Having a heck of a time finding a digital video recorder

You can record programs that are broadcast in HD, but the programs will be converted to SD.

Sorry, also out locally here, too. (I could have sworn I checked that just recently.)

Anyway. Some older model TiVos seem available for around $50 (single tuner, 40G HD) new on Amazon from affiliate stores. And of course cheaper used ones, but from (in some cases) more reliable storefronts than eBay. Also checking eBay, I see some claimed to be new selling for under $50.

When I upgraded I went to eBay to see how much by Series 2 was worth. Ugh! And the prices have fallen since then.

These are analog tuner boxes. They are nearly boat anchors for most people. But the OP might actually get some use out of one.

Here’s the TiVO subscription info. Look at the end of the answer to the 2nd question.

Thanks everybody for the contributions.

By… the… way…, this is perhaps a question that needs another thread, but does anybody know if the contents of the Tivo Series 2 hard drive can be copied to a computer without corrupting the data and still be used as video, maybe with no or little digital tinkering? I’m talking about just getting the HD out the machine and dumping the data onto a computer data storage device.

No, it cannot. The videos are all encrypted.

Then…, what about increasing the storage capacity of the machine with a larger/additional HD or something else?

Sure. No problem. You can buy upgrade kits from third-party suppliers.

And if you are handy with computer hardware, you can build your own upgrade kit. But do remember that you can’t just use whatever disk is on sale at Fry’s this week. You need to install a disk that is rated for DVR use.

But, before you invest a lot of money, remember that you are working off a bug on the Tivo system. Your Tivo is supposed to deactivate its recording abilities if you don’t have a subscription. Currently, users have observed that it doesn’t deactivate until the next time it calls up Tivo Central to update itself. You are counting on this behavior to continue. Also, you will not be able to update the clock. The clock does gain a few minutes every month and Congress does occasionally screw around with daylight saving time.

If a Tivo Series 2 is the machine of your dreams, may I suggest you look for one of the Tivo Basic models that were made by Toshiba like this. They included a limited-functionality lifetime subscription to the Tivo service.

Or get the Magnavox DVR/DVD. You won’t regret it.

I bought a used TiVo HD (Series 3 generation) not too long ago and right away upgraded it to a 1T HD. Only have about 400M filled right now.

Ross Walker in the UK has one of the best pages on upgrading the HD on several TiVo models, IMO. Some info is UK specific, but I like the style and step-by-step info. There’s also YouTube videos showing the mechanics of swapping out the drives, etc.

The warning about using DVR certified drives is important.

Series 3 and newer use SATA and can be upgraded to at least 1T. Older TiVos use PATA/IDE which aren’t cheap for this purpose. Those kit places are best for most people for those.

If you have a subscribed TiVo, you can use software like TiVoToGo or equivalent to download programs off the TiVo. (Content protected digital programs exempted.) You end up with a .tivo file that is trivially converted to an mpeg.

Plugging in a TiVo HD to a computer and trying to decrypt the files that way is not feasible unless you pre-arranged to hack the TiVo, etc. And if you’re hacking a TiVo, there’s far easier ways to download the files using ftp and such. (And hacking TiVos, even older Series 2s? Well, in most cases that takes an amazing amount of effort. I’ve done all sorts of DIYer stuff on computers and electronics and I don’t see myself trying that on my old box.)

You guys are just talking about direct copying, right? You can still copy video from any source to a PC by just playing it into a tuner card, right?

To me, a tuner card for a PC seems to be the way to go. Probably cheaper than a DVR (except those incredible Fry’s units, which are OOS everywhere I called), and I don’t have to worry about figuring out how to get a bigger drive into a DVR, I can just swap in a new drive on my PC when it gets full.

Any links to articles about the best hardware and software (can MS’s media center really be better than a company who specializes in video?) greatly appreciated.

Yes, that’s what I understood the question to be.

Certainly, if you attach the audio/video output of the Tivo to any device capable of capturing that output, it will capture the output.

I have no experience with the various copy-protection schemes, but I assume that if the Tivo recorded a program with the copy-once bit set, it would pass along the appropriate copy protection status in its output.

I have a stand-alone DVD recorder and I have no problem recording shows to DVD from the Tivo composite output.

For newer TiVos with HDMI outputs, the copy protection (HDCP) scheme applies to those outputs. You only get unprotected signals on the analog outputs. My TiVo HD has no RF output. So plugging that into a tuner card won’t work. It does have composite and component outputs, which are of course lower quality than HDMI.

Anyway … a new contender for the OPs question has come to my attention.

