TiVo to Mac - Mountain Lion Edition

With every new OS update from Apple you get a lot of cool new features. Unfortunately you also get a few apps that don't work. One application I rely on for getting TV shows off my Tivo is iTivo. I wrote about it here in a previous post. After I upgraded to the new Mountain Lion OS  I found that iTivo was broken. Now I had to go to plan B if I wanted to watch my favorite TV shows on my iPad or AppleTV. Thankfully plan B works great. It just takes a few more steps. 

UPDATE - 2/20/2013

The work around outlined below works fine but as of 2/20/2013 iTiVo is working again. The application does needs a manual fix however. Please download the latest iTiVo and apply the fix outlined in the this MacITHelp post

Part 1 - Finding Your Tivo

Our first step is downloading your TV show from your TiVo to your Mac. To get download your shows you first have to locate your TiVo on your network and log in. Did you know that you can actually log onto your tivo from any web browser? No, well you can but you need to know the IP address that your Tivo is using. The easiest way to figure that out is to use a free application called LanScan.

You can download LanScan from the Apple App Store here. Once you have LanScan installed start it up and scan your network. You should see a screen like this:

You will notice that my Tivo has the local IP address of  Armed with that information you can now log into your Tivo using your favorite web browser and grab your files.

Part 2 - Logging into Your Tivo

Open up a browser window and type in the IP address you found above. For this login you will want to use a secure login so make sure to type in the "https://" before your IP


Once you do that you should see a login screen like this one:

The User Name will always be "tivo" and the password will be your personal Tivo Media Access Key (MAK). If you don't know what your MAK is follow these steps. On your TiVo box go to TiVo Central > Messages and Setup > Account & System Information > Media Access Key. Write that number down, you will use it a lot to get things working. 

Once you log onto your box you will now see all your current recordings.

To download a show just click the download MPEG-PS link and your file will be transferred from your Tivo to your Mac. Remember though that it will be encrypted so your next step will be to decrypt the file.

Part 3 - Getting the Decryption Software

The software to decode the TiVo files isn't a standard Mac application and runs under UNIX. To get things to work you will need to download and install a small UNIX application then build a script to use it.

Don't worry, it may seem daunting but I've done all the leg work so this is going to be easy. I've included a lot of screen shots for each step so just follow along. First you need to download a file set called MacOSX_tools from an application called kmttg.

Once you have it downloaded and decompressed it open up the folder and find the file called tivodecode. It's at the bottom and only 66KB in size.

You now need to start channeling your inner UNIX geek and use the terminal to copy the "tivodecode" file to a specific location on your Mac. 

Part 4 - Loading the decryption Software

Open up the terminal application. You will find it in the Utilities folder inside the Application folder. 

Once it's open you need to go to the /usr/sbin location where you will install tivodecode. Type in 

    cd /usr/sbin

Now type in "sudo cp"  and drag the tivodecode file you downloaded to the terminal screen. When you drag a file onto the terminal screen it will automatically that files current location and type it in for you. Now finish the command by typing a "."  The period says 'copy this file to my current location'. So the full second command  might look like this:

  sudo cp /FTP/kmttg_MacOSX_tools_v0p8l/tivodecode/tivodecode .

After you you are sure you have the command correct hit the return key. You will be prompted for your password and then the command will be executed. Hopefully everything will work fine and tivodecode will be installed. To check if it was copied you can perform the list command to see.

  ls -al /usr/sbin/tivodecode
  -rwxr-xr-x@ 1 root  wheel  57096 Jul 30 16:32 /usr/sbin/tivodecode

You should see tivodecode listed rather than "No such file or directory".

Part 5 - Creating a script to decode your Tivo Files

Now that you have installed the software you will want an easier way to run tivodecode rather than use the terminal. The easiest way is to create a script. To do that use Apple's own Automator application located in the applications folder. Find it and open it up. 

Once it is up select "New" from the file menu and "Application" as the type of Automator file you want to create. You will only need a 3 step script to decode your Tivo files. Here's a picture of the script.

Your first step is to select the "Files & Folders" icon on the left then drag the "Ask for Finder Items" into the window pane on the right.  In the "Prompt" section just type in "Choose a Tivo file" and fill the folder location you normally use when you download your Tivo files.  

Now select "Utilities" from the Library and drag "Run Shell Script" to the Window pane on the right.  First make sure the "Shell" is set to "/bin/bash". In the Shell Script window type the following:

/usr/sbin/tivodecode -m <MAK> -o "/Folder/tivofile.mpg" "$@"

Remember to insert your real MAK address into the command and the real path to your output file. 

If you have Growl installed you can add this final step. It isn't really required but it does help you to know when your file is done decrypting.  In the "Utilities" menu find "Show Growl Notification" and drag it to the right side of the window. Now type in a title and description. 

