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Extracting and archiving video from your TiVo

What is the best way to extract (download) video files from my TiVo and archive them?



I used to recommend TyTool for video extraction and archiving (and even created some very detailed how-to's), but the program hasn't been updated in well over a year. The developer has had some personal issues, and no one else seems to want to continue developing the application. Back then, it was the Cadillac of tools for extracting TiVo video files, converting them to MPEG-2, and burning them to DVD. The converted MPEG-2 files are a little flaky and only a few media players are able to play them back. TyTool authored DVD's are also a little flaky when played back in a standalone DVD player. While the program was still actively being developed, I figured that the bugs would eventually be ironed out, and there wasn't really anything else better. In time, a couple of better utilities have come along that convert to MPEG-2 files better. Commercial software that edits video and/or burns DVD's have matured, become easier to use, and come down in price. Don't get me wrong. TyTool is still quite functional. I know of no other free application that can edit MPEG-2 files without degrading the video quality. But if there is a chance that you may want to save a TV show or burn it to DVD, you would be better off using the latest software to ensure maximum compatibility and the least amount of problems.

So that brings me to the purpose of this article. This is a broad outline of what utilities are available to download video from your TiVo and make it playable at a later date.

First of all, you have to get the video files from the TiVo to your computer. Sadly, TiVo's store video in a proprietary file system called MFS. Despite using the popular Linux operating system, the video files must be extracted from MFS to transfer to another computer. Don't ask me why. Maybe it is more efficient for recording and/or playback. Maybe it is just a way to thwart hackers. Only the TiVo developers know the real answer. There are 3 utilities available that can do this. In all cases, scripts will need to be uploaded to the TiVo via FTP and started via telnet.


This method has been around the longest. Essentially, it sets up an FTP server on your TiVo on port 3105.

You will need to download 3 separate archives and extract the files to the same directory on the TiVo, thereby copying over outdated versions. Sorry, the original author's license restricts someone from redistributing one working archive, or I would.

For the dates and times to be accurate, you will need tzoffset.txt. You will need to change the number depending on the time zone you are in. The value is the number of seconds between your time zone and GMT time. For Eastern, the offset is 18000 (5 hours difference x 60 x 60). Central is 21600. Mountain is 25200. Pacific is 28800.

If you have a DirecTiVo with TiVo software version 6.2, here is a working mfs_ftp.tcl.

Once you get MFS_FTP installed and started on the TiVo, simply use your favorite FTP client program to connect to your TiVo's IP address on port 3105. MFS_FTP can extract to several different formats, but the best is ty+. Go to that folder and start downloading. Can be used with any operating system.

TyTool This is one thing that TyTool still does well. Files are streamed from the TiVo to your Windows computer. See my how-to to get it working.
TySuiteJ A Java application that also streams the files to your computer using any operating system with the Java Runtime Environment installed.

No one utility is better than the others. In my opinion, MFS_FTP is the most flexible if you wish to copy everything from your TiVo to your computer on a regular basis. You can find FTP client software that will synchronize your files. I use a command line program called wget (Windows version), and have it scheduled to run every day. Here is the command I use to download everything on the TiVo to the current directory unless it is already there:

wget -nd -nc --no-passive-ftp*

TiVo-based video files (.ty) will need to be converted to MPEG-2 (.mpg) files before you can really do anything useful with them. Again, don't ask why TiVo saves to its own proprietary format. The .ty file is essentially a rearranged .mpg file with a few extraneous bits. When converted, the file is rearranged to become a standard-compliant MPEG-2 file and the extra stuff is thrown away. No matter whether you are getting TV via antenna, cable, or satellite, there will be problems with the signal such as drop outs and corrupted frames. They may be imperceptible depending on the media player you use to play them back, but they are there. A good conversion utility does the best it can with the data it has and attempts to keep the video and audio in sync at all costs.

tytompg.exe Command line utility for Windows. Use quotation marks around file names with spaces. Doesn't handle wildcards or multiple files.
TySuiteJ A Java application that can be run under any operating system with the Java Runtime Environment installed. Has a nice easy-to-use interface for converting files. Seems to use the tytompg code.

Now you can open up and play back the file in any media player that supports MPEG-2 files (ex. Windows Media Player, WinAmp, VideoLAN, WinDVD, PowerDVD, etc).

Editing and Burning to DVD
Chances are, you are going to want to save some of your favorite TV shows or burn them to DVD to share. You'll also probably want to edit out the commercials. Once a file has been converted to a standard MPEG-2 file, you can open the file in just about any video editing or DVD authoring software. I'm just going to recommend a few here.

If you have no budget, your choices are limited. As I said at the beginning, I know of no other free MPEG-2 editor like TyTool. It is not very user friendly. TyTool is also picky about what kind of files it will edit. Leaving them in .ty format is your best bet, but there is no guarantee that the edited file will be playable in all media and DVD players. TyTool uses an open source program called dvdauthor to author DVD's. Dvdauthor is constantly updated, so it would be advisable to take the edited video file from TyTool and run it through the latest version of dvdauthor. There are some nice easy-to-use GUI front-ends to make this easier and more flexible than what TyTool currently offers. The quality of video is not degraded in any way using this method. You are basically just rearranging bits.

If you have no budget, want to edit out the commercials, and reencode it to a smaller .avi file, then look at VirtualDubMod. This open source utility opens MPEG-2 files, but can not save back to them. It is easy to use and has many ways to manipulate the video that rivals even some of the more expensive commercial video editing applications. Video will have to be transcoded to a different format, so quality will be degraded.

At $50, VideoReDo Plus is a bargain video editor. Sadly, it doesn't do DVD authoring (yet), but if you have a badly damaged .mpg file you need to edit and/or archive, this is the utility. It supports both standard and high definition video. If you have a home theater PC that records to high definition transport stream files (.tp or .ts), this is the only program I know of that you can select the sub-channel you want to save, edit the file, and then save it to .mpg for burning. This program does not degrade video in any way, and safely fixes .mpg files that can't be opened in other programs.

For around $100 or less you can get decent software that can edit video, author DVD's, or burn them. Many can do all three. Full featured programs have pro-like editing tools complete with fancy wipes and dissolves, overlay text and graphics, and add special effects. The only problem is, these programs like to transcode your video to a standard DVD format. That means the video quality will be degraded, but the resulting DVD will play in just about any player you come across. Avid is what most television stations and movie producers use. There is a slimmed-down consumer-level version as well. Adobe Premiere is also popular. Look for Premiere Elements which is much cheaper but still has a lot of useful features found in the Pro version. Nero is probably the best CD and DVD burning application available, and also includes a basic editing/authoring program called Nero Vision. These are just a sample of the software that is available. I haven't tried them all, and you may find one that works better than what I mentioned here.

Last updated November 9, 2007