While searching around for info related to this thread, I happened onto the WiRNS site. It’s software to communicate/manage ReplayTV DVRs. There was a significant update to their software since the last time I played around with it. As of version 3, it can act as a full ReplayTV server, including complete activation. And this was done with the blessing of DDNA, the company that ended up supporting ReplayTV. (It’s actually a corporate cousin of Marantz and other deadish brands.) So it is completely legit, not a sneaky thing. So you get clock sync (NTP), ability to copy programs to/from the DVR, etc.

Turns out I’ve had a 5040 ReplayTV I picked up for a couple bucks at a thrift store to fool around on years ago. So I got it out of storage, fired it up, installed WiRNS on my server, etc. And it works. I’ve got a channel guide, will update it to work with my cable DTA converter, etc.

WiRNS doesn’t have program data, but it interfaces nicely with Schedule Direct. An open source site that gets data from Tribune Media. Only $25 a year if you want guide data. (There’s also scrapper programs if you want program data for free and don’t care that the free info sites don’t like people doing that.)

Yeah, ReplayTVs are old, analog, not as nice as comparable era TiVos, etc. (Maybe.) But given that you can pick up a used one (look at 4xxxx and 5xxxx models) for not much and get activation for free and optional program data for small change, and of course upgrade the PATA HD for more space, it’s an interesting option.

(I wondered what was up last spring when I upgraded and looked on eBay to see what my TiVo2 was worth. Not much. Checked on my lesser ReplayTV and found it worth more. Odd. The new WiRNS explains it.)

Note that this “pretend to be a server for a DVR” idea has been around for a while. Another legitimate example is AltEPG in the UK to replace the program guide service TiVo dropped for TiVo1s there. (Including “lifetime” boxes!)

I got a free (no hard drive) Tivo (TCD540040), installed a 100GB one, starts OK, but I can’t get past the subscription setup. I tried to find a way around it, but all I found were people saying that it is possible, but it is taboo to talk about it openly.

If anybody has some clues on what this is all about and wants to share, please PM me.

Please keep in mind that there are two things people might want to try with a TiVo:

  1. Get it “activated” in some way so that it can be used for manual recording.

  2. Steal TiVo’s program service.

The latter is clearly something that no legitimate web site wants to get involved in. Unfortunately, at a site like the SDMB, the two are sometimes considered the same and some people object to discussing even the first.

Like I said earlier, the easiest way to active an old TiVo for manual recording is to subscribe for a month. Pull the Internet connection, and then discontinue subscribing. TiVo has no problem with this, it is discussed on the TivoCommunity forums. (While not run by TiVo, their employees answer questions there and TiVo’s pages refer to it.)

There’s a better forum for discussing more significant modifications (no service stealing of course) over at DealDatabase.

For that model TiVo, the only thing on that forum that will make your TiVo work better than the above (e.g., setting the clock, transferring programs on/off of it), requires a PROM replacement. There’s a user that provides this service. (Been running it for 5 years, off and on.) Either send in the unit and wait a while for it to be modded or buy a new PROM and DIY. And that’s just the start. You then have to mod the software, too.

Like I said, I have some skills in this area (starting working on electronics when I was ~7) and I won’t try this with my now surplus/idle TiVo 2. (And it’s idle now that I have finished setting up and installing the ReplayTV I mentioned above. Complete with free program service now.)

Great answer, ftg, as usual.

I haven’t yet checked the links you provided, but I have to say that I have no problem in paying the initial subscription fee. Since I’m new at this, I was afraid, since this is an old machine, that it’s quite likely been registered before and Tivo, for whatever reason, would disable it altogether. I did not want to take a chance.

The regular subscription is out of the question. I don’t watch TV that much to start with. I don’t even have cable and never had. I only have my old analog TV and a digital converter.

I’m doing this just as another tinkering adventure. You know how it is. You just want to show to yourself that you can do it, and probably I’ll use it once in a blue moon, like I do with my VCR.

Don’t worry about old vs. new subscription. People sell and buy used TiVos all the time and get subscriptions to them. This is what I did with my TiVo HD. Bought it off eBay, set it up, went to TiVo and subscribed. (Actually transfered my old TiVo 2 account to the “new” box. And I threw in a bigger HD* while I was at it.)

What is the status of the machine?

Go into Settings, Status and see what it says. If by some miracle, you have a lifetime subscription, then you’re gold.

Start here with TiVo’s info on this.

  1. If it was unplugged and not reset when the old subscription is active. Then you’re good. You can try doing a test recording, etc.

