How should I fix or replace my DirectTiVo box?
January 23, 2006 11:56 PM   Subscribe

My DirectTV with TiVo receiver died tonight. The HD actuator (I'm guessing from the sounds of it) had been clicking for a few weeks, and I'd been getting intermittent read/write errors. Tonight after a power outage, it's stuck on the powering up screen. Should I: 1. Get a New One 2. Try a new hard drive (or some other potential fix) 3. Get the PVR that DirectTV is starting to push 4. Switch to Comcast cable and get one of their PVRs

I love TiVo, but I'm concerned about the dissolving relationship between them and DirectTV. I'm in Los Angeles, and am not sure about the current state of cable. I've had satellite for approximately ever. What would provide the best value and entertainment experience?
posted by willnot to Technology (12 answers total)
Don't lose the Tivo! Those PVRs are horrible. All the features you love about Tivo aren't in it.
posted by k8t at 12:12 AM on January 24, 2006

You can probably get a DirecTV TiVo off eBay for a reasonable price if you're not picky about the model. Looking over recently-completed auctions, looks like about $50. (You can use the acccess card from your old TiVo, just call DirecTV and have them switch you over.)

Alternatively you can buy a new hard disk, already formatted to work in your TiVo, from Weaknees or a similar outfit. This will be a little more expensive, but you'll end up with a bigger hard disk than you had originally.
posted by kindall at 12:20 AM on January 24, 2006

I'd second kindall's suggestion.

You absolutely want to stay away from any non-TiVo branded DVRs, if you've been a TiVo user for long. Things that are seemingly inconsequential and small differences will drive you absolutely insane.

Trying a new hard drive is, from what I've heard, not at all difficult. Blessing the drive and installing it is a simple task with tons of tutorials and help guides out there.

eBay is definitely a great consideration, but I wouldn't recommend you buy a used box, simply because hard drives fail, and it makes little sense to start further down that road if you don't have to.

You could also consider switching to Comcast and picking up a $50 brand new TiVo through TiVo. They're offering massive mail-in rebates, so units are extremely affordable right now. The only disadvantage to this is that you can't record HD on non-DirecTV TiVos. The Series 3 isn't coming out until the second half of this year, so if that's something you're into, waiting would be painful.

If you're not already recording HD, then the $50 and a switch to Comcast might not be a bad call. You won't be taking on any new fees, except perhaps a Comcast install, and you'll be able to use the TiVo you know and love. Then, when Series 3 comes out, you can upgrade if you so choose and be none the wiser.

What channels do you watch the most? If you're into all the college football and other premium sports offerings that satellite offers, you might be a bit disappointed by Comcast. Call them up and ask what they can do for you, as someone looking to switch from satellite. Before that, check on their site and see what programming packages are available and at what price points, and see how it compares to your current setup, and how well it jives with your personal viewing profile.
posted by disillusioned at 2:27 AM on January 24, 2006

You should build your own PVR, so you don't need to worry about DRM and stuff.
posted by delmoi at 7:32 AM on January 24, 2006

Response by poster: What would be the benefit of buying a pre-formatted hard drive for twice what an unformatted hard drive would cost? Is it difficult to format it yourself? Is it possible to do it with a Mac instead of a PC/Linux box?

As to the channels I mostly watch, I watch:
  • Broadcast Local Channels
  • Premium Movie Channels
  • One of the Music Channels -- was Adult Alternative until they moved those stations to another satellite, now XM-Cafe which I don't like as much
  • Comedy Central
  • Discovery
  • MTV
  • VH1
  • Food Network
  • Spike
  • Sci Fi

posted by willnot at 7:35 AM on January 24, 2006

Check out Matt's secret other blog.
posted by theora55 at 8:19 AM on January 24, 2006

What would be the benefit of buying a pre-formatted hard drive for twice what an unformatted hard drive would cost? Is it difficult to format it yourself? Is it possible to do it with a Mac instead of a PC/Linux box?

That is exactly why I'd buy a pre-formatted hard drive. It's fairly easy to do once you assemble the parts you need, but they do include a PC, and you've got to put the TiVo drive as the first slave, etc.

Put it this way... I have a used Series 2 TiVo I bought last year because my Series 1's hard disk was starting to make bearings-are-shot noises. It came with a defective hard disk but that was okay because I wanted to put a bigger one in it and hack it as well, so I could hook it up to the network, get the Home Media Option, etc. It's in the closet and my Series 1 is still making bearings-are-shot noises in the living room.
posted by kindall at 9:19 AM on January 24, 2006

I just upgraded my DirecTiVo (HDVR2) with a bigger hard drive, and it's not that hard, assuming you know what IDE cables are and understand the concept of filesystems.

But if your first hard drive is dead, you won't be able to create a new one using it as the original. So you're at least going to have to pay $20 for a copy of InstantCake so you don't need the original drive.

Also, the factor of 2 cost at Weaknees isn't all for the formatting. The drives they use are designed for PVRs and are made to avoid internal temperature compensations that can cause skips.

That said, I don't think these special drives are worth the money.
posted by landtuna at 11:02 AM on January 24, 2006

instantcake: seconded. just go get a 400GB disk somewhere and install the instantcake image and you're up and running in 20-30 minuts.

then if you care to do all the hacks easily, google for "zipper tivo".

i've never used special drives in my tivos, but after a couple of years they have all crapped out (western digital, maxtor). i'm now using seagate and only using one large disk rather than two and that should keep the heat down a bit, which is i'm sure what killed my other disks.
posted by joeblough at 1:56 PM on January 24, 2006

also: yes you need a PC to install the tivo OS stuff on a fresh disk. the instantcake CD images are x86 linux-based.
posted by joeblough at 1:58 PM on January 24, 2006

I can't believe no one's mentioned this, and probably no one will see it, but just get a new DirectTivo (R-15 model) from Best Buy. $99 out the door, $100 rebate.

It reads like you have to be a new customer to qualify, but I did this last month after confirming with both directv and Bestbuy that I would just need to provide a copy of a current bill to verify purchase of the required package.

Good luck.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:46 PM on January 24, 2006

i think the R-15 is currently not hackable... but not entirely sure. check
posted by joeblough at 3:24 PM on January 31, 2006

« Older I need a new .sig   |   Stuff to do in Whistler Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.