purchase is a Maxtor 80 gigabyte drive, for about $250. If larger drives are available at the time you're reading this, I highly recommend going with a larger drive (though I have heard some rumor that the largest drive the TiVo can handle is theoretically 120 gigs because of addressing issues, etc).
    Where to buy: I buy my upgrade drives at GoGoCity.com and haven't had a problem yet.

  3. A mounting bracket for the new "B" drive
    I can't recommend this enough. It's only $16, and it's the exact mounting hardware that's used with the original "A" drive in your TiVo. Horror stories exist where people just rested their drive in the TiVo, causing horrible sounds, rattling, etc. Trust me, this one is worth it.
    Where to buy: www.9thtee.com/TiVoUpgrades.htm (scroll down to "TiVo Mounting Bracket with Hardware")

  4. A backup drive for your "A" drive
    This one needs some explaining. As I mentioned above, once you add a second drive to a TiVo (the "B" drive), it gets "wed" to the TiVo. Software "bleeds" from the "A" drive onto the "B" drive, and you can no longer remove the "B" drive without rendering the TiVo completely useless (it becomes a doorstop, or boat anchor, as it's commonly referred to). The problem this causes is that if you install an 80 gig "B" drive, and then 120 gig IDE drives become real cheap, you're screwed unless you can restore your TiVo to its original "one-drive" setup. So, you need to back up your TiVo's "A" drive for that (or several other) eventualities, or risk having your TiVo become a useless hunk of metal. (and most importantly, if this hasn't sunk in yet, you have to make the backup before ever adding a second drive.

    Now, there are several ways of doing this. First of all, a 14 hour TiVo comes with a 15 gig Quantum drive, and a 30 hour TiVo comes with a 30 gig Quantum drive. You can do what I did, which is to purchase a backup 15 or 30 gig Quantum drive depending on your unit, and copy the TiVo's "A" drive to that. (I in fact then put that backup drive in my TiVo in slot "A", and put the original TiVo "A" drive safely stored away in the attic). This is the safest way, because if something ever goes wrong with your "A" drive, you have a backup already in hand. Or, you can mount a FAT or Unix ext2 partition, and dump a copy of the "A" drive into a single file, using "dd" piped to "gzip". The latter approach may make a smaller backup (and may not require another drive, if you have a few free gigs lying around), but it's less desirable than just having a backup drive ready to use.
    Where to buy: www.9thtee.com/TiVoUpgrades.htm (scroll down to "Quantum & Maxtor Disk Drives"). If you have a 14-hour unit, you want the LCT15-15. If you have a 30-hour unit, you want the LCT15-30. As of today, the LCT15-15 is going for about $84.

Also, you're going to want to make sure you have a Torx #10 screwdriver handy. It's worth a trip to Home Depot to pick one up for $2 rather than using the bits from your car tools, in my opinion - I did that at first and it was a pain. The bit would drop out of the socket, etc. Plus, those are often magnetic. On the 9thtee.com page they list a torx screwdriver swiss-army-knife-thing for $7 - I've thought about getting one next time I buy from them.
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