'Sky+ HD playback and recording are unavailable' messages


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Dec 4, 2015
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I had an old Sky+ SD digibox that failed recently by something causing it to stay stuck in Standby so I bought a cheap second-hand HD replacement from a seller on ebay.
I don't even subscribe to Sky anyway, I just bought it to watch the occasional channels that Freeview hasn't got.
It came with a viewing card and when I first connected it up and switched it on, it was taking a while to load up the EPG and respond to remote commands.
The seller said in his listing that it has had a factory reset so thought maybe it just needed time to update overnight or something.

The next night I checked it was still the same. I thought I'd try doing a Sky+ Planner Rebuild. However when I tried to do that, it said that it can't be done as I am using it in 'diskless mode'. After looking around on the internet to understand what that means what what I can do to rectify it, I found I needed to do a system update and it showed me how to do it. After doing that successfully, and then also doing the Planner Rebuild as there were still some minor issues like slow menu loading, I found it was working fine.

Then to my amazement, I tried pressing 'Record' on some programme I was watching and found I was also able to record it and play it back which I didn't expect as it is my understanding that Sky disables the record feature if you don't have an active subscription.

But after a few days, a message saying recording and playback was unavailable when I tried to record something else.
I'm not sure if it was because I connected the box to my broadband via the Ethernet lead so whether some data about the box and card got sent to Sky subscriptions HQ via the internet using the ethernet lead and Sky cancelled the Sky card for using it to record programmes because it's as if by connecting the box to the internet, I am practically advertising to Sky as if I am saying: "Hey Sky, I am recording programmes on my Sky box and am not paying for it". That's my interpretation anyway on what's happened so if that was the case, the Sky took action by sending a signal down to the box and card to disable the record feature. It may even be my interpretation is wrong and maybe it would've happened inevitably over satellite?

Is this what happened?

Is there any way I can 're-trick' the box to be able to record again? Or do I have to contact Sky? If so, would they charge me a one-off fee or a monthly fee?

The viewing card was programmed for BBC1 Oxford and ITV Meridian Thames Valley region whereas I live in Wales and get BBC and ITV Wales as my local region. I would doubt if it had anything to do with using it for the wrong region to where I live.

Hope to read some good informative responses soon as to what happened and what I can do now to restore things.
Many Thanks.
It sounds as though the customer card hadn't been switched off before the box was removed from the satellite feed.

As you are the new owner of the box but not the card (card remains Sky property in the small print) you will have to get your own card from them.

Last time I looked record only facility was £10 a month.
So do you mean that the owner before me cancelled their subscription and before the subscription date passed, they unplugged their box so the card was still active on plugging it back in?
So how did Sky know that someone else at another address had plugged the box back in and that the subscription relating to that card had expired and how would they have cancelled the card?

Incidentally, given the fact that I had an SD box before, as I still have my viewing card for that box, what would happen if I tried to put that viewing card into the HD box?
Hi brymbo76,

Yes, this is correct. It used to be that you could cancel your sky subscription and on the day before it was due to go off you would remove your card and just use it for a programme at a later date that you really wanted to watch in the hope that they it wouldn't get switched off!

My understanding is that there is a digital carrier on all Astra 28.2 signals that has a rolling message of new cards and old. The card is switched on in the same manner, that's why it can be within two minutes and up to four hours to switch a new card on.
As for geographically, where the box and card is, it doesn't matter, as long as it is getting a satellite signal to it.

Your last point really depends on when your card was removed from your original box, was it before your paid subscription expired?

I do know that cards are now matched with their respective receivers so this may also be an element to consider.
As mentioned in my original post, I don't subscribe to Sky, haven't done in quite a few years but just kept the Sky+ SD box and then started subscribing to BT Vision as it was then and now have a YouView box but don't subscribe to that either but just use to watch and record from Freeview. So I had stopped subscribing to Sky and my Sky+ box has probably worked for around 7-8 years after I stopped subscribing and then the box died so removed my card from the box after that but have yet to try it in my new HD box.
No harm in giving it a try but the best that you can hope for is a very limited life, even if it initially does work, it will inevitably itself be switched off. It's just the way that their system with the subscription card works.
Sky changed how activation works - now the card is activated for X weeks and gets reactivated before the end of that period, if the subscription is still active.
So old cards will just time out.
I remember at one time, Sky would send a new viewing card to all subscribing homes every few years. So I guess what you described above replaces the need for Sky to distribute new cards to every Sky subscriber every few years. I don't know how much it costs to produce a new viewing card but it must save Sky a lot of money from doing this new method instead of the old method.
I have subscribed to Sky in various forms for the last 10 years and am still on the original card I got back in 2012. I know that they spent a lot of money developing the card.
Something else I've noticed with the viewing card on this HD box is that I seem to have access to watch all 3 BT Sport channels and the BT Sport/ESPN channel all both in SD and HD. I thought these were subscription channels?
I've still lost the record feature but BT Sport has stayed on. Not getting any other subscription channels like Sky General Entertainment channels, Discovery, MTV, Nickelodeon, Eurosport, Sky Cinema or Sky Sports.
Should I be getting them or are they on a separate subscription start and end date to Sky channels in that they may stay active for a bit longer until the original owners' subscription expires with BT Sport and then BT cancels the card and blocks viewing of their channels?
I don't think that BT channels on satellite are controlled by Sky and that there is a different part of the card that BT control.

I know that the BT Sports package MRP. is around £25 pr. month.

Maybe somebody else in the forum could help with an answer to this question about BT and how it works?

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