CableCARD installation FAQ

Discussion in 'TiVo Series3 HDTV DVRs' started by jfh3, Aug 25, 2007.

  1. Aug 25, 2007 #1 of 646

    jfh3 Active Member

    Apr 15, 2004
    Denver area


    *** 2011 update coming ***

    Most of the information in this FAQ hasn't been updated since 2009; I'm working on an update.

    Even though this information is stickied in the Series 3 thread, CableCARDs can be used in the original Series 3, the Tivo HD and the Premieres.

    Note that Premiere and Premiere XL take a single M-stream card, like the THD. Also note that CableCARD companies must now allow self-install. This is (should be) very simple and only take 5-15 minutes.


    This thread is to try and list common problems with CableCARD installation and activation issues. Although many have had CableCARDs sucessfully installed in a Tivo Series 3 box or the newer Tivo HD box without issue, there are a number of common issues that prevent a successfull install. And since most cable companies won't let the customer talk to the few people that truely understand CableCARDs, it can be difficult to get a problem corrected.

    Please keep this thread short - DO NOT post with specific problems here - post those in the appropriate provider thread instead.

    See this thread for details:

    This is the current Tivo help page on CableCARD installation and troubleshooting (as of Sept 2009). Information on this page should be considered more reliable than what is posted here:

    Note that the above page references the newer Tivo HD boxes, where this thread was originally established for the original Series 3 box.

    My specific experience is limited to Comcast and Motorola cards in the Denver area. However most of these questions/issues will apply to any cable company in any area.

    1. Are there different types of CableCARDs?

    Yes. There are either single-stream cards (SCards) or multi-stream cards (MCards).

    SCards allow the decryption of a single stream (e.g. support for a single tuner). These have been available for a while and are still more common in the field.

    MCards allow the decryption of multiple streams concurrently (e.g. support for dual tuners in the Series 3 Tivo HD boxes). You can use MCards in an original Series 3 box, but they will only function as SCards (e.g. you will need two MCards in an S3 to get dual tuner support, where you only need one MCard in a THD box).

    Many CSRs (and some installers) don't know the difference between an SCard and and MCard. If possible, ask specifically for MCards, especially if you have a Tivo HD box. The good news is that MOST new card available now SHOULD be MCards.

    2. Do I need one CableCARD or two?

    Each of the Series 3 boxes supports recording two digital cable channels at once.
    The newer Tivo HD box currently supports MCards, so you will need one MCard or two SCards for full functionality..
    Currently, the software in the original Series 3 box does not support the multistream capabilities of the MCard (and this is unlikely to ever change), so you will need two CableCARDs, either SCard or MCard, to have full support.

    Either type of Series 3 model Tivo will function with only one SCard, but may operate in single tuner mode.

    3. Where do I get the CableCARDs?

    CableCARDs are not available at retail and must be obtained from your cable company. Some areas allow customers to pick up and install their own cards, but most still require a truck roll for installation.

    4. My cable company says that an installer must come to my house to install the CableCARDs. Is this true?

    No, but it is fairly typical policy. Tivo provides very easy to follow instructions on how to install CableCARDs in the box. Anyone who can follow simple directions should be able to install CableCARD(s) in a few minutes. The hard part is finding someone at the cable company that knows how to properly pair and validate the card(s).

    For the CableCARDs, all the installer is going to do is record some numbers off the cards themselves and some from the Tivo CableCARD configuration screens and call them into dispatch where the numbers will be entered into a computer. Despite what any CSR will tell you, there is nothing specific to a CableCARD install that an installer can do that a customer shouldn't be able to.

    The only advantage to having an installer come to your house is to ensure that you have a proper cable signal feeding the Tivo.

    5. My cable company says they do not support Tivo - what do I do?

    Politely remind the cable rep that they are REQUIRED by the FCC and CableLabs to support the use of CableCARDs in ANY device on the approved list, including Tivo. The cable company does not have to "support" Tivo, but they must either allow you to install CableCARDs in the Tivo and activate/authorize them or do it themselves.

    Both the original Series 3 and the newer Tivo HD are on the CableLabs supported device list - the Series 3 Tivo (Model TCD648250B) and Tivo HD (Model TCD652160) boxes are classified by CableLabs as set top boxes.

