Latest in Features

Image credit:

How to upgrade your TiVo HD with WinMFS

Steven Kim

It's been a while since our TiVo Series 3 upgrade how-to feature -- the Series 3 is no longer in production, and has been replaced by the HD model. Even though functionally the Series 3 and HD models are nearly identical, it turns out that internally they're not quite the same beast. In our original post, we referred to a boot CD from Weaknees that had all the necessary Linux and MFS utilities and SATA drivers in one tidy package. When the time came to upgrade our TiVo HD, we did a little research, only to find that the Weaknees CD doesn't support the HD model. Follow us below the fold to see the approach we took to upgrading our TiVo HD.

This left us with a choice -- go back to our original set of Gentoo instructions (which will work just fine with the TiVo HD), or look for an easier way to get the job done. We're not ones to shy away from the command line, but we took the opportunity to try out something that might have a... broader appeal. Enter WinMFS -- a Windows utility to upgrade your TiVo drive. It's still in Beta (currently build 8), but we decided to give it a whirl. With an eye towards quiet and cool operation, we ordered up a 750 GB Western Digital GreenPower drive, fired up our Windows computer and got underway.

Here's a quick shot of showing our TiVo HD with the factory-original 160 GB drive, enough for a paltry 20 hours of HD content.

Extracting the original drive from the TiVo is straightforward: break out your Torx T10 bit, remove the six screws from the rear of the TiVo and then slide open the case. Once inside, disconnect the hard drive and remove the four Torx screws holding the drive sled in. The whole process is detailed in our previous TiVo upgrade how-to, so refer back to it if you need help.

We used a cheap PCI SATA card in our PC and it worked fine. Just plug the original and new drives in and boot up Windows -- there's no need to format the new drive.

Using WinMFS
Download the WinMFS program from here and run it. You're greeted by a pretty sparse UI. Go to File > Select Drive... and you should see entries for your two attached SATA drives. In our case, Drive 1 was our new 750 GB drive, and Drive 2 was our original 160 GB one. Highlight you original drive and press the "Select" button.

We're big on "belt and suspenders" level of precaution when using whole-disk utilities that are in beta, so we decided to back up our TiVo drive. Note that WinMFS does not back up your recorded shows, only the parts of the disk image necessary to get you up and running again should disaster strike. We used the File > Backup options to make copies of our basic TiVo files, the bootpage, and kernel right on our NTFS Windows drive.

Now comes the actual upgrade. Use the Tools > Mfscopy option to select the source and destination for the copy (hint: set your original drive as the source, the new drive as the target). Then just press the "Start" button and wait.

During the copy, we ran into one small niggle -- it looks like WinMFS is a single-threaded application that doesn't refresh the UI if you move another application to the front. During our copy, we switched apps and from then on out our WinMFS session was a blank window with no status indication. Patience is the key here, so just wait until the copy is finished. Once it's all done, WinMFS will ask if you want to make use of the added capacity of your new drive -- we assume you do.

That's it! Power down everything, put the new drive in your TiVo reassemble. "Smoke test" your TiVo by booting it up and seeing if you've got increased recording capacity.

We were really pleased with WinMFS. What's not to like? It's simple to use, the backups make it relatively safe, and it opens up DIY TiVo upgrades to a whole audience that would be scared away from a Linux command-line. For us, it just plain worked. Poking around, it looks to have a good amount of flexibility as well -- support for SATA-USB adapters, merging drives, splitting drives, etc. Of course, the utility isn't limited to TiVo HDs, either, so if you've been holding off on upgrading your (or a friend's) TiVo, no more excuses!

Gallery: How to upgrade to TiVo HD with WinMFS | 16 Photos

From around the web

ear iconeye icontext filevr