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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      • Fenixfan profile imageAUTHOR

        Jesse James 

        5 days 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 

        5 days 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 

        6 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 

        6 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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