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Turn a Dish ViP211 receiver into a DVR for $40 and a cheap hard drive

Last week, Dish Network made a software update available that enables people who have ViP211® and ViP211k® receivers to upgrade them to full DVR capability by simply added an off-the-shelf USB 2.0 hard drive.

As some of you might recall, I upgraded my Dish receiver to a ViP211K in August when they announced they would no longer offer MPEG-2 HD channels and that a receiver capable of receiving MPEG-4 programming would be required for HD. The upgrade was free and only increased my bill from about $18 to about $30.

Last night, I took advantage of this new feature by plugging a 250GB hard drive into my receiver and then calling Dish to activate. While the automated activation process seemed to work, the update was never received by my receiver and I had to call tech support. According to both the automated call and the tech support representative I spoke with, my account was charged a one-time fee of $39.99 for activating the external hard drive DVR feature.

Because this new DVR feature doesn’t have a monthly DVR fee, it turns out to be a really good deal as Dish’s other DVR receivers cost $6 a month just to be able to record. From what I’ve heard, you can use multiple hard drives with this setup and drives can be moved from one receiver in your household to another. The one-time fee activates every capable receiver on your account.

I’m going to replace the 250GB hard drive this weekend with one of several I’m looking for at Black Friday sales. Several retailers are offering 750GB drives for less than $90 and I’ve seen a 640GB drive for $70.

Dish’s press release is below…

Tuesday November 11, 8:00 am ET

DISH Network’s Award-Winning ViP211(R) and ViP211k(R) DVR Conversion Feature Now Available to Customers

Original HD Receiver Can Convert to DVR with External Hard Drive

ENGLEWOOD, Colo., Nov. 11 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — DISH Network Corporation (Nasdaq: DISH – News), the third largest pay-TV provider and digital television leader, today announced its award-winning ViP211® and ViP211k® DVR Conversion feature will be available at the end of the month. The DVR Conversion feature offers customers the ability to convert their single tuner ViP211® and ViP211k® into DVRs by attaching an external hard drive.

The DVR Conversion feature is an ideal option for current ViP211® or ViP211k® customers who want to experience all the benefits of DISH Network’s feature-rich DVRs with the simple addition of an off-the-shelf external hard drive.

“As a leader in high definition, DISH Network continues to expand its HD solutions for our customers, including finding innovative ways to take our existing technology to the next level,” said Jessica Insalaco, Chief Marketing Officer for DISH Network. “Now customers ready to add in the benefits of DVR recording to their HD receiver can do so with ease, simply by plugging in an off-the-shelf external hard drive.”

ViP211® or ViP211k® customers must call DISH Network to activate the DVR feature. Once activated, customers need to connect an off-the-shelf external hard drive between 50 GB and 750 GB. Customers can then access DVR menus similar to other award-winning DVR features, including name-based recording and search-based timer capabilities. Other features include a nine-day electronic programming guide, DVR functionality on both the satellite tuner and built-in OTA tuner, record and review conflict management, VOD capability, and the ability to play back a stored program while recording or watching another.

The DVR Conversion feature – engineered by DISH Network’s technology provider, EchoStar Technologies LLC, an award-winning digital media leader in set-top box design and deployment – was honored with an International CES Innovations Design and Engineering Award earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Customers pay a one-time activation fee of $39.99 to enjoy the DVR feature. More information on the ViP211® or ViP211k® DVR Conversion feature will be available toward the end of the month at

About DISH Network Corporation

DISH Network Corporation (Nasdaq: DISH – News), the nation’s third largest pay-TV provider and the leader in digital television, provides approximately 13.78 million satellite TV customers as of Sept. 30, 2008 with industry-leading customer satisfaction which has surpassed major cable TV providers for eight consecutive years. DISH Network also provides customers with award-winning HD and DVR technology including the ViP®722 HD DVR, which received the Editors’ Choice awards from both CNET and PC Magazine. In addition, subscribers enjoy access to hundreds of video and audio channels, the most International channels in the U.S., industry-leading Interactive TV applications, Latino programming, and the best sports and movies in HD. DISH Network offers a variety of package and price options including the lowest all-digital price in America, the DishDVR Advantage Package, high-speed Internet service, and a free upgrade to the best HD DVR in the industry. DISH Network is included in the Nasdaq-100 Index (NDX) and is a Fortune 300 company. Visit or call 1-800-333-DISH (3474) for more information.

