HDHomeRunHD PRIME, Comcast and CableCARD

    • comcast
    • hd channels
    • tv tuner
    • silicondust
    • hdhomerun
  • modified:
  • reading: 7 minutes

Or better topic “How to watch HD Channels with Comcsat with your own tuner”.

I don’t watch a lot of TV, but sometimes I do: sport or TV shows . You know that it is almost impossible to watch sports online in USA, and even if you will find a way - it will be unpleasant: quality will not be great. The same about TV Shows, even if you have Comcast subscription to some channels they still keep showing you a lot of advertisements. I see a benefit of having Comcast TV (or any other TV provider you have in your area) as it gives you ability to enjoy HD TV to watch Sport. Also with Comcast you can use DVR (recording) to watch TV Shows later with skipping advertisement.

But still my main problem with Comcast - it is not cheap. Especially for me, as I said I do not watch a lot of TV and for few hours in a week - it does not feel right to pay what Comcast asks. First of all it is not cheap, because Comcast requires you to upgrade your TV Tunner to HD version if you want HD quality. This costs additional $10-15 per month (for each TV). And even then you will not be able to watch shows and sports on your laptop or desktop (not all of them).

I have never had HD TV Tunner from Comcast, only the one they give for “free”, which doesn’t support HD and does not have a DVR.

I wanted to have HD, but before upgrading to HD TV Tuner from Comcast I decided to spend some time to find if there are any other options to get HD TV and DVR. And I actually found nice and easy solution. You can order CableCARD from Comcast, see CableCARD: Know Your Rights and About CableCARDs. Just return your current Tuner to Comcast office and ask for the CableCARD instead. Don’t order CableCARD without returning your TV Tuner as they will charge you for two devices.

Before you will do that let me actually at first summarize why you may want to do that (or not).

Advantages of having CableCARD

  • You can buy any Tuner you want. It can be something “cheap” for ~$130 or expensive TiVO box. It will be your own Tuner, not need to pay for rental. I purchased HDHomeRun PRIME so all next good parts will be about this Tuner.
  • You can watch up to 3 channels at the same time on supported devices. With Comcast Tuner you will need to rent additional tunner for each device.
  • You can watch TV on any device which supports DLNA. It can be simple VLC Player on your Mac OSX or Channels App on Apple TV.

Disadvantages of having CableCARD

  • You need to purchase a Tuner.
  • There are not so many applications for viewing TV, most of them are not free. After buying a Tuner you will find out that you need to pay $14 for iOS, $14 for Apple TV and so on.
  • It requires manual setup.
  • You will not be able to watch Xfinity On demand with your Tuner (only in web browser from Mac or PC).
  • There are not a lot of good applications with DVR support and a lot of them are not free, like $50-80.
  • Comcast support may not know about that at all. You can easily get to some guy who has 0 knowledge about what is CableCARD and how to help you to get the right channels.

Anyway - it is your decision. If you will decide to get CableCARD - feel free to continue reading to learn about my experience.

HDHomeRun PRIME Installation on Mac OSX

I bought HDHomeRun PRIME. Below are instructions how to set it up.

  • Connect everything. I have connected coaxial cable, Ethernet cable, installed CableCARD and turned it on.
  • Give it few seconds to boot. Open this page HDHomeRun Hardware. It should auto discover tuner in your network. At my case it showed that my tuner had some unknown firmware.
  • Download HDHomeRun Software and install it. I used it with Mac OSX. It asks if you want to install viewer and recorder. You should install recorder only if you want to purchase HDHomeRun DVR from SiliconDust (additional $60 for the time of writing). It also will upgrade Firmware to latest using Terminal.
  • I went to the page Comcast Activate, followed few steps, this page told me that everything is activated.
  • After that I opened HDHomeRun Hardware and went to the page of my Tuner (it is a link of HDHomeRun PRIME on top).
  • TV Tuner serves website on standard port 80, where you can do some configuration and diagnostics (HDHomeRun page from previous step should bring you there). First link allows you to detect channels, do it. In my case I saw most of channels in my subscription (basic subscription).
  • On the main page of my tuner I saw Card Validation none. To validate the card you need to call Comcast. You can find phone number on your CableCARD (I used 877-405-2298). Open page CableCARD MenuCableCARD(tm) Pairing, this page has all information which you will be asked to provide, no need to get the CableCARD out of tuner.
  • Run Channel LineupDetect Channels again to see that you get all the channels you payed for.

At this point you should be able to Watch HD TV from OS X or PC using HDHomeRun Viewer.

How to watch TV

I tried several things

  • Official HDHomeRun View player. Works great.
  • VLC Player. Open it, right click on Universal Plug’n’Play to Enable it and after that you should see list of Tuners, one of them will be HDHomeRun with list of channels. Just a note, if you have any other application working, like JRiver MediaCenter which is using Plug’n’Play discovery - for some reason VLC will not be able to enable Plug’n’Play. VLC Player allows to record any channels right while you are watching. I guess you can also schedule recording with cron.
  • Channels for AppleTV 4th gen - works great. Not free.

How to record (DVR)

I tried few applications, obviously not all on the market.

  • mythTV - I am too lazy to set it up.
  • EyeTV - it does not work with PRIME, see EyeTV 3 software does not support the HDHomeRun PRIME, EXTEND or EXPAND. I have read that some people used old version of EyeTV and it worked, but I did not want to pay for something, which I know will not be supported in the future.
  • JRiver MediaCenter - isn’t intuitive. I could not set it up, and because it had the same price as everything else I just gave up on it.
  • HDHomeRun DVR - still Early Access, a lot of issues, but I just hope that they will continue to work on it and get it done soon.

I ended up with HDHomeRun DVR, with just a hope that they are going to finish it soon.

HDHomeRun DVR Setup

This software does not have a lot of documentation, so it is hard to understand how it actually works.


  • Purchase the license and follow the instructions.
  • Download latest available build from forums. At this time install it and choose “DVR Recording” on device where you want to record TV. It can be not the same device where you want to watch these recordings. For example in my case I have it installed on Mac Mini with huge RAID and I watch recordings from other devices and never from this Mac Mini.
  • On devices where you want to watch TV and Recordings you need to install Kodi. As I understood this is temporary solution to make a prototype, the final product will be standalone.
  • Open Kodi and install HDHomeRun add-on in Videos (see Kodi Client).

DVR Configuration on OSX

If you have installed DVR on OSX there are few things I have learned about it:

  • It creates user _HDHomeRun:HDHomeRun and executes this service under this user.
  • Default location of DVR application and recordings is in /Users/HDHomeRun/.
  • You can find daemon configuration in /Library/LaunchDaemons/com.silicondust.dvr.plist.
  • It does not have a lot of configurations, but has one important, if you will open /Users/HDHomeRun/hdhomerun.conf you will find that you can change RecordPath. It will use this location to write logs and recordings. Make sure that user _HDHomeRun:_HDHomeRun has access to this new folder, best way to do that is to make _HDHomeRun an owner of this directory. To restart the service you can use launchctl, like
sudo launchctl stop com.silicondust.dvr
sudo launchctl start com.silicondust.dvr
  • It writes everything in mpeg2 format. Quicktime could not read it. VLC Player can. You can convert to the iOS/OSX compatible format using for example Adapter