TiVo Series 3 and HD Upgrade How-To
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Last updated Jan-06-2010
Zeke Ragsdale
IMPORTANT NOTE: The following how-to method has been made obsolete by the improved WinMFS method. This how-to is for people who can't or don't want to use the WinMFS method, which is actually quicker and easier if you have access to a PC. The only change to their "Quick Start" method that I suggest is that on their step "7. Select Destination Drive", that you up the "Custom Linux Swap Size" to 1/2 of your hard disk size, but MB instead of GB. For example, if you're putting in a 500GB drive, use 256MB swap; if you're using a 1TB disk, use 512MB swap. This incrase does not significantly reduce your capacity (<1%) and greatly reduces your chances of getting the dreaded 'green screen of death' error.

Below is a simple step-by-step guide for upgrading your TiVoSeries 3 or TiVo HD PVR to a larger capacity SATA hard drive using a Linux boot disk. It is similar tothe old Hinsdale method, but updated with newer tools that allow you toupgrade the larger 500GB+ drives.

This guide assumes you have a basic general knowledge of PC hardware. If youwould be comfortable plugging in a new CD-rom drive and executing a fewsimple unix prompt commands, you probably won't have much trouble withthis. If you want to buy an upgrade drive instead of making oneyourself, just visit a company on the banner above, they're all about the same. If you've tried this yourself and get utterly frustrated and want a pro to do it, I've done this for a hand full of people (oddly most have the first name 'Steve'), but I prefer to help you through the step that you're having trouble on. But if you find that you are utterly 'Steved', shoot me an e-mail at the address at the bottom.

  • DO NOT touch the power supply. You can get shocked and/or damage the hardware.
  • Upgrading your hard drive incorrectly may damage your TiVo beyond repair and void your warranty. Upgrade at your own risk.
  • This is meant as a general guide only. We do not make any guarantees that it will work.

What you need before starting work:
  • A new3Gbit/s SATA upgrade hard drive. The one that comes with the TiVo is250GB, so get something larger than that. We recommend doing researchfor a drive that runs as cool and quiet as possible. Don't forget to change the jumpers on the new drive from 1.5Gbit/s to 3.0Gbit/s.
  • A PC with SATA capability, at least 500MB ram, and a CD-rom drive.
  • A Torx T-10 screwdriver. You can find these at Home Depot for about a buck or two.
  • Knoppix Linux boot disc on CD-rom. Download the ISO and burn it to CD at www.knoppix.org.
  • Note: It is always best to copy from your original drive that the unit shipped with, to your new drive.  Copying from an upgrade drive to a newer upgrade drive sometimes causes problems, especially if they are the same capacity.

  1. Use the Torx T-10 screwdriver to open your TiVo3. Remove the SATA hard drive inside.

  2. Power off your computer, and open up the case.

  3. Disconnect any hard drives for your PC, you only need 3 drives attached: the original SATA TiVo drive, the new larger SATA upgrade drive, and the CD/DVD-rom drive. Be sure that the jumper settings on the new drive are set to 3.0Gbit/s rather than 1.5Gbit/s. Don't forget to connect the power cords to each hard drive.

  4. Configure your PC's BIOS to boot from CD. Put the Knoppix boot disc in the drive and boot from the CD. At the boot options prompt, simply press enter to boot with the default settings.

  5. Once the Knoppix GUI is booted up, open a console by clickingthe icon of the black screen towards the bottom left. This will pull upa window with a prompt.

  6. Type 'su' and hit enter to gain root access. The prompt in blue text should change from 'knoppix@...' to 'root@...'

  7. Type 'cat /proc/partitions' and hit enter to identify the namesof the two hard drives.

    IMPORTANT: This is the only step in which a simple oversight can ruin your TiVo, so proceed carefully. If you accidentally copy the blank drive to the original drive, you essentially formatted your HD, so be very careful to correctly identify each drive before executing.

    Write down which drive (original or upgrade drive) is 'sda' and which is 'sdb'and DO NOT get these confused.

    In the example below, 'sda' is the original 250GB drive, and 'sdb' is the new 500GB drive.

