To SWiM or not to SWiM… that is the question!

If you’ve had DIRECTV service for a while, chances are you are using what’s called a “legacy” system. There are probably four wires coming from your dish, and if you have more than two DVRs (or one DVR and two regular receivers) you have a multiswitch that allows you to split those four lines to go where they are needed. How can you tell for sure?

  • If you have two lines running into your DVR, that’s a legacy system.
  • If you press the {DASH} button on your remote and it doesn’t say “SWiM Connected,” that’s a legacy system.

If you are completely happy with your DIRECTV system and have no plans to change it, your legacy system will still work fine for the short term. But, if you’re interested in a solution that will take you into the future, now is the time to talk about SWiM.

What is SWiM?

SWiM stands for Single Wire Multiswitch, and it’s a proven technology from DIRECTV that was first rolled out to customers in 2007. The idea is to make installing and managing a DIRECTV system simpler and more like a cable television system. A single wire can be split in order to put service wherever it was needed, unlike the earlier system that required a separate line from the dish (or multiswitch) to each room.

The good news is that replacing a legacy system with a SWiM system can be easy. If you have an existing multiswitch, the four lines in from the dish can go into a new SWM-8 module that can take the place of an older switch like a Zinwell WB68. If you just have a dish with no multiswitch, there are SWM-equipped dishesthat run one wire out instead of four. The addition of a splitter can give you as many lines as you need. Finally, add the appropriate power inserter to power the SWiM system and you’re almost done. Each receiver will need to have the “Satellite Setup” routine run and the B-Band converters taken off (if they are there.)

Why go SWiMming?

The biggest question is of course, if you have a perfectly good system, why make a change? Future-proofing is one answer. If you think you’re going to want to upgrade to DIRECTV’s latest HR34 super-DVR Home Media Center, you’ll need a SWiM. If you want to get DIRECTV’s H25 HD receiver, the smallest HD receiver yet, you’ll need a SWiM. And, if you’re interested at all in the RVU technology that will allow some TVs to act as if they had a built-in DIRECTV receiver, you’ll need a SWiM. The writing is on the wall… DIRECTV is full-steam ahead with SWiM technology and all their future receivers are expected to be SWiM-only.

There is also another excellent reason. DIRECTV has built a large on-demand library and is moving toward offering new internet services like YouTube Videos and Pandora. In order to use these services, or to share programs from one DVR to other receivers, you’ll need to make sure all your receivers are networked. The easiest way to do this is with another beneficial SWiM improvement: the Cinema Connection Kit. This little device, also called a “Broadband DECA,” plugs into your home router and also into your coaxial cable, and provides internet connectivity to all your receivers, instead of having to run Cat5 cable to each receiver. This is a huge timesaver and also makes the installation much cleaner.

What else do I need?

If you’re doing your own SWiM conversion, you’ll need a few more parts. If you have a very old HR20, HR21, or HR23 DVR, you’ll need a DECA. The DECA is a converter that splits out the Ethernet cable for use by older receivers. You’ll also need a DECA for your H21 or H23 receivers. Other receivers will need band stop filters to help them “ignore” the ethernet information.

What should I look out for?

The first and most important concern is how to handle the power inserter. If you’re using a splitter, only one line is set up to pass power from the dish to the power inserter. That line should be run to the inserter itself. Be careful! Putting the power inserter in the wrong place, or having cables backwards, can fry your receivers. If you’re using an external SWiM module, the line called “SWM1/PWR” goes to the splitter, then to the power inserter.

Make sure that you’re not “oversplitting.” Solid Signal carries a range of 1×21×4, and 1×8 splitters. Over-splitting can lead to line loss and poor signal quality. Using DIRECTV-branded splitters with a green label guarantees that the splitters are designed to handle the bandwidth of a DIRECTV signal. Other splitters from home improvement stores are not.

A 8-channel SWiM can send the signal to 8 tuners, not 8 receivers. A regular DVR counts as two tuners, and the HR34 counts as five. So add carefully. Over-subscribing the SWiM is the term used for trying to use too many tuners and it can lead to real problems. If you need more than 8 tuners, check out the SWiM-16. It’s enough for most homes. Still not enough? Check out the new DSWM-30, which can handle up to 26 tuners.

A SWiM upgrade can be a fun and worthwhile upgrade and is an excellent way to add both new function and future-proofing to your setup.