How to Fix 'Searching for Satellite Signal - 771'

Updated on January 25, 2018
Fenixfan profile image

As a trained DirecTV technical support representative, I am offering this free help to those suffering from DirecTV errors.

Code 771

Error code '771 - Searching for Satellite Signal' is the most frequent problem that DirecTV customers encounter. This error does not have to be as frustrating as many people make it out to be. With a little bit of insider information from an experienced DirecTV tech and minimal elbow grease, I want to show you how quickly you, by yourself, can fix this dreaded error that all customers experience at some point during their service commitment.

What causes this error?

Error code 771 is so common because there are many different variables that can cause it. Unlike error code 721 or 722, which have only one solution, error code 771 can be caused by many different factors. The most common factor is usually due to stormy weather. If your receiver is searching for a satellite signal during a thunderstorm, don't bother trying to fix it and don't call customer service. They will not help you during a storm. Trust me. They have an interactive weather map they consult before troubleshooting.

Other rarer reasons for this error are due to accidental change to cables or electric supply, the aftermath of a storm, and equipment error, just to name a few. The most helpful thing you can do for yourself is to retrace your steps before you lost satellite signal. It is a sad fact that most of the time we are our own worst enemy, unwittingly sabotaging ourselves when all we want to do is relax and watch a little television. Before you attempt to troubleshoot in any way, sit down for a minute and try to remember things you may have done that could have affected your signal in any way. Were you cleaning your gutters, where your satellite cables are close? Maybe you were moving furniture or just purchased a new surge protector. Could anything have come unplugged? These are just a couple of questions you should be asking yourself.

Now that you know a little about what causes the loss of satellite signal and how to critically think about what may be the cause of the problem, you are ready to troubleshoot and fix your error.

9 Steps to Fix Searching for Satellite Signal

The steps below are my revised method of fixing this error as quickly as possible so you can get back to watching tv.

  1. Make sure you are seeing the error code 771 on the television screen. If the screen displays some other message such as 'no signal' or 'retrieving signal' your television is likely on the incorrect input or channel. Believe it or not, over half of the calls I took for 'searching for satellite signal' was due to incorrect input channels or the receiver being turned off or unplugged. If you are certain this is a DirecTV error message continue on to step 2.
  2. Locate your Access Card behind a small front panel on your DirecTV receiver/box. Remove then re-insert your access card and wait 30 seconds. If this fixes the problem, you most likely still have an issue either with this satellite dish or the cables that run from the dish to your receiver. This can be a quick temporary fix if you aren't particularly in the mood for lengthy troubleshooting. If this did not fix the error, continue on to step 3.
  3. Check your satellite dish. If you have more than one receiver that displays the error, it is recommended that you look to see if anything could be interfering with your satellite dish's line of sight. This can be affected by ice, fallen trees or branches, animals, and even vehicles. Make sure nothing is obstructing the dish that isn't usually there.
  4. Check your cables. Checking cables is the hardest part of troubleshooting this error because there can be several different possibilities that are causing this error depending on the number of receivers you have and types of receivers they are. All receivers have a 'Sat In' port, which is how your receiver receives the signal from your dish. A customer service rep will usually ask you to make sure the cables are secure, but this is not an effective method to fix this kind of problem. What you want to do is locate the cables that screw into the 'Sat In' port and completely disconnect them. I recommend waiting for a few seconds before screwing them back in. Once you have everything back where it needs to be, look at your television screen to see if there is any change. If there is no change, continue on to step 5.
  5. Press your 'channel' button up twice then down twice. I know this seems strange, but this action actually sends a response signal to the dish and can sometimes work. Either way, it is just a quick shot in the dark. If this doesn't work, continue on to step 6.
  6. Check your power inserter (SWiM). Some DirecTV installations have what is called a SWiM. If you have HD-DVR, you most likely have this device connected to your set-up. This power supply device is usually located inside, close to your main receiver. Your main receiver is most often in the living area. If you don't know what you are looking for, I have provided an example of the most common SWiM used in DirecTV installations below. All you want to do is reset this device by unplugging it. After 15-30 seconds, plug the SWiM back in and check your tv display to see if there has been any change. By now, if your issue is caused by something other than interference with your satellite dish, you should get signal back. If not, continue on to step 7.
  7. Check your cables again. Technical support reps are instructed to issue a repair service at this point, but that can sometimes take several days and you want your tv back now. I have done a second cable check on many occasions and have been reprimanded by my superiors for deviating from the recommended process supplied to us, only to have the second check resolve the error. When doing the second cable check, you need to disconnect the 'Sat-In' cables from the back of your receiver once more and leave them unplugged. Next, you want to unplug you SWiM box again. Once it has been unplugged for 30 seconds, disconnect the cables that are screwed into it as well. Make sure to keep track of which cables go where in order to not complicate your troubles. Using a twist tie or piece of tape is good for keeping track of which cables go back to which ports. If you are able, I recommend disconnecting the cables from your satellite dish itself. For many of you, this may not be possible since the dish is most often located on top of the roof or other high structure. I don't recommend putting yourself in any physical danger. If you aren't able to do this with ease, don't do it. Those are the 3 main cable connections you have in your installation. Once you have them all disconnected, start screwing them back in, starting at the dish. If you weren't able to disconnect the cables from the dish, start reconnecting the cables to the SWiM box then move on to the back of the receiver and reconnect those. Once all of your cables are reconnected, plug your SWiM box back into the electrical outlet. Check your tv display for any changes. Hopefully, you have regained satellite signal. If not, continue on to step 8.
  8. Press the 'Channel' button up twice then down twice. Just checking. Like I said, sometimes it works. Still not working? Continue to step 9.
  9. Reset the receiver. Resetting the receiver can take a long time, especially if you're not getting a satellite signal, which is why I recommend saving it for last. Although it can resolve the issue from the start, it could be a total waste of 30 minutes to an hour and cause lots of frustration over wasted time and anticipation. The easiest way to reset the receiver is to press the tiny red button located next to the access card that you removed in step 2. This tiny button can be hard to press, so I recommend getting a small object such as a paperclip or pencil head to press it. Once pressed, the receiver will begin to restart. The tv screen will go black or blue, but eventually, you will see the DirecTV logo pop up. Soon, the receiver will attempt to regain a satellite signal. A percentage bar will usually appear at the middle or bottom of the screen, depending on the type of receiver you have. If this percentage reaches %15, you should regain signal back within a few minutes.

