One cheapskate’s stupid guide to getting programs off your Tivo (Macintosh)

Too often the world just passes me by while my head is somewhere in the sand. I did not know until recently that there exists two programs for the Macintosh that stuffs all the brilliance of $26 Tivo-To-Go program into two programs that, to my mind, are more stable and MORE feature rich than Tivo’s own product.

You have held you breath long enough, iTivo and Pytovox Pytiovox are just two of the most beautiful free apps I have seen – simple, kind of pretty, and self explanatory. Both programs were wonderfly cobbled together by Yoav Yerushalmi and, frankly, I love this guy!


iTivo is THE app for getting programs off your Tivo Series 2, Series 3 or Tivo HD and re-encoding them for another device or backup. Amazingly, the list of the types of re-encoding it will do is long and comprehensive. And, as a bonus, this program has some commercial skip smarts that will remove the ads during the re-encode.

The only bits of information you need for this is the ip address of your Tivo and your MAK number – both of which I tell you how to get to easily.

The only weirdness I found with this program is on OS X, version 10.4.11, the program complained that it needed Growl but besides that – runs like a champ.


PyTivoX is ultimately a simple way to serve up video files to your Tivo. And it just plain works. Though it did not work on OS X 10.4.11 for me, it is still quite a brilliant little program for the latest OS X version. All you do is pick your video directories to share and hit apply. Then, on your Tivo, go to the ‘Now playing’ menu and pull in the video. There is also a ‘StreamBaby’ streaming function that works well for 4:3 content on Series 3 or HD Tivos, just browse ‘Music, Photos, Showcases.’


One cheapskate’s stupid guide to getting programs off your Tivo (Windows)

One cheapskate’s stupid guide to getting programs off your Tivo (Macintosh)


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One cheapskate’s stupid guide to getting programs off your Tivo (Windows)

I have never been satisfied with the quality of video that $26 and the hours of re-compression that TiVo Desktop brings to me. The video is small, crunchy, and frankly, the automation features have not worked very well, at least for me, since version 2.7 came out.

Can one just pull the programs off the box on to a computer and watch it? For free? Without the crunchiness – just dot for dot what is on the damn box. And simply? Yes.

Here is the list of things that you are going to need for the task:

  • A network connected Tivo and a Windows computer connected to the same network;
  • The ip number of your box (write it down) – in your Tivo menu Messages & Settings -> Settings -> Phone & Network -> IP addr: < your ip address>;
  • Your media access key (write it down) – Messages & Settings -> Account & System Information -> Media Access Key ;
  • A copy of Tivo Decoder GUI ;
  • A copy of VLC for playback.

Ready? Good. In a browser, type in the address box ‘https://<yourip address> . You are going to have to manually add the security certificate to your browser. Don’t worry, it is OK.

The page will ask you for a user name and password –
User Name: tivo
Password: <your media access key>

If your browser asks you to remember the login say “yes” – it will make life easier.

You should now see a neat little list of all the programs currently on your Tivo – on the right are the download links – click on the program you want to download. Downloading will take a while because you are tying to move a few or more gigs of data – be patient.

After it is downloaded you have an encrypted ‘.tivo’ file that is mostly unplayable on your computer unless you paid the bucks for TiVo Desktop. And that is why you downloaded Tivo Decoder GUI.

Tivo Decoder GUI has a pretty simple interface. To add files click “Add Files.” To set your Output path, where the decoded files will be written, click “Locate” and choose a directory. Simple so far.

And the key to all this working for you is, well, the Media Access Key. Click on ‘Preferences’ and put your Media Access Key in the field. You will only have to do this the first time you use the program. I also select “Delete Original Tivo Files After Converting” because I have no use for the file after the process is finished.

Click ‘OK’ – then click ‘Decode.’

There you have it – you now have every last drop of program data that was on your Tivo and these files can be easily played in VLC.

Addendum: These files can be easily further processed with HandBrake – the most easy to use, free transcoder. In HandBrake, Click ‘Source’ and select the file you just created, select your appropriate  preset in the right pane, select a destination then click ‘Start.’ Wait awhile for the video to process. Simple, eh?


One cheapskate’s stupid guide to getting programs off your Tivo (Windows)

One cheapskate’s stupid guide to getting programs off your Tivo (Macintosh)


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