Can you turn a DIRECTV H25 receiver into a DVR?

Well, it’s a trick question. It can be done, just not by you.

This question doesn’t come up very much anymore since most residential customers have moved to Genies. However, a customer did ask it again recently and I realized I’d never answered it on this blog.

Facts about the DIRECTV H25 receiver

The DIRECTV H25 has been the standard receiver-only solution since its release in 2011. Its predecessor, the H24, has more features but uses more energy. Both are commonly available. The H24 and H25 are both listed at Solid Signal. Although the H25 was made in greater numbers than the H24, it’s also harder to get these days for one specific reason.

AT&T takes H24 and H25 receivers and refurbishes them, but the H25 receivers go to hotels for the DIRECTV Residential Experience system. DRE, as they call it, is the system that brings all the channels you get at home into your hotel.

The H25 is perfect for this application because of its small size and energy efficiency. Being SWM-only (unlike the H24) doesn’t matter since the DRE system requires SWM.

Those clever hotel people

If you’ve been in a hotel with the DIRECTV Residential Experience, you might find that you have limited DVR functions even though there’s clearly no DVR in the room. For the last several years, new DRE installs have included special flash drives that permanently attach to the receiver’s USB port. This is actually the only approved use of the USB port, although it’s on every DIRECTV receiver made for the last 20 years.

The flash drive adds very limited DVR functionality. You can pause live TV for up to 30 minutes and record one program at a time (provided you’re not watching.) This isn’t really very impressive and I think if that system were available to regular folks no one would use it. They’d opt for a Genie or HR24 which give a lot more functionality.

How is this done? Why can’t regular folks do this?

Receivers destined for the DIRECTV Residential Experience receive special software. The menus may look the same, but the back end code is quite a bit different. This is why you can’t use a DRE remote at home or a regular DIRECTV remote in a hotel. It’s actually designed this way on purpose so people don’t steal the remotes.

The special software enables the DVR function in this very limited use. It also allows for the front desk to know what you’re watching and to remotely erase that flash drive. That way you’re not stuck seeing what the guy before you recorded.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 6,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.