Networking Tivo

Isn't it time you took full advantage of all the features your Tivo has to offer? If you're still using a phone line to connect your Tivo, unfortunately most of Tivo's coolest new features won't be available to you. Most of them require a network connection for your Tivo.

The good news is, if you have a decent internet connection, networking your Tivo is easy. This article will show you how to get your Tivo networked so you can start enjoying the full capability your Tivo has to offer.

Why Network Tivo?

Tivo is able to get all its program guide and software updates through a simple phone connection, so why would you want to bother connecting Tivo to a network? Well, besides the ability to get those updates faster and without tying up the phone, there are several features that Tivo offers that won't work without a network connection. Here are a few of the better ones:

  • Music and Photos. Is your Tivo hooked up to a nice stereo system? A networked Tivo can access MP3 files on your PC so you can listen to your digital tunes through the stereo instead of through wimpy computer speakers. A networked Tivo can also access digital photos on your PC so you can view them on your TV.
  • Online Scheduling. Are you away from home and wish you could tell your Tivo to record a particular show? You can schedule programs for your DVR to record remotely via Tivo's website. If you're still using a phone connection, online scheduling only works if you're requesting programs at least a day in advance. If your Tivo is networked, you can schedule programs with as little as an hour advanced warning.
  • TivoToGo. With TivoToGo you can copy programs off your Tivo and onto your PC. You can watch the shows on your PC, burn them to DVD, or even edit them with a program like VideoReDo.
  • Multi-Room Viewing. If you have more than one Tivo DVR, you can transfer shows between them if they're both networked.
  • Online Services. Networked Tivo's can download weather information, traffic updates, podcasts, and various internet radio stations.
  • Amazon Unbox. Tivo recently partnered with Amazon.com to bring "Amazon Unbox" content to Tivo subscribers. With a networked Tivo, you can buy or rent movies on Amazon and have them downloaded directly to your Tivo's Now Playing list.
  • Home Movie Sharing. If you want to share home movies with family and friends, you can now upload those movies to the web. Any of your family and friends who have networked Tivos can watch those home movies on their own TV's.
  • Future features. Tivo is fighting for its life against competing DVR offerings from the cable companies. To keep its customers happy, Tivo is regularly adding new features. All of the most recent features require a network connection to use, so it is reasonable to assume that future features will as well.

What Do You Need?

If you're sold on the idea that networking your Tivo is a good idea, let's move on to what you'll need to get connected. Here's the list:

  • A Series2, Series2 DT (dual tuner), or Series3 (High-Definition) Tivo DVR. Unfortunately the older Series 1 and DirecTV Tivo units don't support networking.
  • A broadband internet connection like a cable modem or DSL.
  • A standard router or, if you want your Tivo to be connected wirelessly, a wireless router.
  • If you elect to connect your Tivo with a wired connection, you'll need a long enough standard (not "crossover") ethernet cable.
  • You MAY also need a USB network adapter depending on which Tivo model you have and the type of network connection you're making. 

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    Wired or Wireless

    Before you start plugging things into your Tivo, you need to consider whether you want a wired or a wireless network connection. Both have their pro's and con's. Wireless connections are slick and they're certainly convenient in that you don't have to run a network cable to your Tivo. On the con side, however, wireless connections are generally a bit slower than wired connections and, in my experience, are more prone to setup problems. If you don't mind running the wire, I recommend the wired connection for its simplicity and its speed.

    Network Adapters

    If you have a Series2 Tivo, your DVR doesn't have any built-in network connections, so you'll need a USB network adapter for wired or wireless network connections. Series2 DT and Series 3 DVRs come with a built-in ethernet jack that can be used for wired network connections. If you want a wireless connection for a Series2 DT or Series 3 unit, you'll still need a network adapter. Here are some specific network adapter recommendations:

    Series2 (Single Tuner) Wired
    You'll need a very simple device that essentially converts a USB plug into an ethernet jack. Tivo has reviewed several of these devices and lists the ones that they know work here, on their website. I personally am using the Linksys USB200M adapter which runs about $30. It works great, but I did have some trouble with the ethernet cord popping out of the adapter. A quick fix with a cable tie and all has been well.

    Series2 DT or Series3 Wired
    For wired network connections on the Series2 Dual Tuner and the Series3 DVR's, no adapter is necessary. Just plug right into the ethernet adapter that's built into your DVR.

