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QUESTION: Hi -

I think this is a pretty easy question..

I have cable/DVR/Internet service (DVR = Cisco RNG200) through Comcast.

The DVR is 98% full.

If I were to unhook the DVR, and take it to a friend's house (who has NO cable service), would it be possible to hook the DVR up to HIS tv, and watch those programs that I have recorded onto the DVR?

Or, would he have to have Comcast service, so the DVR would work on HIS TV?

Thanks a lot!
Mike

ANSWER: I'm not familiar enough with Comcast's software to give you a definitive answer - in principle it should work as the DVR is simply playing back information from its internal storage (and if it were a generic DVR, this would work exactly as you'd like it to and that would be that). However it may have some form of "phone home" rights/account management associated with it, like TiVO and other devices (and this equipment *is* tied to your specific user account, so for example if you and a friend both had Comcast, you can't switch boxes even if they're the same model unless they've gone through Comcast's refurbishing process, as they're specifically tied/keyed to your account). This rights management would prevent being able to run the DVR without a connection to your cable service, which would get in the way of transporting the device to your friend's house (as a side note, it won't matter which TV is specifically connected - your friend could bring his TV to you and it won't make a difference to the cable box).

You could quickly test if the device would behave like a generic DVR or not by disconnecting the cable connection (so it's just connected to power and the TV), and seeing if things continue to work as intended. If it complains about a lack of connection then it won't work without the cable feed, however if it can playback from the internal storage it should work elsewhere.


However, if the device requires a connection to cable to work, all is not entirely lost - you could connect a DVD recorder or generic DVR to the video outputs, playback the video on the Comcast device and record it with the other machine. This wouldn't be the fastest process, but it would make the content a bit more portable. If wanting to take your recorded show/content with you is a more common occurance, you may consider just sticking with the DVD recorder or generic DVR (some modern generic DVRs can actually transfer from their internal storage to a DVD as well).

Finally, depending on the specific content you're hoping to view from Comcast, it may be available for online streaming through their web-portal, which will require log-in with your account credentials, but it doesn't require the computer to be specifically in your house. So you could either transport the computer or use your friend's computer, and then either use that device's display, or connect that device to a television for playback.

If you have further questions, feel free to ask.

-bob


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Bob,

Thank you for that excellent answer. You gave me a lot of good ideas. You're on the exact 'track' that I'm trying to figure out, if I could just ask you a quick follow-up - (then of course, I'll give you excellent ratings, immed.)

Would you mind going to: http://tinyurl.com/Xrng200 - it's a (one-page) pdf of the DVR's oper. Manual.

At the bottom right (#13), it says that you CAN connect an external DVR to the eSata port on the back, but that it can only be used to expand the DVR's storage - not backup what you have.

I've heard this before. I've also heard people saying that "ONLY" (something like a) "WD MyBook 1TB" ("no larger, no smaller") would work - even for that.

It just seems to me there has GOT to be a way to get those shows onto a hard drive, if the DVR will accept an external hdd. (and I don't know WHY it would accept only 1 brand, etc..)

I wouldn't care WHAT kind of strange format it put the file(s) on the disk - I'm sure one of these days I could extract the video somehow. (i AM wondering, also, though, that if I COULD do that, that when I get done and shut everything down, if I WERE to somehow backup the shows, that when I shut everything down, I'm wondering if that file instantly disappears.. like a .tmp file or something..)

What are your thoughts on this idea, then I'll leave you alone!!

Thanks a lot!!
Mike

Answer
It isn't surprising at all that it can't transfer what it has already recorded, it's just a limitation of the software (likely a result of rights management impositions from content providers). As far as expansion, it also isn't surprising that there are size and manufacturer limits - the DVR itself probably can't address extremely large disks (e.g. 4TB), and probably only has drivers for certain controllers, meaning it isn't fully universal. This is fairly normal for A/V or home-theater equipment - it may use relatively standardized ports, but everything is a bit "quirky" compared to a conventional PC. This assumes the port is even active - many Comcast/Dish/etc devices have extraneous ports disabled before being sent out to the customer as part of their standard in-house configuration, mostly because it limits what the service provider has to provide technical support for.

In concept you could probably remove the hard-drive from the DVR and hook it up to a PC, but the files stored on it are likely in a proprietary (and potentially (likely?) encrypted format) - again due to the nature of the device, DRM restrictions, and so forth. And beyond all of that, you'd also likely end up owning Comcast a few hundred (or thousand) dollars for opening the chassis (they used to, and probably still do, place a big orange warning label on the bottom or side of their hardware explaining that damage, modification, or theft of the hardware carries a $600+ penalty and potential criminal charges). Remember: you do not own the equipment, you lease/rent it from Comcast. In general I wouldn't suggest opening or modifying their hardware.

The easiest way around all of this would be a generic DVR that you own and have more freedom with, the only rub is that it wouldn't have any of the content stored on the Comcast box. To retrieve that you'd either have to transfer it 1:1 (meaning real-time playback) from the Comcast box, or simply accept it as "lost" beyond the Comcast hardware. Magnavox is a popular choice for DVRs today, like this model: http://www.magnavox.com/product/feature.php?id=116

Which will both record to an internal hard-drive, and transfer data to DVD. There are many user reports of swapping hard-drives, and using multiple hard-drives with these devices as well.

Another option would be to record the content directly with your PC, if it's capable, using something like this: http://hauppauge.com/site/products/data_dcr2650.html

-bob

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Bobbert

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Questions regarding HTPC integration to home theaters, and general purchasing advice regarding home theater and audio systems, including headphones. Please no car audio or over the top PA systems.

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General enthusiast, ~10 years as an audio and electronics hobbyist

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