Sky Plus system fault, how to fix faulty Sky+ / Sky HD without £65 callout fee
UPDATE, 1 February - new section: How to fix the Sky Plus system fault yourself, and a freephone number for Sky customer services:
0800 731 6965 (then option 2, option 4). March 9, Sky have closed this Freephone number. August 21, new number to try: 0800 587 5707.
The Register has alleged that "Sky charges for repairs to non-faulty digiboxes" (January 2005), and suggested that automatic updates sent from Sky to your Sky+ box can inadvertantly cause your Sky Plus box to develop a fault, requiring a £65 engineer callout from Sky.
The Register says (and the comments left below now confirm) that Sky tech support don't always tell you how the System Fault can be fixed over the phone, and charge you £65 for an engineer callout on what is allegedly a known manufacturing problem.
It's worth knowing that if you do have an engineer visit (even a free one) your Sky Plus box is under warranty again for 3 months, so any further callouts in that time are free with no quibbles.
How to fix the system fault yourself
WARNING - following this advice is totally at your discretion and anything which happens to your digibox as a result is your responsibility, not mine. You will lose all recorded programmes from your Sky+ Planner.
Sky tech support can talk you through performing a system restore over the phone. To do this yourself, press 'services' on your Sky plus remote, then select option 4. Next press 0, 1, select - you should now see the engineer's menu. Choose option 8, 'Full System Reset'. The box will now take a few minutes to reset itself.
Try pausing or recording again, and if the problem persists disconnect the digibox from the mains power. Press and hold the 'left' and 'right' navigation buttons on the front of the digibox whilst you reconnect the mains power. Continue holding the buttons in for about 20 seconds, and when the ring of light on the front comes on, press the 'select' button on the front of the digibox (between the left and right buttons you were holding). The Sky+ recording logo lights will spin backwards and, according to the Sky engineer, this will "clear the hard drive".
Once this is done, disconnect the digibox from the mains power again and this time press and hold the 'back up' button whilst you reconnect the mains power. Continue holding it for about 15 seconds until 3 lights on the front of the box come on and you get a full-screen message saying "Updating system software. Do not disconnect mains supply or satellite dish."
Leave the digibox doing its thing for about 10 minutes and it should be fixed! Try pausing and recording things again... hopefully you've just saved yourself £65.
If you've not been so lucky, you'll have to get Sky to fix it for you. Some people report that if you ask to cancel your subscription Sky sometimes offer a free callout to fix the problem - you're more valuable to them as a paying customer than the cost of an engineer callout.
* footnote - thanks to Buck for letting me know about Sky customer service's (seemingly unpublished) freephone number. You need to dial 0800 731 6965, then option 2, option 4. March 9, Sky have closed this Freephone number. August 21 thanks DaveJ for pointing out this new one: 0800 587 5707.
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Further resources about Sky HD and Sky Plus
Footnotes about Sky HD