    Series2 or Series2 DT Wireless
    As of today, no Tivo units come with built-in wireless support, so if wireless is your path of choice, you'll need an adapter. For the Series2 and Series2 DT DVR's, Tivo has reviewed several wireless adapters and put together a list of compatible adapters, available here, from their website. Please note that, unlike the list of wired adapters they reviewed, several of the wireless adapters on their list have been marked as INCOMPATIBLE. Be sure to check the list before you buy an adapter.

    Series3 Wireless
    For the Series3 High Definition DVR unit, Tivo has only certified one wireless adapter that is compatible with the DVR. The adapter, called the "Tivo Wireless G Adapter", is manufactured by Tivo and looks like a Tivo-branded flip phone. Here's a picture:

    So if you want to put your Series3 Tivo on a wireless network, the "Tivo Wireless G Adapter" is your only option right now. Tivo sells it at their online store here for $59.99.

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    Making the Physical Connections

    Once you have your network adapter, if needed, making the connections to your Tivo is pretty straightforward. If you're doing a Series2 DT or Series3 wired connection, just plug one end of a standard (not "crossover") ethernet cable into your Tivo's ethernet jack. Plug the other end into your home network's router.

    If you're doing a Series2 wired connection, plug your certified USB-to-ethernet adapter into either one of the USB ports on the back of your Tivo DVR. Now just plug a standard (again, not "crossover") ethernet cable into the adapter and into your home network router.

    For wireless networks, just plug your wireless adapter into either of the USB ports on the back of your Tivo and you're done. You do also need a wireless router, of course.

    Configuring Tivo to Use the Network Connection

    After you've made the physical connections for your Tivo's network, you'll need to go through a few configuration screens on Tivo to get your DVR to start using the new network connection.

    Setup for wired network connections:

    1. Go to Tivo Central by pressing the Tivo button on your remote. Go to "Messages and Settings", then "Settings", and then "Phone and Network".
    2. Click the "Use Network Instead" option to start using your network instead of the phone line.
    3. If your router is setup to automatically give out IP addresses, you're all done. Tivo will show you a "Network Setup Complete" screen. If your router isn't set for automatic IP addresses, you'll see a screen called "IP address".
    4. If Tivo brings up the "IP address" screen, click the "No, let me specify a static IP address" option.
    5. Read the instructions on the "Static IP Setup" page and press SELECT to continue.
    6. On the next screen, enter an IP address for Tivo to use. Make sure the first 3 numbers are identical to the IP addresses used by other PC's and devices on your network. The fourth number should be unique and should not be in use by any other devices on your network.
    7. Verify the addresses for subnet mask, gateway, and DNS on the next screen. You can either accept those addresses or choose to enter your own addresses.
    8. When you've properly configured your network, you should see a "Network Setup Complete" screen.

    Setup for wireless network connections:

    1. Go to Tivo Central by pressing the Tivo button on your remote. Go to "Messages and Settings", then "Settings", and then "Phone and Network".
    2. Click the "Use Network Instead" option to start using your network instead of the phone line.
    3. If you've already plugged in your wireless adapter, you should see a "Network Adapter Detected" screen. If you haven't plugged in your adapter yet, Tivo will bring you to a "Plug In Network Adapter" screen. Once you plug in your adapter and see the "Network Adapter Detected" screen, move to the next step.
    4. Enter the name of your wireless network.
    5. Enter the type of WPA encryption your wireless network uses, either alphanumeric, hexadecimal, or none.
    6. If you selected alphanumeric or hexadecimal WPA encryption, enter your password.
    7. If your router is setup to automatically give out IP addresses, you're all done. Tivo will show you a "Network Setup Complete" screen. If your router isn't set for automatic IP addresses, you'll see a screen called "IP address".
    8. If Tivo brings up the "IP address" screen, click the "No, let me specify a static IP address" option.
    9. Read the instructions on the "Static IP Setup" page and press SELECT to continue.
    10. On the next screen, enter an IP address for Tivo to use. Make sure the first 3 numbers are identical to the IP addresses used by other PC's and devices on your network. The fourth number should be unique and should not be in use by any other devices on your network.
    11. Verify the addresses for subnet mask, gateway, and DNS on the next screen. You can either accept those addresses or choose to enter your own addresses.
    12. When you've properly configured your network, you should see a "Network Setup Complete" screen.

    That's it! Once your Tivo has been configured to use the new network connection, you can unplug the phone cord from the back of your DVR and start using all those Broadband-Only features Tivo offers. You're now set to enjoy the full capability of your Tivo!

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