SWiM Power Inserter for DirecTV
SWiM Power Inserter for DirecTV

Hopefully, these steps have helped to resolve your issue. If you are still encountering a 771 error code, you most likely will have to wait for a repairman to examine your installation for any extraordinary errors or malfunctions. If you are having any other DirecTV errors, feel free to leave a comment and I will address them to the best of my ability.

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        robin 

        2 weeks ago

        can a bad dish or eye going out cause a 711 signal, Can I change out the eye my self

      • profile image

        Margaret 

        2 weeks ago

        Very useful informations on how to troubleshoot, love it, and now i can watched my favourite channel again. Thank you.

      • profile image

        rachel 

        3 weeks ago

        i can not find any access door to remove a card. i am about ready to trade all this equipment in because more often then not i cant watch anything. we have yet to be able to watch any shows on Tueday night that we like because of the issue, sometimes it is a storm but sometimes there isnt a cloud in the sky

      • Fenixfan profile imageAUTHOR

        Jesse James 

        3 weeks ago from Crooked Letter State

        Hi Tom. Usually when only two channels are not coming in it means one of two things. 1) Your dish is out of alignment and you will begin to lose more channels as the reception becomes worse. 2) Something is wrong on DirecTV's side. I would suggest running a signal strength test to see if you have low signal strength. If it is on DirecTV's side, there isn't much you can do but call and see what they will offer you for the inconvenience. Without going into too much boring detail, let me explain why it could be on DirecTV's side. Certain channels are broadcast from different transponders. For example; some Spanish channels are broadcast from just one satellite transponder. This is because the broadcasters of the Spanish shows deliver their signal to a particular transponder that they can reach. It would be more helpful if I knew which channels you were giving you problems. If it is a basic channel like TBS or USA, most likely the problem is on your end and needs troubleshooting to correct. While I can and will help you if you want, your best option would be to call technical support because they will run you through the same steps I would, plus they could set you up with a service call if it is necessary. Before doing either, try to think about anything that occurred before you noticed the loss of signal with these channels. Were you away for any length of time. Were there unusually high winds or storms recently. These will be helpful notes in case you need to troubleshoot with a representative and help the tech determine proper steps to take to fix the problem with your service. If you want to try a quick fix, you can press channel up twice then channel down twice. If may actually fix this problem. It's what we used to call a hole in one when I used to work for DirecTV. I know it sounds too easy and odd, but channeling up twice then down twice was some kind of signal reboot that engineers programmed into receivers. Either way, it takes five seconds to do and is a stab in the dark. Let me know if I can help you in any way.

      • profile image

        Tom 

        3 weeks ago

        2 channels will not come in, all others fine. ?

