DirecTV Troubleshooting Help

DIRECTV TiVo Tuner Problems

As DIRECTV TiVos age, we are seeing more problems with satellite tuners. I thought it would be helpful to summarize some of the more frequent symptoms of a bad DirecTiVo satellite tuner. (Also see our TiVo troubleshooting page.) Here are some of the more common symptoms associated with a defective satellite tuner (you need not have all of these symptoms to have a bad tuner):

  1. “Searching for Signal on Satellite 1” or “Searching for Signal on Satellite 2” message appears on your screen. Sometimes, this message appears constantly; other times it appears and disappears.
  2. Some of your recordings record; others don’t, especially when you have two programs set to record at the same time.
  3. If you conduct a satellite test, you see one or both of your satellites without any signal strength on all transponders. (To conduct a test, go to Messages and Settings > Settings > Satellite > Test Satellite Signal Strength > Ok; then cycle through the various transponders and satellites. Note that even fully functional units do not get a signal on every transponder, but your SAT 1 and SAT 2 signal strengths should be the same.)
  4. If you conduct a satellite test, you see the satellite signal strength on one of your tuners jump up and down, or you see one of the satellites significantly lower than the other. (To conduct a test, go to Messages and Settings > Settings > Satellite > Test Satellite Signal Strength > Ok; then cycle through the various transponders and satellites. Note that you won’t necessarily get signal on every transponder.)
  5. You see heavy and significant pixellation (blocky picture) on one or both of your satellite tuners. This could be a drive or a bad tuner, and we previously wrote about ways to diagnose the source of a pixellating DIRECTV TiVo. If you rewind, the pixellation is in the same place repeatedly.
  6. You see consistent, heavy pixellation on certain satellite channels, but not all of them.

If you are unsure whether you have a bad tuner, here are some tests you can conduct to help troubleshoot:

  1. If you are running two tuners and only one of your tuners is bad, try swapping cables in the back. Put the SAT 1 cable in the SAT 2 port, and vice versa. If the problem follows the cable (i.e., if the bad tuner was SAT 1 but after swapping cables is SAT 2), then you know you have a dish problem and not a satellite problem.
  2. If you are running two tuners and the bad tuner seems to be SAT 2, then you should be able to repeat satellite setup (Messages and Settings > Settings > Satellite > Repeat Satellite Setup) and specify that you have only one tuner. After doing that, your unit should work fine, but with only one tuner. If it does, then you know you have a bad SAT 2 tuner.
  3. If you have heavy pixellation on one tuner, then you can pause a pixellating channel and switch tuners (down on the circular directional arrow pad) and confirm that the pixellation disappears. If it does, then you have a bad tuner.

If you have determined that you do indeed have a defective tuner, then you have a few options: (1) You can abandon the TiVo and upgrade to high definition using one of DIRECTV’s non-TiVo DVRs. (2) You can send in your TiVo for a TiVo tuner repair. (3) If you have a bad SAT 2 only, then you can run with only SAT 1. (4) You can get a replacement DIRECTV TiVo (while supplies last).


DIRECTV PayPerView Recordings to Expire on DVRs

I wrote earlier about a frustration of mine with Amazon Unbox: movie rentals expire 24 hours from the moment you first start watching them. This caused me problems because I often split a movie into two parts, watching each after the kids go to bed – so around the same time every night.

Then, Apple announced deals with some studios to provide a similar rental-download service to the AppleTV units. But, again, the 24 hour limit was in place.

I thought that this limitation would soon be eased. I kept getting hints that these guys realized the problems with a 24 hour window. David Pogue wrote about it here and he usually gets pretty good coverage on his issues.

Well, it looks like DIRECTV is joining this group – and in an even more restrictive way. They recently announced changes to their PayPerView recording limits: “Effective April 15, the guidelines for DVR Pay-Per-View movie recordings will change. Customers will still be able to enjoy the convenience and variety of our PPV movie selection; however, they will only be available for viewing for 24 hours after the time of purchase.” So with DIRECTV, you get the same 24 hour window, but it starts at the time of purchase – not even at the time of initial viewing. Wow.

I really feel like this whole concept is moving in the wrong direction. I certainly like the idea of paying to rent individual content and downloading it to my living room (I prefer Amazon Unbox to PayPerView for a few reasons) but now with these restrictions, I’ve largely stopped. I envisioned myself starting again, with planning to watch movies all in one night, but I can’t make it happen. In the meantime, I just spent three nights watching “Babel” in pieces (with a DIRECTV crawl overlayed on my screen – at times over the subtitles – about upgrading to Showtime, which I already have – how annoying!). So, for now, I’m sticking with recording movies on my TiVo, for free, and watching them when I can. If these rental programs want my money, they’ll have to do better.

DirecTV TiVo News

TiVo and DIRECTV: The “Cleaner, Clearer” Future

TiVo’s stock was up over 10% today, supposedly as a result of a Q&A session that TiVo’s CEO, Tom Rogers, had with Bear Stearns.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Rogers spoke at length about TiVo’s big win in the Echostar trial, expressing surprise that the impact of the legal win wasn’t being respected on Wall Street.

Rogers also supposedly spoke briefly about the meaning of Rupert Murdoch’s sale of a large stake in DIRECTV to Liberty Media. As we reported last year, this ownership change is a positive for TiVo, but no one at TiVo is really saying much.

In this latest Rogers interview, he said there is a “cleaner, clearer path” to a renewed relationship between TiVo and DIRECTV, but evidently didn’t clarify what exactly that meant.

I cannot tell you how many calls we get daily from DIRECTV customers wanting a viable HD solution for DIRECTV. Not sure if there is more hope now that the Liberty deal is through, but it surely isn’t a bad thing for TiVo that Murdoch, for the most part, is out of the picture. We all have our fingers crossed.


DIRECTV SWM (Single-wire multiswitch) Finally Available

We have finally gotten our hands on the DIRECTV SWM multiswitch. These switches effectively allow you to split a single line from your DIRECTV dish into two, just as you would a line from the cable company. This may not seem like a big deal, but if you have an old house and don’t want to run additional wires down from the dish, this multiswitch solves the problem.

The switch works with the new 5LNB dish, and requires all 4 lines from the dish to run into the SWM. This means that the SWM would have to be installed at the dish or anywhere else in your house where the 4 lines meet.

Once you have the four lines in, you need a special power device (a “power inverter”). From there, you will run a single wire from the output of the SWM, which can split and power multiple receivers, with a single wire feeding TWO tuners!

The SWM will ONLY do it’s magic with DIRECTV’s newest HD equipment–the HR20, HR21, H20 and H21. If you have older “legacy” receivers (including DIRECTV TiVo receivers), the SWM has outputs (legacy ports) for those receivers, but you have to run two dedicated lines out from the legacy ports to those receivers.

We currently carry the SWM8 multiswitch, which can power up to 8 tuners.


HR20s Now Available (Again!)

DirecTV is currently producing the HR21 – the HD DVR (not a TiVo!) that gets their entire current lineup of HD channels. But the HR21 doesn’t get over the air antenna (or OTA) broadcasts. The predecessor to the HR21 – the HR20 – does. And we now have them in stock.


OTA broadcasts are very important. Local stations broadcast HD in very high quality in almost every part of the country. They also generally broadcast more than one sub-channel. So for the highest quality and best variety you should include OTA channels in your lineup.

DirecTV dropped OTA support in the HR21, but since the HR20 had it, we’ve done everything we can to get our hands on more HR20s, and we’ve got them, both stock and upgraded. They’re at the bottom of our DirecTV HD DVR page.