How to easily add space to your DVR

My cable company provides a Scientific Atlanta 8300HD dvr cable box that comes with a 160gb hard drive. This allows the dvr to record about 110 hours of standard definition (SD) TV or about 22 hours of high definition (HD) TV.

The cable company rolled out HD channels on a separate bank of channels from the SD channels. This meant that I had two if every channel. I could watch CBS in SD or HD.

This has always been more than adequate as I would record general shows like news programs and my wife’s soaps on the SD channel and hi def shows like Discovery Channel on the HD channels.

Recently I got a low disk space warning from my DVR. I was confused as I didn’t have many shows recorded. Upon investigation, I found out that Cablevision had changed how the cable box worked. In an effort to consolidate the HD and SD channels, they made it so that if you had an HD cable box, it would automatically show the channel in HD regardless of which channel you turned to (SD or HD).

This is nice in theory but caused a problem. I was now forced to record my wife’s soaps in HD. The problem is that HD recordings use about eight times more space than SD recordings.

So now that I solved the mystery of the missing disk space, I wanted to find out what I could do about it. I hit Cablevision’s website hoping they’d have a new dvr with a bigger hard drive. No such luck. So now I needed to find out how to add space to my DVR.

Next I turned to google to see what others were saying. I happened upon a post from another Cablevision customer with the same problem which is what lead me my answer.

It turns out that the Scientific Atlanta 8300HD cable box supports connecting an external hard drive using an external Serial ATA cable to add space to the DVR.

Don’t be frightened, it’s way simpler than it sounds.

After doing some research, I headed over to Amazon.com and bought the Western Digital My Book AV DVR Expander 1 Terabyte external hard drive. This external hard drive was made specifically to be used with a DVR. Unlike a computer, a DVR writes to the hard drive almost constantly. Also, since the drive would be in the room you watch TV in, they made it very quiet. It would be annoying to hear the hard drive clicking and whirring while watching TV! Last, they made the drive power / activity lights dim and not distracting since again, it shouldn’t take away from your TV experience.

Reading the reviews, the one complaint I saw about the drive that I didn’t like was that the Esata (External SATA) cable it came with wasn’t all that reliable. With that in mind, I bought the SIIG ESata cable which had great reviews, also from Amazon for about four bucks.

A couple days later my new drive and ESata cable showed up at my door.

I popped open the box and headed over to the living room to hook them up.

The My DVR Expander drive is not to big, about the size of a paperback book. There are only two cables to hook up, a power cable to the wall and the ESata cable to the DVR.

Cablevision’s website has a page explaining how to set up the External Drive with the DVR.

Instructions (these are the Scientific Atlanta 8300HD instructions, scroll down for stardard DVR instructions):
The steps according to the Cablevision site are actually short and sweet, before starting press the DVR button on the remote then press B to display the disk space used screen. Note the percentage of space used so you can compare it after installing the external drive.:

1) Plug the power cables of your new drive and cable box in and let them both fully boot up.

2) While they’re both powered on, connect the eSATA cable from the drive to the DVR. Note that they should both be powered on as the instructions that come with the drive say they should both be powered off, BUT those instructions are geared towards a Tivo installation and not for the Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8300HD DVR.

3) Almost immediately after plugging in the eSATA cable, the following screen will appear on your TV:

 Press A on your remote control to let your DVR format the external drive. After a couple of minutes it will finish and you will have the additional space added to the available capacity of your DVR.

Note that the space used after external drive installation drops from 58% to just 8%. 

Here are the instructions for connecting the drive to a Tivo or other DVR:

1) Unplug the DVR (Don’t just hit the power button as that doesn’t completely power it off (that’s how it records your shows even when it’s off))

2) connect the ESata cable from the drive to the ESata port on the back of the DVR. It only fits one way. The connector is somewhat U shaped, so just match it up to the ports on both ends.

3) plug in the drive and let it boot up for about 20 seconds to fully spin up.

4) Plug in your Tivo or DVR and leave it alone to boot up. This could take 5 to 10 minutes. Don’t hit any buttons on the remote or DVR. It should find the drive and pop up a screen asking if you want to format the drive for use by the DVR. Hit Yes and let it go.

When formatting is complete, you’ll have about 9x more space available to record on.

You can verify this by going into the DVR menu and checking free space. You should have substantially more now than before you started.

On a troubleshooting note, one person did say the setup instructions above did not work for them. They finally got it working by connecting the drive to the DVR while both were powered up. I don’t recommend trying this unless you can’t get it to work as described above.

A couple of points to note:
This is only a way to add more space to ONE DVR. You cannot connect it to a different DVR to watch the shows recorded on it. If you do, it will just ask you to format it again which will erase all the recordings on the drive.

You can disconnect it and reconnect it to the same DVR and keep your recordings.

You cannot connect the drive to a PC after recording programs. The DVR formats the drive in a way most PC’s won’t be able to read, so you’d have to format it again for the pc to be able to use it, which would erase all your recordings and make the drive unuseable by the DVR without reformatting it yet again.

Troubleshooting:

– If you find that the DVR can’t see the drive after installation and you have to reconnect the cable for it to see the external drive again, you may have a bad SATA cable. I suggest you purchase the SIIG eSATA cable I mentioned earlier and replace the stock cable.

– If you experience stuttering or distortion of the audio or video, the eSATA port on the cable box may be bad. Return the box to your cable company for a replacement. Some people have had to go through two different cable boxes before they got one that worked properly.

Having problems doing this? Have questions on how to do this yourself? Leave a comment below and tell us about it!

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6 Responses to “How to easily add space to your DVR”


  • The cable companies should have their fingers slapped. The fact that you cannot take you recorded shows and plug them into another 8300 HD is a travesty. Every time I loose my 8300 HD (I’ve had 4 failures) I end up loosing all my hours of recorded programs. This technology is still (as of Oct 5th) flaky.

  • Cablevision never should have consolidated SD & HD channels before they updated their DVR. Being able to only record 22 hours versus 110 hours is crazy.

  • I plugged a 1Tb Western Digital My Book Expander into an Scientific atlanta 8300+. The DVR records the shows but they don’t get listed in the recorded shows list. I ‘ve tried unplugging it and re-plugging but it just won’t list them

  • I intsall a my book av device to my direct tv hr21-100 dvr. I’m showing 100% free space but my old recording are not showing on my list. If I disconnect the my book av device my dvr recording are there? WD says recording on my dvr and my book av shold all be listed. Direct tv say they don’t support there types of devices?

  • I connected the Notebooke and so far so good. Now has anyone connected the USB port from the notebook to get to the recordings and copy them from the drive and maybe tandem to the 8300HD recording as well? I connected my Vista laptop and it doesn’t recognize the drive. Still tinkering.

  • When they changed the signal to all hd and I complained bitterly on the phone customer service that they reduced the value of my DVR by 75% since I can only record 25 hours instead of 100 and therefore they should reduce the cost of my DVR service by the same amount. Since first line customer service reps are trained to NOT respond to logic they gave me about six months free. Try it and stay your ground. It is a significant and inexcusable reduction in service.

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