How can I get into the cable box on the outside of my apartment!?
September 19, 2008 2:31 PM   Subscribe

I've been living in my current apartment for about a year, and have been getting Comcast cable television all this time. However, just today, Comcast came around and messed with my cable box, so that I only get a few channels now! I'd like to get into my cable box to see what they did, but they have a lock on the box that I've never seen before. Here is a picture of the lock: link. As you can see, it's some kind of star shaped lock that I've never seen before, so I have no idea how to get into it. Any help you guys can provide would be greatly appreciated.
posted by Fareed to Technology (22 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: don't use askme for this. -- jessamyn

 
If you call Comcast, and order cable, they'll send someone over to your apartment to open that box.

Or you could just drill the lock out.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:37 PM on September 19, 2008


It's locked for a reason.

Are you paying for these channels you no longer get? If so, call Comcast. They will send someone out to fix it. If you're not paying for these channels you once got for free, breaching the cable box to jimmy with the wires and score free cable is likely a crime where you live. Tread lightly!
posted by nitsuj at 2:37 PM on September 19, 2008


You "get into it" by paying them for television. They just noticed that you were receiving a signal you are not entitled to get. Asking for advice on theft and lock-picking here wont get you far.

The "hack" involves opening your checkbook.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:38 PM on September 19, 2008


It's a security torx screw. Look for torx screwdrivers.

It's still illegal but to answer the question and all.
posted by GuyZero at 2:43 PM on September 19, 2008


Well, not that it would be legal, but if you got a 5-1000mhz splitter and split off of someone else's cable you'd get your channels back, and they wouldn't lose their digital cable (if they were playing for that, a 5-900mhz splitter won't work). Sometimes cable lines run on the outside of buildings-- you swap out a coupler for your splitter, and you're in business. I knew a guy who did this a while back. What a card.

Great advice everyone telling him to pay for cable. That's just what he was looking for!
posted by No New Diamonds Please at 2:45 PM on September 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm well aware that it's illegal, and guess what - this will surprise you, but I actually do pay for cable. Every month, $19.70. I just want to know what the eff they did to my cable.
posted by Fareed at 2:46 PM on September 19, 2008


Then you should call Comcast and ask them. At $19.70/mo, that sounds like basic-ish cable; you may have been getting other channels accidentally (their accident). If you want more channels, you should call them and ask them what they did, and be prepared to pony up more money for more channels.
posted by rtha at 2:51 PM on September 19, 2008


Im guessing in your market 19.70 is called 'basic cable' It means they rebroadcast OTA TV signals for people without decent antennas. They toss in a couple token channels. Welcome to Comcast!

Seriously, just call them and sort this out.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:52 PM on September 19, 2008


I just want to know what the eff they did to my cable.

I can probably help with that: What they did to your cable is make sure that you get the channels you are paying for instead of all of them. If you feel like you aren't getting all the channels you are paying for, a simple call to comcast customer service should let you know what they did to your cable.

So, you should look up what channels you are supposed to get for $19.70 a month. If you are currently getting those channels, problem solved! If you aren't getting all of those channels, call 1-800-COMCAST and they should be able to fix it for you, possibly over the phone. Problem solved!
posted by Justinian at 2:55 PM on September 19, 2008


Note that regular Torx is a 6-point star. This is 5-point. Amazon sells the bits.
posted by GuyZero at 2:55 PM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks to all the non-judgmental people who answered my question. As for calling them and sorting everything out with them, in my estimation, Comcast is one of the worst and most incompetent organizations that I have ever encountered. I wish there were alternatives to using them for cable television in my area, but they seem to have a monopoly on that particular service. In any case, you'll have to excuse me if I have a tendency to trust my own brain over any given random comcast employee in finding out what's going on. :-)
posted by Fareed at 3:01 PM on September 19, 2008


Comcast is one of the worst and most incompetent organizations that I have ever encountered

Agreed. On the day that Comcast becomes the first ISP to take the giant step back and officially cap bandwidth, I'm more than happy to give you advice on how to maximize your interactions with them (admittedly in another realm).

posted by No New Diamonds Please at 3:05 PM on September 19, 2008


It's not an issue of your brain, Fareed. It's easy to figure out what's going on - Comcast seems to have discovered that, intentionally or otherwise, you were getting more channels than your monthly rate entitled you to get. So, they locked it down, then locked the box. Be prepared, if you DO call Comcast, they will try to upsell the hell out of you.
posted by pdb at 3:07 PM on September 19, 2008


Would you pop open the engine of a rental car and start twiddling with things just because you thought the mechanic who works for the agency wasn't capable of fixing it?

No matter how much you hate Comcast, that locked box will never become something you have the right to fiddle with (unfortunately).
posted by nitsuj at 3:12 PM on September 19, 2008


I wish there were alternatives

If you're in the US and have a clear view of the southern sky, you could try satellite TV (1, 2).
posted by kidbritish at 3:21 PM on September 19, 2008


Also, for whatever record might exist, I don't endorse opening the box. But it's not like it's some big secret what kind of screws those are. Security through obscurity is pretty lame. Security through enforced contracts and laws works pretty well though.
posted by GuyZero at 3:23 PM on September 19, 2008


Just a heads-up, that bolt is not a five-pointed Torx bit. You won't find that particular bit for sale, but it's easy enough to remove using a fine-tipped needlenose pliers (gripping two of the innermost parts of the inset annular region of the bit) or sometimes by melting plastic and pushing it into the bit to create a makeshift bolt (the outer casing of a Bic pen works well for this), though that won't work if the bolt has been heavily tightened.

It sounds like they've installed a filter onto your line -- filters that eliminate all but the basic channels are standard fare. Be aware of the risks and benefits before taking any action, of course.
posted by j.edwards at 3:37 PM on September 19, 2008


Thanks to all the non-judgmental people who answered my question. As for calling them and sorting everything out with them, in my estimation, Comcast is one of the worst and most incompetent organizations that I have ever encountered. I wish there were alternatives to using them for cable television in my area, but they seem to have a monopoly on that particular service. In any case, you'll have to excuse me if I have a tendency to trust my own brain over any given random comcast employee in finding out what's going on. :-)

I f'ing love my DirecTV. Thats available everywhere.
posted by nickerbocker at 3:46 PM on September 19, 2008


@j.edwards "filters that eliminate all but the basic channels "

Isn't it actually a filter that scrambles the signal rather than elimanates it? All the signals still come into the house, they just show up all distorted. Otherwise those mail order descramblers would not work if the signal were being blocked upstream.
posted by monkeydluffy at 3:48 PM on September 19, 2008


Comcast is one of the worst and most incompetent organizations that I have ever encountered

Although to be honest you were benefiting from that for a while due to their incompetence in providing the right channel. So... Comcastic!
posted by smackfu at 3:57 PM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just a heads-up, that bolt is not a five-pointed Torx bit

Indeed. It may be a "Shouldered StarLock Key 5 Sided Star CATV Open Tool" - http://newelectronx.com/proddetail.php?prod=shouldered-starlock-diversified-5.

I really do not know exactly what it is, I admit, but I'm pretty sure that whatever it is, you can buy one on the internet.
posted by GuyZero at 4:00 PM on September 19, 2008


The same site lists a Slamlock Nutdriver 5 Point Star Key - Slam Box CATV Security Open Tool.

It is probably cheaper to call Comcast rather than spending $30 (save $120!) on a tool that may not work.
posted by GuyZero at 4:03 PM on September 19, 2008


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