      • Fenixfan profile imageAUTHOR

        Jesse James 

        6 weeks ago from Crooked Letter State

        If at least one receiver is getting signal. then your dish alignment is probably fine. The fact that you have two receivers that aren't getting signals leads me to believe that the issue is because of cable connection. The only other problem would be the tuners in the back of the receivers. I know it seems coincidental, but I have had customers have two or more receivers tuners go out at or around the same time before. It gets hard to troubleshoot when you have multiple receivers because you have multiple cables. The average homeowner has no idea which cable goes to which receiver from the splitter because they have never even looked at it and didn't install it. I can help you with this. It may take a couple replies, but I feel like I can help you fix it if this problem isn't being caused by bad tuners. I know about all the troubleshooting and half of it is unnecessary. You don't need to reset each receiver or go check the dish. The only thing that could cause this, as I said, is bad tuners or loose cable connections. That being said, the only thing you can do on your side would be to disconnect the cables that run to those receivers. Depending on your installation, you will have either a multiswitch connecting splitter or a regular 6 to 8 prong splitter. If you have the multiswitch splitter, always unplug it before disconnecting cables. You can get electrocuted by those if you don't. Since I am sure that this isn't a problem with the dish alignment, the simplest thing to do is to find the splitter and disconnect then reconnect each cable that is connected to that splitter. Before you do that though, disconnect the cables from the back of the two non-working receivers. What we want to do is make sure the cables to those two receivers are disconnected from each end completely in order to reset the signal flow. After you have both non-working receiver's cables disconnected go to the main splitter and start disconnecting and reconnecting cables. Don't disconnect all of them at once. Disconnect one, then screw it back in. Repeat until you have disconnected and reconnected each one. I know that probably sounds like a lot, but it should only take 5-10 minutes if the splitter is easily accessible. We are knocking out 90% of the troubleshooting that Directv tech support requires. In the event that you don't have a splitter and all of your cables are coming directly from the dish, you probably want to get a technician out there to check those connections. Usually, technicians will run a splitter from the dish, so it is unlikely that the cables are running straight from your dish. This is about as much information as I can give you without knowing specifics of the way your installation looks. If this doesn't work, please message me back with details of where cables from the two non-working receivers are running to. Finally, to check if your receiver has a bad tuner, all you need to do is take one of the non-working receivers to one of the rooms you are getting signal and connect it to those cables and see if you get signal on that receiver. You may actually want to do that first if it is easy enough to move your entire receiver. Let me know if I can help more. I would be happy to assist in any way I can.

      • profile image

        adam james 

        6 weeks ago

        We have an issue where we are getting a 771 message on the two upstairs TVs. The two downstairs TVs work just fine though. It seemed as if the two upstairs issues started happening more-or-less at the same time, although I can't say for sure. In other words, the problem with the two upstairs ones may or may not be be related to the same issue but it seems pretty coincidental that they went out at pretty much the same time. Any thoughts? I feel like the dish itself must be OK or we wouldn't be getting any programming on the downstairs TVs. Oh and we have spend several hours on the phone with DTV trying to troubleshoot!

      • profile image

        Phil koby 

        8 weeks ago

        Direct tv losing accounts by the minute, Better play the cannabis stocks I told you too, because there is a robot waiting to replace you, 10 years of constant no signal, face it you are the ipitome of incompetence, adios

      • Fenixfan profile imageAUTHOR

        Jesse James 

        2 months ago from Crooked Letter State

        While realigning your dish is somewhat complicated, it can be done by an amateur. The most difficult aspect of re-aligning your dish will be getting your hands on an azimuth compass/level. You can figure out the degrees of alignment by using the menus in your Directv receiver.

      • profile image

        Amelia 

        2 months ago

        Are there tips to realign the dish without having a technician come out?

      • profile image

        Charlie 

        2 months ago

        how do I run a signal strength test

      • Fenixfan profile imageAUTHOR

        Jesse James 

        3 months ago from Crooked Letter State

        You're welcome, Rochelle. I'm happy to hear that this information helped you. You may want to run a signal strength test whenever you get a few minutes of free time just to see if you have a weak signal on any transponder. If you are able to identify a weak signal on a transponder, you can potentially avoid the possibility of losing service and having to wait for a service call. If a transponder has a low signal strength (below 55%), DirecTV should be able to send a technician out to re-align your dish. Let me know if you need help figuring out how to run a signal strength test. Thanks for reading.

      • profile image

        Rochelle 

        3 months ago

        I looked this up after trying to reset the receiver and run through the reset, searching process...did the channel change thing, voila! Thanks!

      • Fenixfan profile imageAUTHOR

        Jesse James 

        9 months ago from Crooked Letter State

        Thank you, sir, for your positive review. Thank you for your service as well. My step-father was a SeaBee, himself.

      • GoldenRod LM profile image

        John R Wilsdon 

        9 months ago from Superior, Arizona USA

        I enjoyed this how-to very much. It was helpful in analyzing signal loss. I will bookmark this for the time I get a 771 code. Thank you.

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