Secret TiVo Tips and Tweaks

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If you own a TiVo digital video recorder, you know that this magic appliance can change the way you watch TV. But, with a little work from you, your TiVo is capable of much more. With several innocent gimmicks, you can make using TiVo even slicker.

Whether it's a simple trick, like turning your TiVo into a clock, or a serious hardware hack to increase the amount of storage space in the device, we're here with several tips, tricks, and pointers to more information, so you can get more out of your TiVo time.

We'll begin at the basic couch-potato level, but will move progressively further toward serious hacking on the workbench.

Note: Modifications or additions to your TiVo hardware (internal network adapters, adding or changing hard drive) beyond what is allowed by TiVo (such as connecting a USB network adapter) may void your warranty. Program changes made through the remote control should not affect your warranty, but they may be lost after a restart or after getting a software upgrade from TiVo.

Simple Screen and Remote Control Tricks

With 34 control buttons to push on its remote (including three with multiple functions) and more than a dozen built-in on-screen menu options, there are bound to be some surprises inside your TiVo waiting to be explored.

It's unlikely that you'll stumble on any of the combinations we're about to reveal by accidentally sitting on your remote. But once you know their secrets, they're easy to find--and fun to play with. In some cases, they'll save you hours of fumbling and frustration.

An 'Easter Egg'

There's something about showing off some cute trick your gadgets can do that tempts all of us to push the buttons to see what happens. Many electronic devices and software programs have hidden features--often called "Easter eggs"--tucked away behind obscure keystroke combinations. TiVo is no different. To see a TiVo Easter egg, follow these steps:

  • Enable closed-captioning display on your TV.
  • Using your TiVo remote, go to Browse by Name.
  • Select the characters SHAGWELL.
  • Press Thumbs Up.

You'll be presented with a short video hidden inside your Tivo.

If you look closely, there are more Easter eggs inside this one.

Check the Time

Your TiVo and television can become one of the biggest, most expensive clocks you own by entering the following button sequence:

Select, Play, Select, 9, Select

Progress Bar, Be Gone--Quicker

Annoyed with the lingering progress bar at the bottom of the screen? Make it fade out faster by entering the following button combination:

Select, Play, Select, Pause, Select

Navigation Shortcuts

The number buttons on the remote allow you to jump quickly to some of the more common screens without navigating through the menus; using the buttons will thus save you a lot of time while also allowing you to demonstrate your TiVo finesse. (Note: These shortcuts are undocumented and could change in different software versions.)

From the TiVo Central screen (press the "TiVo" button to get there), press the following keys to jump to their respective functions:

  • 0 = Show the TiVo cartoon introduction
  • 1 = Season Pass Manager
  • 2 = To Do List
  • 3 = Search Using Wishlists
  • 4 = Search by Title
  • 5 = Browse by Channel
  • 6 = Browse by Time
  • 7 = Record Time/Channel
  • 8 = TiVo's Suggestions
  • 9 = Showcases
  • TiVo = Now Playing

The 30-Second Skip

Series 1 TiVos (those that don't feature a USB port on the back panel) can have the benefit of the 30-second skip-past-commercials feature found in Series 2 boxes. The Advance button that normally brings you to the end of a recorded program will become the "30-Second-Skip" button:

While viewing a recorded program or live TV enter the following sequence on your remote:

Select, Play, Select, 3, 0, Select

If your TiVo plays three Thumbs Up "blings" in a row, the Advance button is now reprogrammed to skip forward by 30 seconds. This bit of reprogramming is not permanent--you'll have to redo it if your TiVo reboots.

Sorting the 'Now Playing' List (Series 2 TiVos)

To sort the "Now Playing" list, call up the list from your TiVo Central screen, and then enter the "S0RT sequence":

  • S = Slow Play button
  • 0 = Zero button
  • R = Record button
  • T = Thumbs Up button

You'll hear the "three blings" sound effect and see "Press DISPLAY for sort options". Press Enter to see the following choices:

  • 1 = Newest (most recent items first)
  • 2 = Display the list ordered by expiration date, oldest first
  • 3 = Display the list alphabetically

Press 1, 2, or 3 to try out a sorting order. Pressing "Enter" will prompt you to make one of the choices permanent.

Sorting the 'Now Playing' List (Series 1 TiVo)

If you have an older TiVo, you too can sort your "Now Playing" list. It requires opening a back door into the software. If you're running TiVo OS 3.0 (to find out the version of software running in your TiVo, go to the 'Messages & Setup' menu and select 'System Information'), follow these steps:

Head to either the Browse By Name or the Search By Title screen, where you can enter letters and numbers.

Enter the following code as shown, including the spaces between characters (backdoor codes for other TiVo OSs can be found in TiVo Hacks by Raffi Krikorian, at the O'Reilly Books site):

3 0 BC

Now press the Thumbs Up button. You'll hear three thumbs-up blings, and your TiVo will briefly display the words, "Back doors enabled!" (To disable back doors, reboot your TiVo.)

Next, to enable sorting, head to the Now Playing screen and enter the following sequence:

Slow-Motion, 0, Record, Thumbs Up

You'll again hear the three thumbs-up blings and see a menu bar appear at the bottom of the Now Playing list, stating "Press Enter for sort options". When you press "Enter" (the small "Enter/Last" button at the very bottom of your remote), your TiVo will zoom to a 'Now Playing Options' screen.

From here, you can sort by Newest (by record date), Expiration (by expiration date), or Alphabetical (by program name). You can also enter 1, 2, or 3 at the 'Now Playing' screen as a shortcut to these options.

Change Your TiVo Banner

For variety, you can change the style of the TiVo banner strip by following these steps:

While watching live TV, press the Right Arrow button repeatedly to sequence through three different TiVo program banners:

  • The blue banner that runs across the top of the screen.
  • The blue banner plus a large, transparent description box that fills most of the screen.
  • A tiny blue banner only in the top right corner, with the channel number and name.

You get only the first two options if you do this when watching a selection from 'Now Showing'.

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