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post #1 of 30 Old 10-07-2015, 10:28 AM - Thread Starter
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my experience moving from HTPCs running WMC to a TiVo Bolt + Mini setup

Hi -

Wanted to post my story, along with some thoughts from a guy moving from HTPCs (Windows Media Center + MediaBrowser) to a TiVo setup. I've used WMC for much longer, but my current HTPCs are about 4.5 years old (a few newer), running a mix of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. I had a TiVo decades ago before switching to HTPCs.

My HTPC setup consisted of small form factor i3-based HTPCs in every room (some Habey chassis, a couple NUCs). All ran SSDs with 8GB RAM so performance was very good. All connected to a SiliconDust HD HomeRun (rare 6 tuner version) installed on my rack through ethernet. Technically gigabit, but because of an issue SiliconDust had with my Intel motherboard NICs most were locked down to 100Mbps to avoid pixelization.

My main HTPC in my master bedroom had a larger chassis and Ceton PCIe 4 tuner card all to itself. This HTPC did most of the recordings in the house and had a shared Recorded TV folder. The small HTPCs in other rooms moved any recordings to this main HTPC nightly, so pretty much any HTPC had access to all recordings. I couldn't manage recordings from the small HTPCs but it worked well enough.

Ripped movie playback was done through MediaBrowser which worked very well. I used the old school Microsoft WMC remote controls, which I love, to control my HTPC and TV power on/off/volume/etc. except for my theater room where I have a nice URC remote.

I initially chose not to go with WMC extenders because I did not like the various limitations and overall experience - large/loud/hot Xboxes, limited video format playback, excessive power use or slow bootup (your choice), etc. The lack of development, pending death of WMC and inability to use Netflix and Amazon Prime through a consistent and reliable remote control interface drove me to look elsewhere.

I purchased a few Fire TV Sticks to try out and although I loved the streaming options the performance was pretty poor in the interface, and also intermittently in the Netflix app. Switching between the HTPC and Fire TV Stick was an issue - a couple of TVs experienced HDMI handshaking issues. After hours of troubleshooting I ended up using a HDMI booster I had kicking around which fixed the issue 99% of the time on 1 TV, and I just dealt with the issue on the other. I also purchased a couple inexpensive remote controls to replace my Microsoft remotes so we could easily switch between inputs with 1 remote, etc. I still had a 2 remote experience because of the Fire TV Stick.

After some thought I felt this was not the right road to be on. I was kind of hacking things together with cheap remotes, HDMI boosters, WiFi Fire TV sticks, etc. and was getting no real advantage out of it. I'm a geek at heart so I don't mind going the difficult route as long as there are clear advantages, like I thought there were when initially going with HTPCs, and as long as I can keep things simple and trouble-free for the family. Sure, I could go with $100 Fire TVs and nicer universal remotes to provide a better experience, but with the multiple TVs I have it seemed silly to spend that money and go that route. I decided instead to go with a TiVo setup.

I recently got through replacing most of my HTPCs with a TiVo setup. I went with a TiVo Bolt and upgraded it to 4TB for the master bedroom, and purchased 4 TiVo Minis for other rooms in my house. For the remainder of the TVs I decided to just use the Fire TV Sticks as live TV is not really needed in those rooms. I may also keep a HTPC around for my theater depending on the quality of the TiVo Plex app.

I have to say, I'm loving it so far. The Bolt upgrade to 4TB wasn't bad once I found the right procedure - as far as I know I was the first to do it on a Bolt. This gives me 490 HD hours of storage according to the Bolt, which is way more than I had in my old HTPC. No more HDMI handshake issues, interface is clean and intuitive, and it's nice knowing development is ongoing.

Managing recordings and streaming using the available apps seems great, though I haven't used the streaming much yet (don't have much of a need, but the kids may like it). The Bolt interface is blazing fast, even faster than my WMC setups which I thought were very quick. The Minis do not perform quite as well as the Bolt in the TV interface, but performance is still very good - probably on par with my WMC HTPCs as far as guide browsing, channel changing, etc. Netflix and Amazon Prime apps load blazing fast on the Bolt, and still pretty quick on the TiVo Minis. Even the Minis provide a superior interface to the Fire TV Sticks in those apps. Managing recordings from the Minis is also great - a feature I lacked with my HTPC setup. I love how TiVo organizes the recordings with OnePass, giving me locally stored and streaming options in the same interface.