    If your cable company is very small, they may be exempted by the FCC from having to provide CableCARDs, but this is the exception - all of the major MSOs must provide you CableCARDs at a nominal charge for use in your Tivo.

    6. My cable company still says they do not support Tivo - now what?

    If you still have difficulty, call the special hotline Tivo has established for CableCARD installation issues: (866) 986-8486

    7. What do cable companies charge for CableCARDs?

    This will vary with the provider, but generally if there is a charge it is $1.50 to $4.95 per card per month. In most cases, if you are being assessed a separate HDTV charge, you are not being charged correctly. You should have no more than one equipment rental charge per outlet - EITHER a cable company provided converter box or DVR OR CableCARD(s) - NOT BOTH.

    Comcast help page regarding CableCARD fees

    8. What can I do before the installer arrives?

    Have the CableCARD installation sheet that came in the Tivo carton ready for your installer. They will almost certainly insist that they don't need it, but most will.

    Read this FAQ and the appropriate Tivo support page for CableCARD installation: (These also show the relevant Tivo screens).

    You should also run guided setup to make sure you have the current level of Tivo software loaded. Just select the option that says "I'll install CableCards later" (I don't recollect the actual text) during the setup process and select the digital line up option.

    9. What should I do when the installer arrives?

    Hand the CableCARD installation instructions to the installer.

    MAKE SURE THEY ONLY DO ONE CARD AT A TIME. Most will insist it is OK just to put both cards in (if using SCards) and do both at once. Ask them if they want to be in your house a few minutes or a few hours. :)
    (This is a very strong suggestion and Tivo's recommended procedure, not an absolute. If you have an installer than knows what they are doing and the tech on the phone gets the numbers right, there is no reason two cards can't be initialized/validated at the same time.

    10. What information does the cable company need to activate a CableCARD?

    They will need either the physical serial number of the card (printed on the card itself) or the CableCARD id or the unit address of the card (found on the CableCARD Pairing screen on the Tivo). In my area, Comcast only needs the physical serial number.

    They will also need the Host ID and Data value (found in the pairing screen on the Tivo).

    If they do not have these values properly input into their system, your cards will not be properly set up, no matter what channels you see or what anyone tells you!

    11. I have my CableCARD(s) installed, but some of the channels I'm supposed to get are grey. Why?

    Three likely reasons:

    1) Your cable company doesn't have the proper programming tier authorized on your account.

    This is not a CableCARD specific issue, but an accounting or programming authorization issue, and once corrected, the proper programming shows up through any CableCARD or digital converter you have on your account.

    2) Your CableCARD is not properly paired.

    In order for your cards to function properly, they must be associated or "paired" with your account. This is why the information described in question 5 is necessary. If a card is properly paired, it will work in only the host (or in the case of a Tivo, a specific CableCARD slot) and cannot be moved to another device (or slot) without having to be paired again.

    To see if a card is properly paired:

    For a Motorola SCard
    You will see "SUBSCRIBED" in the authorization field on the Conditional Access screen from the CableCARD Menu for the card in question.

    For an SA card
    You will see "CP Auth Received" and "Powerkey Status: Ready"
    (If they are not authorized, you get "CP Auth NOT Received" and "Powerkey Status: Waiting").

    Note: You can see the values indicated and still not see all your channels - see the next sub topic on validation. If this is the case, you card is paired and authorized, but may not see the copy protected channels

    3) Your CableCARD is not properly validated.

    For cable companies that use copy protection flags on some channels, there is another step called validation.

    When you see some channels, but not all (usually premiums like HBO or Showtime), the likely problem is that even though the CableCARDs may have had the proper pairing information entered (and are therefor authorized for your account), they
    haven't been validated. This is not a problem until you start using copy protection (i.e. a non-zero CCI value on a channel). If you don't use copy protection, as long as the cards remain authorized, they can be moved between hosts and they'll still continue to decrypt anything they're authorized for.

    However, with copy protected channels (non-zero CCI value), the card needs to get an additional message from the headend explicitly validating the host/CableCARD pairing information. The card will only decrypt copy protected channels after it receives this message. If you tune a copy protected channel using an unvalidated card you may see a few seconds of video before the card stops decrypting and pops up the MMI screen.

