Closed captions on Comcast DVR via HDMI

[Updated June 2013] Good news, it's much easier to turn on closed captions on my Comcast DVR manufactured by Motorola (picture) because of a recent update to the Comcast DVR software.  I can now turn captions on/off from the "regular menus" (no need to turn the cable box on & off).  Here's how it works for me now:

  • Turn on your TV and the Comcast box
  • Press the Menu button twice on the Comcast remote (or on the box)
  • In the on-screen menu, choose the "Setup" button (using the arrows and Ok button on the remote or box)
  • Then choose the "Closed Captioning Setup"
  • You'll see a setting for "Closed Caption", which you can change between off & on by using the left & right arrow on the remote (or box)

If your box does not have the menus seen above, you'll have to use my older instructions below (after the break) until your box is updated.

FYI, you still cannot use your TV remote closed captions button when your DVR is connected to your TV with HDMI and component connections.   Read below for more details.

 


[My original post from 2008, kept for posterity] Last weekend I lost a few hours trying to get closed caption to display with my Comcast DVR connected to my TV with an HDMI cable.  I like to temporarily turn on captions when trying to figure out what someone said, or if there's a lot of background noise.  But the closed captions button on my TVs remote did not seem to work.

If your box still has the old software (you've tried the instructions above and they don't work), here's a quick cheat sheet for enabling closed captions on the Comcast DVR manufactured by Motorola (picture). You can use either the buttons on the remote, or on the front of the DVR:

  • Turn on your TV
  • Turn off the DVR
  • Press the Menu button, on the Comcast remote (or on the Comcast box)
  • You will see the USER SETTING screen on your TV
  • Move down to the CLOSED CAPTIONS entry using the arrow buttons
  • Press the right-arrow to switch between ENABLED and DISABLED
  • Press the Menu button
  • Turn on the DVR

The problem was not with my TV or the DVR.  The problem is that HDMI and component connections cannot carry closed captions for the TV to decode. This was the first time I've connected a TV using HDMI or component cables, so I never ran into this closed caption issue before.  If you connect any device (Comcast's DVR, Tivo, etc) by HDMI/component, you must use that device's menu to decode the closed captions — your TV's closed caption button will never show captions when connected this way.  You can read more about this limitation of HDMI and component on the HDTV interoperability issues section on the main Wikipedia page for closed captions.

I called Comcast to get help, and talked with a support person who tried very hard, and ultimately directed me to the "hidden" setup menu on the DVR to enable closed captions (see above).  But it was pretty bumpy, and Comcast never said that it was a limitation of HDMI/component.

Also, the Comcast DVR makes it very hard to quickly toggle captions on/off, because you must turn off the DVR every time you want to change the setting.  My guess is that the DVR engineers assumed that only deaf people would want captions, and leave them on all the time.

See How to use a Motorola DVR for a nearly complete manual on many of Comcast's Motorola DVRs.  I updated the "Closed Captions" section to clarify the limitations of HDMI and component connections.

102 thoughts on “Closed captions on Comcast DVR via HDMI

  1. A big thanks for your post as I could not get the closed captioned on my TV.
    I love the internet :-)
    Laurent, Atlanta

  2. I found that if i turned off the DVR, pressed the option button, then the menu button i would get the CC setup menu. Used the arrow and selection buttons to toggol the CC.

  3. @mike: You can definitely toggle CC, but not "easily" — as you say, you must first turn off the DVR which means any recordings will get interrupted, and if you are viewing a recording, you have to navigate back to the recording after you turn the DVR back on.

  4. Mike Reed:

    Thank you, thank you! The Comcast DVR menu is not at all intuitive. It's postings like yours that help everyone. Thank you for taking the time. We managed to get rid of the annoying closed captions, as a result!

  5. Thank you. I spoke with a Comcast tech and he did not know how to get the closed captions off. This was great help.

  6. Thanks for this post. I could not understand how closed caption suddenly appeared on my HDTV. With your explanation I was able to solve the problem quickly.

