Sky+ Recording Without Subscription

Question: I have a Sky+ box and get the free channels, but I can’t record. How can I use Sky+ to record?

Sky+ Set-top BoxSky+ is a service offered by Sky Digital. It allows you to record TV programmes onto the hard drive built in to Sky+ and Sky+ HD boxes.

If you subscribe to Sky and have a Sky+ or Sky+ HD box, then the Sky+ service is free. If you don’t subscribe to any Sky TV channels, then you will need to take out a Sky+ Subscription to be able to use the record and playback facilities on the Sky+ box.

At the time of writing, a Sky+ subscription is free to those subscribing to any Sky TV package, otherwise it’s £10 a month to those that don’t subscribe to a Sky package.


Question: Why should I have to pay to use my Sky box after I cancel my Sky contract?

This is a pretty common practice in many fields these days… whilst you remain a loyal customer, you get a service for free, but once you cancel your contract, that service is not longer available. Other examples:

  • Free email addresses and web space from your broadband provider (deleted when you cancel)
  • Free voicemail and mobile Internet services on your phone (not available when you cancel)
  • A free modem or router that can’t be used if you move Internet provider

Sky’s not alone in restricting use of hardware after you cancel. If you cancel BT Vision, the BT Vision V+ box can no longer record, and if you cancel Virgin Media, the on demand services and TiVo functionality no longer work

The Sky box will still be able to get the free Sky channels, and you’ll be able to record them on a connected DVD or video recorder – it’s just the Sky+ recording and playback services that will be unavailable after you cancel.


Question: How do I get a Sky+ subscription?

If you have a Sky+ or Sky+ HD box, and subscribe to any of the Sky channel packages, then your Sky+ subscription will be free, and available on your Sky viewing card.

If your Sky+ service isn’t working, or you need to take out a Sky+ subscription, call Sky Customer Services on 08442 414 141.


Don’t want to pay for Sky+?

If you only want to watch free-to-view satellite TV channels and you want to be able to record and pause TV without paying a subscription, then you should consider getting a Freesat PVR – these allow you to record the Freesat channels onto a built-in hard disk, and support features like series link, live pause and rewind.

Our favourite Freesat hard-disk recorder is the Humax Foxsat HDR, pictured here. This holds up to 200 hours of satellite TV and also supports HD. There’s no subscription.

Humax Foxsat HDR

Humax Foxsat HDR Freesat PVR

For a list of Freesat Recorders, see: UK Freesat Box List


OrchidNovember 15th, 2014 at 11:50 pm

Mobile phone analogy:

I download music and/or apps on my phone whilst on contract. I end my contract but I can still access my apps and listen to my music. I can also download new apps and music without a phone service and use them. On Sky, I end my contract and I cannot watch what I have already paid for and downloaded nor can I record then watch anything new despite it being on a hard drive and requiring no external provider.

Your analogy doesn’t add up as the service I want to use require no external provider ie hard drive, but your analogy does I.e. Voicemail is not recorded on a mobile hard drive and Internet would need an external provider.

The point is, Sky are restricing a service that DOESN’T get restricted on comparable products. I have paid for the Sky+ box I should be able to use the inbuilt functionality.

TV and TechNovember 15th, 2014 at 11:56 pm

Blimey – I can’t believe that three years on people are still arguing that they disagree with mobile phone analogy. Once again, can I ask you to suggest a better analogy? We’ll be happy to use that instead, if you can think of one!

TV and TechNovember 16th, 2014 at 9:18 am

It amazes me that people are still struggling to understand why Sky does this, or to agree that other companies use similar tactics.

Companies try to lock you in their service by a) using unique hardware, and b) offering features that stop working if you leave.


1. A mobile phone company give you a cheap handset that won’t work if you switch to a rival network, and offer features tied to their network that you don’t get if you leave

2. Broadband companies supply a free router that only works on their network and stops working if you switch to another network. They offer features tied to their accounts that you lose if you leave

3. Sky, Virgin and BT supply a free or discounted set-top box that only works on their TV service, and stops working if you stop subscribing. They offer features tied to their accounts that you lose if you leave

The reasons they do this, is to recoup the cost of the subsidised hardware, keep you as a subscriber, and to make more money from you over time. Other companies do the same sort of thing, for example – content downloaded from the Apple Store that only works on Apple devices, Kindle books can only be read on a Kindle, etc. It’s surprisingly common in the business world.

You REALLY can’t see that all of these companies use broadly similar tactics to retain your business?

OrchidNovember 16th, 2014 at 12:30 am

That’s because it was a con three years ago and it is a con now.

A better analogy in what way? I’ve explained it in post above?

OrchidNovember 16th, 2014 at 12:33 am

You posted:

“As we have asked before… if you strongly disagree that there are similarities in the way a mobile phone company locks you in and Sky locks you in… please come up with a better real-world analogy of how Sky locks you in.”

My analogy shows that other companies offer a comparable service that don’t lock you in as Sky do….

TV and TechNovember 16th, 2014 at 9:17 am

I have to disagree on four counts Orchid.