    If you move cards (either put a card into a different slot, or put a different card into the same slot), that breaks the pairing validation. In the case of Motorola, breaking this also causes the card to regenerate a new data field -which then needs to be updated in the headend.

    12. How do I tell if my CableCARDs are properly validated?

    For a Motorola SCard:

    Check the Motorola CableCARD Host Validation value on the Conditional Access screen. It should say "Valid" followed by a 2 digit number. If it says "Unknown", the card may be paired, but is not validated.

    For a Motorola MCard:

    Check the Motorola CableCARD Host Validation value on the Conditional Access screen. The field is "Val ?" If the card is validated, the field will start with a "V" (e.g. V 0x00). If not, there will be no "V" (e.g. 0x00)

    (If someone knows the proper status for cards from other manufacturers, please PM me)

    13. Do CableCARDs work with FIOS?


    14. There was an error message during the installation of the CableCARDs. Now what?

    Depends on the error message. If you received a 161-4 error code, this can be safely ignored (it is actually a "good" error).

    15. How do I determine the status of my CableCARD(s)?

    See the Tivo troubleshooting link above.

    16. How do I tell if I have a good quality cable signal for my Tivo?

    (To be added)

    17. Where can I find more information on troubleshooting CableCARD issues?

    Tivo has a terrific page in their support section, with plenty of pictures and troubleshooting tips:
  2. Sep 9, 2007 #2 of 646

    jfh3 Active Member

    Apr 15, 2004
    Denver area
    OK - have to work on some updates. Any suggestions for other questions?
  3. Sep 10, 2007 #3 of 646

    myyours New Member

    Aug 28, 2007
    "What buzz words should I use when speaking to my [Comcast] cable rep when I'm trying to explain to them what they need to do to properly pair/validate my cablecard?"

    Still trying to figure this out, after 5 installers and 15 calls to Comcast. "Initialize" and "cold initiate" haven't done the trick yet.
  4. Sep 10, 2007 #4 of 646

    aaronwt UHD Addict

    Jan 31, 2002
    The FIOS tech Saturday input the info himself to his laptop that was connected wirelessly from a cell phone. It was more efficient than when I got my cards from Comcast and they had to repeat the info two or three times(for each card) on the Phone. The FIOS tech didn't need to make any calls and the cards responded quickly once the information was input from the Laptop to the Verizon Network.

    although one of the 4 cards installed did freeze up last night and is stuck in whatever state is was in. So it won't decrypt anymore. But at least I was able to put that TiVoHD in single tuner mode even though the working cable card is in slot 2 and I removed the bad card from slot 1.
    I thought the TiVoHD might not work properly in single tuner mode since it says slot one should be used when using one card. Apparently it works with just one card in slot 2 and slot one empty. Well it's been working fine for the last 27 hours anyway.
  5. Sep 13, 2007 #5 of 646

    ZPrime New Member

    Aug 24, 2007


    Just a suggestion - I had my TWC M-card put in today (it's an SA card) and even after it was authorized i wasn't getting anything on the channel test. (Just a black screen.) I pulled power from the Tivo and replaced it, and after the stinking 8 minute boot process it came up and channel test was working and all my stuff was there.

    So, if you're having problems during a card install and you're showing auth'd but nothing's there, try rebooting the Tivo. If you have S-cards, make sure you DO NOT try "swapping" them between slots, due to the aforementioned "Validation" process... if you're going to pull a card, replace it in the same slot.
  6. Sep 18, 2007 #6 of 646

    twoehr New Member

    Apr 13, 2004
    During my two month ordeal of having my Series 3 properly setup an interesting issue was discovered. On separate occasions my cable modem (twice) and Series3/CableCards (once or twice) stopped working. The symptoms were the same as if the devices became de-registered from the headend. The cable modem continually booted seeking connectivity and the Series3 would only show non-premium channels (prems were gray screen). When checked by the techs the devices were always on my account, but were at the "bottom" of the list. When the devices were moved up in the list they started working. According to a senior tech HD device are to be on top, followed by cable modems, and then digital boxes. Each time my device list was corrected to that standard all problems went away, no other changes were made. When correcting the cable modem once I was told that after the 5th device only the "older" i.e., std digital boxes work. So if your cable cards are low on the list, past 5?, they may not work. I guess if I buy a couple more S3s I'll find out!