  7. The Internet is amazing. Last week I spent over 1700 dollars on a new Panasonic, Plasma, 50 inch TV, and anothr 300 on a stand. Comcast cable was hooked with an HD DVR Box and I had a great picture. Unfortunately, I am a little hard of hearing lately, to the point at least where the closed captioning clears up much of the conversations, especially when there is background noise. When I tried to start closed captioning, it would not turn on. For 4 days I tried everything. Finally I turned to the Net. I found this and in less than a minute was able to program the DVR/HD box to transmit CC to the set. It amazes me that Comcast does not include instructions about this.

  8. Cool info. same story as Jack (though i did not buy that high end of an equipment, still….). I got a Samsung 32" HDTV yesterday and was pretty bummed to find out abt the CC problem and its incompatibility with HDMI or component connection. I am no engineer but seems in this day and age this little CC not working with HDMI / component connection just seems unacceptable. think the engineers have more work to do. but ya this forum certainly helped. thanks to the internet. the geeks got at least this thing right ;-)

  9. i've found the same closed captioning issues with my comcast service, but i had no such problems with verizon fios and an hdmi cable. now i wish i hadn't switched. saving about $40 a month and get more channels, but reception isn't quite as good as fiber optic and the interface (dvr and remote) is clunkier. and no easy access to closed captioning.

  10. how the heck do you turn this cc off? i have comcast hd box and this cc wont turn off! my tv cc is off… is there anyone can help me please!!

  11. @Toni, To turn on/off closed captions, follow the instructions in the "Closed Captions" section of the "How to use a Motorola DVR WikiBook" (http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/How_to_use_a_Motorola_DVR/Setup#Closed_Caption) …

    - Turn off the DVR
    - Press the Menu button
    - You will see the USER SETTING screen on your TV
    - Move down to the CLOSED CAPTIONS entry using the arrow buttons
    - Press the right-arrow to switch from ENABLED to DISABLED
    - Press the Menu button
    - Turn on the DVR

    You can use the buttons on your remote, or on the front of the DVR.

  12. netjeff gave the clearest step by step way to get c.c. The tech at Comcast tried to help and wanted schedule a service call. They should know your simple directions. Thanks.

  13. Verizon FIOS is able to turn captions on and off using the DVR Remote. You just hit a button to cycle thru CC1 – CC6 and OFF. Why can't Comcast make it this simple?

  14. @Bill: In this case it's Motorola's fault, since they build the box. I guess we can blame Comcast for choosing Motorola.

  15. Thank you! I am glad I searched on the internet for this stuff! I am so glad to be able to turn on the captions!

  16. I wish we had seen your post months ago! We have really missed captioning on hd channels and often watch sd to get it. THANK YOU soooooo much!!!!

  17. It is my understanding that in order to receive HD television, you must use the HDM1 cables. We hadn't been using these cables until recently and WOW — what a difference in picture. However, my problem isn't that we can't get closed captioning to work but that frequently the CC appears and disappears too quickly. Haven't been able to get any help in fixing this. Comcast isn't very receptive to the hearing impaired… other than saying "it's the TV and not the cable box!!" I have read numerous blogs that seems to indicate the Motorola box as the culprit. Until the "powers that be" become hearing impaired, I guess CC isn't important enough to fix!

  18. Thank you very much, I was trying varies things to enable CC. At last I found this site which exactly gave instructions on how to turn on CC with Motorola DVR. Thanks once again.

  19. I have this problem receiving cc thru Comcast's DVR HD box. It is the LAW that they transmit cc's. My TV is the latest best Sony Bravia and I get this "it's the TV" run-around from Comcast. I am not getting CCs from the "on Demand" and many of the movie channels. Tomorrow I am starting my formal complaints to the FCC.

  20. @Julia: After following the directions above, do you never get CC? If you get them on some channels and not others, you're correct that you should talk to Comcast. But if you never get CC on any channels, try following the directions above.

  21. Thank you… Thank you… Thank you…

    I just bought Samsung 50" HD only to discover that when I press the CC key on the TV's remote when I'm getting input from Comcast, I get a pop-up window saying "Not Available"…

    I'm hard of hearing and Closed Captioning has been a lifesaver for me.

    Your instructions worked perfectly.

    I agree with others that Comcast should make this easier to access… But I can live with this.

