Your TiVo can play more than just television it’s recorded —it can also play video that you’ve downloaded to your computer from the internets, and it can do it without the pay-for TiVo Desktop Plus upgrade. If you’re a BitTorrent’ing, usenet’ing, podcatching, downloading fool, filling up your hard drive with movies, television episodes, and video clips you want to watch from the couch instead of the computer chair, you can do just that if you’ve got a TiVo sitting under your flat screen in the living room. Using the free Videora TiVo Converter for Windows, here’s how to watch your video downloads from the comfort of your couch without forking over extra cash.
Note: If you don’t have a TiVo but still want to watch your video downloads in the living room, check out our previous tutorials on how to build your own DVR, or hack your classic Xbox into a tricked out media center, or watch video on your Xbox 360.
Ready to start watching downloads on your TiVo? Here’s what you’ll need to get started.
- A TiVo connected to your home network
- A Windows PC on your home network
- A PC video file you want to watch on your TiVo (.AVI, .MPG, etc.)
First, if you haven’t already, download and install the free TiVo Desktop Software onto your PC. This is the app that will let your TiVo see your PC and vice versa. Once TiVo Desktop is up and running, on your TiVo, under Music, Photos, & More, select “Enable Home Network Applications.”
Once that’s done, if all goes well, you’ll see your PC listed in TiVo’s “Now Playing” list, as shown below (my PC’s named MULDER).
Once you can see your PC from your TiVo, in theory you should be able to simply copy video files to your PC’s TiVo folder (by default,
C:\Documents and Settings\YOURUSERNAME\My Documents\My TiVo Recordings and access them on your TiVo. And you can do this—if your files are MPEG2 or .TIVO files. However, if you’ve downloaded an .AVI file, for instance, TiVo will tell you you’ve got to upgrade to TiVo Desktop Plus (which costs $24.95).
But you can keep your 25 bucks and still watch video from your TiVo. The Videora TiVo conversion tool makes your files TiVo-friendly for free. Download the Videora TiVo converter for Windows, install, and fire it up. Click the “Transcode New Video” button and add your .AVI file to the converter queue, and then click the “Start” button. (If you’ve got several files to convert, repeat this process for each one—Videora will add the files to its queue and work on the next one as each job completes). Videora’s conversion process isn’t a quick one, and depends on the length of your files. You might want to start this sucker before you head to lunch or to bed for the evening.
Hint: to get an estimated amount of time a particular conversion will take, from Videora’s sidebar choose “Setup” and in the “Profile Picker” tab you can enter the video’s length, the profile you want to use, and hit the Calculate button to get an estimated conversion duration time.
Once your conversion job’s done, click on the Move option in Videora’s sidebar. From there, you can move or copy the video file that’s converted for TiVo to TiVo’s video folder on your PC’s hard drive.
Now, on your TiVo, browse to your PC. The newly-converted and transferred files will be listed there. Select one to transfer it over your network from your PC to your TiVo. You can start watching the file as the transfer happens—no need to wait for a long network copy to complete.
Automatically Convert Your BitTorrent Downloads (Advanced Videora Usage)
Now that you’ve converted a downloaded video file for your TiVo, you’re never going to want to do it manually again. Using the main Videora application along with your BitTorrent client and the Videora TiVo converter, you can set up a “watch folder”—the folder where your BT downloads get saved—and the Videora TiVo converter will make the files saved there TiVo-ready automatically. Here’s more on setting up “ITVCasting” with Videora and BitTorrent.
How do you mix video downloads with your TiVo? Let us know in the comments.
Thanks to BugMeNot21 for the excellent BitTorrent+Videora Converter tip. For more neat TiVo tricks, tips, and apps, check out Friday’s entire informative Ask the Readers thread. For more on video conversion, see our Top 10 Free Digital Video Rippers, Encoders, and Converters.
Gina Trapani, the editor of Lifehacker, hopes her TiVo productivity gains even out the losses. Her weekly feature, Geek to Live, appears every Tuesday on Lifehacker AU.