In the last five years, the amount of high definition programming on television has exploded but unfortunately the storage capacity of many HD PVR's has remained virtually unchanged.

To deal with the problem, companies like Bell TV have resorted to offering consumers the ability to connect an external hard drive (EHD) to their HD receivers. This updated FAQ, first published in January 2009, answers many of the commonly asked questions we get at Digital Home surrounding external hard drives for Bell Satellite TV.

Much of the information in this FAQ comes from Digital Home's " Bell External Hard Drive Facts " discussion thread in our Digital Forum. This information is updated regularly. You can ask questions and learn more about Bell HD receivers in Digital Home's Bell TV HD Receivers and PVR forum.

Which Bell TV models work with an external hard drive (EHD)?

External hard drives can be added the following Bell TV model receivers: 9241, 9242, 6131, 6141. They cannot be added to any other models. EHD functionality was introduced to the 9241/9242 models in firmware v182. EHD functionality was introduced to the 6131/6141 models in firmware v182.

Do I need to buy the EHD sold by Bell?

No. Digital Home readers have used a wide range of external hard drives with a high degree of success, however, we cannot guarantee that 100% of drives on the marketplace today will work.

We have found that the vast majority of external 7200 RPM USB 2.0 hard drives with a capacity between 50GB and 1 Terabytes should work. After a recent firmware update, the 9000 series of HD PVRs will also accept 2TB drives.

Please note that Hard drives less than 50GB will not work and 5400 RPM drives are not recommended.

Can I use a Flash Drive?

EHD stands for External Hard drive so flash drives will not work.

Can I use a small external notebook drive that is powered by the USB Port?

No. The EHD must have its own power supply. Digital Home has received, but not confirmed, reports of owners successfully using a USB powered drive with their satellite receiver, however, readers should be aware that the USB port on the Bell receivers were not designed to handle the power requirements of an external hard drive. Bell advises users to use a drive that plugs into an AC outlet. To minimize the risk of damage to your receiver, its advice Digital Home recommends readers heed.

Can I daisy chain multiple hard drives or add two EHDs?

No. Only one external hard drive may be connected to your receiver at one time. Multiple drives can be swapped with another but only one can be connected at a time.

Can I use a drive with Sleep mode ?

Digital Home recommends avoiding External Hard Drives that can be programmed to go into a hibernation or sleep mode because they can conflict with PVR timers and will cause problems in day-to-day use.

Can I share an EHD between receivers?

External hard drives used with 9241 and 9242 receivers can be moved to another 9241/9242 receiver on the same Bell account. EHD's can also be shared between 6131/6141s that are on the same Bell TV account.

Please note that programming from an EHD mated to a 9241/9242 HD PVR cannot be viewed on a 6131 or 6141. Attempting to do so could result in your drive being reformatted.

Should I buy a more expensive drive?

Since your EHD could be in use 24/7 and will sit in your home theatre, Digital Home recommends consumers pay extra for a good quality drive with a noise dampening enclosure.

Where should I place my EHD?

Like any hard drive, your external hard drive will generate a lot of heat; therefore ensure it is in a well-ventilated location. Placing it in an enclosed cabinet or right up against several other components could cause your drive to overheat and could cause problems during recording and playback.

Can I plug the EHD into my laptop and watch shows?

No. The EHD will only work with the Bell HD PVR.

Can I move digital files from the EHD to a PC drive for playback on a computer?
No. The files are encrypted. The only method for transferring recordings is to record in real time using analog outputs. Most users who do this use the component out and record using an Hauppauge HDPVR.

strong>Can I copy recordings from my existing Bell EHD to another Bell EHD?
Digital Home members report that files can be copied from one BellTV formatted EHD to another BellTV EHD drive using Linux. That is useful if the BellTV hard drive becomes unusable due to first partition corruption or if the drive is upgraded. The copied files can only be watched using the same model BellTV PVR on the same account.

Is it best to leave an external hard drive powered on all the time or just when you need to access it?

If you own a Bell 6131 or 6141 receiver, Digital Home recommends you leave your external hard drive on at all times. If you own a Bell 9241 or 9242 receiver which then feel free to your external drive off and turn it on only when you need to access archived recordings. The reason why it's okay to turn off your EHD with your 9241/9242 is because the internal hard drive is still operating so the external drive is not required for timers and/or immediate recording.

How do archive recordings to my External Hard drive?

With your PVR and EHD turned on, press the following buttons on your remote in the following order

4 - Multimedia
3 - External Drive
2 - Archive Drive

Select the recordings you wish to Archive
Press archive and your programs will begin to be archived to your external drive. A two hour movie can take 30 minutes to an hour to archive but you can resume watching television while archiving.