How, and why, to pull video recording files off of the Amazon Fire TV Recast DVR


With access to the internal hard drive of the Amazon Fire TV Recast, it’s easy to transfer video recordings off of the internal drive. This guide will walk you through how it’s done and explain why you may want to do it in the first place. There are more reasons than simply to save recordings and free up space.

Why Pull Recordings

  • Free Up Space – The most obvious reason to pull recordings off is to free up space on the internal hard drive. The 500GB Recast can store 75 hours of HD video and the 1TB Recast doubles that to 150 hours. Once that limit is reached, the Recast will begin deleting unprotected recordings to make room for new ones. If you want to save old recordings but still have room for new ones, the only way to do that is to pull the recordings off and save them somewhere else before they are deleted.
  • Compress Files – The Fire TV Recast stores all recordings in their raw MPEG-2 format. This ensures that the maximum image quality is always available when you go to watch a recording. The issue is that MPEG 2 files are huge relative to modern compressed video formats, such as H.264 and H.265. One hour of MPEG-2 HD video takes up about 7GB of space, while that same video will take up only 1GB to 2GB compressed, depending on the bitrate and compression format chosen.
  • Access to Full Resolution – The Fire TV Recast stores 1080i broadcasts at their full 1920×1080 resolution, however, it will always reduce them to 1280×720 when streamed to a device. This is the case when viewing either a live feed or a recording, and is the main reason why many DVR aficionados say the Fire TV Recast has a slightly poorer image quality than other DVRs. Unless Amazon allows the Fire TV Recast to stream its raw video feed in the future, for now, the only way to watch the full 1920×1080 video file at full resolution is to pull the file off of the device.

How to Pull Recordings

For now, the only known way to transfer recordings off of the Fire TV Recast is to remove the internal hard drive. Doing so is fairly simple by following my teardown guide. You don’t have to disable the Recast entirely, as shown in the image above, to access the hard drive. Amazon has said they will add support for external hard drives in the future through the Recast’s USB port. When that happens, it should be possible to pull recordings from the external drive without needing to take apart the Recast. Another possible future simplification is for someone to figure out how to enable ADB support for the Recast, since it seems to be running a variant of Fire OS. With ADB support enabled, it should be possible to pull files off of the internal hard drive through the network connection, which will greatly simplify the entire process.

Once you have the Fire TV Recast’s internal drive removed, you need to connect it to a computer. I used a SATA-to-USB Cable (specifically, this one) to connect it externally, but you can also connect it internally. The Recast’s drive uses the Linux ext3/4 file system, so a Mac or Windows computer will not be able to read it by default. Unless you are using a Linux PC, you will need to install 3rd-party software to mount the drive. For Windows, there is Ext2FSD, Linux Reader, Ext2Reader, and ExtFS among others. For Mac, there is ExtFS (which is what I use) and Fuse, among others.

Once you have the Recast’s drive mounted and can view the files, you’ll see a flat list of all of your recordings and their accompanying data files. All of the files for a single recording will have the exact same file name but with different file extensions. The files that end in .mpg_#### are the raw MPEG-2 video files. Each recording is split up into multiple files that are at most 524MB in size. That means, for a 1 hour HD recording, there will be about 14 video files, with extensions .mpg_0000 thru .mpg_0013

The simplest way to find a specific recording is to sort the files by the date they were modified, because that value will match the date and time that the recording was made. This will let you easily find a recording if you know when it aired. If you prefer, you can sort by the file name to see recordings grouped by channel, since the first two numbers (e.g., 4.1) in the file name are the channel/subchannel that was recorded. The list will still be chronological per channel, because the third number in the filename is the truncated Epoch start time of the broadcast, without the last two digits, plus a 4 digit ID value. The fourth number in the filename is the full Epoch start time on its own and the fifth number is the Epoch end time of the recording.

It’s also worth mentioning that the name of the movie or TV show that you recorded is embedded in each video file. Depending on the software you use, you may be able to pick out a recording by reading this embedded information. In the screenshot above, I’m using a program called MediaInfo to view the show’s name, which you can see is “The Superbowl LIII” in the upper-right. The additional data files that accompany each recording likely have additional media information, but I have been unable to extract any info from them. A sample of these files can be downloaded here for those of you interested in trying to dissect them.

Plex was the only Fire TV app that I tried that could play the raw video files taken from the Fire TV Recast, but I did have to change the file extensions to .ts for Plex to recognize the files. However, I could not get Plex to properly stack the multiple files for a single episode so that they played continuously, even after properly renaming the files. VLC, Kodi, and MrMC were all unable to play the raw video files on the Fire TV, even after they were renamed.

Once you pull the recordings off of the Recast’s internal drive, you’ll probably want to combine them into a single video file and convert them into a more universally usable format. The video files are in the MPEG-TS format, so searching for “Convert TS” will bring up countless guides and applications that can merge and convert the files. You may need to rename the raw video files to .ts, .m2ts, or .mpg before a video application will recognize them. One option is to merge and convert through an app/utility that has a command line interface, such as VLC’s command line or FFmpeg’s command line.

After saving your video recordings from the Fire TV Recast hard drive, do not delete the files from the drive using a computer. You should connect the drive back up to the Fire TV Recast and delete the recordings through your Fire TV.

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24 comments
  1. Calvin Mickael says:

    Damn it. I got so excited for something simple.

  2. David S. says:

    If you want simpler, you can do this with a Tablo or TiVo (via 3rd-party utilities).

  3. Paul Chambers says:

    Did you try Handbrake? It works pretty well for converting/transcoding files into something a little easier for media players to digest. It can be driven from the command line too, though the ‘queue’ support in the GUI works well, if you just have a handful of files to convert/compress.

  4. Paul Chambers says:

    If you want the drive to be ‘external’ today, use a longer SATA cable :) if you’d like something neater, use a SATA to eSATA cable inside, and an eSATA enclosure for the drive.

    The advantage of USB-based ‘external drive’ support is hot-plugging, and with DVRs, hot-plugging (or specifically hot-UNplugging during a recording) provides a bunch of difficult-to-solve usability issues, so there are usually caveats to external drive support on DVRs. The best the Lab126 guys could do is always to record onto the internal drive, and then copy it automatically to the external drive when the recording completes. That approach is robust in most scenarios.

  5. carmen granato says:

    Tablo?

  6. David Star says:

    A little out of topic, but can we replace the 500 GB HDD with a larger one without jumping through a huge amount of hoops? I was thinking of a 2-3 TB, copy the Root files and pray it will work.

  7. Cgltd says:

    Just get Plex

  8. Some One says:

    I wonder if the software tsmuxer would be capable of joining the files? It’s my favorite application for m2ts, ts, & MKV muxing.

  9. MrMC will play and stack these without an issue.

  10. Joe says:

    MCE Buddy a program that was designed for windows media center supports the conversion of .ts files. So you could strip the ads and compress the file size.

  11. Allegator says:

    Have you tried replacing the 1tb drive with something larger?

  12. Allegator says:

    Wondering if its possible to replace the 1tb drive with something larger or with an SSD.

  13. Kevin says:

    Hmmm. I am in USA and my fire tv recast has adb. So downloading is a simple `adb pull `. To add a larger drivs I would pull the block image (`adb pull /dev/block/mmcblk0 mmcblk0.img`) and format a larger drive with it, then stick the larger drive back

  14. allegator says:

    I’m in the USA as well. My Recast and Firestick are on a network with Windows PCs. If anyone can provide an idiot’s guide to downloading from the recast via adb it would be greatly appreciated. (I am comfortable at the command prompt, just need some spoonfeeding lol)

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