The TiVo Roamio Heart Transplant – Easy, Breezy

Dave Zatz —  April 19, 2015

tivo-roamio-drive

Given periodic tuner conflicts with my Premiere XL4/Elite, due to recording duties and Mini streaming, and a desire to periodically offload DVR-ed shows, something the devalued Slingbox cannot offer,  I’ve been quite pleased since taking TiVo up on their 10 year customer deal last month for a 6-tuner Roamio. Indeed, while TiVo’s “Stream” functionality isn’t currently as robust or reliable as Sling’s, I downloaded several episodes of Arrow onto an iPad for two recent flights. Even with the more frequent drops or need to restart a stream as the 5PM news flips to 6PM, given TiVo’s need to initiate a recording prior to streaming, it’s still far more efficient and pleasant than Sling for “watching TV” at the dinner table. My only real issue since upgrading TiVo has been storage capacity…

My Lifetimed Premiere XL4 provided 3TB for recordings. And while we’re probably watching less “cable” television these days, we’re hoarding much more content as we accumulate seasons and half-seasons for binge viewing, sans commercial interruption. TiVo had offered me the Roamio Plus (1TB) for $500 or the Roamio Pro (3TB) for $700, both with Lifetime service. I figured I’d give the smaller drive a shot to potentially save a few bucks… and knowing I could upgrade on my own down the road, for less than TiVo charges for the drive delta, should 1TB prove insufficient.

Fast forward a few weeks… Continually pruning my recordings for a sufficient buffer and not being able to take advantage of Verizon providing a few months of Showtime on the house, I pulled the trigger on a drive upgrade.

I went with this highly regarded 3TB Western Digital AV drive for $111 — the same brand and model TiVo utilizes for reliability/longevity. I assume there are various drive tools and settings I could have futzed with via computer, but I went ahead and dropped the drive in without any customization — all you need is 5-10 minutes, assuming you have two Torx screwdrivers/tips and are capable of removing/attaching a single data+power cable. Which emphasizes the ease of this process. Prior TiVo models require drive prep and imaging. But, presumably to better support their MSO partners, Roamio takes care of bare drives up to 3TB. (If you need something larger, WeaKnees can help.) In fact, the initial boot of the new drive may have been quicker than a typical TiVo reboot. I did have to run thru Guided Setup again, turn off Suggestions, etc, and re-pair my CableCARD — not a big deal, but not entirely seamless. Also, in theory, TiVo backs up Season Passes to the cloud. But only one of mine returned. Not sure if it’s because I didn’t wait long enough, it only backs up SPs initiated on the TiVo versus those transferred, or is just flakey. For recordings, I had the benefit of still having my XL4 in play – it was a bit tedious to transfer everything over there and then back, but simpler than determining if I could clone a drive and more practical than offloading to computer via kmttg as I’m between computers and my Macbook Air doesn’t have the disk space.

29 responses to The TiVo Roamio Heart Transplant – Easy, Breezy

  1. I’ll probably list my 3TB TiVo Premiere Elite/XL4 on ebay in the next few days… if you might interested, drop me a line: davezatz@gmail.com

  2. “Also, in theory, TiVo backs up Season Passes to the cloud. But only one of mine returned. Not sure if it’s because I didn’t wait long enough, it only backs up SPs initiated on the TiVo versus those transferred, or is just flakey.”

    For anyone following in Dave’s path, kmmtg offers an easy-peasy way to quickly save both Season Passes and Thumb ratings off the old drive, and re-load them onto the new drive…

  3. You can use kmttg to copy your season passes over to the new Romio without much trouble. Reordering is necessary but is much easier process than reading the season passes manually

  4. “For recordings, I had the benefit of still having my XL4 in play … and more practical than offloading to computer via kmttg as I’m between computers and my Macbook Air doesn’t have the disk space.”

    Now that the benevolence of the universe has convinced you to upgrade to 3TB and ditch the Actiontec, the next project is to convince you to stick some cheap, long-lived, headless computer on the LAN, both to handle storage, and for a thousand and one other purposes too. I never stop finding unexpected scenarios where it comes in incredibly handy.

    (My headless Mac Mini is now over 6 years old, and still going as strong as the day I bought it. So when you amortize that cost…)

  5. Sally come lately April 19, 2015 at 11:07 am

    Had mine for a yr now. Love it but would not do it without sling. Just too many times I can’t count on the TIVO interface to wk ESP on the road !!
    Downloads are really slow on TIVO and I now find Xfinity app is faster and easier to download most content including HBO and Premium stuff. Wow I just said something nice about a cable company.

