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How to Use a PC as a DVR

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Authored by Mike Bacon in Computers
Published on 11-14-2009

These days many of us like to record our favorite television programs to view later. This gives us convenience, and also lets us fast forward through the commercials. While I doubt the folks on Madison Avenue would be happy about the latter, it is a time saver.

DVRs’ are offered by many cable and satellite providers as a premium service. If your cable or satellite provider doesn’t offer a DVR, you can purchase one. Many of these standalone DVR’s like TiVo can be rather expensive.

Another option might be to use your computer to record your favorite programs. This can often be achieved less expensively than purchasing a DVR.

One of the first things you need to have is a TV Tuner card for your computer. For you to be able to record television programming on your computer, you have to be able to receive the programming in the first place.

The newer TV Tuner cards will have software that will enable you to configure your computer to record video signals coming in to the computer. There are several TV Tuner cards available, most notably from ATI and nVidia. These cards may cost anywhere from $75.00 to $200.00. You can also look into external Fire-wire or USB turners, but those tend to be a bit more expensive. They can cost on the order of $100.00 to $300.00.

Another piece of hardware you should consider if you wish to use your computer as a DVR, is an external hard drive. Even with today’s larger hard drives, you may not want your video files on your main drive. Video files can be large, for example a 30 minute program can take up approximately 1.5 GB of space. Therefore, it would be recommended to dedicate a drive for this purpose. If you plan on recording a lot of video, a Terabyte drive might not be a bad investment.

Using your PC as a DVR may create other problems as well. If you have an older computer that does not have a Dual core processor, and attempt to use your computer while you are recording, you may end up with poor video output. Your audio may also be out of sync. If you have an older computer that you plan to dedicate to acting as your DVR, make sure nothing else is running.
If your computer has a newer Dual or even Quad core processor, you will find the experience and results much more satisfactory.

With a Vista PC, especially equipped with Windows Media Center, you already have the software solution for recording video on your computer. When you use WMC you can use a TV signal configuration wizard to ensure you get the best signal to record your favorite programs. One downside to this suggestion is that Windows Media Center computers are sold with the software installed as part of the Vista OS only on specific computers. However there are other sources for the software to turn your computer into a DVR.

A simple Google search will net you quite a few possibilities.

It may take a bit of money and configuration, but if you are persistent, you can turn your computer into your DVR.

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