About two weeks ago, the DVR function on my cable box (which I’d only had for a month or so) went out. When I’d try to go to the DVR menu, it would display a message on screen: “Unrecoverable Write Error.” So I took it to the cable company, and they replaced it.
Then, about a week later, the new box did the exact same thing. “Unrecoverable Write Error.” As before, I could still watch cable TV fine, but was unable to record anything. Couldn’t pause, couldn’t back up. I had to sit through commercials, people. It was horrible.
So I took it to the cable company, and they again replaced it. I mentioned that this was the second time in just a few weeks this had happened, and the lady asked if I had the box plugged into a power strip, or directly into the wall. I told her it was plugged into a power strip, one of those surge-protector things.
She said I need to plug it directly into the wall, because “it gets less juice” when it’s plugged into a surge protector. I cheerfully agreed, thinking all along, “This sounds like hogwash.”
So I went home and called my father, an electrical engineer, and asked him about it. He said a lot of technical stuff that I pretended to understand, the upshot being that no, the infinitesimal difference in current or power or something is almost certainly not the culprit here. We both agreed, for one thing, that “Unrecoverable Write Error” doesn’t sound like a power-source problem; it sounds like a hard drive crash.
On the other hand, he pointed out that this lady works for the cable company, and almost certainly knows more about cable boxes than either of us. So he recommended I do as she instructed, just in case, which seems like good advice and that’s what I’m going to do.
But what’s the deal here? Surely, if the difference in power between a direct wall-plug and a power strip were large enough to fry cable boxes, this would be pretty common knowledge and it would be causing problems with other sensitive equipment all the time, right? Or is there some special property of DVR that makes it hyper-sensitive to minor variations in voltage?
What, in short, is the Straight Dope on this?