  6. Regarding kmttg … all my Season Passes are still in play on the Elite/XL4 and the tivo.com configurator actually works these days – pick the two boxes, check the shows, click “Copy to the other box”

    Sally, yeah, Xfinity’s ability to download premium on demand is very compelling. Also agree TiVo downloads are real slow. Over hotel WiFi, slower than real time. But I put three in the queue before I went to bed and they were waiting for me in the morning. The 30-second skip on the download, versus trying to do that when streaming Sling or TiVo, is pretty priceless. Obviously that doesn’t cover all content and usage scenarios, but it’s great for the plane and maybe for the gym. If I still rode the subway to work, man I’d be in heaven.

  7. I’ve been using my Roaming Pro now since late Summer 2013. Although I needed to wait for them to provide Android streaming. I got to extensively check it out recently while in the waiting room at the hospital. So while the Tivoli streaming works great when you have the bandwidth, with limited and width it is lacking. So for that situation I still need to use my Slingbox 350.

  8. Dave, I’ve looked for info about keeping data when you upgrade, but I can’t find a walkthrough for the Roamios. I’d appreciate a story about it, or even a link to the information I need.

  9. What are you upgrading from?

  10. My 4-tuner Roamio OTA took 3 different sizes of Torx drivers… 9, 15 and 20, if I recall correctly. The hardest part was getting the lid off. It’s *not* secured with screws as I believe the larger Roamio models are, so you have to squeeze each end to unlatch the plastic clips. Otherwise, the WD30EURX was an easy swap, and it took maybe 10 minutes for the box to load its OS onto it from ROM.

  11. “What are you upgrading from?”

    I’m trying to upgrade to a Roamio from a Sony Dream Machine clock radio. Is there any way to transfer over my alarms and my preset radio stations?

  12. I recently upgraded my Premier’s dying hard drive. Not knowing about any computerized way to save my Season Passes…I took camera photos of each page before removing the old, flaky drive. Didnt take too long to put all 47 of them back on the new drive.

    Very low tech, but it worked. Rich

  13. “it took maybe 10 minutes for the box to load its OS onto it from ROM.”

    Two incredibly pedantic corrections:

    – It’s solid state RAM, not ROM, which is how the TiVo is able to upgrade the OS.

    – The OS stays in solid state RAM, and doesn’t get transferred to the hard drive. That 10 minutes is just the OS formatting the drive, and putting other stuff on the HD.

    (I’m mostly, but not 100% sure about the whole “OS stays in solid state RAM” thing. I strongly remember having read things indicating that, and it would certainly account for the dramatically faster boot-up speed in the S5. But the ROM pedantic correction is definitely correct.)

  14. “all you need is 5-10 minutes, assuming you have two Torx screwdrivers/tips and are capable of removing/attaching a single data+power cable.”

    Easy for you to say, Dave, considering that you’re not a manatee.

    As a Manatee-American, I found removing and attaching the cable with my snout to indeed be dead simple. But operating the Torx screwdrivers with my flippers took hours.

  15. Question: How do I add a 2nd internal hard drive to a Roamio?

  16. I have the Roamio Plus and just want to swap drives like you did, but I can’t lose my shows.

  17. “I have the Roamio Plus and just want to swap drives like you did, but I can’t lose my shows.”

    Assuming you don’t have a second TiVo DVR, you’d need to offload your shows using kmmtg, and re-load them onto the new drive with pyTiVo. Sounds complicated, but it’s not really. Just time-consuming, though it all happens without user intervention once you’ve started the process. Plus, you can save and restore Season Passes via kmmtg.

    Only problem is that you’ll lose all your shows that have restrictive CCI byte settings. For FIOS, that’s only HBO and Cinemax, but other MSO’s tend to have much more restrictive settings. So you’ll lose at least some shows, and perhaps a lot. AFAIK, there is simply no way around this with only one DVR. (If you take a quick look at your shows with kmmtg, it will clearly indicate which ones have restrictive CCI byte settings by coloring them amber.)

  18. “Question: How do I add a 2nd internal hard drive to a Roamio?”

    Easy! Simply open the case, stick the drive in anywhere you can find space, and no need to attach any cables. You can even leave the drive in its clear plastic shipping case if you prefer.

    The significant benefit is by increasing your Roamio’s weight, it becomes more resistant to being blown away by wind during a hurricane, tornado, or the like.

  19. Another option for transferring season passes, if you have a 2nd TiVo, you can also use tivo.com to copy season passes, even those with no upcoming shows, between devices. This worked for me a couple of years ago when I did my roamio upgrade, but hadn’t yet found kmttg.

  20. Not sure if Roamio allows drive cloning or if it’s been documented. Weaknees does after an ‘add storage’ option, whereby you send your unit to them — not sure if they’ve figured out how to mount a second internal drive or if they get all your recordings onto a new, larger drive.

    http://www.weaknees.com/tivo-roamio-tcd848000.php

    I think the better option is as Chucky says… offload everything to computer via kmttg and then put it all back via pytivo on a larger, single internal drive. Anyway you do it, it’s going to be somewhat tedious. But, hey, better than Comcast, Verizon, etc offer with their proprietary, locked down gear!

