Customer Contacts Troubleshooting Help

Diagnosing TiVo Power Supply Problems

We’ve got a pretty extensive TiVo troubleshooting page on our site, but I thought I’d recap about the issues specific to power supplies, because we get a lot of questions about these.

The primary symptom of a bad power supply is getting no video out of any output port. That includes the gray screen – if you get even a gray screen, likely you don’t have a bad power supply. You need to get no video out at all – not even a flicker on your TV screen when you power up the TiVo.

But people often are convinced that the power supply is OK even without video, for some other reason. So here is a list of problems that people report that are all still consistent with problematic power supplies. If you have any of these same occurrences, you can still have a bad power supply – we see it all the time:

  • Fan still spins
  • Drive spins up
  • Drive power leads test to proper voltage (5V and 12V)
  • Lights illuminate on the TiVo faceplate

Customers often ask, “If one or more of the above is taking place, how could the power supply be bad?” Well, in many cases, when a power supply is bad, none of the above take place. But power supplies fail in different ways. The connector that delivers power to the drives uses different components on the motherboard than the flat white (parlex) cable that delivers power to the motherboard. And that cable holds several connectors, so sometimes there is a failure of some power delivery through it to certain components (like the processing chips) but not to the fan.

In short, the best way to diagnose a bad power supply is the video test: no video = bad power supply. Then, the best way to check that is to install a replacement power supply. Our power supplies are returnable subject to our normal terms.

We now have replacement TiVo power supplies for almost every model out there.

Customer Contacts

My TiVo Remote Stopped Working Well . . .

We get this a lot by email and by phone: My TiVo is responding to my remote very slowly. I think my remote or my IR board is bad. I’ve changed the batteries and rebooted the unit.

We’ve got a strange answer for this, but it’s the right one almost every time: IR interference.

For some reason, TiVos are unusually susceptible to other IR waves. So other remotes, IR blasters, and other products can cause this behavior. Half the time, there’s a remote jammed under a couch cushion with a button stuck down.

So we tell people to just take all of the other remotes out of the room, and see what happens. That almost always does the trick.

The key way to know if this applies to you? “My TV still works fine with my TiVo remote . . .”

Customer Contacts

R10 and R15 Confusion

We’ve been getting more and more phone calls – a lot today – from customers who ordered a TiVo from DirecTV and got an R15. You might only notice if you were familiar with the TiVo interface, so this may be a much larger problem. But in any event, it seems that the phone reps at DirecTV don’t differentiate between “TiVo” and the generic term “DVR” and they’ve made at least a handful of customers pretty unhappy.

One such customer claimed to have the order for a TiVo in writing specifically using the word “TiVo” and if we can get a scan of that, we’ll post it.

Customer Contacts

The 137 GB Limit

Looks like everyone wants a super-sized upgrade these days. 120 GB just won’t do. We’ve been getting lots and lots of email about the old 137 GB barrier, which no longer applies to any newer unit. So if your unit has a USB port, even it if can’t use the USB port, you can use drives as large as anything out there.

Here’s the deal: Most TiVos originally shipped with a version of the Linux kernel that could only read up to 137 GB off of any piece of fixed media. So the max storage space was limited to 137 GB per device, two devices per unit. That’s why the largest drives we sell for many units are 160 GB – they’re the next largest size above the barrier, so they’re the smallest that gives the largest space. That is to say, you could put two 250 GB drives in the older units, but you wouldn’t gain any more space than you would with 160s.

But at the end of last summer, all of the units with USB ports that couldn’t previously see more than 137 GB of space received OS updates. The updates include a newer kernel, and now those units can see the space on any drive. The largest we currently sell are 400 GB drives, but 500s are coming soon.

Customer Contacts

More MPEG-4 DirecTV Info via a Canned DTV Email

As a follow up on our earlier post about MPEG-4 and DIRECTV, we’re posting a boilerplate letter that DIRECTV is sending to subscribers who inquire about these changes:

Thanks for asking about HD equipment. I understand your concern about how our transition to MPEG-4 transmission will affect any MPEG-2 equipment you may have. Let me reassure you that most customers will be able to use their MPEG-2 equipment for quite some time.

That’s what we’ve been telling our customers – buying a DirecTV HD DVR now is not something that will be obsolete anytime soon, and, most importantly, it has the TiVo OS. The box that is slated to arrive with MPEG-4 recording capabilities will not have the TiVo OS.

At this time, our current HD programming will continue to be broadcast using the MPEG-2 standard; MPEG-4 technology will be used only to provide local HD programming in select cities. (Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Tampa and Washington, D.C. are expected to launch this year, with more to be added throughout the next year.)

OK – that’s the easy part.

Once local HD programming launches in your city, you will be eligible for an MPEG-4-capable receiver replacement. If you want to replace your HD DVR, you may need to wait a bit longer. Our new MPEG-4-capable DIRECTV HD DVR is expected to be available sometime in 2006.

All over the internet, people claim that DIRECTV plans to come out with the new HD DVR for MPEG-4 in February, but our sources push that date much further back. This boilerplate text hints that it could be a while.

Thanks again for writing. More details will be available when we launch the local HD service in your area, so watch your local TV, radio or mailbox for upcoming announcements or visit for the latest news.

For those of you who are clamoring for the new receiver, we have them, and if you can’t wait to get your hands on the massive new 5 LNB dish, we now have those also.

Note: More MPEG-4 info is in our earlier blog entry.