Safely upgrade your Genie DVR’s hard drive!

Because, sometimes 400 hours of HD isn’t enough. If you’re a serious DVR user you know that no amount of space will ever be enough. That’s why DIRECTV makes it easy to increase your recording capacity with eSATA. Look at the back of your Genie DVR and you’ll see a port labeled eSATA or SATA. SATA is the technology that underlies all hard drives made today and many external hard drives have a port that lets you connect them directly at faster speeds than you can get from USB.

How to connect an eSATA drive

If you have a hard drive with an eSATA port you can connect it to the back of your DIRECTV DVR, restart the DVR and it will be automatically formatted for your use. That’s all there is to it really. You can get eSATA drives on Amazon. There are a few things you should know, though:

Use the right size drive

There is no real limit to the size of drive you can use. Every drive made today is completely supported by DIRECTV DVRs. We’ve heard of people using 16TB drive arrays with success. However, don’t use a smaller drive than you have inside the Genie DVR itself. HR54 Genies have drives of 1TB in size and HS17 Genie 2s have drives of 2TB in size. So, consider a 4TB drive or something larger, or else there isn’t any real benefit to upgrading.

You won’t lose your old recordings but…

…you can’t use both the internal and external drives at the same time. It’s best to watch everything on the drive you have before upgrading, or start with a new DVR before you add anything to it. You can unplug the external and reboot and you’ll get access to the internal drive back, but if you do this a lot you might not have accurate guide data all the time.

Here’s what you can’t do

You can’t have one drive and carry it from DVR to DVR. When you connect a drive to a DVR it becomes paired to that DVR. You can’t connect it to another DVR. Best case, you just won’t get access to those programs; worst case the drive will be reformatted.

Why can’t you just use a USB hard drive?

Here in 2019 as I write this, that’s an excellent question. After all, USB is the standard for portable hard drives and eSATA drives are hard to come by. However, the decision to choose eSATA drives instead of USB started back in 2006. Back then, USB hard drives were slower and did not provide the smooth transport needed to support recording.

I know that about a decade ago there was some plan to start allowing USB hard drives. As with everything else, it came down to resources. The cost to implement USB hard drives didn’t make sense considering the number of people who wanted to use them. On the other hand, since eSATA support was already baked in, they kept including the port.

DIRECTV (and now AT&T) has always said that external hard drives were “unsupported,” sort of a power user feature that you should use at your own risk. I hear that, and I agree it’s up to you. Not every drive is going to work. However, it’s a little hard for me to say that a feature that’s been in every DIRECTV HD and 4K DVR for thirteen years is really unsupported. Right?

By the way… It’s a violation of your DIRECTV Customer Agreement to open your DVR or tamper with it in any way… adding an external drive is the ONLY approved way to upgrade.

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 9,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.