How to Build a DVR the Easy Way

Wondering how to build a DVR so you can bypass monthly fees and expensive hardware? With technology becoming so inexpensive, it's easy to build your own DVR system from a few basic parts. 

Start with a Computer
The first thing you need is a computer. You can use an old computer, you can buy a computer just for the DVR or you can even use an existing computer that you currently use. Using an existing computer saves money, and using an old computer is a great way to put that technology to use instead of tossing it out when you upgrade.

You should use a fairly current operating system; the equivalent of Windows 2000 or newer, with at least 1GB of RAM and plenty of hard-drive space. Depending on how much data you want to store, you may want one 250GB drive or multiple 125GB or 250GB hard drives.

Add a TV Capture Card
TV capture cards enable your computer to receive and process TV signals. You can also add specific DVR cards to enable advanced DVR features. At a minimum, your computer needs the right hardware to connect to your TV signal, which usually means a coaxial or component video port. For added ease of operation, look for a TV capture card that comes with a remote control, so you don't have to constantly get up and go to the computer to make selections.

Look for DVR Software
Many software manufacturers have jumped onto the build-it-yourself DVR bandwagon with their own DVR software. Take a look at the DVR software that exists, and examine screenshots and features. Different DVR software programs enable you to record in different ways. Some software programs, for example, have the option of skipping commercials altogether, while others require you to manually fast forward through commercials. Examine your options, read reviews and select the right DVR software for your viewing style and recording habits.

Consider the TV Connection
Most modern graphics cards already come with outputs to connect your computer to your TV. However, if you've got an S-video output and a HD television, you might want to upgrade your video card to output HD-quality video. Set your resolution according to the signal type and the television type. If you're using a standard-definition cable signal and a cable TV, setting the resolution too high can distort the TV signal and make it appear stretched or grainy on your TV. Play with the resolution settings until you get a good picture on your television.

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