Earlier this week, I noticed my “Recently Deleted” folder was empty. Gah! This means it's filled up and about to start erasing suggestions, some of which I do actually want to watch at some point. I was able to delete some of the suggestions I didn't want to free things back up again, but, now that most of the channels I watch are now available in HD, the Tivo HD's paltry 20 hours of HD recording just isn't going to cut it anymore. So I bought one of the external SATA expander drives.
I should back up a bit before going on…
For those unfamiliar with how the Tivo works, there are three levels of content that's been recorded:
First, there is the content that you've recorded. This is the content that you've explicitly said, “I want this, please record it.”
The second level of content is “Tivo Suggestions”. This is content that the Tivo thinks you will like, which it picks based on what you've personally rated by giving things thumbs up or down, and by what you've recorded and/or subscribed to in the past.
Thirdly, there's the “Recently Deleted” folder. This is content that has been deleted, either because you already watched it, didn't like a suggestion, it's passed the time frame you told the Tivo to save it for, whatever. The equivalent of the trash can on your computer, basically.
Once the hard drive on your Tivo fills up, it begins first removing things from the “Recently Deleted” folder. No big deal, it's stuff you've thrown out anyway. Once that's empty, it begins removing things from the “Tivo Suggestions” folder. Still not a really big deal, as it's not anything you specifically wanted. After that, it finally resorts to removing the things you actually wanted.
Problematically, the Tivo has no direct measure of how much space is left on the HD. There's no gauge that even gives you a vague metric. There's an easy workaround to get a rough estimate though. Just look at how many programs are in your “Recently Deleted” folder, that will give you at least some idea of how much space is left before it starts erasing suggestions. Then you can look at how many items are in the “Tivo Suggestions” folder to know how long before you start losing the stuff you recorded. Not ideal, but it works.
Back to the new external HD…
Set up was mostly painless. Turn the Tivo off, plug the drive in, turn it back on. I hadn't plugged the cable fully in to the Tivo at first, so it took two tries to get it working, but that was entirely my fault. The second time it worked like a charm. After the usual 2-3 minute boot up time, there was an additional 2-3 minute wait after I confirmed I wanted to setup the new drive.
Now I've got an ever-so-comfortable 86 hours of HD recording. Or up to 810 hours of SD recording. Yes, that's eight hundred and ten hours of SD recording. That's just silly. It's mostly those 86 HD hours that I'm interested in anyway. Not bad for $219!
The only downside I can see is that it sets up the external drive and it's internal drive as some form of RAID-like setup, so the data is striped across both drives equally. This means if the external drive is removed you lose all of your recordings. Ouch. Still, barring a drive failure, there's really no reason to remove it, so it's not a deal breaker by any means.