    Atlantic Broadband in DelMarVa.
  7. Sep 19, 2007 #7 of 646

    jfh3 Active Member

    Apr 15, 2004
    Denver area
    The key is for the CableCARDs to be in front of the modem. I'd planned to add that to the FAQ, but haven't gotten to it yet.
  8. Sep 28, 2007 #8 of 646

    busyba The Funcooker

    Feb 5, 2003
    What "list" are you guys talking about?
  9. Sep 28, 2007 #9 of 646

    jrm01 New Member

    Oct 17, 2003
    Comcast (and I assume others) actually Authorize your account for the channels that you can receive in their billing system. The Authorization is done for each individual Outlet that you have. An outlet is a cablecard, modem or cable box. The billing system lists these Outlets on their Billing System (you'll see it in your bill also). If the Modem is listed higher than the Cablecards, the Cablecards don't seem to get the proper Authorization. The Outlets are usually referred to as A, B, C, etc. It is usually hard to get the Comcast CSR to believe this,and even harder to get them to change it. I have seen it work countless times.
  10. Sep 28, 2007 #10 of 646

    busyba The Funcooker

    Feb 5, 2003
    Ahhh. I'm Time Warner Cable in NYC. My bill doesn't look anything like that, so I suppose that maybe this doesn't apply to me. :)
  11. Oct 10, 2007 #11 of 646

    roofnron New Member

    Apr 7, 2005
    Have you worked any more on #16.

    I am having problems with aquiring channels. OOB SNR on my box says 23-24. Is this good? My understanding is digital cable (QAM256) SNR should be above 31db. Not sure this the OOB is the same.

    My cable modem is hooked beside my Tivo HD. Cable line is split to each of them. Cable modem SNR is 35db. Again not sure if that would translate to the digital cable being strong.
  12. Oct 20, 2007 #12 of 646

    LisaD New Member

    Dec 20, 2001
    May I ask..... Besides costs - Is there any disadvantage to haveing 2 single cards vs. 1 M-card in a TivoHD (or S3 if applicable)? Should a TivoHD owner not have access to M-cards and get 2 singles - should they upgrade to the 1 m-card ASAP? Any decrease in functionality, speed, picture, etc? Or, is it a 100% wash (besides cost for the 2nd card)?
  13. Oct 20, 2007 #13 of 646

    ah30k Well-Known Member

    Jan 8, 2006
    Besides the cost (both additional outlet fee and rental fee) there is no difference. Some say FiOS limits your total number of devices so that might factor in.
  14. Oct 30, 2007 #14 of 646

    pl1 Well-Known Member

    Jan 17, 2007
    I ordered two new cableCARDs for a second Series 3. The installer put them in and they could not get the pairing to take.

    After he left, I tried a few things, and unplugged the coax from my original unit. I called Comcast and they got my new unit working correctly.

    I plugged in my old unit only to find out that I lost all encrypted channels on one tuner. Even though everything showed up fine in the cableCARD menu, Comcast could not get a response from one of the cards.

    I have a feeling that when they sent hits to my new unit it confused my old unit. They are coming back Saturday to look at my old unit. At this point, it shows SUBSCRIBED on both tuners, but the pairing is lost. (We switched slots.)

    Question. With multiple TiVo's, should I unplug the coax from the good one when installing the cablecards? Also, I read in the cableCARD install FAQ that the modem should be after the cableCARDs. I asked the CSR and he said it shouldn't matter since most peole have it on the same splitter. But, he did agree that there are codes A, B, C, D for each cableCARD.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated as I am on the verge of returning everything and going back to one unit. Thanks!

    EDIT: Oh, and a little bit of extra information. My original install about 9 months ago went hitch free with two Motorola S-cards. This install was with two Motorola M-cards. I guess it shouldn't matter, but there is a difference. And it does not look like getting S-cards is even an option any longer.

