Will downloading new software solve your DIRECTV problem?

There was a once-common mantra that said DIRECTV receivers needed software updates early and often. Of course, it was also a once-common mantra to avoid wearing white after Labor Day. Look around and I suspect you’ll find at least one person who’s wearing white this very minute. Things change.

I rarely if ever recommend downloading new software manually for DIRECTV receivers, DVRs, clients, or servers. In fact I stopped recommending it long ago. Here’s a post from 2013 when I talked about it.

What’s the harm in downloading?

Downloading new software onto your DIRECTV receiver shouldn’t have long-lasting ill effects, but in the short term it could actually make things worse. You could download software that’s older than what you have, and there’s a far more concerning issue.

DIRECTV still actively supports over 50 different models of receiver made since 2003. They do this by reserving satellite space for software downloads. However it’s been a long time since there’s been enough space to have all the software for all the receivers available all the time.

In practice, that means your receiver couldn’t get a download you’ve asked it to get. This will take the receiver offline for up to 30 minutes while it searches. When no new software is found, the receiver will automatically reboot so hopefully you won’t be any worse off than you were. Hopefully.

Why do some people think that downloading works?

If downloading a new software version fixes your problem, there are two possibilities why. First, it’s possible the problem is fixed in new software, and you got new software. If that’s true, then you would have gotten that software fairly soon anyway.

The second option is more likely. Downloading new software has the same effect as rebooting your receiver twice in rapid succession. It clears out certain logs and triggers “integrity checks” that can fix database problems. It forces your receiver to start from “square one” in its attempt to understand things like what day it is, what kind of satellite you have, and what programming you have. That’s what’s fixing the problem, not the download. Rebooting a receiver twice generally takes about 15 minutes less than downloading new software. Why waste half an hour on something that doesn’t actually fix the problem?

One more thing about downloading

Downloading new software has gotten to the point where it is actually really hard to do! For over a decade you just had to punch in a series of numbers when you rebooted the receiver. With Genie DVRs and clients however, that’s not really true anymore. The HR44 and HR54 still let you do that but the new Genie 2 has a very convoluted way of “requesting” a software update and if you’re not “authorized” to get it, it won’t come anyway. The clients can’t be manually updated at all and that’s been true since the very beginning.

So, I hope that we can put to rest the myth of downloading. It’s a practice from the past that generally doesn’t do anything to fix the problems you generally have today. With the exception of the new menus that came out for Genies, which haven’t really inspired a rabid fan base, there’s nothing new that forcing a download would give you, either.