Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

My cable TV company gives me a Cisco Explorer 8640HDC DVR box that can record shows from TV. I know that it contains a hard drive to save the shows on. What format and file system are used to store the videos on the hard drive? I have looked at the documentation for this DVR box and there is no technical information about the manner in which recordings are stored. Is it possible to connect the hard drive to a computer and extract the recordings from it?

share|improve this question

closed as off topic by Nifle, Mokubai, Indrek, 8088, soandos Sep 2 '12 at 15:20

Questions on Super User are expected to relate to computer software or computer hardware within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

the tv/cable company would help some... but I think most if not all use encryption or their own proprietary format. – Logman Aug 31 '12 at 20:42
up vote 5 down vote accepted

It depends. In the US the streams are often sent as encrypted MPEG streams, the drive will just save a copy of the encrypted stream and play it back as need be. If that is done you need to be able to decrypt the stream which you won't have because the key is in the firmware of the DVR. If they did not save it in encrypted form you just need any player that can play a standerd MPEG stream (VLC does).

The only other option is use the fire-wire port on the Cable Box. They are required by law to have one and enabled.

(4) Cable operators shall:

(i) Effective April 1, 2004, upon request of a customer, replace any leased high definition set-top box, which does not include a functional IEEE 1394 interface, with one that includes a functional IEEE 1394 interface or upgrade the customer's set-top box by download or other means to ensure that the IEEE 1394 interface is functional.

If they do not give one to you that works you can complain to the FCC and they will back you up.

However not everything is sunshine and roses. a little farther down

(iii) Ensure that these cable operator-provided high definition set-top boxes shall comply with ANSI/SCTE 26 2001 (formerly DVS 194): “Home Digital Network Interface Specification with Copy Protection”

So the distributor of the show can enable copy protection on the MPEG Stream of their choosing, and MANY choose to set the protection to 0x02 - Copy Once. So because the Firewire can not guarantee Copy Once capability there is no way to get programs with that protected exported from the DVR.

share|improve this answer
Thanks for the detailed answer. I guess there is no way to do it then. – bdr9 Aug 31 '12 at 21:04

The simplest (?) way to get the video recordings out of the DVR is to obtain a DVD recorder (like a VCR except it records programs onto DVDs), connect that to the cable DVR, play the programs and record them onto a DVD.  Then take that to your computer and see what you find.

share|improve this answer
Thanks, that makes sense. If the only way is to use a DVD, I wonder how people obtain HD resolution copies of TV broadcasts. – bdr9 Aug 31 '12 at 21:06
@bdr9 You can build a recorder in to a windows/linux box, once you have the stream and are able to decrypt it to play it is not that hard to copy the decrypted stream to another file then post that on the internet. – Scott Chamberlain Aug 31 '12 at 21:10

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .