Repair a Broken Series 3 TiVo

First of all, a few caveats.

This instructable shows you some ways to repair a Series 3 TiVo PVR. However, anything you do is at your own risk - at the very least, you're going to void your warranty, and I can't take responsibility for anything you do. Please be confident that this is within your ability before starting; there exist companies (in the USA) who will happily take your money and do these tasks for you if you feel unable.  However, if you are confident using a soldering iron and plugging in a cable, then you might be able to fix your broken TiVo for less than $3 in parts.

Next, remember that there is HIGH VOLTAGE inside the TiVo, and power supplies can retain capacitance for several minutes. Unplug the device before you open it. Be VERY careful about what you touch on the power supply - even when unplugged, as it can retain charge for some time after being disconnected.

The photographs are for a Series 3 Australia/New Zealand model, though they are likely very similar to the US Series 3 and other models. The steps involved in fixing those models are very similar, but components are located differently and the software is different, so be aware of this.

The instructable deals with the two most common causes of failure -- the Power Supply, and the Hard Disk. Other things may potentially fail but they are not addressed here.

Tools you will need:

T10 Torx screwdriver - to open the case and remove hard disk

T8 Torx screwdriver - to remove power supply

Electrical voltage tester - to test power supply. Not essential but it helps.

Soldering iron and solder - to replace failed capacitors

Solder removal tool or solder wick - to replace failed capacitors

Desktop PC with SATA disk controller, and sufficient cables to connect to additional drive - to repair hard disk

winmfs.exe software - to repair hard disk. Get it from here

Replacement parts you may need:

Replacement capacitors ( 4 x 2200uF 16V and 2 x 47uF 50V capacitors )

Replacement SATA hard disk, at least 360GB or up to 1TB, NAS-rated or PVR-rated.

UHF signal booster (if problem with MPG artifacts and signal)

Step 1: Identify the Problem

What is wrong with your TiVo? This might help identify where we should start.

Q. Does the TiVo power on at all? When switched on, does the 'Starting up' messages appear?

If NO, then the power supply has failed completely. Fix it or replace it.

If YES, continue.

Q. When powering up, does the TiVo reach the 'Almost there' screen?

If NO, then it may be a power supply problem, or a disk failure. Listen very carefully to the power supply (DO NOT open the box to touch it!). Is it making a 'tick-tick-tick' sound? This is a strong indication that it is a power supply capacitor at fault. If not, it may still be the power supply, or maybe a disk failure. You can test the power supply using a multimeter if you have one - it should be providing 12V and 5V to the motherboard - if you see 4V, this indicates a capacitor failure.

If YES, continue.

Q. Does the TiVo reach the initial TiVo video, but then crash either during the video, or a little later?

In this case, it is a disk problem. Either the disk has failed, or has failed parts, or is corrupt. If you are lucky then you might be able to take a backup before it fails entirely (see later); else you'll need a fresh image.

Q Is the startup fine, but you have problems with the signal being lost; sound being lost; or too many MPEG artifacts on screen?

In this case, it might be that your UHF signal is too weak. The TiVo needs about 80db of signal and often you just don't get enough. In this case, install a powered aerial signal booster between your aerial and TiVo input; these can be cheaply bought from any Audio/Visual shop.

Q Do you have problems that occasionally the TV will not have any output form the TiVo and just a blank screen? Switching the TV off and on again can sometimes correct the issue.

The TiVo puts out a very weak HDMI signal but some older TVs require a stronger one. In this case the TV will simply not recognise the signal and will show a blank screen. You might try changing to using the component video signal instead of HDMI; use a different TV; or try and find an HDMI booster (possibly a powered switch box would do the job). This is a bit harder to manage as there is no way to tell the TiVo to increase the HDMI signal.

Q Does the fan make a loud buzzing noise?

You might be able to fix a buzzing (unbalanced) fan by simply cleaning it. Shut down the TiVo and unplug it, then remove the fan. Use a damp (not wet) cloth to gently clean the dust off of the fan blades, before drying and refitting. This might solve the issue of noise. If not, then you may need to replace the fan. You should be able to find an identical 12V fan from Jaycar, Maplins, Radio Shack, or similar shops - simply swap it out and you're fine. The motherboard connector is a standard computer motherboard fan plug.

Choose next step

At this point, you have to choose whether to attempt a power supply fix first, or a hard disk replacement. Generally, unless you're getting a full bootup before crash, you're better off working on the power supply first.

Step 2: Power Supply

So, we're going to try repairing the power supply.

There are two things you can do here - either completely replace the power supply unit with one from WeaKnees, or assume the problem is failed capacitors and replace the bad capacitors yourself.

Removing the power supply

The power supply board is to one side of the unit. Open the TiVo using the T10 screwdriver and you should be able to identify it. You can remove the power supply from the unit by removing the T10 screws holding the board down, the two T8 screws holding the connector to the backplane, and then disconnect the wires by pulling the plugs from the motherboard and hard disk (see first image).

