Why can’t you move recordings from one DIRECTV DVR to another?

DISH lets you do it. We hear that all the time. It’s true, DISH lets you move recordings onto an external drive and then play them from another DVR on your account. DIRECTV doesn’t. If you’re upgrading, or if you’re trying desperately to hold to a flaky DVR before replacing, it would be great to migrate your recordings from one place to another.

We’ve seen some online tutorials that suggest you crack open your DVR and use Linux copy tools, but that only lets you move programs from one hard drive to another. That won’t let you take the programs to another receiver or keep them forever. The only option you have is something like this video capture device that lets you stream the content from your DVR in real time. You can’t use the DVR while you’re recording, it’s like an old-school VCR copying experience. That’s not great, but it’s something.

Another thing you can do is simply rely on DIRECTV and other services. Using DIRECTV’s on demand as well as Hulu’s app will preserve a lot of content for you, but there’s no guarantee how long it will last and certainly if you stop paying to subscribe you lose that content. Not only that, but you won’t get local content which might be the very stuff you’re trying to preserve.

This question has been asked several times over the years and the answer’s been pretty consistent. DIRECTV encodes information into every recording about the receiver it’s on, and the recordings aren’t playable without that specific receiver’s encryption. Blame the content providers and their irrational fear of having perfect, commercial-free digital copies floating around the internet. DISH also uses some encryption but because it’s tied to the account it’s a little easier to migrate things from box to box.

Will this ever change? It’s hard to say. There have been rumors that at some point this will be a new feature on DIRECTV DVRs but as time goes on, there’s a better option: the cloud.

Today, more than 90% of the programs you record are already available to stream from DIRECTV or the content providers themselves. The quality may not be perfect but at least it’s out there. In the future. DIRECTV could even automate this process by backing up your playlist to the cloud so that if you got a new DVR it could automatically point you to the right places. It’s just a matter of getting it all done.

In the meantime, this is going to be one of the top requests from DVR users, and we can just hope DIRECTV does something to address it.