How to Upgrade Your DVR's Hard Drive

Using Kits or External Hard Drives

If your DVR can connect to an external hard drive, upgrading is as simple as it gets.
If your DVR can connect to an external hard drive, upgrading is as simple as it gets.

Some DVR systems have special ports that allow you to connect an external hard drive to the system. Depending on your DVR, this port may only support certain brands or models of external hard drives. For example, TiVo produces DVR units that are only compatible with external drives that are TiVo-certified. For example, one brand of drive that's compatible with TiVo includes the Western Digital My DVR Expander drives, the largest of which provides a full terabyte (1,000 gigabytes) of storage space. By comparison, the TiVo Series 3 unit has a 250 gigabyte hard drive.

With an external device, you aren't replacing your DVR's native hard drive. You're supplementing the storage space on the device. It's the easiest way to boost your storage capacity.

If your DVR doesn't have a port for external hard drives, you'll have to put forth a little more effort. It's at this point that we should warn you that adding or replacing the hard drive on your DVR could void your warranty. Even more important, you should remember that even if your DVR is unplugged, it's capable of discharging a dangerous amount of electricity if you short out the machine's power supply. Proceed with caution.

Before buying a new hard drive, you should find out what sort of interface your DVR uses to connect the hard drive to the DVR. The different types of hard drive interfaces include:

  • Integrated drive electronics (IDE)
  • Serialized attachment packet (SATA)
  • Parallel attachment packet (PATA)
  • Ultra attachment packet (UATA)

If the interface on your new hard drive and your DVR doesn't match, you can't connect the two components. There are several resources online that will tell you which DVRs use each type of hard drive interface.

Several vendors offer special hard drive kits for DVRs. To swap out a DVR, you'll need to transfer some data to the new unit. This can be intimidating for someone with a limited technical background. For a price, however, you can purchase a hard drive that has all the necessary components pre-installed for you. These kits often come with step-by-step directions on how to swap out (or add) hard drives for that particular DVR.

Depending upon the model of DVR you own, you may also need a few special tools to access the guts of the machine. Check to see if you'll require tools like a TORX screwdriver -- TiVo sets have TORX screws.