Can You Connect an External Hard Drive to a Sky HD Box?

If you use the recording function on your Sky Box, there’s a good chance the internal hard drive is almost full. You might be wondering if there’s a way to manage the files on the hard drive to either free up space or backup recordings. Can you move the files to another hard drive?

In theory, it sounds simple enough, but it’s actually not as easy as it sounds.

Why? Sky doesn’t want members to copy files because of copyright laws and licensing issues. After playing around with my Sky HD Box, I discovered some interesting features that might solve your problem. Let’s get started.

Can You Connect an External Hard Drive to a Sky HD Box?

You can connect an external hard drive to a Sky HD Box via the SATA port. The problem is most of the files will be encrypted and unwatchable on other devices.

If neither the SATA or USB port work for data transfer, what you can do is open the Sky Box, remove the internal hard drive, connect it to a USB adapter, and then connect it to a computer. Next, open a Sky file management program such as ExPVR or Copy+ to manage the files (more on that later).

As I mentioned earlier, Sky doesn’t want people copying files. The internal hard drive is mainly designed for temporary storage, so you can playback through TV, catch up on shows, and skip commercials. It doesn’t act like a regular PC hard drive.

Unless you can accept the risks involved, I do not recommend opening the Sky HD box. What is the USB port for? As it turns out, the USB port on Sky HD was supposed to be used for a modem. You can use the USB port to charge a device, but data transfer is not enabled, so copying files to a USB stick is not an option.

Note: Some Sky Boxes received an update that allows data transfer via the SATA cable. Previously it was blocked much like how the USB port is blocked. The update doesn’t apply to all Sky devices.

See also:

External hard drive for TV recording

Can you record on a smart TV?

What size USB stick for TV recording?

Record from Sky Box to External Device:

While it’s against Sky’s terms and conditions to copy files, there are a couple of possible workarounds. I’ll briefly mention them below:

Sky to DVD Recorder

Sky allows you to copy programmes to DVDs but you need a DVD recorder. The box should be connected via SCART. You might need multiple DVDs. When recording to a DVD, the Sky Box can’t be used for any other service.

Sky to Video Capture Card

This option is a little trickier and can be expensive. The idea is to use either the SCART or composite ports to output media to a video capture card. It’s quite a hassle, and I think the DVD recording option is easier.

The reason you can’t use an HDMI video capture card is HDMI uses HDCP which is a content protection feature. There are devices to remove the protection but that’s not exactly legal and the end result is not usually worth the trouble.

Can You Connect an External Hard Drive to a Sky Q Box?

No. You can not connect an external hard drive to a Sky Q Box. It’s against Sky’s terms and conditions to copy content to another external device.

Managing Sky Recordings:

If you can access the files with the above steps, the media will be encrypted to the specific Sky box it was recorded on and the subscription card. While you can “see” the files you won’t be able to open them.

The exceptions are recordings from free channels (BBC1, BBC HD, ITV, etc) that don’t require a viewing card. These are public channels and encrypted, anyone can view them, In most cases, recordings of free channels can be saved to an external hard drive and loaded on another Sky Box.

However, premium channels that require a subscription (most HD channels) will be linked to the card on your box, and they won’t be viewable on any other device or box. If you attempt to watch recordings on a different Sky box, you’ll probably encounter a “Recording Interrupted” or “Wrong Viewing Card” error.

Can You Share Premium Sky Recordings With Non-Members?

No. The only content you can share with non-Sky members are recordings from free channels. The premium recordings will be encrypted to your unique Sky Box smart card and won’t be playable on any other device.

ExPVR

ExPVR is a program you can install on your computer that will allow you to view and manage recordings saved to an external hard drive from Sky boxes. The program is a little dated and has not been updated since 2013 but it should still work.

It will also let you open media from free channels that are not encrypted directly from your computer. These files will be saved in MPEG format and VLC media player is recommended to view the media.

Encrypted files can still be copied to your computer, but you won’t be able to open them. The feature can still be useful for making a “Backup” of recordings and swap them back to the box when you want to view them again.

ExPVR is recommended for managing recorded files from Sky Boxes on a computer, it works with other PVRs too.

Conclusion:

Long story short, Sky does not want people copying files to external hard drives because Sky has exclusive rights to the content. It’s like how you’re not supposed to copy store-bought DVDs and other media. There are ways to do it, but it requires a lot of technical know-how, and you will likely need to buy multiple devices or adapters.

In my opinion, it’s best to just keep the media on your Sky box. If you’re running out of storage space, delete some shows you already watched and clean up other files. You can also consider getting a Sky box that has 2 TB or more of storage, which should be more than enough for your TV-watching needs.

 

Image credit: “Sky HD Box” (CC BY 2.0) by DeclanTM

About S. Santos

Tech columnist and tech blogger, audiovisual aficionado trying to keep up with the ever-evolving world of gadgets, home entertainment, and personal technology. If not fiddling with AV cables at home or in front of the computer, he can be found playing tennis or padel.

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