How to Troubleshoot DVR Systems

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All cable and satellite television providers now offer digital video recorders (DVR), which allow you to rewind, pause and record programming. Some allow you to set the schedule via the Internet using a cell phone or computer and some allow you to transport your programming and watch it on your computer. High-capacity models allow you to record 200 hours of regular programming or 50 hours of high definition (HD). Sometimes, however, the systems malfunction.

  • Reset the box. A reboot can fix the vast majority of problems like partial recordings. DVRs are basically computers. They have a hard drive and benefit from reboots just as your computer does. If there's no obvious reset button, just pull the power plug out for 15 seconds and then plug it back in again.

  • Check that you're connected to the phone line. If you box requires it, make sure you're plugged in. The provider often uses the phone line to download critical software updates and problems you're having may be because patches and updates haven't been applied.

  • Change the batteries in the remote. If the DVR won't turn on, or isn't behaving normally, you might need a set of fresh batteries.

  • Make sure the connections are all secure. Make sure the power cord is plugged in and the TV input is connected. Make sure there's a cable going to the TV from the DVR.

  • Check that the device isn't jammed into a cabinet with a whole load of other gear. This can cause the DVR to shut down automatically to prevent overheating. Make sure there's plenty of ventilation.

  • Call customer service to order programming if you get an error message saying channel unobtainable or similar wording. Movie and sports channels are often at extra cost.

  • Check the DVR's to-do list to see if there's programming scheduled to be recorded if the channel unexpectedly changes. It's not a ghost working the remote. It may that be you need to reschedule some recording.

  • Make sure no one in your household is deleting your programming if the show you've recorded isn't in the playlist. Check for conflicts in the DVR's recording schedule. Make sure you haven't canceled an entire series recording rather than just one show. Check to see if the hard drive is full. Check the priorities -- some DVRs will delete older programs to make way for new ones. Take a look at how the DVR is configured in the Options menu.

  • Run the system test. It's a basic diagnostic test and will report problems. It's usually found in the System Setup area.

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