The included RF remotes are very good, though the quality of the SlidePro remote is better (got one of those for the master bedroom). No more IR blasters off my HTPCs (for the kitchen counter TV, etc.). It controls all my TVs and soundbars except for the Epson projector in my theater room. I have a URC remote there anyway, so that's not a big issue. I could always upgrade that one to a SlidePro as well if I decide I want to keep using the TiVo remote there. I haven't gotten around to programming my URC remote yet. The find remote feature on the Bolt is fantastic, but I don't believe the Mini has that option.

I have not tackled ripped movie playback yet, but I anticipate moving from MediaBrowser to Plex. I hear the Plex experience on the Mini is not fantastic and limited to 720p, but I also hear it's 1080p and great on the Bolt. I will post back once I get that done.

My plan is to replace my Minis next year when TiVo updates them to match their new Bolt. I don't care so much about 4K, but do like the processor/memory/speed improvements on the Bolt allowing for the faster interface and presumably 1080p support in Plex. I also hope they'll add a remote finder feature. At that point I hope to ride the Cable Card wave as long as it will take me, hopefully another 5+ years. By then I'm sure it will be a whole new ballgame.

I'm now paying $150 per year for service, but I don't think that's bad at all - espeically when it includes a partial warranty on the equipment. I would have gladly paid that to Microsoft for continuted Windows Media Center development. I will lose tuners, but for reliability all my PCs were locked down to 1 tuner each on my SiliconDust anyway. The reliable TiVo tuner pooling should be more efficient, give me greater flexibility, though if they had a 6 tuner version of the Bolt I would have definitely gone with that. I'm hoping 4 tuners will be enough, especially as streaming from Netflix & Amazon Prime becomes more and more prevalent. I will save about $10 per month on Cable Card fees.

I plan on re-using 2 of my HTPCs as extra PCs for my younger kids. They like to have buddies come over and play Minecraft and other games together on occasion, so they are really looking forward to having a couple extra PCs to use and share. The rest I can sell, along with my HD HomeRune Prime and Ceton card, Microsoft remotes, etc.. I suspect I will come close to breaking even which made this a no-brainer for me.

My total cost in was under $1000 including the Minis, SlidePro remote and 4TB hard drive upgrade and I feel like I've gotten a much improved experience already - and my wife and kids agree.

Will post back as I get more experience with the TiVo, and also once I get Plex setup.

Hope my info & experience might help others looking to do the same.
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Last edited by Mike_Boulanger; 10-07-2015 at 11:07 AM.
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post #2 of 30 Old 10-07-2015, 11:53 AM
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thanks for the write up! It sounds like TiVo is right for you. I know a lot of HTPC users focus on recording live TV and ripping movies for storage. What i prefer about having the HTPC hooked right up to my TV is the versatility to switch over to web browsing, playing games, listening to internet radio, and streaming online tv or movies(Netflix/hulu). I do not record or rip anything. Would the new TiVo boxes be able to accommodate all the things i listed above?
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post #3 of 30 Old 10-07-2015, 11:57 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
thanks for the write up! It sounds like TiVo is right for you. I know a lot of HTPC users focus on recording live TV and ripping movies for storage. What i prefer about having the HTPC hooked right up to my TV is the versatility to switch over to web browsing, playing games, listening to internet radio, and streaming online tv or movies(Netflix/hulu). I do not record or rip anything. Would the new TiVo boxes be able to accommodate all the things i listed above?
I used to like using the HTPCs for quick web browsing, but now with tablets and notebooks around the house they never get used for that purpose. I'm still digging into all the features, but I believe TiVo supports Pandora. They definitely support Netflix and I think Hulu was pulled with the new Bolt but will be brought back soon. Not certain, I do not subscribe to Hulu. I do remember people saying that the old Hulu app was very outdated. Not sure if there are any games, but if there are I'm sure they are very basic.

It seems like a HTPC would be much better for your use, sounds like you would always have a keyboard/mouse ready whereas I only really want a remote control.
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post #4 of 30 Old 10-07-2015, 12:15 PM
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yeah i guess i have become accustom to the keyboard mouse combo. I first used a Dinovo Mini then switched to the Logitech K400. Slim enough to stuff between the couch cushions, but standard enough even my 65 year old parents can still use it.
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post #5 of 30 Old 10-07-2015, 12:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike_Boulanger View Post
I used to like using the HTPCs for quick web browsing, but now with tablets and notebooks around the house they never get used for that purpose. I'm still digging into all the features, but I believe TiVo supports Pandora. They definitely support Netflix and I think Hulu was pulled with the new Bolt but will be brought back soon. Not certain, I do not subscribe to Hulu. I do remember people saying that the old Hulu app was very outdated. Not sure if there are any games, but if there are I'm sure they are very basic.