Checking the power supply

Take a look at all the capacitors (see third image). Do any of them appear to be convex slightly on the top? Are any leaking electrolyte? Have any exploded (this is a dead giveaway)? Even if none appear to be convex, they may still need to be replaced. It can be a good idea to simply replace all 4 of the main capacitors (the blue-green circles left of the 3rd image) as they only cost about 20c-50c each anyway. These are labelled C501 - C504 on the motherboard.

Once you know which capacitors you are going to replace, get replacements. Get the same number of uF and the same or higher voltage rating (eg, you can replace a 10V 2200uF with a 16V 2200uF if you want). The capacitors are all labelled on their sides with the rating; the most common ones you need are the four 10V 2200uF; you may also want to change the two 50V 47uF capacitors (C801 and C113).

Remove the old capacitors

Desolder the old capacitors from the board, remove them, and clean the holes of and blocking solder. You may need to remove the white glue holding them in place.

Install new capacitors

Place the new capacitors in location. Note that the -ve wire of the capacitor goes in the shaded hole - don't get the back to front or they will not work. Solder them into place, and finally clip off the spare wire.


You have now repaired the power supply! Maybe...

If you have a multimeter, you can test the voltage output is a steady 12V and 5V. Or, you can reassemble the unit, start it up, and see if it boots correctly.

If it does not boot up, then either you messed up your soldering, or the problem lies with the hard disk.

Step 3: Hard Disk

So, you think the issue might be the hard disk. It may have failed entirely, or it may be starting to fail, or it may have corrupt system data. The first thing to do is to test it and back it up if possible.

WARNING: Hard disks can be fragile, and are static sensitive. Treat the disk gently; do not drop it, place it gently on the table. Be aware of static - if you do not have a static wristband, then avoid static - do not place the disk on the carpet, don't wear nylon leggings as you work, and so on. If you are gentle with the drive there should be no problem.

If you do not have a PC with SATA cables to test the drive, then you can still buy a replacement that is pre-installed with software from WeaKnees.

Remove hard disk

To remove the hard disk, remove the three torx screws holding the metal disk tray in place. You then need to disconnect the power/data connector from the back of the hard disk.

Having removed the tray, turn it over, and you will find four more screws holding the disk to the tray. Remove these to get the disk out.

Connect the disk to your PC

Shut down your PC first!

Obviously you need the primary hard disk of your PC to remain connected, but if necessary, you could temporarily disconnect your SATA CD-ROM or secondary hard disk while you work to provide the required connectors.

Link the SATA power and data to the disk from your PC. Book up the PC and it should spot the hard disk, but not identify any filesystems on it.


Install and run the WinMFS program. This should identify the disk as a TiVo disk. If it cannot spot the disk, it is likely the disk has completely failed and it will need to be replaced.

If WinMFS can spot the disk, run a backup of the disk immediately. Use a Truncated backup unless you desperately need to keep your old recordings. If the backup fails or hangs halfway, the disk has failed and needs to be replaced.

Once you have a backup things are a bit easier. You can try repairing the boot partition (default.tbp is attached). You can also try doing a low-level disk scan and repair - this might help, or might not. If your problem is with a failing (but not yet completely failed) disk, then you may well be able to get a working backup image that you can copy to your new replacement disk. Otherwise you'll need to obtain a clean fresh image.

Set up replacement disk

If you find this hard, or cannot obtain the install image file, you can always buy a pre-configured disk from WeaKnees.

Shut down your PC so that you can disconnect the old disk, and connect up the new one. Boot up and start WinMFS, which should be able to spot the new blank disk.

If you have a backup from your original disk, you can now try to write it to the new disk. The new disk must be at least as large as the old one; if it is larger, after restore you will be prompted to expand the data partition to use the whole disk (say yes). If you are restoring a truncated backup, then any previous recordings will be lost; they will still appear in your TiVo 'Now Playing' list, but clicking on them will give an error. After restoring you will need to manually delete all the items in the Now Playing.

If you do not have a backup image, you need a fresh install image to place on the new disk. Getting one of these is a bit troublesome; you can ask on the Tivo Community forum or in other places. You need one for your particular country's model -- for example, AU/NZ people need the Series 3 Australia/New Zealand image -- and specifically a WinMFS image. If you have problems, send me a message. I might have one though I cannot post a link here for copyright reasons. When you have the image, write it to the disk, and extend to fill up all the space.

Note that TiVo OS cannot support disks bigger than 1TB. If your disk is larger, do not increase the TiVo filesystem bigger than 1TB or it will not work.


When you have your new disk, shut down your PC, disconnect, and reinstall it into the TiVo. When you start up, you should get to the normal start. If using a fresh install image, then you will start in the guided setup as you did when you first bought the device; complete setup as you did back then (it may take a little time as it will also need to update the entire program guide)

If your TiVo starts up, but the recordings page says "A hardware problem has been detected which needs your attention", mentioning "Error 51", then you need to perform a complete reset and reconfigure. This is done under the Settings menu using the "Delete Everything" option.



