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Copying and Archiving from a Sky+ Box

Got a Sky+ or Sky+HD box and looking to copy the contents from the built-in hard-drive? Here are your options.

 

The Sky+ boxes are great for recording hours of TV, but what if you want to copy or archive TV shows, to free up space on the hard drive? We look at the various ways to do this, and answer your common questions on the subject.

Sky HD Box
How to copy TV shows from the Sky+HD Box

Can I copy from Sky+ using USB?

No. Most Sky+ and Sky+HD boxes have at least one USB slot. Sadly, you can’t use these to extract or copy content that’s stored on the Sky+ hard drive. These USB sockets are "reserved for future use". More: Sky box USB sockets

Sky Box USB Slot
USB socket on the rear of the Amstrad DRX890 Sky+HD box

 

Can I copy from Sky+ using the SATA connector?

No. Many Sky+ and Sky+HD boxes have a SATA socket at the back. SATA stands for Serial Advanced Technology Attachment and in the computing world relates to hard disks and data transfer. As some Sky+ boxes come with SATA, you’d be forgiven for assuming that you could use this socket to copy content from your Sky+ box to an external hard drive, or connect a second hard drive to increase storage.

The SATA socket is currently disabled, and "reserved for future use", so you can’t use it to extract content or add additional storage

Sky Box SATA connector
SATA socket on the rear of the Amstrad DRX890 Sky+HD box

 

Can I take the hard drive out and copy files?

No. Not really Well, technically, you can remove the hard drive and extract the files, but the files are encoded, and can’t be played back without a Sky subscription card. So, this is not an option

 

So, what are the options?

As content can’t be extracted or copied in a computer format, your only option is to copy content from the Sky+ box onto another media. Here are the options:

 

Copy to DVD

You can copy content from a Sky+ box onto DVD by connecting the output of the Sky+HD box to a stand-alone DVD recorder.

Here’s how to do this:

  • Connect a SCART lead from the Sky+HD box to a spare SCART socket on a DVD recorder.
  • Set the DVD recorder to the Line In feed (labelled AV, Line or Aux)
  • Insert a formatted blank DVD into the recorder
  • Cue up the programme on the Sky+ box that you want to copy
  • Put the DVD recorder into ‘record’ and then start playback on the Sky+ box

Note that some content, such as Box Office movies, can’t be copied in this way, to prevent piracy / unauthorised copying.

Copy to a computer

If you’re looking to get TV shows onto your PC or Mac, then you can connect the Sky+ box up to your computer, and get your computer to record the shows. You have to do this in real-time – i.e. an hour’s worth of content will take an hour to copy.

There are a couple of options:

Option 1: Using a TV Card or dongle

You can buy a fairly cheap USB dongle that allows you to watch TV on a PC. To watch TV, you need to connect a TV aerial to the dongle, then use software on the PC to tune in to the TV channels. If you want to watch / record Sky on a PC using one of these USB TV dongles, then you can connect a co-ax aerial lead from the back of the Sky box to the dongle’s aerial socket, then use the software to tune in to the RF channel.

Hauppauge WinTV-HVR900 Digital & Analogue USBPictured here is our favourite, the Hauppauge HVR900 USB TV stick (Available from Amazon , Dabs.com and Play.com)

Two important points to note with this option:

  • Quality via the TV aerial output isn’t great
  • Your TV card / dongle must support analogue (some only support Freeview digital, but the feed from a Sky aerial socket is analogue)

More info: Watching Satellite TV on a PC

 

Option 2: Using a USB video capture card

If you’re looking to capture content in better quality, then you’ll be needing a capture card. Typically, these plug into your PC using USB, then connect to the AV connectors on the Sky box. The three RCA photo sockets, pictured below are: yellow (composite video), white (left audio) and red (right audio). You connect these three sockets to equivalent sockets on the capture card, then use the supplied software to capture the video played in real-time from your Sky box

Sky AV Out sockets
SATA socket on the rear of the Amstrad DRX890 Sky+HD box

A popular choice for USB capture products that work with Sky is the Dazzle range from Pinnacle, pictured below. These are available from Maplin.co.uk or Dabs.com.