  21. Wish Tivo would upgrade its software so we could drop in 4TB or 6TB drives…

  22. “But the ROM pedantic correction is definitely correct”

    Except it’s not… it’s *actually* electrically erasable programmable read-only memory (EEPROM). RAM (RAM and ROM are both “solid state” for what it’s worth) does not hold its bit states during a total lack of power like EEPROM does. While EEPROM has a finite number of erases and re-writes, even primitive 64KB EEPROM’s had a thousand+ cycles; 10,000+ is typical now. You probably think it’s RAM because of the misnomer NVRAM given to Intel’s trademarked Flash memory (a type of EEPROM).

  23. “Except it’s not… it’s *actually* electrically erasable programmable read-only memory (EEPROM).”

    One good pedantic correction deserves another. And always happy to learn something new.

    But, even after reading the Wikipedia articles, I still don’t get how SSD’s are different from EEPROM, which is what I had guessed the S5 was using, despite my garbled terminology.

    But I’m still holding firm to the idea that the OS is operating off solid state in S5, rather than off the platter drive, unless you’ve got better intel on that…

  24. I concur the TiVo OS itself is running from solid state on the Roamios, likely loaded from EEPROM into DDR (or possibly DDR2 in the Roamios) RAM, but all the settings are saved to hard drive. That’s why if you don’t clone the drive using a program like WinMFS (then grow or add an extra partition if the new drive is larger), you have to go through guided setup and restore your OnePass (nee Season Pass) settings from a second machine on tivo.com or elsewhere.

    I know their priority order is typically hosed when copying them between TiVo’s on tivo.com, but manually restoring the desired order is not as bad as manually recreating the entire list of passes. In my opinion.

    I didn’t even try WinMFS on my Roamio’s drive, since I hadn’t recorded a single program when I replaced the stock 500GB with a WD AV 3TB.

    I’m sure the S3 and older TiVos loaded the OS into RAM from hard drive, though… because the OS on the hard drive had to be above a certain version (K, I think it was) for a 2TB drive to be cloned and then recognized in the S3. And even after cloning a ‘K’ drive to 2TB and allowing the S3 to get online and upgrade to a later version, if you then cloned another 2TB drive off the smaller/older ‘K’ drive the newly cloned drive would be back to build ‘K’ (which would not be the case if the OS was upgraded in EEPROM instead of stored on the hard drive).

    My Premiere XL came with a 2TB drive, so I’ve yet to upgrade that one, but I suspect it also loads from EEPROM and cloning its drive with WinMFS would just recreate the correct partition structure and copy the saved settings/passes (i.e. and it would automatically configure a larger blank drive, like the Roamios, if WinMFS wasn’t used).

  25. “Second question… can I run two drives mirrored or otherwise fault tolerant in Mac Mini in lieu of NAS?”

    Sure. I highly recommend OWC enclosures, as they’ve proved highly reliable for me, and tend to get excellent reviews. If you’re willing to forgo Thunderbolt for USB 3, this 4 bay, RAID enabled enclosure is nice, and reasonably priced. Cheaper two bay RAID enabled enclosures are also available, if you don’t need four.

    Thunderbolt gets more expensive. Cost-wise, if USB 3 is not desired for whatever reason, I’d recommend getting a used Firewire Mini from a reputable place like Powermax, where they recondition, test, and offer a warranty on used Macs. (Plus, no sales tax.) Firewire is damn nice. Not quite as fast as Thunderbolt, but plenty fast enough, much cheaper, reliably daisy-chainable, and a few other advantages.

    And, as always, having a headless computer running the NAS is desirable for a veritable multitude of reasons over using a standalone NAS, even if you don’t factor in using the headless computer for non-NAS reasons, (which you eventually will anyway…)

  26. Yeah, that question was primarly tweeted for you. So thanks for your input. Would rather I go with internal drives, but there are obviously space considerations. I could also go with an iMac as a compuer my wife uses, but I use headless – and either attached storage there or a NAS on the network. Mostly the same scenario, but more versitile form factor. Percolating.

  27. “Would rather I go with internal drives, but there are obviously space considerations.”

    Meh. There is actually an internal RAID capability with certain Mini models, but I’d pretty strongly advise against it for a variety of reasons. Harder to install, increases heat in the Mini that you want to last forever, 3.5 inch drives are much cheaper, disaster recovery gets much more complicated, etc, etc…

    “I could also go with an iMac as a compuer my wife uses, but I use headless – and either attached storage there or a NAS on the network”

    If you go the iMac route, I’d still strongly advise directly attached storage. There are, again, a variety of reasons.

  28. I am pretty sure I found your blog while attempting to upgrade the drive in my S2 years ago. Clearly zatznotfunny has been the gift that keeps on giving!