It seems like a HTPC would be much better for your use, sounds like you would always have a keyboard/mouse ready whereas I only really want a remote control.
How did you do the 4TB upgrade? Was it with an external drive?

I'm pretty sure the Roamio TiVo has Pandora and Spotify as well as some others. I'm interested to hear how the Bolt does with Plex. I switched from Plex to Emby and now back to Plex once I ditched WMC for the TiVo. I only keep Emby server running because it can sync photos and videos from our phones while Plex only does photos. I need to revisit that and consider shutting down Emby.

I'm also with you and see no need for web browsing on a HTPC (or gaming and especially streaming). So many devices do those better. The last thing I want to do is watch my wife using Facebook on the 65" TV.

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post #6 of 30 Old 10-07-2015, 12:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
How did you do the 4TB upgrade? Was it with an external drive?
No, it was a 2.5" drive. My thread is here:
http://www.tivocommunity.com/tivo-vb...d.php?t=532579


Quote:
I switched from Plex to Emby and now back to Plex once I ditched WMC for the TiVo.
Any tips to offer before I dive into this? Should I clear my current ripped media folders of all metadata before installing Plex? I've never looked at Plex much and certainly have not installed it, but assume it's fairly similar to Emby.


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The last thing I want to do is watch my wife using Facebook on the 65" TV.
LOL, right?!
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post #7 of 30 Old 10-07-2015, 01:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nofronts View Post
thanks for the write up! It sounds like TiVo is right for you. I know a lot of HTPC users focus on recording live TV and ripping movies for storage. What i prefer about having the HTPC hooked right up to my TV is the versatility to switch over to web browsing, playing games, listening to internet radio, and streaming online tv or movies(Netflix/hulu). I do not record or rip anything. Would the new TiVo boxes be able to accommodate all the things i listed above?
I'm in your boat, I need the additional things a htpc can do. When I used to have RCN I had tivo and I loved it. I haven't yet gotten a tv tuner card or played around with recording tv onto my htpc, but I get the feeling I'd end up doing with the OP did and get simpler premade solutions, just seems like much fewer headaches. I love xbmc too much and the customization it provides and emulators of old video game systems was a major impetus for me to go this route. But if you only use a htpc to mainly record tv and stream net flicks, hulu etc I think tivo does a bangup job and I'd def go that route to preserve my sanity.

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post #8 of 30 Old 10-07-2015, 01:04 PM - Thread Starter
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I love xbmc too much and the customization it provides and emulators of old video game systems was a major impetus for me to go this route.
I may keep an HTPC in my theater, but it won't be used for live TV so I'm thinking about trying out XBMC there. I'm also keeping one in my basement where I don't really need live TV but I do have a couple emulators setup with Emby. Your mention of emulators piqued my interest - anything out of the ordinary it can do with emulators (MAME, etc.)?
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post #9 of 30 Old 10-07-2015, 08:12 PM
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If you don't need live TV and XBMC is what you want, there's no benefit to being on Windows. An Openelec based XBMC will do just fine. Hell, it'll run that on a Raspberry Pi, although the performance is nothing to write home about. A small mini-itx or even smaller form factors, that have good linux support (for openelec) will work great for video files playback.

(I'm not a big fan of Plex "inside" my network, for remote streaming, it of course works great.. Why introduce one more layer? Direct file playback. That reminds me...what is wrong with the Plex team?? They need better UI designers. Now that they have a number of pay products, they should be able to afford better UI designers. The UI is...well...let's just say it could use some work.)
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post #10 of 30 Old 10-08-2015, 05:26 AM - Thread Starter
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Stayed up late last night removing Emby and cleaning up my library, removing existing metadata, renaming everything to conform with the Plex recommended conventions, also ripping anything I still had in DVD format (VIDEO_TS) to MKV, then loading up Plex on my server. Renaming my media and ripping to MKV took a while but I was on a mission.

