A sleepy DISH Network receiver

Now that I'm living in the wilds of New Hampshire, I've been required to turn to satellite for my television reception requirements. My housemates and I ordered the DISH Network and opted for the DISH player with DVR (receiver model 522). After only a few days, we decided that the DVR feature wasn't as user-friendly as TiVo and I purchased a new TiVo. Soon we discovered that more often than not, when we went to watch a taped program, all that TiVo had recorded was a floating DISH Network logo. It appeared that the DISH receiver had (unbeknownst to TiVo) turned off.

I called DISH to report the problem with the receiver, only to find out that the DISH receiver is programmed to go into "sleep mode" after four hours of inactivity. Which means that every night it turns off (and most times it does so during the day as well), making it nearly impossible for TiVo to tape anything. The DISH representative suggested I program the DISH DVR to record the same event as TiVo, thereby guaranteeing that the receiver would be active when TiVo began to record, but that seems like a ridiculous solution to a problem that shouldn't exist.

(Never mind the fact that with TiVo season passes and wish lists, you don't even know when something you want will be broadcast unless you are constantly checking your "To-Do" list. I pointed out how time consuming it would be to have to do this double-step for each and every show one wanted to tape, but he claimed once I learned how to do it, it would take me only a minute or two at most per program.)

I asked the DISH support person if there were someway to turn off the sleep mode, or lengthen the amount of time before the sleep mode became active, but he said that wasn't possible. According to him, the receiver, "is complicated and needs downtime for updates and maintenance." Also according to the support person, I'm the only person who's reported this problem and found the "solution" to double-record unsatisfactory. "DISH Networks has over 10 million satisfied customers," according the support rep. My 1 in 10 million "luck" makes me think I should enter the lottery more often.

So my question for you is: Do you have a DISH receiver? And if so, have you experienced this problem? Do you know of any way to hack the DISH receiver so it doesn't go into a standby or sleep mode? And do DirecTV receivers do this? Because if they don't, I'm very willing to change my service. Thanks in advance for any advice or suggestions you may have.

20 thoughts on “A sleepy DISH Network receiver

  1. I can tell you that the two DirecTV receivers I have used have never had this sort of “sleep mode” problem. My only complaint with tivo and DirecTV was that the original receiver I had required the use of a nasty and error-prone IR interface, so I swapped out the receiver for one that allowed me to use the serial interface with my ancient series 1 tivo.

  2. I use the Dish Networks PVR, and so haven’t gotten into that dual-PVR situation.
    But for what it’s worth, Dish updated their software a few weeks back and it now has continual-search functionality (the “season pass” stuff).
    I’m not sure of the actual symptoms behind the core phrase “wasn’t as user-friendly as TiVo” which led to this problem… might be possible to address them directly, but dunno.

  3. I’ve had DirecTV for longer than I can remember, and the 1st generation Sony DirecTivo for about 4 years.
    Being an all-in-one solution, it doesn’t have the problem you described with the separate DISH tuner and Tivo recorder.

  4. I have an older DirecTV reciever (an Sony SAT-HD100) and it does not sleep till you turn it off.
    One really ugly quick and dirty hack you might think of is a programmable remote with a timer. I have a Phillips Proto (you might find one used) which I _believe_ can send a command at a particular time. Say at every 4 hours you are typically away from the TV have it send a button press on the remote, something simple like “Info” and then “exit” (or whatever brings up the channel info then clears it on your box).
    Good luck!

  5. i have one of the dishnet pvr’s and have never found any machine which was more user friendly. you can highlight the program you want to record off the tv guide page, hit the enter button twice and you are set to go. doesn’t get much easier than that!

  6. Folks, we may not agree whether the DISH’s DVR is or is not user-friendly, and that’s fine. That’s not the point of my post. My point is that the DISH receiver is going to sleep, making it very difficult to use with the TiVo. I’m looking for solutions to that problem, so if we could keep on that topic and avoid testimonials about the DVRs ease of use, I’d appreciate it. Thanks.

  7. We have a Dish PVR 501. It has a “power save” setting in its menus to enable or disable this behavior.
    However, we use it to our advantage. We switched from it to a TiVo (but still need it to produce the signal). However, its hard drive constantly makes noise — an unpleasant characteristic given that it’s in our bedroom.
    To work around this, I *enabled* the power saving feature, and set a timer on it to auto-tune to CNN every morning at 6AM. That allows us to turn it off when we go to bed, but it wakes up when we do, ready to receive instructions from the TiVo.
    So, you might be able to work around this by setting some auto-tune events throughout the day at times just ahead of when you typically record things. As long as TiVo is changing the channel, it will presumably stay on, so you wouldn’t necessarily need to set a timers for, say, 6PM and 10PM (as long as something records within that time).

