If you want to add tonight’s big game your digital video recorder’s to-do-list from the Internet and download shows to your DVR from your laptop, a friend’s DVR or an online video service, such as Amazon, then connect a DVR to your home network. Your DVR will be able to keep itself up-to-date without a telephone line, and you’ll still be able to watch shows that reflect your interests, at your own convenience.
Connect a DVR to Your Home Network
First you will need a DVR and an Internet-connected home network. Then, it’s time to decide how to connect them.
- Using a wired Ethernet connection is faster and more reliable. Speed is important if you want to frequently transfer shows to another laptop or DVR inside your home. Consider pulling cable from room to room — even though Wi-Fi is more convenient. Depending on your DVR, a 10/100 Mbps Ethernet adapter can also be less expensive – even free.
- Using a wireless Wi-Fi connection simplifies installation if your DVR and router are in different rooms. Avoid old, slow 802.11b adapters. Today’s DVRs support 54 Mbps 802.11g adapters. Next generation DVRs will support 802.11n adapters that will reach farther, faster.
Either way, you must choose an adapter that is compatible with your DVR. Built-in and add-on options differ by DVR brand and model, so consult your manual and provider’s website. For example:
- TiVo Series2 and Series2 DT DVRs can be networked by adding a USB Wi-Fi or Ethernet adapter. If you owned one of these models, you would buy one of the compatible adapters listed on TiVo’s Web site and plug that adapter into your DVR’s USB port (see Figure 1, A and B).
- Newer TiVo Series3 HD DVRs come with a built-in Ethernet port. If you owned a Series3, you could plug your DVR directly into your router, without purchasing an adapter (see Figure 1, C). If you’d rather connect over wireless, don’t worry: You can still add a USB Wi-Fi adapter.
Configuring your DVR
After plugging your DVR into that CAT5 cable or USB adapter, it’s time to configure your DVR. You will need to know a few things about your router’s Local Area Network (LAN) settings:
- Does your router dynamically assign IP addresses to other devices in your network? Look for a “DHCP server” option – if enabled, that’s all you need.
- Otherwise, jot down the router’s LAN IP address, subnet mask, and Domain Name Server (DNS) address. You will need to type those into to your DVR.
Now grab your DVR’s remote and look for a menu like “Network Settings.” For example, on a TiVo, navigate from “TiVo Central” to “Messages and Settings.” Click “Settings,” then “Phone and Network,” then “Change Network Settings.”
TiVo owners will see Figure 2. Other DVR menus may differ, but will offer at least two options for configuring the DVR’s IP address: dynamic (DHCP) or static (manual). If DHCP was enabled on your router, just choose that option – the network will do the rest. Otherwise, you must configure a static IP address as shown in Figure 3.
When configuring your DVR, you will probably need to enter:
- Gateway: Your router’s LAN IP address.
- Subnet: Your router’s LAN subnet mask (usually 255.255.255.0).
- DNS: Your router’s Domain Name Server address.
- IP Address: Unique address assigned to your DVR.
What address should you assign to your DVR? Just pick an unused value in your LAN subnet. For example, if your router’s IP is 192.168.20.1, and your laptop’s IP is 192.168.20.2, enter “192.168.20.” followed by any value between 3 and 253.
When connecting your DVR by wireless, there’s one more step. Look for a Wireless set-up menu; Figure 4 shows the TiVo “Wireless Network Name” screen. (On some DVRs, this step must be completed before entering IP addresses.)
Choose your own wireless network’s name – that’s the Service Set Identifier (SSID) configured into your router, not your neighbor’s! If you don’t see your network name, type it in – capitalization and spaces count. If your wireless network is secure, enter the WEP key or WPA PSK expected by your router.
You’re done! You now know how to connect a DVR to your home network. Your DVR will test the connection automatically by trying to reach your provider’s server. If all goes well, your DVR will update itself over the Internet from now on, and you can start using additional features such as transferring shows between DVRs and downloading online movies.
What if something goes wrong?
DVR set-up often goes smoothly – particularly when using Ethernet. But when something goes wrong, most DVRs offer trouble-shooting advice. Figure 5 shows TiVo advice on wireless problems.
Although each DVR is different, here are some common problems and fixes:
- For Ethernet, check that both ends of the cable are firmly inserted into ports on the router and DVR (or USB adapter).
- For Wi-Fi, verify that your router’s network name and keys match your DVR’s settings.
- Wi-Fi signal drops with distance and in the presence of interfering devices. Try setting your DVR up next to your router before moving it to the desired location.
- If your DVR uses DHCP but cannot get an IP address (address is 0.0.0.0 or 169.something), configure a static IP instead.
- If your router has been configured with a MAC address security filter, add your DVR adapter’s address to that list
You may need to tweak DVR, route or PC settings to use more advanced features like video downloads; check your DVR manual and provider’s support pages for details.
Congratulations on learning how to connect a DVR to your home network!