  8. Now you will copy the original drive's contents over to the newdrive. To copy the contents over, type the command 'dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/sdb bs=1024k' where sda is your source drive and sdb is yournew upgrade drive. This step takes about 70 minutes on my 2.2mhz AMD dual core, but I've heard of it taking 4+ hours on some other systems. IMPORTANT: be sure to have the source drive after the 'if' and the destination drive after the 'of'. If you copy from the blank drive to the original drive, bad things will happen.

  9. (This step is optional, and only gives you a status update on the 'dd' process that you just ran.)

    Tocheck the progress of the disk copying, open a second console byclocking the icon of the black screen in the lower left again, type 'su' to gain root access, and then type 'ps ax'. This will give you a list of processes. Look for the 'ddif...' command in the list, and make a note of the 4 digit numberassociated with it.

    Type 'kill -SIGUSR1 9999' but use thenumber that you just got instead of the 9999 and hit enter. This willtell you how far along it is in copying the 250GB over to your newdrive.

  10. While this 'dd' command is running, get ready for the next step. Open a web browser window and go to mfstools.sourceforge.net then click on the gzipped tar static link. Save the file to your Knoppix desktop.

  11. Double-click the file on your desktop. This will open the contents of the archive. Drag 'mfstools' from the archive onto your desktop to expand.

  12. To expand the partition, type '/home/knoppix/Desktop/mfstooladd -x /dev/sdb -r 4' where 'sdb' is the name of your new hard driveand hit enter to expand the capactiy of your new hard drive to its fullpotential. Don't worry, if you try to expand your original drive, nothing bad happens, it just tells you that it's already at capacity.

  13. Power off, put your TiVo back together with the new drive, fire it up, and check your new capacity. Here is what a 500GB drive looks like:

"What drive should I buy?"
As of Jan-06-10, the best drive for TiVo 3 and HD upgrades is the SAMSUNG EcoGreen F2 HD103SI 1TB 5400 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive.  We do not make commission on this recommendation, we just think it's the best out there as of this date.  We used to recommend 1.5TB capacity drives, but there are compatability issues that complicate things.  1TB allows for plenty of HD storage, but if you feel that you must have a larger capacity, please do your homework with researching specific drive models for your specific TiVo model.  Unfortunately, I do not have the resources to help you with your search, but there are plenty of forums that can help.

"Does this work with the new HD version?"
This model works with anything with a TiVo logo on it that I'm aware of. The same method will work with Series 1 & 2 also, just make sure you're using a compatible hard drive, and that the jumper is set to 3.0Gbit/s.

"My TiVo image is corrupt, what should I do?"
Hopefully you kept your original drive image virginal and unused, and you can use this guide to start over from scratch.  That is the most complete and safest way.  You cannot use an image from another model, for example a TiVo3 image for a TiVo XL won't work.  Search Google for "tivo backup images" for a way to back up from an original image, but I have not made a how-to for that process and cannot assist you, but the process has a lot of the same steps.  If you end up giving up, the folks at Weaknees (link usually on banner above) will sell you a drive.

"Why do I get an error when I expend the partition (step 12)? It says that there is nothing to add."
You are probably trying to move from an upgrade drive to a new upgrade drive to save your recordings and season passes. My guide works best from the original drive to your first upgrade drive. If you have the original drive, try using that. If you're dying to copy over your shows and season passes from your upgrade drive, search around for info on using the 'mfstool add' function on WinMFS instead of mfstools. Users have reported successes using that tool instead, but I have not tried it myself so you're on your own.

"When I turn on the TiVo after the upgrade, why do I get error #51 or hardware failure error?"
You are probably using an image from another TiVo unit's hard drive. Go to 'Messages and Setup' -> 'Restart or Reset System' -> 'Clear and Delete Everything' to start over.

"I get a corruption error on step X, what's the deal?"
Either you followed a step incorrectly, or perhaps there is a hardware compatibility issue that I'm not aware of.  If you end up figuring it out, let me know.  If you are ready to give up, feel free to try the WinMFS method which we have also used and it works just as well.

Have another question?
I'll try my best to help, e-mail