When I Unplug My DVR Will I Lose My Programming?

By Elizabeth Falwell

Most cable and satellite TV providers urge subscribers to reset their set-top receiver box regularly in order to ensure they're receiving the latest updates. But what about all the shows you've recorded on your DVR? While resetting your DVR by unplugging it results in some changes to your recording schedule, it won't delete any programs that were already saved to the device.

How DVRs Work

Your DVR doubles as your receiver. A receiver, typically a set-top device, acts as your cable or satellite company's gatekeeper for managing access to shows, programming and features. When your provider sends its TV signal -- either over cable lines or via satellite -- it sends information for every channel; your receiver blocks you from viewing channels for which you haven't paid. A DVR allows you to record, store and play back live TV. When you record a program, your DVR saves it on a built-in hard drive.

Unplugging Your DVR

If you experience problems like audio distortion, picture pixelation or difficulty accessing your programming guide, the first step to resolving these issues is to reset your DVR. Your DVR receives periodic updates from your service provider, but sometimes these updates aren't processed correctly -- or at all -- leading to technical glitches. Unplugging your DVR from its power source for 10 to 30 seconds, depending on the make and model of the DVR, forces it to automatically scan for the latest updates once you plug it back in.

What You Won't Lose

When you reset your DVR by unplugging it, you won't lose any programs you have stored on the DVR. The DVR's hard drive functions similarly to a hard drive on a computer, laptop or even smartphone: When the power is turned off, or even disconnected, the files remain protected. This is because your DVR's hard drive does not require a power source to store files.

What You Will Lose

Although unplugging your DVR won't cause you to lose any saved programming, it will affect other features. Many DVRs, including those offered by Time Warner Cable, automatically save live TV while you're watching it. By using this feature, you can pause and rewind live TV without having to press the record button. However, unplugging your DVR will interrupt this recording. When you plug your DVR back in, you won't be able to access the parts you missed or earlier portions of the program. Your DVR needs a power source to actively record. The portion of the program that aired prior to the power disconnect should be saved to your DVR's hard drive if you had scheduled a recording of the program.