Now that you are done editing save the file and make sure it's saved as an application in the "File Format" drop down menu.

Part 5 - Running the Script

This is the fun part. You have all the pieces in place to download your Tivo recordings & decrypt them. Start up the appliclation you just created and select a .TiVo file.

Once selected you will see the command you set up to run with your real MAK. If you want to change the location of the file or the file name you can do so here. Just highlight the text you want to change and type in a new name or path. 

Once you hit continue your file will process in the background and eventually you will see the notification that your file is done decrypting. VOILA!! you are finished. 

As you can see, it would be much easier to use the iTiVo application but until someone fixes it you have a work around. It's a lot of steps but nothing difficult. Let me know how it works out for you. When iTiVo pushes out an update I'll let you know.


It seems that some people are getting a "Bad CPU type" error when they try to run tivodecode. This is probably due to the compiled version downloaded above. There's a couple of things you can try to fix it. 

Download tivodecode from Source Forge. You can try the latest version or an old version.

Some people have also had success extracting tivodecode from the old, non-working, iTivo application.  Open the iTivo package contents by control+clicking on the iTivo application and selecting "show package contents". In the Contents/Resources folder you should find a copy of tivodecode. Drag a copy to the desktop (option+drag) and then move that version of the tivodecode file to /usr/sbin to see if things work. 


Connecting Remotely Using BTMM - From Someone Else's Machine

There are a lot of Mac applications available that will let you connect to your Mac when you are away from home. All of the easiest to use applications have some sort of registration so you can find your Mac out of the millions that are using the Internet at any given time. Apple has one of the best remote access applications built into their OS. It's part of Apple's free iCloud service and called "Back-to-my-Mac", or just BTMM for short. 

When you register each of your Macs with iCloud, and enable BTMM, the software allows you to access any of your Macs disks or share the screen remotely from where ever you are. If you are sitting on the Lanai of your beach condo in Hawaii and need a file from your home computer just connect to Mac and mount up your hard drive. Copy the file and you are done. Even better, if you want to operate your Mac remotely just click the "Share Screen" button and log in.

The one drawback to all this remote convince is trying to connect from a Mac that isn't yours or is associated with a different iCloud user back to your machine.  The good news is that with a little preparation and the right software you can do it! To get things working you need to gather some specific information and set up your Mac. 

The one key piece of information you need to know is your Mac's Internet address. This is a unique number that identifies you to the internet. Most Internet Service Providers (ISP) assign you a dynamic IP. That means that you will never know what it is on any given day unless you write it down. There are free DNS services that will associate a name to your IP address but thankfully, for Apple iCloud users, Apple does this for you! To find out your DNS name all you need to do is open up the Terminal application located in your Utilities folder and run a simple command.

First off, don't be afraid of the command line. You just need to run one simple command, write down the information, then quit terminal. The command you need to run is the multicast DNS service discovery. It will figure out the DNS name associated with your iCould account.

$ mDNS -E
Looking for recommended registration domains:
Talking to DNS SD Daemon at Mach port 5891
14:42:11.478  Recommended Registration Domain local. Added
14:42:11.479  Recommended Registration Domain <.Mac ID>.members.mac.com. Added
14:42:11.479  Recommended Registration Domain XXXXXXX.members.btmm.icloud.com. Added

As of MacOS 10.7 Apple is still using the .Mac members DNS name even though it no longer works for this particular VNC use. The DNS name you need to copy is your iCloud DNS name. In the example above it's the last line. The results will have a unique number associated to your iCloud account name.


Now you need to make sure your Mac is set up. Open up the system preferences and select "iCloud" under "Internet & Wireless" and click the "Back to My Mac" check box. 
Because you can have multiple Macs associated with a single iCloud user ID you also need to identify which Mac you want to connect to.  For each Mac associated with your iCloud user ID open "System Preferences" and click the "Sharing" tab. Write down the "Computer Name:" that appears at the top. In the case below it's just "iMac".

Lastly you will need to enable VNC connections for your Mac. Select "Computer Settings" in the same "Sharing" Preferences panel, check the VNC box and type in a strong password. Because your machine is accessible from outside your firewall I suggest using upper & lower case letters, numbers and characters (!,@, #, etc.)
You are now set up and have all the information you need to connect to your machine using your favorite VNC app. One of my favorites is Chicken of the VNC. You can download it here.

Once the application opens just use the new connection command in the "File" menu. in the host: box type


An example might be


When you connect you will see a login box. This is where you type in the VNC password you just set above.

If you don't want this box to appear you can enter your VNC password in the VNC Login screen and select "Remember Password." After your VNC connects you will see your Mac's login screen.

Select your user and log in! If everything works as planned you should be now be logged into your machine.