I hate being a slave to tv, help me get my DVR back.
November 6, 2009 9:10 PM   Subscribe

How do I go about figuring out what is causing my cable (or power) troubles and hopefully fix it?

(sorry for the length, I just want to provide as much information about the problem and symptoms in the hope that someone can help me)

I have Comcast with the DVR. I was watching tv one night and the box just turned off. It came back on and showed 8888 and reset all the channel information. I could still get to my DVR and the shows I'd recorded, but when I couldn't get to On Demand later on, I called Comcast and reported error "4" (which is what the screen told me to do.) I told her what happened and she sent a signal, but that didn't help. I unplugged for five minutes, plugged it back in, that didn't help. I have digital cable in the bedroom (with no DVR) and that was working fine, no interruptions, the channel guide was fine.
So we set up a service call because I couldn't get to On Demand and the channel guide wasn't loading, but I could still watch tv.

So later over the weekend, it popped off, flashed to 8888 and reset all the channels and the guide again a few more times. Then sometime Sunday, I lost the ability to access my recorded programs. Then by Monday, I lost all onscreen guides and functions altogether, the only thing I could do was change channels and the volume. The time was frozen at 12:00. I only mention that because in retrospect, it was like it was slowly dying, bit by bit, it wasn't like everything stopped working at once, I don't know if this matters or not.

But like I said, I could still watch all my channels - I didn't know what they were or what was on, but I could watch. I did still occasionally get the power off, 8888 problem.

The Comcast guy finally shows up today and swapped out the box. Everything seemed fine at first. Then it flashed off, came back on with 8888 and all the channels were reset. He told me that the problem must be electrical and not in the cable or with the box because something was interrupting the power and causing it to reset.

We then tried unplugging it from the surge protector and plugging the box directly into the wall, same error. Then we got an extension cord and tried another outlet across the room, same error. He had originally used the old DVR power cord and put in a new one. Same error. He told me the new box could be fried already.

He was also there to install Comcast phone service, so we took a break and did that. When we were done, we tried one last thing with the box- unplugging all the other stuff hooked up to it: a DVD player and a switcher box I had that is hooked up to a dustcovered Playstation and a VCR. All we had was the tv plugged into the box (power cord and cable) and the box plugged into an extension cord to an outlet across the room. IT WORKED!!!! I could get to On Demand and the guide was still loading, but I could see channel call letters, that channel 65 was Comedy Central, etc. He said the guide would take a while to load. I signed the paperwork and he left.

About 10 minutes after he left it happened again.

:sigh: I'm fried.

My landlord is away for the weekend, so I can't call him up and ask about the electrical in the outlet until Sunday night. I've never had problems before and everything else that was plugged into that surge protector still worked fine.

So I have several questions....

-Is it possible the new box is fried and I should just go to Comcast tomorrow and exchange it?
-I really don't want to fry another one of their boxes (if it is) so is there any other way I can figure out what is causing the problem so it doesn't happen again?
-What would my landlord look for to be wrong? Would we have to call an electrician?
-Could it be another piece of equipment that was hooked up to it that is causing the problem? Can anyone recommend a method of testing things out?

Thanks in advance!
posted by NoraCharles to Technology (6 answers total)
Best answer: If the Comcast technician isn't equipped with a power line tester then make them bring you another box.

You are presumably renting the box? Then it is their responsibility. Those "we have a monopoly on what box you can use" set-top boxes encourage bad, cheap design and the presence of too many "once broken and now refurbished but still broken" boxes in the field.

You are paying for a service from them that they aren't providing. Telling them you are thinking of switching to another (satellite) carrier may be surprisingly motivating to them.
posted by fydfyd at 2:21 AM on November 7, 2009

Is anything else in your house acting badly, or flickery?

It is highly unlikely bad power can cause a machine to fail that way, and twice.

More likely there is some kind of software update they are sending down the line that is failing. Perhaps your signal strength isn't up to par...?
posted by gjc at 5:42 AM on November 7, 2009

Best answer: Call the electric company, explain that you've had some unexplained problems with electronics, and ask for advice. If there's a problem with power in your area, they'll have gotten other reports.

Comcast may have swapped out the box with one that failed elsewhere, was "reconditioned," and has failed again. Twice? yes. Ask to speak to someone who has the knowledge to help you resolve this difficult problem that has interrupted your service. Ask them if there are different types of cable boxes, and could they please give you the most reliable one. Technology advances, but they use up their inventory of whatever they bought. Don't forget to ask for, and insist on, rebates for missed service and hassle.
posted by theora55 at 6:26 AM on November 7, 2009

Best answer: This exact situation happened to me a few weeks ago. The first time the cable guy switched out the box, the one he installed was the same older model, definitely used and possibly reconditioned. I tried all the power-manipulating methods and nothing resolved the problem.

Finally they replaced the box with a new one (a different model) and I haven't had any problems since. We also kept asking for DVR comps every time she would call, which I recommend.
posted by camcgee at 6:35 AM on November 7, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I guess it isn't so strange to have the same problem with the second box, especially when I have had no other electrical problems. I called Comcast and scheduled another appointment for Monday. In the meantime I'm going to pick up a new surge protector just to be sure and I've disconnected the things I no longer use (VCR and Playstation) and put them away. You've all given me great suggestions on what to ask when the service person does show up about power line testers, software upgrades as well as having a refurbished machine. Again, thank you!

I have to say Comcast has been great about issuing credits - the guy was late yesterday so I got $20.00 for that, and they've credited me for the time without the features. I even got a follow up call from another rep later this afternoon.
posted by NoraCharles at 6:07 PM on November 7, 2009

Response by poster: Follow up.....Comcast just replaced the dvr box and it's working fine now.
Must have just had bad luck with the first replacement box, so thanks for the comments that it was possible with all the refurbished stuff.

Also on the plus side, I got three months of Cinemax for free because it was a repeat service call.
posted by NoraCharles at 2:22 PM on November 9, 2009

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