  22. Thank you very much for this information. It was unbelievably helpful. All Comcast would tell me was that I couldn't get CC through HDMI. They wouldn't tell me how. While this doesn't allow me the "CC when muted option" that I prefer, at least I get something. Thanks again.

  23. OMG, you are awesome. Comcast is absolutely no help in the area, which is almost criminal. Who would think that you have to turn the DVR off to enable the CC. That is totally counter-intuitive. I can enjoy BBC America once more!

  24. Thank you very much. I was loosing it, desperate… that closed caption was driving me crazy, my son put it on by mistake, I called Comcast, they insist that it was not due to the box setup "because comcast cable box do not have closed caption option", and they kept saying that it was my TV setting… thanks for your info

  25. BIG THANKS! We need CC and for some reason with this new comcast boxes or for the HD signal we couldnt set it… We've been missing a lot from our shows' dialogues…Thanks God for your post!

  26. Called Comcast, called Comcast tech, Called Comcast Sales (better info than all the rest) but no luck with CC. Several friends could not remove CC and others could not get cc. This info is very helpful, Thanks, a lot!

  27. I can activate CC through my motorola DVR but the text is all scrambled and incomplete. Is there a setting that I can change to fix this. I only get about a third of the CC accurately. THANKS!

  28. @DD: If you see captions but they are scrambled, I think you'll need to contact Comcast. Good luck.

  29. Thanks a lot NetJ. Have been swearing at Comcast for a year now wondering how to get cc with HD. Have been going thru the coax cable with degraded signal, and angry that I was paying for HD. Found these directions last night and used them this morning with success.
    Now if we can just get them to come up with a simpler process to switch between and on and off cc.
    Do they have any idea how many people want/need cc?
    I went to the ATT Uverse forum to see if theirs was any better. Apparently you have to go thru a cumbersome menu system there as well. Which ever company improves their service in this regard is going to get some profits out of it. I would have switched to ATT yesterday if they had the one button toggle. My wife and kids really don't like the distracting words so we only have it on if I'm watching.
    Thanks again,
    Matt

  30. I just discovered what may be another way to get CC with HDMI input to our 46 in. Samsung using the Comcast Scientific Atlanta DVR.

    Using the Comcast remote, double click on the Menu button.

    Scroll to CC:source, move to the right and choose STD CC4, move to the right and choose digital 1, then "accept" the change.

    While in the Menu screen, you can also change the appearance of CC – color, background, etc. with the other CC line choices.

    To turn off CC, go back to CC:source, move to the right and choose digital 6, then "accept" the change.

    This works for our setup without having to turn off the DVR.

    Disclaimer – this is by no means a guaranteed technique – I just happened to stumble on it.

    Good luck.

  31. @Mark: Sounds like you have a Scientific Atlanta DVR with Comcast. This page is about the Motorola DVR with Comcast. Unfortunately your technique will not work for those of us stuck with the Motorola DVR. :-(

  32. Have the same issue with a Suddenlink system. These instructions seemed to apply. Then I found these instructions on the Suddenlink website. (Maybe they copied them from you.) Interesting that they publish the solution on their website and Comcast doesn't know anything about it. Thanks for your site, it's what got me pointed in the right direction.

    Enable Closed Captioning On Your Suddenlink Set-Top Box

    Begin by making sure that closed captions are enabled on your TV set (this will be a setting on your TV menu – refer to your TV owner’s manual for assistance)

    Next, enable closed captions on your Suddenlink set-top box by doing the following:
    Check to make sure that the power to your television and DVR are turned on
    Press the “power” button on your Suddenlink remote control
    As soon as your DVR turns off press the “menu” (or on some models the “settings”) button on your remote control
    You should see the User Setting Status menu on your screen
    Using the directional arrows (up/down) on your remote, navigate the cursor to “CLOSED CAPTION”
    If the brand on your DVR is Motorola you will use the left/right arrow, toggle to “ENABLED”
    If the brand on your DVR is PACE you will press OK until close caption is turned “ON”
    6. Press Exit

  33. I wish there is an easier way to turn on and off the captions. Often times the captions are blocking information on the screen and we can't move the captions around. I noticed that we can only use the analog captions (CC1), not the digital captions while watching HDTV channels… why is that? Is there a way I can switch to digital captions with smaller fonts, colors, etc. so can see information better in the background?