  2. If the old subscription was canceled via the Net, then you can’t save recordings. You can only pause live TV and such.

If you want, before getting a new subscription, reset the box to it’s factory setup. (Including wiping shows, etc.) See the previous link. Don’t do this if it’s currently setup with an expired subscription nor plug it into anything that connects to the Internet.

Set up an account at TiVo, pick month-to-month, get the TiVo configured, etc. Try TiVo service for a month. [del]Join the darkside[/del].

  • Too many “HD” acronyms in this universe.

Thank you everybody for the great and helpful comments. I ended up with 3 working 80-hour Tivos Series 2. I spent only $20.00 altogether. One of them needs a subscription, and I have it as a back up. My girlfriend did not want any trouble, so she went for the Magnavox model.

My only problem now, as it were, is that I get only RF input. The composite/RCA input jacks do not work. I haven’t tried the S-Video one. I have the feeling that it might be a software problem that doesn’t allow for specific channels for them. I’m guessing that the lack of subscription doesn’t help, either. I read some comments about setting it to channel 0, or one above 30, or changing the Video Hookup setting (didn’t find it). Nothing worked. Well…, you can’t have everything.

RCA and S-video inputs don’t “do” specific channels. They just show a single video signal that is being fed to them. To use them with a television signal they need to be connected to a tuner that is turned on and tuned to the channel you wish to record. Also, they don’t carry the audio, so that has to be connected separately.


I have a digital to analog converter that has RF and composite/RCA outputs. The RF feed from the converter into the Tivo uses channel 3, and the output is either the Tivo’s RF output connection or the composite/RCA output jack. Both work on my TV with no problems.

Any specific instructions on how to get the signal from the converter’s composite/RCA output fed into the composite/RCA input of a Tivo Series 2 (TCD24008A and/or TCD649080) to show up on the TV screen and be used for recording? Oddly enough, I’ve seen this very question several times on the Web, with different answers, and none has worked for me. I’m kind of new to Tivo, so that may have something to do with it, as well.

Having spent years in the security industry, I can tell you that some security DVRs do, in fact, do exactly what you’re looking for.
It isn’t a mainstream feature, though, so you may or may not be able to find a reasonably priced product with that feature set.
In fact, when I left the industry two years ago, one that would do 30 FPS in TV-quality video with audio on the same channel would have run an easy $10000 new if you’d bought it from our company. You’d have also gotten another 15 inputs you didn’t need, at the very least.
If the DVR linked upstream isn’t what you want, you should absolutely just go with a single standalone PC.

Thanks also to everyone who recommended the Magnavox DVR earlier. Based on this thread, I got one a few weeks ago. I went the walmart.com route, which was a little painful.

Not having cable, this is the first time I have the capability to do the record-while-watching-and-fast-forwarding. It is so nice to start a football game recording, then take a shower and make lunch, and later start watching until I catch up to the live action.

The following assumes you have composite/RCA input and NOT RF/coaxial input attached to your Tivo:

If you have one of the supported converter boxes (or a box that has the same IR signal set as one of the supported boxes) follow these instructions. They will work on your single tuner model, but I don’t know if they will work on your dual tuner model, since Series 2 dual tuner models were not intended for use with OTA broadcasts.

The instructions above show you how to hook up the converter box to the Tivo so that the Tivo controls the converter box (changes the channel on the converter box).

If you don’t need the Tivo to be able to change the channels on the converter box (you intend to set the channel yourself at the correct time), then you don’t need a supported box. Just choose one of the boxes from the supported list at random and program your Tivo as if you had attached the supported box. Don’t attach the IR cables to the converter. Then when you want to record, just select a random channel number to record from. The Tivo will attempt to send the signal to the converter box to change channels to the channel you selected. Since the Tivo gets no feedback from the converter box, it does not really know if it succeeded. It will assume it sent the signal to the converter box successfully, even though the converter box is not even connected to the IR cables.

Of course, as per the instructions, disconnect the RF (coaxial) cable before attaching the composite (RCA) cables. During the on-screen set up, you will have to answer a lot of questions like “Is channel 22.7 now visible on the screen?” If you don’t have a box connected to the IR cable, just say yes.

As for the dual tuner Tivo, I think you should be able to do the same as above, but tell it that you have a random cable-tuner box attached. Again, if you don’t have a supported box attached to the IR cables, the Tivo won’t be able to change the channels on the external box. The idea is just to pretend that there is a supported box attached so that the Tivo thinks it is changing channels on it while you do the actual changing.