How to extract free-to-air recordings from your Sky+ hard disc to a PC

Free your programmes

Sky HD box

As a continuation of our guide to upgrading your Sky+ HD hard-drive we now focus on the freely downloadable program +Extract. This, as its name suggests, will 'extract' free-to-air recordings (for example, BBC and recent Channel 4/ITV) to a specified directory on your PC. Great, then, if you want to transfer them to DVD with minimal loss of quality.

The latest version of +Extract supports drives of up to 1TB, and so you'll be able to extract such recordings from upgraded (as well as original) drives. This is far better than making copies on an external recorder via Scart because you are avoiding the loss of quality associated with decoding, conversion between analogue and digital and re-encoding.

The drive must be removed from the unit and connected to the PC either directly or via an external USB hard drive enclosure. Carrying out a HDD upgrade gives us a perfect opportunity to experiment with this software because you've already done much of the dirty work!

If you plan to do this on a regular basis it might even be worthwhile installing the drive in an external enclosure with the appropriate cables – this will prevent you from having to constantly dismantle your PVR. Note that you'll need to have .NET Framework 2.0 and Visual C 8 Runtime installed; both are available from Microsoft's website.

Polite disclaimer:

These instructions are for the first Thomson-made Sky+HD box (model number DS18215). The same basic procedures apply to all boxes, though. If you're not entirely sure what you're doing, leave it to someone who does! Neither the author nor Future Publishing can be held responsible if you blow up your box – or yourself. Instructions are based on the original sky+ menus. The new Sky+HD menus were not available as What Satellite magazine went to press.

Step 1

1. With the XTVFS read-only drivers installed on your PC (see step 8 of upgrading your Sky+ HD hard-drive) and the Sky+/SkyHD drive connected to your PC correctly (step 9 of upgrading your Sky+ HD hard-drive), download +Extract and unzip the file.

Click on the .zip file (how it's distributed) and copy the +Extract.exe that appears in a new window to a new directory on your PC's hard disc (right-click/New/Folder) called 'Sky+Recordings' or similar.

Step 2

2. If you are running Vista you will need to run +Extract as an 'administrator' – right-click on +Extract.exe and select 'run as administrator'. XP users can run the program just by double-clicking on it.

When the program has started, any XTVFS drives (XTV-STR-DSK) that are present and recognised are listed in the left pane.

Step 3

3. Select the desired disc by clicking on its green tick; its contents will be shown. Recordings with a red closed padlock icon are encrypted and can't be transferred; recordings with a green open padlock are fair game.

'Check' the box to the left of each recording you want to transfer. Specify the directory on your PC hard drive where the content is to go. Use the 'Sky+Recordings' folder you created.

Step 4

4. Select the 'actions' pull-down menu, and click on 'extract selected recordings'. +Extract copies your recordings to the specified directory. The time this takes depends on the number and length of recordings and how the drive is interfaced.

Transfers will be fastest when the Sky+/SkyHD drive and destination drives are connected directly to the PC motherboard (as opposed to via USB).

Step 5

5. Transfer has now finished. The good news is that the recordings are named according to their EPG entry and give you the full date and time (as opposed to the Planner's arguably-inadequate display of day and time).

Manual recordings only include the date and time. These recordings take the form of .str files. They are transport streams, containing the video and audio as originally broadcast.

Step 6

6. In +Extract's 'tools' pull-down menu is an MPEG converter ('convert STR to MPG'). Open this and you can add one or more .str files for conversion into .mpg files that can be played or converted by much Windows software.

Editing isn't provided so ad breaks and trails are also converted. But ProjectX – a freely downloadable transport stream demultiplexer that supports cut points – will recognise .str files.

Step 7

7. ProjectX can recover the MPEG audio and video streams and combining them into a .mpg file (choose the 'to m2p' option in the process/prepare menu).

Rename the extension of the resulting file from .m2p to .mpg for Windows applications to 'see' it. ProjectX also supports extraction of teletext subtitles). These can be exported in the .srt format known by some DVD authoring packages.


First published in What Satellite and Digital TV Issue 274

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