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Trouble for TiVo?

Posted by: Cliff Edwards on July 21, 2008

First, let me say there’s no device in my home that can hold a candle to my TiVo. I’m addicted. With it’s Season Pass, Swivel Search and video download service from Amazon and others, it’s still the best digital media recorder on the market and a great way to manage your video-watching lifestyle.

Suddenly, though, the HD TiVo is looking like a piece of junk to thousands of users, including myself.

Within the past week, it’s become almost impossible to watch recorded shows on my own HD TiVo. During playback, the unit freezes up and needs to be rebooted (taking more than three minutes of my valuable couch potato time at each go). More seriously, it’s not doing the job many people are paying for—being able to zip through their favorite shows in less than the time it takes to watch it live. It’s also suddenly become akin to that friend that you like to have around but can’t entirely trust to be there when you need it.

As a techie, I assumed what many others did: The issue might be caused by a failing or faulty hard drive. But when I did a little investigating online today to see if others were having the same problem, I was surprised to see there were more than 10,000 TiVo community threads since April from irate TiVo fans who have had the same problem. Anyone else out there suffering from this problem?

According to the latest threads, TiVo is aware of the issue, which many are blaming on the latest automatic software download to the unit, and is working on a fix. I put in a call to technical support and was told by an agent only to make sure the power source isn’t fluctuating and to use a surge protector (to which I already have my HD TiVo plugged). After a little pressing for other suggestions, he told me they haven’t found a fix beyond that yet.

They’d better hurry. The company relies on its loyal fan base to evangelize its products, which are competing against cheaper cable and satellite DVRS and other equipment. Some three or four months into the first of these problems being reported, money-losing TiVo is building plenty of bad karma among its most faithful users, who could fall out of love with what has been an amazing product.

Reader Comments


July 23, 2008 12:40 AM

I have been having strange reboot problems ever since I bought my TiVo Series 3. I have had the “poison recording” problem, where if I played back one show it would cause my TiVo to reboot at the same point of playback. Personally, I think this is probably related to poor data being recording from the cable card. Also, reboots have occurred more frequently since I bought the expanded hard disk option. However, I don’t see it to be overly annoying, the TiVo in my household reboots once every two weeks. Rebooting every two weeks is superior to any Microsoft product Windows or Windows Mobile product I have ever purchased.


August 4, 2008 1:49 PM

I recently experienced the screen freezing issue. The unit was unusable for several weeks. Turns out the freezing problem was related to the antenna input. Disconnect the antenna connection and the Tivo performed flawlessly. When I described the issue to Tivo customer support, they recommended replacing the hard drive at $149 plus shipping. I refused this kind suggestion for their faulty $800 box. (Anyone remember the XBox 360 ring of death and Microsoft's response?)
I'm glad I waited. The 8/1 software release (9.4) completely fixed the freezing.
I once was a Tivo advocate. Based on the bad advice I received from their customer service--I say buyer beware.


August 19, 2008 5:38 PM

10,000 threads on TCF? I don't think so. There maybe 10-15 threads about this, but you're off by about 99%.

Maybe there are several thousand posts on this handful of threads, representing 75-100 users. Many of them indicate that their problem was solved. Others still have a problem.

There is a problem, but let's not get carried away.


August 19, 2008 10:30 PM

I can't find the page at the moment, but on one of the threads, a Tivo employee said that the "disconnect the antenna fixes it" issue is completely unrelated to the real problem. They had some people bring in their Tivos and it was hardware problems.

The idea was that the Tivo wasn't using the hard drive as much when the antenna was unplugged..


August 20, 2008 12:39 PM

What happened to the first thought this might be a hard drive problem for you? Did you ever persue that or did you use all your time reading the 10,000 threads. *grin*

sorry, but such an obvious innacuracy in what is supposed to be a technical article for a reputable publication just leaves me cold. An editor is clearly not doing their job here.


August 20, 2008 2:28 PM

I've had zero problems with my four tiVoHD boxes and my three Series 3 boxes.
The new update has worked fine on my boxes.


August 21, 2008 6:28 PM

I have 2 HD Tivos and 1 series 3 and no problems at all. 10,000 threads, come-on what kind of thing is that to say, one might think another manufacturer that maybe advertises in the rag might have put them up to this.


October 9, 2008 11:38 PM

Our TIVO has been failing to change stations; it says ER is recorded but we get a story from the History Channel..Any ideas?


January 5, 2009 6:28 PM

I jsut got my Tivo in time to record the Christmas shows. I didn't know you had to have the decoders before you can view anything? But I have them now. My issue has been the constant reboot. Took the cable company 30 mins to get the box to get to Tivo Central? Has anyone else had reboot issues like this. You watch it for maybe 10 mins then it just reboots? Looking for help from anyone. I dont want to loose my HD Tivo, but have 30 days to do just that, send it back! Please help out there!


January 19, 2009 5:03 PM

I have the same problem. I just bought my Tivo HD dual tuner before Christmas. I have had it reboot on its own a number of times. I downloaded the latest BSG episode from Amazon Unbox and during playback it rebooted every 20 mins of run time. I called TIVO support today & they said to try removing antenna & wireless connections & playback. If it still reboots they said it needs to come in for service. I then went to Google & found posts about using TIVO Kickstarts to repair the disk. I'll try those tonight & see what works.


May 10, 2009 5:27 PM

A few months ago, my Tivo began to go to stations that I had not selected to record. In fact, this happens about 90% of the time. I've tried putting the station on that I wish to record so that Tivo doesn't have to move but only to record the program I selected. No luck! This is very frustrating and almost makes Tivo useless. If I can't record the programs I want, what good is it?

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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