Why does your DIRECTV receiver always need an update just after you install it?

You know the story. Get that brand new receiver or DVR out of the box, it boots up, and just as you are sitting down to use it… it tells you there’s a software update. Couldn’t they update them in the factory? Isn’t that annoying?

Annoying it may be, but when you understand how DIRECTV distributes its products, it might make sense. DIRECTV puts out manufacturing orders to its partners like Pace, Samsung, and Thomson a long time in advance, and many receivers and DVRs are manufactured overseas and come to the US on ships that take weeks to get here. Then, they are distributed to warehouses where they are either sent to dealers (like Solid Signal) or loaded on installer trucks. The process from manufacturing to installation can take months. There’s no real difference between a brand-new receiver and one of the same model from a year ago, other than the software that’s on it, so there’s no reason to put older inventory or newer inventory on trucks first.

DIRECTV tends to update its software in general about four times a year, sometimes more. Software updates include new features, stability improvements, and hidden features that technicians use during installation. It’s important to use the latest version of the software because in general, it will work the best. It’s not to say there aren’t bobbles along the way, issues that are caught and fixed, but if you look at things over the long term, you’re much better off with the newest version.

Some installers will force the receiver or DVR to do an update before they leave, to make sure it goes well. This step is good for most models, but as we told you last year, it’s much better to wait for the receiver to do it for itself. This may interfere a little bit with your setting up your new toy, but by letting the receiver update itself, you’re making sure that an update is ready for it. There was a time when it was believed that redownloading the same version of the software from the satellite could help common problems, but it’s never been true; the benefit comes from rebooting the receiver or DVR and clearing its temporary data, which can be done easily by rebooting twice in the space of 30 minutes.

So yes, it’s frustrating, no it’s not terribly entertaining to watch, unless you really enjoy looking at pixelated text on a vaguely purple background, but you should let that software download, plan on doing something else for a little while, and be glad your receiver is smart enough to know what it needs.