What is TiVoToGo and what is this web page?
Chances are, if you made it to this site you know what TiVoToGo is. Just in case you need a refresher TTG is a service which allows you to extract television recordings from your networked stand-alone TiVo device to your Windows PC for personal, noncommercial use. This web page isn’t intended as a hard-core geek guide, just a place get the average TiVo subscriber pointed in the right direction by exposing some of options that have worked for me. None of the products or methods listed on this page involve breaking TiVo’s encryption nor do they describe the illegal distribution of video. This guide is intended to facilitate the personal, noncommercial viewing and archiving of television files that TiVo has recorded at your request.
How do I get shows off my TiVo?
Your TiVo device needs to have downloaded at least system software v7 to provide TiVoToGo functionality. Once you’ve met that requirement, you have a few options:
- Use the freely provided TiVo Desktop software for Windows.
- On Mac OS X, use either the Roxio Popcorn or Toast software packages.
- Directly connect to the web service your TiVo is running as described below.
- Use a custom app to connect to the web server your TiVo is running.
For most folks, the free TiVo Desktop software is sufficient to manage the download of shows from your TiVo. Galleon is an example of a custom app, using TiVo’s published specifications which requires no modification of your TiVo device.
How long does it take to download a show?
Download times vary widely. Most people report shows transferring a little quicker or a little slower than real time, meaning if you have a one hour show it will take about an hour to transfer wirelessly. Many factors impact your throughput including file size based on recording quality and your network design. For example a digital, HD show or SD show recorded in high quality will take longer to transfer than a show recorded in basic quality. Encryption on a wireless network could also impact transfer times. Wirelessly networked TiVo units will transfer slower than hard-wired units, unless using one of TiVo’s wireless adapters — with the new 802.11n model outpacing the 802.11g USB model. Transfer times are drastically improved with TiVo Premiere hardware.
I downloaded shows to my PC, now what?
TiVoToGo files, having the .tivo extension, are essentially encrypted and fingerprinted mpeg files. MPEG is a common video format. Your unique Media Access Key (MAK) is appended to all shows as text, and perhaps embedded as a watermark in other ways. The TiVo Desktop software includes a .dll that is used to decrypt, or unlock, your show using your MAK. TiVo files can be viewed, converted, edited, transferred, and/or burned.
How do I watch shows on my PC?
In order to view the original .tivo files, you need at a bare minimum three pieces of software:
- TiVo Desktop
- MPEG Codec
- DirectShow-capable Media Player
TiVo Desktop software installs software (a DirectShow DLL) which is needed to unlock your .tivo file.
A codec capable of handling the MPEG file format, associated with DVD media, needs to be installed on your system. A codec is basically an AV translator that understands how to present (decode) the audio and video. If your PC came with a DVD drive, chances are good you have the proper codecs already installed.
A DirectShow media player, such as the suggested Windows Media Player (WMP) uses the codec to display your television show, with DVD-like software controls.
You can initiate playback directly through the TiVo Desktop software or by double-clicking the .tivo file located in My DocumentsMy TiVo Recordings. Additional software media players, such as the free ZoomPlayer and WinAmp, will also open and play your TiVo-recorded show in lieu of WMP.
How come my shows look crappy when I view them full-screen?
The resolution on computer monitors is higher than that of TV. Additionally, Non-HD television shows are broadcast in low quality and therefore displayed in low quality. Combine that with TiVo’s compression, which varies depending on your recording quality and the picture quality degrades further. Additionally, different codecs provide different results. Many software media players have filters which can appropriately deinterlace and scale, however by default these features are not available in Windows Media Player.
How can I free the raw MPEG from this .tivo file?
By freeing the MPEG from the .tivo wrapper, you are able to do much more with your television recordings. Again, let me remind you that these recordings are for your personal, noncommercial use. Piracy is a crime and you are responsible for your actions. TiVo may or may not watermark video with your unique Media Access Key in ways we haven’t discovered yet. Be aware that the unmodified DirectShow DLL included with TiVo Desktop 2.1+ prevents several programs from performing file conversions. I suggest reviewing your TiVo service agreement before continuing.
