Should you erase everything off your DVR before you send it back?

You don’t own the DVR in your living room. It’s as simple as that. Both DIRECTV and DISH use a leasing model. It keeps costs down, has big tax advantages, and most customers don’t want to keep an old device anyway. Most of us love the idea of upgrading to the latest every other year. If you don’t believe me, how old is your cell phone?

Leasing vs. owning

You lease the equipment, but it’s a little different from the way you lease a car or an apartment. First of all, you make a single payment at the beginning of the lease. The term is open-ended; you don’t have to make another lease payment no matter how long you have the equipment. Unlike a car, you’re strictly not allowed to make any physical changes to the device. In a lot of ways, it looks like owning, but it isn’t.

The difference comes when you’re done with the equipment. Satellite TV receivers today are pretty mature and very reliable. That means a receiver could have a lifespan of 5-7 years, maybe more, before it becomes obsolete. Pretty much all high-definition satellite equipment made since 2007 will work, although anything made before 2012 might not work within a new installation. Even so, that’s 6 years of hardware out there with a good chance of actually being 100% reliable. The average customer wants to upgrade every two years.

Leasing gives DIRECTV or DISH the right to reclaim that hardware when you’re done with it. It’s sent to a refurbishing center where it undergoes some serious tests and an exterior cleaning. If it passes everything, it goes back out in the workforce. That’s a good thing. Both DIRECTV and DISH provide those DVRs, servers, and clients to you at a price that’s less than what they pay, so they’re actually saving money by reusing them.

When it’s time to say goodbye

Let’s say you’re finally done with your old HR44 Genie and you’re getting a new Genie 2. Maybe you’re upgrading to 4K or maybe it’s starting to get a little twitchy. Either way, here’s how it works, for both DIRECTV and DISH.

When you call to upgrade, a flag is set in the computer and an automatic decision is made about the hardware you have. If it’s truly obsolete, if there’s no chance it’s ever going back in another home, you should be told that. At that point it’s up to you to responsibly recycle it. Don’t just toss it in the trash — find a recycling center near you. Your grandchildren will be glad you took the extra time when they aren’t wading through puddles of toxic sludge.

More likely, a recovery kit will be sent to you. It’s basically a shipping box with instructions on what you should return. There is also a prepaid shipping label so you can take the box to the closest shipper and drop it there.

But… should you be worried about the content you’ve recorded? Should you take the extra step of resetting the device and erasing everything that’s on it?

In general, that’s not necessary.

Yes, there are cases I’ve heard of where people get a DVR and it already has stuff on it. It’s very rare. Most of the time DVRs get new hard drives during the refurbishing process and even when they don’t, those existing drives should be erased.

Also, look… what you do in your home is your business but I’m willing to bet that people don’t really care what’s on your DVR and wouldn’t judge you if they did. I mean, if you got a DVR and it were pre-filled with episodes of “Family Matters,” would you really judge the previous owner with more than a chuckle?

If you really are concerned with the stuff on your DVR, you can erase everything easily. Power it up. If it’s using the older menus, follow these steps:

MENU > Settings&Help > Settings > Reset > Reset Everything

If you have the new Genie menus and you’re turning in a DVR, here’s the way you do it:

MENU > Settings > Reset Options > Reset Everywhere

In both cases you’ll have to press the DASH button to the left of the zero to confirm. Wait 5 minutes then simply unplug the DVR without setting anything up.

If the DVR is totally dead, you really don’t have the option to erase the hard drive. Because this is leased hardware, you can’t open it up and connect the drive to something else. If you have a really massive magnet, you could put it on the DVR for a day or so, that would probably do it. But honestly, the better thing to do is not worry about it.