Firstly – The comparable alternatives to Sky are Virgin Media and BT TV – They are the other two players in the subscription TV market. All three offer discounted set-top boxes, and lock you in. Like Sky, their set-top boxes lose functionality too if you cease to be a customer. A cable TV box won’t work without cable. You can only use the BT box if you have a BT phone line and BT Broadband. If you stop subscribing to the service, you can’t use the box any more. Sky is not unique in doing this.

Secondly – Whilst I acknowledge the point about downloaded music on a mobile phone – I believe that people buy mobile phones primarily as mobile communication devices, not as mp3 players. If you buy a phone from o2, it will be locked to o2. Cancel your subscription, put a Vodafone SIM in it, and it can’t make calls, use mobile data, receive voicemail, send texts, etc. It’s primary function is crippled if you stop paying. Just as with a Sky, Virgin or BT TV recorder.

Thirdly – Analogy can be defined as “a thing which is comparable to something else in significant respects, typically for the purpose of explanation or clarification”. So, we are looking for an example of something that is similar to what Sky does. The closest we could find is the mobile phone or broadband example. If you can think of a better example to help explain what Sky, Virgin & BT does, let us know.

Finally – You say that a Sky box can record TV shows without an external provider. To record on Sky, you use something called an EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) – This is a regularly-updated list of channels with a seven-day list of recordable shows. The box uses information in the EPG (times, channels, series link, etc) to record TV shows. Who do you think provides this service? Correct – Sky. How can you record a show on a Sky box without the EPG, which is supplied by Sky?

LukeNovember 30th, 2014 at 2:33 pm

As sky’s buiness model is to charge for all call outs, Sky has by far become more expensive than Cable.

Whenever I’ve been offered a sky + box at all the different prices per hard drive size, I simply ask, as I’m purchasing this larger hard drive, which records all non subscription channels to so when I cancel my subscription I expect my recording functionality to remain the answer is always no.

This is actually highly illegal, As to pay extra for a Larger hard drive, With full recording functionality of non subscription channels. Only then to get it deactivated when sky don’t want you anymore, makes the hardrive upgrade completely unfit for purpose. I’d luv to see this go to court.

All it will take is £20 small claims. They haven’t got a leg to stand on.

RebeccaJanuary 21st, 2015 at 2:43 am

I bought a film from Skys buy and keep service. I paid £13.99 for it.
My contract with Sky recently ended and I didn’t bother to renew it due to terrible customer service.

Tonight I wanted to watch the film I had bought.
I went to my planner, clicked on the film and nope. Unable to watch it.

How is that legal?
I bought the sky+ HD box, I paid £199 for it two years ago. I bought the film, so why am I unable to watch the film I paid for on the box I paid for?

Surely that is illegal?

DarrenFebruary 6th, 2015 at 3:56 pm

@ TV and Tech. You keep using services as an analogy and that is wrong. The HDD and recording ability is a functionality of the box NOT a service. Therefore it should not be disabled. Mobile networks voicemail and ISP mail services are just that, ongoing services that you pay for. The phone still works and belongs to you.

It is like buying a car and after the warranty runs out and you decide not to pay for an extended warranty. The manufacturer then turns around and say ok, your car will still drive but the boot is now locked so you cannot store anything in it. At the end of the day, the box is your property, they should not be able to deliberately disable a fundamental ability of a device that does not belong to them simply because you are no longer paying them for the service of broadcasting premium channels.

I have no issue with them wiping any content recorded on the device that was recorded from a premium (paid for channel) just allow me to use the box the record FREE TO AIR content.

TV and TechFebruary 6th, 2015 at 4:30 pm

Hi Darren,

First of all, Sky+ is a subscription service. As it is a service, it is appropriate to compare it to another service. If you don’t believe that Sky+ is a service, check out Sky’s Terms and Conditions, or Google it.

The Electronic Programme Guide data used to make the Sky+ work is not built into the box – it is delivered over-the-air via satellite. I appreciate that it may be confusing, but you should note that the a Sky+ box won’t record anything without getting information (times, channels, series link, etc) over-the-air from Sky. Just as a mobile phone’s voicemail doesn’t work without the back-end system, nor will the Sky+ service.

As for your car example, I’m afraid that just doesn’t work. This doesn’t happen in the real world (unless you know differently!). Perhaps you can think of a better real-world comparison?

What I think you may be missing, is that companies do this kind of thing to keep people locked in to their services. Although we all may not like the tactic, lots of companies do this kind of thing under the banner of “customer retention”. TV providers do it with set-top boxes, mobile phone operators do it with SIM-locked handsets and extra services, and broadband providers do it with email services and router hardware. Other examples of “customer retention” include locking you into a specific make of printer ink, coffee capsule, product refill, keyed cables, manufacturer-only spare parts, subscription websites… it;s more common than you may think.

I’m amazed that there are people out there that struggle to see why corporations do this sort of thing – to me it’s obvious that companies want to a) lock you in, b) recoup their costs on hardware outlay, and c) have a way of turning off services when the customer stops paying.

stevenFebruary 23rd, 2015 at 7:06 am

callcom – how will you manage to use the recording facility when you have left sky?