    EDIT: More info. I called TiVo support for cableCARD issues to ask them what they thought. The Woman I spoke with was very helpful. Bottom line it was suggested that I take down all of the HOST ID codes from my TiVos for all 4 cards and present them to the installer so that he/she can verify that Comcast has the right numbers. (I can't seem to get anyone at Comcast to verify those numbers for me over the phone. She also said to have Comcast send two signals to each card. INITIALIZATION (Not Refresh Init) and VALIDATE (Not re-validate).

    She seems to think it is probably an error on Comcast's part, like they removed one card on their records and re-entered it wrong, or something. She also gave me their HOT-Line # 1-866-986-8486 for the Installer to call if he needs help. So, we will see how that goes.

    I'm still thinking it would be best to unplug the coax from the working TiVo while they are working on the unpaired TiVo.
  15. Oct 31, 2007 #15 of 646

    Mordred New Member

    Oct 5, 2003
    Austin, TX
    I had the cable card install yesterday here in Austin with TWC. Took about 2.5 hours. The tech had installed CCs in Tivos before (not sure if S3 or HD which I have) so he knew what to do, it just wasn't working. He had brought M-Cards which was good. It took forever for the office to send a hit to the CC and then it took longer for the TiVo to get any EMMs. We had picture at first, but once the EMMs went through and the card was authorized we lost all channels. Tried having another hit sent and no change. He reseated the card, still no dice. We tried a different card, went through the exact same process and after another half hour of waiting for the card to be authorized still no channels.

    I was fortunately looking on the site here and suggested we try Z-Prime's suggestion of rebooting the TiVo. As soon as it booted up, all the channels were coming through just fine.
  16. Oct 31, 2007 #16 of 646

    gfisher99 New Member

    Dec 25, 2001
    I am in Austin with TWC as well. Had an M-Card installed in my HD around 1pm yesterday. Went smooth, tech left in 20 mins. I wasnt getting any of the HD Tier channels when he left, and he said they could take "up to 8 hours" to start working.

    Came home last night and still just getting a black screen on Discovery, and any HD except the locals, which were working fine.

    Rebooted the TiVo as people above have said, no dice. Furthermore, my TiVo went to the "Serious Problem, this may take 3 hours" screen. It finally booted after about 45 minutes. Still no HD.

    Called TWC last night around 1am, got right thru. Guy said he saw some problems, said HD Tier was still assigned to my STB not the CC. Changed it, said it would take about an hour and should be good.

    Woke up at 8am, and still nothing on any HD except the locals.

    Have a feeling this problem isnt going to go away with ease or with speed :(

    Best Buy may be getting the THD back very soon. I still have my trusty S2 and S2DT, but man I want HD!
  17. Oct 31, 2007 #17 of 646

    Mordred New Member

    Oct 5, 2003
    Austin, TX
    Send a PM to cableguy763 and he may be able to help you out. He's the CC/Tivo expert here at TWAustin.
  18. Nov 1, 2007 #18 of 646

    cableguy763 New Member

    Oct 29, 2006
    Yes, send me a pm with basic contact info and I will get it all fixed up for you... :D
  19. Nov 1, 2007 #19 of 646
    Craig T

    Craig T New Member

    Nov 1, 2007
    I was considering getting a TIVO HD but just found out that Comcast will charge me $6.95 for the second cable card(this is in Tennessee). I pointed out that it was for a single device on one outlet and that their own FAQ says it would be "up to $1.91" for the additional card but two separate calls to them got me the same $6.95 reply. They essentiaIly said the FAQ doesn't mean anything. I have a feeling they are going to start discouraging people(like they did me) from using the TIVO boxes and sticking with their own DVR since they are getting fairly close to releasing their TIVO software. Grrr. Any ideas about who to contact at Comcast or TIVO or do they have the right to charge whatever they want? Thanks.

  20. Nov 1, 2007 #20 of 646

    CrispyCritter Purple Ribbon Wearer

    Feb 28, 2001
    I don't know of any Comcast customers now paying $6.95 for the second CableCard within a single TiVo. A good number of people have been told they have to by front-line reps, but if you escalate it far enough up your local chain then you can get set to the $1.91 rate.

    For the TiVo HD, in many franchises it will be make no difference in any case. Comcast is switching over to M-cards instead of S-cards in most places, and the TiVo HD (but not the S3) can use 1 M-card instead of 2 S-cards for its two streams. (M stands for Multi-stream).

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