Some folks want to free their MPEG files so they can edit and burn them using the software of their choice, rather than using the software of TiVo’s partner Sonic. Another reason you may want to free your MPEG is to get your video onto a PDA or other portable device in a supported format with a smaller file size. Personally, I free the MPEGs so I can watch shows directly through WinDVD or transfer them to my Dell Axim PDA.
[more to come]
How do I make DVDs?
As with everything else I’ve mentioned, there are multiple ways to skin this cat. TiVo has established a business relationship with Sonic, so their software is the official method to create discs playable in DVD devices. Sonic and Roxio have merged – MyDVD appears to be superceded by Creator 2010.
You are not limited to Sonic though… If you have set your MPEG free using one of the methods above, etc you have complete freedom to use any DVD editing/burning software suite you choose. Those resultant video files are supported by default by all major software vendors, such as Nero. These packages allow you to import your video, edit out commercials, put in cool menus, etc.
For many folks, that may be too much work to download, transcode, and then edit to burn. The good news is that .tivo files imported into any DirectShow “aware” software products, assuming you have the proper codecs installed, will be unlocked by the TiVo software for editing in a similar manner as the Sonic MyDVD solution. For example, Nero has demonstrated the ability to load, edit, and create DVDs from the original .tivo files under certain circumstances.
How can I get shows onto my portable device?
If you set your MPEG free, as described above, the resultant file can be played in many applications. However, the resolution and file size are not optimized for small devices and not all software supports mpeg files. Various programs transcode and resize the mpeg file through such as the free TMPGEnc.
If you’re running TiVo Desktop 2.1 or higher, Windows Media Player 10 enables the conversion of .tivo files to .wmv and then synchronization with Microsoft Portable Media Centers (PMC) and other mobile devices that run WMP. To enable this feature first launch WMP10, then go into the “Library” and add your TiVo folder of recordings. Once WMP10 knows where to find those .tivo files, you can go to the Sync tab at anytime, choose “All Video Clips” from the left drop down menu and choose your destination from the right drop down menu, such as memory card, PDA, or PMC. Check the shows you want to convert and transfer, then click “Sync” at the top.
How do I get shows at work, school, or the Marriott?
So you’re not at home, but want to access your TiVo shows… no problem! Assuming you’re comfortable with networking, this is pretty straight forward using the undocumented web server living in your TiVo. You will need to configure your router to forward requests to port 80 (HTTP) and 443 (HTTPS) to the IP address assigned to your TiVo. Once you’ve set that up, at your remote location point your web browser to https://[WAN IP of your router]. To log in use tivo as your username and your unique media access key (MAK) is the password. Your TiVo box will serve up a pretty little web page listing your shows! Download, watch, repeat. Like your home PC you’ll need TiVo Desktop software, a codec, and a media player to watch your shows.
For security reasons or if your ISP blocks port 80, you may choose to obscure the location of your TiVo by using virtual WAN ports such as xx.xx.xx.xx:2000 -> yy.yy.yy.yy:443. If you want to access your TiVo web server within the home, you can browse directly to the TiVo IP (remember, using https) without any router config.
This is a pain in the ass, what other options do I have?
The quickest, easiest, and highest quality way to get TiVo recordings on the DVD is to buy a TiVo w/ DVD Burner – the only drawback is you won’t be able to edit out commercials. You have quite a few options to get TV and movie content onto a computer… An amazing recent innovation is the Slingbox – this device “slings” whatever is on your TV, TiVo, DVD player, etc to any computer anywhere in the world and provides full remote control. I highly recommend the Slingbox and “placeshifting” could revolutionize TV the way TiVo did several years ago. There are several PC programs which have PVR/DVR functionality and then some, such as SageTV or the free MythTV for Linux. Plus, downloadable and/or streaming content is here – I’m a fan of Amazon VOD, for example. Additionally, TiVo units can be hacked to extract video as described at DealDatabase.
What does TiVo Desktop 2.3 offer?
TiVo Desktop has been updated with a few new tricks up it’s sleeve. Enhancements include scheduled series downloads and MPEG-4 to MPEG-2 video transcoding (at a cost of $24.95) for a variety of portable devices such as the video-capable iPod and PSP.