  8. If it is going to sleep at a particular time each night, or after X many hours? If it goes to sleep at 4:00am every day, perhaps you can tell TiVo to record a manual show from 3:59 to 4:01 am every day (keeping only one episode) and if need be make it lowest priority and obviously chose to not record it if you manually select something in conflict. If it does that after X many hours you can create 4 or so of those two minute TiVo recordings (each on a different channel if that helps) and again make it lowest priority and keep only 1 (that is only 8 minutes of wasted recording time on your tivo…
    If that does not work, try making a Dish DVR recording like I mentioned, that may conflict with the TiVo, but if it is only one recording in the middle of the night perhaps it might not be that big an issue? the idea is to keep the 522 busy enough to not goto sleep. I believe if you sat there and changed the channel every hour on the hour it would not goto sleep. Only issue is the 522 needs to sleep sometime, you may have to manually turn off the reciever once a week to get things like guide updates and system updated. Dish recievers cannot recieve updated while recieving tv signal, and that is one of the reasons they made sleep mode…

  9. I recommend DirecTivo. Not only does it not have this problem, but it also has the same well designed TiVo functionality that your missing. Except that unlike a standalone TiVo, it has two tuners. Allowing you to tape two programs at the same time. (Or watch one live and record another.) Another nice bonus is that the TiVo subscription is only $5 a month, rather than the $13 for regular monthly TiVo service.

  10. My DirecTV receivers (both sets of them, different manufacturers) have never turned off, and I can’t imagine the nightmares that would present for TiVo. I’m about to move into a new apartment with a Dish system, though, so I’m very interested in this situation.
    Obviously I hope you can resolve the situation without too much trouble since I’m going to be in the same position soon. I’m already thinking about switching the new place to DirecTV, but if there’s any way to avoid that I’d be happy not to have to do it. Best of luck!

  11. On an older DISH 501 you turn off the MENU, 6, 1,9 and then DISABLE the Inactivity Power Off Mode.
    Hope this helps.

  12. Hey Meg,
    I think it’s ridiculous that Dish’s own DVR setup cannot figure out that it needs to keep the receiver awake, or that Dish didn’t know how to do this, or didn’t do it when they set it up for you. I’m sorry I can’t offer you any help, but hopefully Mikep’s tip will solve the question. Good luck!

  13. Just switch to DirecTV and get the Tivo Tuner they offer. Record 2 shows at once, Tivo guide is syncd with DirecTV via sat-downloads, and it runs Tivo series 2 software (but networking/photos/etc disabled).
    Oh, and you can even get an HD version of the Tivo/DirecTV tuner if your in the plasma/LCD/whatever camp.

  14. I had a similar problem with my cable (Time Warner) box & its built in DVR. It was programmed to shut the box down every night at 1am, if you didn’t push a button on the remote within 15 minutes. They said it was a “feature” and decreased wear-n-tear on their DVR. I pointed out the problems it caused with my Tivo. They told me to get rid of the Tivo!!! I got rid of the Time Warner DVR combo box. I have a plain digital reciever/cable box now.

  15. Ditch the DISH, get DirecTivo. Solves 2 problems at once. Last time I checked the DirecTivo boxes are cheap, if not free with installation.

  16. Mike, I tried your suggestion, but when I get to the final screen (after 1), there is no 9. On my system it ends at 6. I’ve checked all the menu options already for something like this, a “disable” the power off mode, but it doesn’t seem to be an option. From everything that’s been said, it’s sounding like we should have gone with DirecTV with TiVo. Maybe I’ll just set up TiVo to record a minute’s worth of programming every four hours, as GPC66 suggested.

  17. Aha! Megazone’s links to the TiVo.com forums seems to provide the answer! It sounds like setting the AutoTune option resets the receiver and gets it back on a station. I’ll try this today and report back if it works. Thanks for everyone’s suggestions!

  18. I’ve two different Sony receivers (a SAT-B55 and something else) for DirecTV that I use with ReplayTV DVRs and I have never had any problems with the receivers turning off.

  19. Ok, it looks like the suggestion to set the DVR to record one minute’s worth of programming after it does its system update has worked. Also I realized that since I get my programming data from TiVo, I could also just disable the DISH receiver’s nightly updates as another solution. Problem solved. Thread closed. Thanks again to everyone!

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