  34. Make sure you use Component (RGB) cable instead of HDMI cable. For some reason Closed Caption decode much better through analog cable (component cable). Very few digital cable (HDMI) will support CC.

    Best CC setting (look much better than default) -

    CLOSED CAPTION: ENABLED
    SERVICE SELECTION
    ANALOG: CC1
    DIGITAL: PRIMARY LANGUAGE
    FONT SIZE: LARGE
    FONT STYLE: MONO NO SERIF
    FONT COLOR: WHITE
    FONT OPACITY: AUTO
    FONT EDGE TYPE: RAISED
    FONT EDGE COLOR: BLACK
    BACKGROUND COLOR: BLACK
    BACKGROUND OPACITY: SOLID
    SETTINGS: USER

    Enjoy!

  35. @Jason: Your statement that "very few digital cable (HDMI) will support CC" is not correct. *NONE* of the digital cables support carrying the encoded CC to the TV. This is why you must use settings on the DVR to decode the CC, and the DVR then overlays the decoded CC text onto the image that is sent over the digital (HDMI) cable. Also, Component/RGB cables have the *SAME* problem — RGB/Component cables *NEVER* carry the encoded signal. Just like for HDMI, you must tell the DVR to decode and overlay the CC text onto the signal sent over the Component/RGB cables. The quality of the decoding is going to be the same regardless of HDMI or Component/RGB, because the DVR decodes the CC into text before sending over the cable — the type of cable does not make a difference.

  36. Argh – your directions were right on for how to get to the page and disable closed-captioning (which had somehow accidentally gotten turned on), but even when I put it on "disable," they're still on! Any suggestions? Many thanks!

  37. lost most control of my fingers, body, have constant spasms & tremors (post-polio) now throat Cancer ,so pleaqe bear with me, it hurts like hell 2 type or move(but i ain't dead yet doggitt!)

    thank u Jason been looking all over 4 info about setting font sizes & such on CC. is there a way 2 see te text but have the backgtound of the screen displayed? the black font background obsures the picture sometimes the text is in the lower part of the screen sometimes at the top. Still looking2 read specs on how position is controlled & the various cc modes.

  38. Thank you, thank you so much for such great instructions. I was getting so upset because I need Closed Caption to help me to learn English. I appreciate your assistance!!!

  39. Thank you so much. I searched every menu I could while the cable box and TV was on but couldn't find it. I never knew there was a menu when the cable box was off. I live in a condo and when I'm watching TV at night I try to keep the volume really low so my sleeping neighbors can't hear it. Having the closed caption on at the same time really helps so I understand everything.

  40. Unfortunately, I tried this over and over, with absolutely no success. Before I upgraded to comcast hd dvr, I was easily able to control and turn on/off the captioning on my tv. Ever since I have the hd dvr, however, no matter what I do, I cannot get the captions to turn on. I also followed the above instructions step-by-step several times, with no luck. Where could I find someone to actually help solve this problem? Clearly it isn't anyone at comcast's customer service…

  41. I have a 42" Panasonic LCD tv and am wondering how do I make the fonts in large text size which the tv remote will not do without the DVR box. Is there any other way to make this work without the DVR box? Let me know….

  42. thanks alot! i had the opposite problem.i was trying to get rid of the blasted captions.my wife turned on the tv today,and all of sudden….:captions! i fussed with the tv set up and cable box set up for near an hour with no luck.this worked like a charm.

  43. unbelievable, the only place on the internet to solve my problem, thanks

    •Turn on your TV
    •Turn off the DVR
    •Press the Menu button
    •You will see the USER SETTING screen on your TV
    •Move down to the CLOSED CAPTIONS entry using the arrow buttons
    •Press the right-arrow to switch between ENABLED and DISABLED
    •Press the Menu button
    •Turn on the DVR

  44. Jason, thank you so much for showing the settings in closed captioning that give the best results. I followed your directions and am much happier with the readability of the CC1 that I get through the Motorola DVR. I'd be even happier if the remote control had a toggle button for turning CC on and off (like DirectTV's remote), but so far that is not an option. Are you listening, Comcast? Until I read Jason's recommendations I was ready to jump ship and go to DirectTV.

