How to Hook Up an External Hard Drive to a DirecTV DVR

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A DVR with an external drive puts hundreds of hours of programming at your fingertips.

A DirecTV Digital Video Recorder (DVR) is a handy tool for recording and storing TV programs. An avid TV viewer can quickly fill a DVR to capacity, especially when recording high-definition (HD) programs, which consume much more DVR hard-drive space than standard-definition (SD) programs. Your TV-watching experience will be enhanced when you add an external drive to your DirecTV DVR, expanding its storage capacity by 200 percent or more, depending on the DVR model and your budget.


Connecting Your External Drive

Step 1

Purchase an external hard drive with a native SATA connection or a SATA hard drive to be used internally on a PC. Place your choice of hard drive in a SATA hard-drive enclosure (sold separately).


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Step 2

Power off and unplug the DirecTV DVR.

Step 3

Install the SATA drive. For a standalone external drive, plug one end of an eSATA cable into the back of the drive. Plug the other end into the port labeled "SATA" on the back of the DirecTV DVR. Plug the hard drive's AC power adapter into an available outlet and allow the hard drive to power up and initialize (about 2 minutes). For an internal SATA drive, install the drive in the external enclosure per the manufacturer's instructions. Connect the drive to your DVR, using an eSATA cable. Plug the AC power cable from the hard drive enclosure into an available outlet. Turn on the external enclosure's power switch. Wait about two minutes before proceeding.


Step 4

Plug the DirecTV DVR's power cord in again. Press the "power" button on the DVR and allow it to initialize. This process may take several minutes as the DVR recognizes and formats your new external drive. Once the drive is formatted, the familiar DirecTV interface will appear. You can now watch TV and record programs as normal. Do not power off the external drive, as it now functions as the "operating system" for your DVR.

Things You'll Need

  • DirecTV DVR (SD model R22 or HD model H20 or higher)

  • External Serial ATA (SATA) hard drive or internal SATA drive with external enclosure

  • eSATA cable


A 1 TB drive will hold approximately 200 hours of HD programming, according to DirecTV. Internal hard drives placed in an external enclosure tend to be faster, quieter and less expensive than stand-alone external drives. Use a drive with a minimum capacity of 750 GB. The latest DirecTV DVR models have built-in hard drives with capacities up to 500 GB, so you are not gaining any storage space by replacing a 500 GB hard drive with a drive of the same size.


Because you are replacing the DirecTV DVR’s built-in hard drive with an external drive, no longer will you have access to programs you saved before installing the external drive. Set up "Favorites," "Series Manager" and other personalized options again, as you did when the DVR was new. These programs and features are not lost forever, though. If you disconnect the external drive and reboot your DVR, your old shows and preferences will be there as the DVR accesses its internal drive again. Use a hard drive with a native SATA connection. You cannot use a USB drive in conjunction with a USB/eSATA adapter or cable.