ConundrumMarch 1st, 2015 at 8:54 am

I am also the proud victim of a Sky box.
This one suddenly stopped working just on odd channels yet there is plenty of signal available and a £10 el cheapo freesat works perfectly well.

It occurs to me that there would be a market for a multimode (Freeview/Freesat/dual WiFi) dongle which plugs into a TV drawing its power from the USB (500mA max) and also records to microSD card.

wayneMarch 11th, 2015 at 5:42 pm

Your analogy of a mobile phone is very floored. Yes it’s blocked and access to the Internet is cancelled but unlike sky and this is the part that’s important. Any photos, videos, games ect that you save are yours to look at even if the ‘live side’ of the phone is non existent. This is where sky is out of order especially if you have brought films or sports programs ect. They take your money on top of the usual contract fees, then you leave and they stop you from watching what you’ve paid for. I think it’s disgusting. I was a loyal sky customer for ten yrs+ and have loads of ‘box office films’ I brought and now can’t watch. There’s the fairness in that.

Rob HMarch 24th, 2015 at 5:28 am

I have just terminated my sky subscription, as I decided I did not want to pay them £40 a month when I am watching the free to air channels almost all the time. I understand the logic behind them disabling the sky channel package as they pay for the content on these channels. I also know that the Freeview channels are not actually free as they are paid for by advertising on ITV and other commercial channels with the licence fee paying for the BBC offerings, which do not come cheap. However, as I have been with sky for a number of years I actually own the sky HD+ box I having paid for it multiple times over the period of subscription and this includes all the functionality of recording and playback. Therefore I don’t consider they have the legal right to disable the record function, which should still be available for the free to air channels!

I did make comment on this when I cancelled and I will be contacting them again to tell them this and advise I will be taking out a small claims court action against them should they not reconsider their actions, so we will see where this leads.

FLOMay 29th, 2015 at 2:14 pm

Nicely done Rob. Someone needs to show them that they are not that invincible as they think.
I still think that once you finished paying for a product that item will be you possession and with the cull functionality that was sold in the first place. I Will keep my eyes on this thread.

MackychanAugust 20th, 2015 at 7:36 am

The purchase price of a box is based on the size of the hard drive that is contained within it. If they make the hard drive unusable after your contract ends they should offer you a refund to the value of the original hard drive as they have effectively taken it back. If they thus consider the hard drive to always be their property at all times they shouldn’t have charged extra and gave us the impression it belongs to us. Even without a sky subscription you should expect contents on a hard drive that you own to be accessible, regardless of what files are contained. Freeview channels especially. Sky are effectively taking a virtual sledge hamme

DerekNovember 27th, 2015 at 11:12 pm

I too wish to cancel my sky box subscription and change to a freesat box. I often transfer recorded programs onto a dvd using my dvd recorder. Will I still be able to do this with a freesat box? I’m 80 and not very tech. savvy. Any help would be appreciated.

PauleeDecember 11th, 2015 at 8:41 pm

Just about to cancel my £50 a month subscription having had Sky for 15 years. 18 months ago I bought a 1TB box due to all that I record for watching later so I’ve got a tears worth to catch up on. I’m gonna give them a months notice then immediately remove the satellite and phone connection so they can’t delete my recordings. I will then plug in the £80 sat review box that I’ve just bought for future non sky recordings. Hopefully will still be able to watch my years worth of recording from the skybox. Will let all know how I get on.

LMFebruary 27th, 2016 at 9:38 pm

Paul’s – did your plan work?

LMFebruary 27th, 2016 at 9:39 pm

I mean ‘Paulee’, not ‘Paul’s’.

TerenceSeptember 25th, 2016 at 4:55 pm

I’ve cancelled sky tv but still have broadband with them, in the past you lose access to your recordings and pause and record functions, but I can say that I NO longer have tv but have access to watch recorded programs and access to pause rewind ffwd and record programs.

All I did was renew my fiber and het presto it’s all working with no extra cost.

I still have access to sky sports and films through kodi, without the expense of it all.

Happy Days.

Jason StoneJanuary 1st, 2017 at 8:31 pm

I have TWO Standard Definition Sky+ Boxes (each on a separate dish in separate rooms). I have not had a Sky subcription since 2004. I realised in 2008/09 that you could purchase a “hacked” Sky+ box and record and pause the free to air channels without subcription.

Yesterday (New Years Eve) whilst recording I noticed the box was not recording, I checked the other box and PAUSE and RECORD (and even the reminder option) now no longer work.

I even went to the trouble of talking to Sky to find out what they did and the man doesn’t know what I mean “you NEVER should have had the facility”.

Does anyone know what happened ? Even bettter….a fix ? Something like this happened five years ago or more and I just had to buy a £20 Viewing Card. I note that they have Red Cards now..but again Sky+ man says this is nothinng to do with it.

I did try getting a FREESAT box early last year but I hate it…. REALLY don’t want to lose my facility (especially after all this time!). It annoys the hell out of me.

Rob BMarch 17th, 2017 at 11:36 am

Terence, are you saying that you can pause, rewingpd and record programs, movies, sports etc from your Lodi or am I misunderstanding you?

Leave a comment

Your comment

Human Verification: In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.