  45. Great site! Going into the main DVR menu only works with an old RF cable. Tried to follow instructions with the HDMI cable and couldn't get the screen on. Thanks again!

  46. Thanks!! Could not figure out how to remove captions, or how they came on in the first place. Your site was a godsend!!

  47. this conversation has been very helpful. I finally got Captioning to work on my Samsung via the Comcast Box. I am curious what the six services other than primary and secondary languages mean. What are service-1 thru service-6?

    Thanks,

    Pat O'Brien

  48. I have 2 DVR's, that you can record on. I can get closed captions on the lower channels, but I have a problem with the channels in the 400s. The close caption will work for a few seconds and then go off and not come back on again. I spoke to the tech and he had me shut off the DVR and enable the cc. I still have the same problem and this is on both of my DVRs. I have a friend and he has no prolem. Does anybody else have this problem. The tech told me that if Comcast comes out and it's not the box, they will charge me for coming out.

  49. YOU ARE AWESOME…………. !!!! Thanks for the easy directions.. I've been trying to fig this out for weeks.. and so simple too.. love it!

  50. I had also been dealing with this issue for quite a long time. Thank you so much for the quick and simple solution! What would our lives be without the Internet?

  51. THANK YOU SO MUCH for taking the time to post this! I could not figure it out but your post gave very easy instructions!

  52. One thing to comment here, if you use Verizon FiOS, they allow you to turn the captioning on and off on the REMOTE. This whole comcast story sucks, but I am stuck with them in my area.

  53. Thank you for the advice re: the cc on the comcast motorola box! It took me a while but I finally figured it out (I am a bit tech challanged)
    One thing that I was having problems with (and may have been covered) is how to access the user settings with the dvr box off. Finally I read that you turn off the dvr box and use the menu button on the comcast remote. I was trying to do it with the menu on the box and that was not working. Just wanted to clarify in case anyone else struggles like me!

    Again, thanks SOOOO much for addressing this. I HAVE to have cc and was beginning to worry. And fyi, when I called comcast, after going thru the whole press this then this scenario, it finally says hold for a representative…then went to a busy signal, so that was not helpful at all!

  54. I fought with Comcast for about 2 hours before I gave up and decided to search for myself. I figured just like when we were kids and you eventually found someone who knew how to get your nintendo system workin again, if I looked hard enough I'd find it. Thank you so very very much for posting this!!!!

  55. Count another person here who went through every menu on every device 10 times trying to get the CC turned OFF. Finally googled it, found your post, and cleared it up in 1 minute. Thank you!!! And thank you internets!

  56. Thanks so much for this post! I can't tell you how many hours I've lost trying to get subtitles up for Comcast HD (I watch a lot of foreign films and sometimes the accents are so thick I need a little help) :)

    With your post I was up and running in 30 seconds.
    Thanks again!

  57. I tried your steps and they worked, however I can't turn them off using the TV (SONY Bravia) remote once I enabled them through the Motorola DVR. They're either on ALL the time or off. Help?

  58. @John: You have to turn them off using the same steps as turning them on, but change "ENABLED" to "DISABLED". You can't use your TV remote to change them, sorry.

  59. Hi – I am having CC issues with my new HDTV – the steps outlined above do work (thank you!) BUT>>>>>>>>

    •Turn on your TV
    •Turn off the DVR
    •Press the Menu button
    •You will see the USER SETTING screen on your TV
    •Move down to the CLOSED CAPTIONS entry using the arrow buttons
    •Press the right-arrow to switch between ENABLED and DISABLED
    •Press the Menu button
    •Turn on the DVR

    BUT>>>>>>>
    Once I get to the 'secret' comcast menu and enable closed captioning, it DISABLES the HD channels. Seems my choice is a good HD picture with no CC or a non HD channel with CC. Is anyone else having this issue – really annoying especially since I pay comcast an absurd amount/month and I just spent a LOT of money on a new HDTV. Seems I should be able to have CC and HD. If anyone knows how to make that work, I would really appreciate it. Does this issue occur with Verizon? My area is wired for both – maybe I should switch service providers.

