Upgrading a TiVo's Hard Drive

I've been using the TiVo service since 2004 and have two TiVo HD boxes in my home. Unless it's breaking news or a special occasion, I seldom watch live TV. In my bedroom I have the original TiVo HD which shipped with a pathetically small hard drive allowing it to hold less than 20 hours of HD content. To improve this, I bought TiVo approved SATA drives to extend the storage capabilities. Unfortunately I've found these external enclosures to all be flakey, they'd work for a year to 18 months and then die as all hard drives eventually do. I just don't think they were ever built to withstand the 24/7 use that a device like TiVo requires.

Last month my external hard drive died (again) and I was faced with a decision. I hoped Apple would have declared their intentions in the TV arena by the time I had to make another TiVo purchase but alas, they have not. Rather than replace the TiVo with a more expensive unit or simply buy another junk expander drive, I opted to replace the TiVo's internal drive myself with a larger capacity drive. Turns out to have been the best decision I could have made.

Swapping out the TiVo hard drive is not as simple as a computer hard drive replacement for the reason that you have to first obtain the TiVo operating system which as you can imagine, TiVo doesn't make easy. I've yet to find software on the Mac that will allow you to copy the TiVo OS from an existing drive to a larger drive and still take advantage of the additional space. If you know of one please drop me a note or post in the comments. There are programs for the PC that can and cnet details the process in this video. I didn't want to go to that much trouble since I don't have easy access to a PC.

I choose a third party vendor who specializes in selling custom hard drives with the TiVo software pre-installed and configured. Of all these types of vendors, WeaKnees is one of the most popular and offers an upgrade/repair service allowing you to ship your box and they'll take care of everything. But I found their prices to be a little expensive for someone who is comfortable replacing the drive themselves. After searching the TiVo Community Forums (an excellent resource for all things TiVo) I found several people recommended "DVR Dude" on eBay. I'm not a fan of eBay, but his prices were reasonable and his feedback stellar so, I picked up a 1TB hard drive for my TiVo HD for $129.00 and was pleasantly surprised when it shipped same day and arrived two days later complete with installation instructions.

I was initially nervous about opening up my working TiVo but I was out of warranty so figured I didn't have much to lose. If you're comfortable upgrading a computer hard drive you'll find the TiVo easy. The whole process took less than 15 minutes. I did lose all the saved shows and settings (though I lost most my shows the week earlier when my external drive failed) and I did have to go through guided setup and run a few software updates which took me a few hours over my broadband connection.

Given the hard drive is the most likely point of failure on a TiVo, it's probable I've added years of useful life to my unit. With the release of the TiVo Premiere, TiVo long stopped updating the software for my box and I'm happy enough with the current capabilities. I figure I've pushed off the purchase of another costly TiVo box for a couple of years at least and hopefully that will allow time for things to play out with the "intense interest" over a possible Apple TV. All in all, I'm thrilled with my hard drive upgrade and wish I did this years ago rather than wasting money on one failed external drive after another.