Why won’t this satellite finder work for DIRECTV?

It’s a great little tool and the price is right… but this Solid Signal Satellite Finder won’t work if you are trying to aim any current DIRECTV dish. It works fine with a round dish or even a non-SWM HD dish, but if the SWM is built into the dish itself, this satellite finder will leave you frustrated, and without a picture on your TV.

What’s so special about DIRECTV SWM?

DIRECTV’s satellite system is designed to be different from satellite systems used throughout the world. It’s also different from the original DIRECTV system from the 1990s. Why? To save you money.

As DIRECTV became successful, people wanted bigger and bigger systems. Those systems took more and more wire. Unlike cable TV systems, original DIRECTV systems needed a wire from the dish to literally every television. Not only that, but more and more homes were coming pre-wired for cable. Those pre-wired homes couldn’t be used for DIRECTV because they used splitters and a single cable that came into the house.

As DIRECTV rolled out HD service in the late 2000s they also rolled out SWM. SWM, or Single-Wire Multiswitch, technology puts all the signals needed to run every receiver in your home on a single wire. While it can’t be used with cable television splitters, it’s very similar technology. It supports one wire into the house and a lot more simple wiring.

Unfortunately it also means this signal finder doesn’t work.

Why not?

This satellite finder is essentially a very simple radio receiver. It looks for the L-band signal produced by your satellite dish, based on the Ku-band signal from DIRECTV’s primary satellite and if it “hears” it, you see the meter move. There’s not a lot more than that to it. Unfortunately SWM technology operates completely differently.

DIRECTV’s SWM technology relies on a receiver to “request” a signal before it provides one, and when it does provide on, it can be on any of 8 different frequencies. A simple satellite finder doesn’t know what to do with this information if it “hears” it and doesn’t know how to “request” it. In order to do all of that fancy stuff, you need a meter like the DIRECTV Advanced Installation Meter (AIM). It’s a lot more expensive, that’s true. It earns its money, though. It lets you zero in on the signals from many different kinds of dishes including the DIRECTV SWM-enabled dish. That will help you get your dish set up so you can get down to watching what you want.

Is that satellite finder just not good for anything then?

The Solid Signal Satellite finder still works to aim legacy dishes, which don’t have SWM technology built in. If you have more than one wire coming from your dish, this meter will work for you. You can also use it for most DISH equipment. Of course, with nothing but a simple analog meter and it’s not going to help you get the best possible aim on your satellite. On the other hand, as a simple portable device that takes no power to run, it’s nice to have in your tool kit.

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 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.