Installing and configuring Plex was surprisingly simple. Connecting the TiVo app was even easier (just type in a 4 digit PIN), and I'm happy to say that it is working great! Cover art filled in completely, which amazed me. With Emby I always had to tune things to get the metadata picked up properly.

I was afraid of what performance and quality on the Minis might be like but I have to say I'm 100% happy with the results. I have not given it a critical eye in my theater, but the Minis are primarily located in casual viewing rooms and I'm more than happy. My server is an Intel X3430 @ 2.4 GHz with 8GB RAM. I streamed 2 movies through Plex at the same time and noticed no drop in performance. I did not try a 3rd, but with all the other content available I doubt we'd have 3 locally stored movies streaming at once.

The interface is a bit barebones, but no worse than the Emby app was on the FireTV stick (actually I think the Plex app is better). Emby on WMC was definitely a superior interface to Plex on TiVo, but Plex is definitely more than acceptable for our use.
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post #11 of 30 Old 10-08-2015, 06:28 AM
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Waiting to see if Plex is 1080p on the Bolt. You change the settings by going to one of the pull down menus on the upper right.

Sent from my Nexus 6 using Tapatalk

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post #12 of 30 Old 10-08-2015, 07:12 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi -

From what I can tell it is, and others report it is 1080p on the Bolt as well. I believe it's up to 2160p.
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post #13 of 30 Old 10-08-2015, 08:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike_Boulanger View Post
I may keep an HTPC in my theater, but it won't be used for live TV so I'm thinking about trying out XBMC there. I'm also keeping one in my basement where I don't really need live TV but I do have a couple emulators setup with Emby. Your mention of emulators piqued my interest - anything out of the ordinary it can do with emulators (MAME, etc.)?
It's more for organization and eye candy. It just launches the emulators you already have installed. It doesn't really add any additional functionality but it is pretty to look at.

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post #14 of 30 Old 10-08-2015, 08:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike_Boulanger View Post
Hi -

From what I can tell it is, and others report it is 1080p on the Bolt as well. I believe it's up to 2160p.
Ok, that looks good on the resolution. Wondering what the supported video and audio codecs are in PLEX? Can you direct play or stream h.264/h.265 and what is the max bitrate. What does it do to the audio stream, direct dd/dts or transcode pcm (surround or stereo)? I would imaging it doesn't support mkv, so a simple container transcode will do but at a minimum direct stream for video is essential in my theater room for movies. Thanks.

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I thought Plex supported pretty much everything via transcoding, albeit at a significant loss in quality. For full quality streams, you should really use pytivo or something like that.
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post #16 of 30 Old 01-19-2016, 07:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Mike_Boulanger View Post
Hi -
Thanks for this post. After getting frustrated waiting on the Silicon Dust DVR solution, I just ordered a Bolt, 2 Minis, and a 4TB drive to put in the Bolt. Your commentary really helped seal the deal.
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post #17 of 30 Old 01-19-2016, 08:09 PM
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Originally Posted by robnix View Post
Thanks for this post. After getting frustrated waiting on the Silicon Dust DVR solution, I just ordered a Bolt, 2 Minis, and a 4TB drive to put in the Bolt. Your commentary really helped seal the deal.
I think you'll enjoy having Tivo. I do.
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I think you'll enjoy having Tivo. I do.
As long as my wife enjoys it I'm sure will.
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I jumped from WMC to Bolt too, and overall I like it, but you clearly don't get the same flexibility you get with a HTPC (user configuration very limited). The biggest advantages are getting away from the ever degrading WMC guide data, and Amazon and Netflix streaming which is nothing short of awesome. The biggest disadvantage is fan noise. Tivo still hasn't figured that one out. Also it has the same drawback as Windows 10--updates are pushed to you without choice, and some have suffered bugs after updates are installed.

I find the 500GB of the base unit to be more than enough for my uses. Note that external storage is only theoretically possible in that it's limited to certain WD hardware which is difficult/impossible to find. Upgrading the internal drive though is easier than with prior Tivo units from years ago. You just stick them in and the Tivo takes care of the rest--apparently though requiring your cablecard to be re-paired. It also apparently voids the hardware warranty, which otherwise would remain in effect for the life of the unit (Pay $50 and they'll send you a replacement). So if you think you might need more space it would possibly be better to buy the 1TB model. But with the hardware being so cheap that probably isn't a huge factor.
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post #20 of 30 Old 01-20-2016, 09:20 AM
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Two more nice things about the Bolt. Every easy to install/setup the Android app for checking/adding to the To Do list and streaming recorded content. Ditto on checking/adding/streaming from a desktop browser. The streaming may be only when connected to your network (I haven't really tried remote streaming).
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I don't think you need to worry about voiding the warranty if you change the internal HDD. Just keep the original and if there is a problem then put the original back in. The the new HDD was the problem then you already know how to fix it and don't need the warranty. I'm sure there are plenty of posts on the official forum about TiVo continuing the warranty or turning a blind eye to it.