  60. @MRudell: I can have both CC and HD at the same time. I'm not sure why you are having problems getting both at the same time. When you say "it disables the HD channels", what exactly do you mean? Do you mean if you try to watch an HD channel it's all black? Or you can see it but the channel is no longer high definition (it's regular defintion)? You may also want to schedule a service call with a Comcast tech, to come take a look in person.

  61. My only addition would be that the menu button you are pushing (step 3) is on the Comcast remote–not the TV remote. It didn't make sense to me at first since I had turned off the DVR. After turning on TV, I hit the power button on the DVR remote then quickly hit the menu button on the DVR remote. This popped up a white screen. (I had wrongly been hitting the menu button on the TV remote which also guided me to a settings which went to a closed caption on/off but this was NOT a white background screen.)

  62. Thanks for the explanation. Has there been any progress on improving the method to turn CC on/off without turning off the DVR? I love CC but my wife does not like it. So we always turning the CC on and off. An issue is when the DVR is recording a program , one has to stop recording to set CC on or off. Very annoying.

  63. @Wayne, as far as I know the only way to change CC is (still) to turn off the DVR. I agree that it's very annoying.

  64. We bought our TV specifically for the closed caption, imagine our surprise when I couldn't get it to turn on. After filling out a form and listing everything I had already done, I clicked continue only to find out if they answered my question it would be $58. Really???? So I did another search and low and behold this site came up!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Worked like a charm. We don't have a DVR box on this TV, only cable box, so I was not sure if the 'cure' would work. It did.

  65. I've tried these instruction over and over and they just don't work for me. After turning off the DVR box, I press menu (on the cable remote and the box itself) and I get absolutely nothing. I don't see that this has happened with anyone else. Any other tips for a problem like this? Thanks!

  66. After posting my previous message, I tried one more time and waited a couple of seconds before pressing the Menu button after turning off the DVR. What a difference a few seconds makes. This time I got the menu and got it working. So, if anyone else has the problem I had, just be patient and don't press the Menu button too soon after turning off the box. Thanks to the OP for the original instructions!

  67. I had the same frustrations as discussed above, but when I opted for the Comcast Tivo service I found that they have a remote menu option that takes only 4 clicks to activate the closed caption option. I can be watching a program and activate CC without losing the picture or sound; a lot easier than the above-mentioned method. So, it can be done but obviously Comcast doesn't care enough to build this into their regular system.

  68. Thank you!
    I can't tell you the hours wasted spelunking my TV and Cable Box menus before coming here to understand

    1. Turn the DVR OFF.
    2. Wait 15s.
    3. Press MENU on DVR.

    There is now way to know this from the comcast page.

  69. @James: Yes, you have to have the DVR turned *OFF*. But you don't have to wait 15 seconds. As long as the DVR is *OFF*, you should be able to press the menu button at any time, then continue with my instructions. Glad this was able to help you.

  70. Thank you for making it easy. Now if only I could get English Language CC when I'm trying to watch Spanish Language programing. I tried to set the CC to English, but no luck. Any suggestions?

  71. Thanks… I switched from component cables to an HDMI cable which removed a nasty buzz and some stripes running across the TV. That was great, but the CC were no longer there. That was because they were enabled on the TV but not on the box.

    Going through all the menus I could not find out how to enable the CC. But the instructions here worked great for me.

    The way it was set up before, the captions worked on the low def channels but not on HD. This was perfect for me, even though it was a bug and not a feature, because it allowed me to switch to LD to turn on captions or equivalent HD channel to turn them off. But now I pretty much have them on all channels whether I want them or not.

  72. I can confirm now that the Motorola ComCast DVR is the most non-user friendly cable box ever manufactured. Bad Remote control, inability to navigate back and forth through menus (Always have to exit and start over), and finding the Closed captioning option is beyond even Einstein capability… Congrats ComCast for sucking big time

  73. This is so frustrating. I don't want the comcast CC I want my TV's but I can't have that and a HD DVR. It is so impossible to be watching a show on comcast and use the info bar on bottom to record or do things Because Dialog box blocks view, or see scrolling news info when I can't easily disable CC or move the dialog box to top. I can't believe this is still an issue. Does anyone know if the NON Motorola boxes have the same issue?

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