I'm using the Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 on a 64-bit Win7 Pro machine, but it just craps out on recordings about half the time. It happens in both Media Center and NPVR on ATSC recordings only (NTSC captures with the WinTV software work fine).
The length of a recording before it dies appears to be random. Sometimes it works perfectly, sometimes it dies after 10 seconds, sometimes after 20 minutes, sometimes it creates an empty file and doesn't record a thing. I cannot detect any pattern, other than that it seems to go in streaks.
Because I thought maybe the driver was getting corrupted, I have discovered a way to improve things, at least for a short while: I reinstall the drivers (current version: 22xx_188.8.131.52297.exe) and then cold boot the machine (a warm reboot did not work). After doing this procedure, the card works perfectly for a week to 10 days, then starts crapping out again.
I've read that others also have this problem, though I've never found a solution. I'm out of ideas and about to dump the card (though I have no idea what to replace it with).
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A missed recording usually means the channel's signal strength has dropped to the point where the TV card can't tune it.
If you are sure that isn't the problem, then there are other possible causes. If the PC is left on all the time, maybe it is an issue with overheating, or the digital tuner may be going bad.
Media Center complains of low signal strength, but it's digital cable, so I doubt that's the underlying issue. The recordings show no signs of degradation before it drops, even on close inspection. It just plain drops. (Yes, it's possible that signal strength is dropping to zero without warning. I can't rule that out.)
The system is left on 24/7 (recordings regularly scheduled for overnight, system used all day every day). It's well-ventilated, but I guess that I can't officially rule out heat. I also can't rule out that the card is just going bad, but this feels more like a software problem.
It feels like something is interrupting the data stream to the recording software, which then believes that the drop is due to low signal strength, so it dies. (It seems like there should be a more graceful way for recording software to handle low signal strength anyway. But I digress.)
There is another possible reason why a digital cable signal suddenly disappears. Some providers, particularly Time Warner Cable, use switched digital video to conserve bandwidth in the system. Switched digital video works somewhat like "on demand" in that the signals for some digital channels, particularly the less popular ones are only present and able to be recorded using a third-party device when you or someone nearby is watching them using their cable box.
Right, QAM. My mistake.
So, assuming that the problem really is related to signal strength and outside of my card, I'm just pretty much SOL, right? A different card would likely have the same results.
Or is there some other option? Signal booster? Settings in the software? Magical incantations?
A different card may or may not help. The WinTV-HVR-2250 is supposed to have good tuners. There are only two other PC devices with dual ATSC/QAM tuners (AVerMedia's AVerTV HD Duet, and Silicon Dust's HD Homerun), but they have no analog tuner or analog capture ability.
Your other option is a CableCARD tuner, like the Hauppauge WinTV DCR-2650, which requires you to rent a CableCARD from your provider. CableCARD tuners will allow you to record most of the digital channels in your subscription. The exceptions are PPV, On-Demand and some premium content. Your local channels should be unprotected, but copy protection could be applied to most cable-only channels. If copy protection is applied to recordings only the PC that made them can play them. They also can't be converted from .wtv format, and can't be edited to remove commercials.
You have to run validation software to be sure your system can use a CableCARD tuners, but the basic requirements are HDMI (or DVI) connecting an HDCP compliant video card and monitor or TV, plus Windows 7's Media Center, and installation of Play Ready DRM software. Setting up CableCARD tuners is sometimes difficult because cable providers often don't know how to handle CableCARD activation for third party devices.
Neither a service call, or a signal booster, or a different ATSC/QAM TV card will help if switched digital video is the cause of your problem. A CableCARD tuner might, but then you have to install a tuning adapter in addition to a CableCARD, which makes installation a bit more complicated.
Last edited by usually_quiet; 21st Feb 2012 at 12:14.
Just following up here, and I think I can say I've eliminated signal strength issues.
I systematically tried a whole bunch of alternatives and can say that I've confirmed a valid work-around:
Basically, whenever I start getting failed recordings, I simply reinstall the driver for this card and then cold boot the system. Then I get perfect recordings for 10 days or a couple of weeks before they start to fail again. (They always eventually fail. Sometimes sooner, sometimes later.)
Here are alternatives which I've confirmed do not work:
Simply reinstalling the driver without a cold boot does not fix the problem.
Simply cold-booting the machine without reinstalling the driver does not fix the problem.
Reinstalling the driver and warm-booting does not solve the problem.
So . . . bad card? Bad software? Incompatibility on the system? I'm open to any further ideas.
You could also use Device Manager to check the driver version for the Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 before you have any problems and and then after you start to miss recordings to see if it has changed. A change would mean Windows is updating the driver.
For what it is worth I had a problem with my ATI TV card that reinstalling drivers seemed to correct, although the driver version never changed. Everything was fine for the first few months, then every time I had to reposition my antenna and ran W7 MCE's "Digital TV Antenna Signal Strength" test for more than a minuite, the card's digital tuner lost its ability to tune any channels during the test and afterwards. Uninstalling the TV card and its drivers in device manager, rebooting, and reinstalling the card corrected the problem. A couple of times, I even physically re-installed the card, but it made no difference. This went on for a few weeks, an then the problem disappeared. I never did figure out why I had the problem or why it went away.
The Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 is unique in having dual analog/digital tuners and dual hardware encoders for analog capture. You would need 2 TV cards to fully replace it, unless you don't need an analog tuner or analog capture capability for a cable box.
I'm posting my resolution to this issue just in case someone else might find it useful.
It turns out that another (non-Hauppauge) card in my system was dying. This caused fleeting latency issues in the system which, in turn, caused the Hauppauge card to return low signal indicators. The recording software (WMC for a while, then NPVR) aborted recordings as soon as enough of those signals were received. Since it was tied to a flaky card, the latency appeared essentially random, and not serious enough to be detectable in the overall system performance, though it ramped up whenever any multimedia application was running.
To solve the problem, I simply removed the dying card (a cheap FireWire expansion card) and threw it away.
Diagnosing this took six months, mostly because I looked only at software, as well as the actual card being affected. What finally tipped the scale was when it spread to my pro audio editing and playback. The breakthrough came when I ran DPC Latency Checker, discovered the freakish latency, started working my way through all of my hardware to find the source, then realized that the FireWire card had disappeared from Device Manager and was no longer working (I don't use it all that often or I might have discovered it sooner).
As you might imagine, I'm VERY GLAD to have that mess behind me, and begrudgingly glad to have learned a thing or two in the process.