Fix TiVo

TiVo Repair and Troubleshooting: Freezing, Pixellation and TiVo Picture Problems

Your TiVo: Symptoms you may be experiencing

This section will help you diagnose and repair one or more of the following symptoms: (1) Your TiVo is having display/picture problems, generally only when you are watching Live TV or when you are watching a recorded show. (There are no problems when you are in the TiVo menus, by contrast.) (2) You sometimes may have the picture go out completely and then come back, and in cases of severe pixellation (blocky picture) you might also have the TiVo randomly restart.

Fix my TiVo! - Solutions

The most common cause for this problem is a bad hard drive, but depending on your TiVo model, it can also be caused by other problems. In some TiVo models, you can run a TiVo hard drive test to test your hard drive from within the TiVo. If after running that test your hard drive fails (typically you'll see a Fail 7 error), then you have likely found the cause of your problem. Fortunately, replacing a hard drive in a TiVo is very easy, and there are companies out there that will sell you a pre-programmed hard drive (blank drives won't work), installation instructions and tools for opening your TiVo--all in one package. There once were many reliable sources for TiVo drives, but now we can recommend only one: weaKnees. Also see TiVopedia, which has more information on TiVo hard drives. If you don't want to try to fix the unit yourself, there is a flat-fee repair option available for standard definition TiVo units and a TiVo repair/diagnostic service for high definition TiVos. If you have monthly or annual service on your TiVo, you might consider replacing the TiVo. weaKnees often has really great deals on refurbished TiVos that do not require monthly or annual payments to TiVo.

If you have a DIRECTV TiVo DVR (a TiVo with a DIRECTV receiver built into it), then you could have a bad satellite tuner or a bad hard drive. We'd suggest you read this blog post, which summarizes how to determine whether your TiVo has a drive problem or a tuner problem. In addition to the information here, I would add that in aging DIRECTV TiVo units, it is more common to have a bad sat 2 tuner than a sat 1 tuner, and that if you are experiencing heavy pixellation on only some channels, then you are likely looking at a bad tuner, rather than a bad drive (bad TiVo hard drives are equal-opportunity pixellaters!). In addition, if you have a bad tuner, you might (but will not necessarily) see a message "Searching for Signal on Satellite 2" or "Searching for Signal on Satellite 1" pop in and out, or the message might appear permanently.

If you have a bad satellite tuner, it is not possible to repair this yourself. You can send the unit in to a TiVo repair center to have the tuner repaired/replaced.

On the other hand, DIRECTV TiVo units with bad hard drives can be repaired at home using a new TiVo hard drive (also see here for a second source).

If you have a TiVoHD, TiVoHD XL or one of the original Series 3 HD TiVos and are experiencing pixellation, we'd first suggest that you run the Kickstart 54 drive test. If your drive fails, then you should get a new drive (see above). If your drive passes, then you might have a problem with the signal strength being too high. This is particularly common with Verizon FiOS, but can also occur in other cable systems. The solution to a signal strength that is too high is to get an attenuator. For more information see the TiVo forums as well as this post discussing attenuation. You might also consider visiting TiVo's support page directly.

In addition, if you have an HD TiVo with pixellation and you are using CableCARDs, it is possible that a bad CableCARD is causing the problem. You might want to contact your cable company and have them look at, and possibly replace, the CableCARD(s) in your TiVo. TiVo has a number of CableCARD troubleshooting pages that will help you determine whether your picture problems are related to a bad card or a bad incoming cable signal.

If you have an HD TiVo and these suggestions do not help, then you're going to have to contact TiVo directly for repair options.

More Information about this problem

Whenever you watch TV through your TiVo (whether it is "LiveTV" or a recorded show), you are always watching a picture that has been digitized and written to your TiVo's hard drive. If a hard drive is failing, then the TiVo will get errors when trying to read or write to the hard drive. If there are too many errors as video is playing, you may see video or audio glitching on your TiVo. Because drive access errors tend to be random, when you rewind the TiVo, you will likely not see the same pixellation in the same places every time.

If you want to test your hard drive to see whether it is bad, you will want to download the testing software for your TiVo hard drive's manufacturer. For hard drive testing instructions, see this page.

There are other resources online that have instructions on how to program a new TiVo hard drive, including the TiVo Upgrade Instructions site and the Hinsdale TiVo Upgrade How-To website. Unfortunately, if your TiVo's hard drive is bad, then you will be unable to use these resources because you likely won't be able to extract the TiVo software from your old hard drive.

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