I'm not sure if my Roamio is loud since it is in the basement on a rack shelf.

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post #22 of 30 Old 01-20-2016, 10:27 AM
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FYI, the TiVo Minis are on sale for $70, both the new (RF & IR) and the old (IR only).

http://slickdeals.net/f/8453535-tivo...-free-shipping

Amazon for the old and Woot for the new.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by bryansj View Post
FYI, the TiVo Minis are on sale for $70, both the new (RF & IR) and the old (IR only).

http://slickdeals.net/f/8453535-tivo...-free-shipping

Amazon for the old and Woot for the new.
Apparently there never were any RF minis for $70. All the links go to Amazon for the old IR mini. Still a pretty good deal.
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post #24 of 30 Old 01-20-2016, 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by bryansj View Post
I don't think you need to worry about voiding the warranty if you change the internal HDD. Just keep the original and if there is a problem then put the original back in. The the new HDD was the problem then you already know how to fix it and don't need the warranty. I'm sure there are plenty of posts on the official forum about TiVo continuing the warranty or turning a blind eye to it.
I haven't seen any such posts regarding a blind eye, and I'd be surprised if Tivo couldn't tell if the case had been opened.

On the other hand, a couple of years from now there might be an even better Tivo out, and with the low cost of the hardware it's not a huge issue. If Tivo didn't offer the extended warranties for free I certainly wouldn't buy an extended warranty.
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post #25 of 30 Old 01-20-2016, 05:58 PM - Thread Starter
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I haven't seen any such posts regarding a blind eye, and I'd be surprised if Tivo couldn't tell if the case had been opened.

On the other hand, a couple of years from now there might be an even better Tivo out, and with the low cost of the hardware it's not a huge issue. If Tivo didn't offer the extended warranties for free I certainly wouldn't buy an extended warranty.
I've never heard of TiVo not honoring a warranty just because a hard drive was upgraded, assuming of course the warranty issue was unrelated.
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post #26 of 30 Old 01-20-2016, 06:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Karyk View Post
I haven't seen any such posts regarding a blind eye, and I'd be surprised if Tivo couldn't tell if the case had been opened.

On the other hand, a couple of years from now there might be an even better Tivo out, and with the low cost of the hardware it's not a huge issue. If Tivo didn't offer the extended warranties for free I certainly wouldn't buy an extended warranty.
http://tivocommunity.com/tivo-vb/sho...d.php?t=531749

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post #27 of 30 Old 01-21-2016, 07:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Mike_Boulanger View Post
I've never heard of TiVo not honoring a warranty just because a hard drive was upgraded, assuming of course the warranty issue was unrelated.
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Originally Posted by bryansj View Post
Seemingly the link should have been in response to that. Apparently Tivo can tell, which isn't surprising, but it's seldom an issue.
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post #28 of 30 Old 01-21-2016, 07:09 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Karyk View Post
Seemingly the link should have been in response to that. Apparently Tivo can tell, which isn't surprising, but it's seldom an issue.
I'm sure they know, they just don't seem to care unless you break your TiVo doing it. If they cared they could easily block upgrades or at least make it more difficult.
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post #29 of 30 Old 01-21-2016, 07:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Mike_Boulanger View Post
I'm sure they know, they just don't seem to care unless you break your TiVo doing it. If they cared they could easily block upgrades or at least make it more difficult.
A simple sticker covering the case joint that says you will void your warranty would be simple enough.

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post #30 of 30 Old 01-21-2016, 07:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Mike_Boulanger View Post
I'm sure they know, they just don't seem to care unless you break your TiVo doing it. If they cared they could easily block upgrades or at least make it more difficult.
If they blocked service upgrades that would be an advantage! Then you wouldn't have to worry that your Tivo which is now functioning properly will be impacted by some new bug.
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