Dazzle Video Creator Platinum
A Dazzle Video Capture Device

 

Sky+ Recording TIP:

Sky+ Record iconSky+ boxes allow copying of multiple programmes at a time. To copy multiple programmes, go into the Sky+ Planner, highlight a programme, press the right arrow button, then press the green "Copy" button. Select each programme you wish to transfer, then use ‘Copy’ to start playback of each programme in order.

 

More Sky+ Recording Tips

Thanks to forum regular Denis Martindale for the following additional Sky tips:

  • Some channels have programmes that switch the 16:9 screen format to display a central area with black space to the left and the right. This has been noticed with the Sky + HD box HD channels. To avoid recording these in the 16:9 format, if that’s currently been set using the SERVICE button then zero, the Sky + HD box can be switched to the 4:3 format instead for both outputs, then press the green button to save the settings. After the switch, press the backup button twice to exit, till you get to the main TV display, which now appears in full screen width, even if not a perfect view, still easier to view than before. Please test and make sure you are OK with that 4:3 view. After the playback, or the recording to a DVD Recorder or a VCR, or some other external recorder previously explained in the Radio and Telly forum discussions, remember to switch back to the 16:9 screen format and to save that option for normal widescreen TV displays.
  • Even with the basic Sky + box, copying is safer when not mixing the widescreen with the non widescreen, such as widescreen films mixed with standard TV shows. Regardless of what the info says is widescreen or not, it helps to preview and fast forward the programmes before a full rewind to the start and then setting up the left arrow then green for COPY option… That way you know what will work for all your overnight playbacks.
  • For Sky + HD recordings, the HD channels can use up more storage. So, when possible, record and copy your HD shows quickly to clear the storage for future use, as well as permitting storage for the Timeshift playback to work, because when under 15% remaining, the playback may suddenly stop being available. You may wish to rewind, only to see a screen message to tell you it’s disabled. You must also try to view programmes and record them at the same time to the DVD Recorder etc, till safely done, perhaps also safely saved to DVD disks, then deleted from the DVD Recorder’s hard drive. Another alternative is recording to DVD disk instead of the DVD Recorder’s hard drive, if your recorder has proved reliable for this.
  • DVD disks can be bought in bulk yet depend on the recommended speed and format eg single use in either DVD -R or DVD +R, or re-recording disks such as DVD -RW or +RW. When buying, remember some websites offer free delivery and that sites like play.com have regular discount deals to be compared. Perhaps as low as £11 for 100 disks eg Maxell DVD -R 16x speed disks from play.com for some recorders that accept that speed and format. Some recorders create helpful thumbnail images to help identify each recording.
  • The Sky + HD quality is not full HD quality as yet, so remember to use the XP or SP quality on recorders for important recordings, for more lines per screen view and maybe the LP speed for the rest e.g. up to 4 hours per disk.
  • The Sky autopadding allows a few minutes before and after recordings, but some recorders can split multiple recordings for a session up to 12 hours overnight. You may have to edit the title name and select split or divide points to get just the programmes, or may decide to use the delete feature to delete the commercials, etc.
  • Some may like the programme info to be recorded as well, so use the info button to display details temporarily.
  • If ever cancelling Sky subscriptions, in full or just one channel, remember the Sky + hard drive may still have recordings you need to get copied and deleted first. The 30-day cancellation grants lots of time to attempt to control this situation before losing your favourite films and TV shows.
  • When your storage space is running low, remember that you may be watching a recording for half an hour and yet know there’s no need to keep that part of the show. You can use the R button to cancel the recording, then use the TV GUIDE button, then green for Planner and find and delete that programme or film segment to free up space for future recordings. Even so, don’t forget to get back to your channel and your show and press the R button again to start a new recording of that show from part 2, for example.

 

Got a question, or got something to add to this page? Get in touch

 

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4 Responses to "Copying and Archiving from a Sky+ Box"

  1. paul batty Says:

    Can you recommend any specific DVD recorder for recording from my Sky + box or will any do?

  2. Tess Says:

    Can I record MUSIC from the Sky box to a memory stick? Not video, just sound.

  3. Radio&Telly Says:

    No – Sky box doesn’t support that

  4. Chris Says:

    Re copying and archiving from a Sky Box – we’re thinking of leaving Sky but there’s a couple of things we want to keep. I’ve read through all your suggestions and it seems way too complicated to me! Any idea if there’s people around who will perform this service in return for payment?

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