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  1. Bobarino
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    I added a Maxtor 640gb drive to my Vip211 on Tuesday.

    My experience was pretty much the same as yours as far as activation goes.

    The DVR screen shows 64hrs of HD capability and 249hrs of SD capability with this 640gb drive.
    However, I think these are very conservative estimates.
    I recorded a 1.5hr show from OETA (Frontline) and the estimated recording time left only dropped by about 1hr.

    You can record from 1 Sat channel, 1 OTA channel, AND playback a previously recorded show at the same time.

    Overall I’m extremely pleased and looking forward to many happy hours of DVRing.

  2. doublej
    Posted November 28, 2008 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately you can not move the drives between receivers. The activation just activates the dvr features on any 211’s you may have on your account, but you can’t take the drive and watch it contents on another 211 that the recording did not originate on. DISH has made this a recording drive fee, where as the external hard drives on the 722 and 622’s are archiving drives, so they can be moved between various 722’s on your account. If you record something on one 211 and move it to another 211 on your account it will reformat the drive again before you can use it.

  3. hdyukon
    Posted December 16, 2008 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    I upgraded mine too with a Seagate 500 GB hard drive that was marked down to $89 at Staples. I probably could have shopped around for a cheaper one, but I didn’t. It took about 3 calls to successfully get the receiver to get authorized (1 call was disconnected) but now I have it as well.
    My question to anyone, is if you take this external hard drive (that has programming recorded on it) and attach it to a computer, can you back it up on a computer or save the program that was recorded to be put on a dvd?

  4. Posted December 17, 2008 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    I’ve seen a few posts at various sites saying this is not possible due to encryption used on the recordings. FWIW, I took the original drive I used to activate (250GB) and plugged it into my Mac. It said it was a Linux partition and I didn’t feel like booting in Linux to see what I could see.

    But I can confirm that you can use multiple drives with one receiver. After I formatted the 750GB drive and had recorded a program, I unplugged it and replugged the 250GB drive and watched a couple of movies before I gave that drive to a friend. So, presumably, once the 750GB drive fills up, I can get another one and fill that up.


  5. doublej
    Posted December 17, 2008 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Yes, You can use as many drives as you want once the recording feature has been activated. You just have to use them one at a time, no daisy chaining them with a usb hub.

    If you plug those drives into a windows pc, the DRM will automatically want to reformat the drive. The dish dvr software is based on Linux, so you might have some success, backing the data up, but I doubt you could play it on a computer because of the encryption.

  6. jfrdish
    Posted December 26, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    I hooked up an external drive to my 211 Dish receiver and it works fine. HOWEVER, the external drive will not shut off or go to sleep, even if the 211 receiver is shut off. The only way to shut off the external drive is to unplug it, but then the 211 will need to do a 15 minute reboot. Then if you turn the external drive back on, the 211 will need to do another 15 minute reboot! I don’t want to have the external drive running constantly but Dish said there’s no way (that they know of) that the external drive will either go to sleep or shut itself off. Anybody have an idea how to get it to sleep or shut off by itself without disconnecting it from the 211?

    • Posted December 26, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

      I finally got my Dish service canceled about two months ago, but during the nearly four years I used the DVR feature of the 211K receiver, the hard drive never shut off and the receiver’s sleep mode was always connected to my TV. Most receivers aren’t made smart enough about energy usage to go into sleep and hibernate modes like computers and mobile devices.

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  • […] receiver via a USB 2.0 cable and allow customers to convert their receivers into an HD DVR. Turn a Dish ViP211 receiver into a DVR for $40 and a cheap hard drive DISH Network ViP211 and ViP211k DVR Conversion Feature Now Available | BestStuff November 12, […]

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