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    14 Discussions


    11 months ago

    Anyone got a circuit diagram for the Series 3 Tivo power supply, just been through replacing all the caps, but no good.

    5V rail is sitting around 3.3v and the 12v rail around 9v


    1 year ago

    I see this thread is almost a year old but I hope it is still being monitored.

    I just finished repairing three TiVo 3's that belong to my employer. Two had weak power supplies, one a blown power supply, one a bad hard drive and the other two had hard drives that worked but definitely appeared to be not long for this world. I replaced the hard drives with enterprise grade SATA drives and cloned one of the good drives to replace the bad hard drive. I replaced the blown power supply with a refurbished one (I did not know at the time what would need to be done to get it working again). On the other two power supplies, I just finished replacing the 11 capacitors listed in this thread, both work fine opw and the TiVo's power up nicely without hanging.

    My only question is I am curious as to what adhesive was used to stake the original capacitors. It holds well but cuts easily with a knife and scrapes away nicely in order to remove it. It looks more like a caulk of some kind and not silicone. Does anyone know what that product is? I thought of using GC Electronics Electronic Safe Silicone (19-155) but comments say it is difficult to remove. Definitely not the stuff TiVo used.

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    Sorry, but I have no idea what the stuff is. Looks like some sort of sillicone sealant (like the stuff I use in the bathroom...) but I can't say for sure. In any case, it obviously isn't essential for the operation of the TiVo, so likely can be left out...


    2 years ago

    There are several versions of the Series 3 power supply board. Mine
    is labeled "TiVo P/N: SPWR-00008-000 RevA2" and has different
    capacitors to what's in this instructable. I have:

    4 x 3300µF 10V

    2 x 470µF 16V

    2 x 2200µF 6.3V

    1 x 2200µF 25V

    1 x 2200µF 16V

    1 x 1000µF 6.3V

    Additionally, all capacitors are "high temperature" type rated for 105°C.

    10 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    Hi BillD109, I have the exact same PS board, I am having difficulty choosing the right capacitors from, there are just too many choices and I am a novice in this area. Would you please help me with some other parameters I should use to filter out the caps I do not want. Also, there is a huge 470uF, 200V cap, that looks good, but wondering why you didn't mention that. If you had the part#s and place you ordered from -- that will be of extra help. Thank you very much for your help.


    Reply 2 years ago

    The main difference between capacitors will be in voltage, and tolerance. Never replace a capacitor with one of a different uF rating; and never use one with a lower voltage rating (higher is OK). You should also try to match the tolerence.


    Reply 2 years ago

    ... with the tolerance, use a lower if necessary, but never higher. The tolerance is how inaccurate the rating is. See


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks much for reply, Still lot of information to digest. For the first one above "VENT C620 3300µF 10V, KF 105 degrees", That's all I can see on it. I am looking at the following:

    Can u please see if I am missing something obvious ?

    Thanks again.


    Reply 2 years ago

    @nghosh - That's a good match; same uF, same voltage rating, same temperature rating.


    Reply 2 years ago

    That huge 470µF 200V cap at the other end of the board? That's the one the author of this Instructable says not to touch. Probably has considerable voltage across the terminals long after the unit's been unplugged, and could give you a nasty shock.

    I am lucky in that I have a brick-and-mortar electronics hobbyist shop practically in my backyard--You-Do-It Electronics in Needham, MA. They had everything I needed, just walk in and pay cash on the barrelhead. But if there's not a place like that around, then Digi-Key or Mouser are good options.

    As far as tolerance I don't recall that the caps that I pulled out of the TiVO had any markings on them for tolerance, but I might have missed that if they were encoded. I don't recall what the tolerance is on the units I bought, but, they seem to work. *shrug*


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks for the information! I've only been able to open up 3 TiVos here, and they all had the same model power supply, but of course there will be changes as time goes on.

    Is your TiVo a recent Au/NZ model, or a US Series 3?



    Reply 2 years ago

    My awesome cyberstalking skills tell me that you're in the US (Massachusetts or however its spelt), so yours is likely to be the US model of the Series 3 -- I've been working on the Au/NZ model. It's good to have a list of the replacement parts required for the US model. Identifying any failed capacitors visually can be done the same way as with the Au/NZ of course - look for bulging or leaking capacitors to indicate failure.


    Reply 2 years ago

    Yes I am in Massachusetts, USA, and this is therefore a US model TiVO. I'm wondering if the primary difference is between countries that use 100-120V mains voltage and those that use 220-230?


    Reply 2 years ago

    As well as voltage differences, we have different frequency spectra for broadcast. However, I think this is controlled in the software rather than the motherboard.