Can you build your own Digital Video Recorder

The answer to the question in the title is yes. However it’s not that simple. Because doing so is a rather technical task. If you have built your own computer or replaced any parts inside of a personal computer then the task might be a little less frustrating. Microsoft Vista comes with Windows Media Center. As long as you have a TV tuner card installed inside of your computer you will be able to record television shows. Of course you would need a way to stream that content to your television. Or the computer would need to be located in the same room as the television set. There are variety of other products and services that offer the same capabilities. So Microsoft isn’t your only choice.

Your choices in regards to content become very limited if you don’t have broadband, cable or satellite provider. Of course some video capture cards are capable of receiving over the air broadcast. This does limit content choices do to less television stations being available to choose from. From a technical standpoint though you can build your own DVR. The question just ends up being how much money and time do you want to invest in the project? For me it has always seemed less aggravating to pay for a DVR unit from my cable company Comcast ( previously Insight Communications ). Although over the years this Motorola unit has made me want to throw it across the room more than once. Many times I have contemplated setting up a dedicate media PC.

What I have wanted to do is take the machine I’m typing this on now and make it the Digital Video Recorder / media center. This would require that I have enough money to build a new computer for internet use. Unfortunately right now that money isn’t in the budget. I do have some low end components lying around that I might be able to use to make a dedicated media machine. I’ve just not done enough research at this point to explore that option.

Every time I have looked at the various products and services available for homebrew DVR I keep getting the feeling I would have to compromise. This is less of an issue if you are just wanting to capture over the air broadcast. I’m thinking more along the lines of if you are wanting to replace your cable or satellite provider’s rental DVR box. There are many people that will tell you building your own is the best DVR option. In some cases the other solutions aren’t any cheaper because you still have to pay a monthly service fee.

There are a couple of open source projects that allow you to build your own Digital Video Recorder. MythTV is probably the most well known. I’ve seen mention of MythTV for years now in various forums. Many people swear this is the way to go when building your own DVR. But keep in mind even MythTV has seen some bumps in the road. Honestly I think almost all the software options out there at one time or another have had some hiccups. MythTV will only work with Linux or Apple Mac.

In the end the simple answer is purchase a video capture card with a tuner and you will have many options in regards to having your own personal Digital Video Recorder ( DVR ). Although it’s really not that simple. If you are willing to have a computer in the same room as your television and it can be hooked up to that device. Then you are left with the choice of software for recording the shows you want to watch. Many people don’t want a computer in their living room. So you are then stuck coming up with how to stream recorded content to your television set. For many years now options have existed that do just that.

There are many options to choose from. The problem is deciding which one suits your needs. I’ve wanted to setup a dedicated media center to reduce the need to burn DVD’s and to have all my media content in one easy to use place. This would also alleviate any problems in regards to storage capacity. Since I could add a hard drive at any time. I’ve put off exploring this project for years because I figured I wouldn’t get what I wanted out of it in regards to ease of use when recording content. For several months now though I have been seriously thinking about giving in and building a media only machine.

It should be kept in mind that broadcasters and content providers have tried to limit what you can record with your Digital Video Recorder. This has been an ongoing fight from the first day this type of technology was introduced.

I’ll provide many links to products, services and online articles I’ve read over the years in regards to setting up your own Digital Video Recorder ( DVR ). This way readers can explore the various options that exist and read other thoughts on the subject. You will also get to read opinions on the pros and cons of the different solutions that are available.

What got me to finally put my thoughts on the subject into writing was a local online article and the Slashdot story from yesterday that covered the topic.

Buy a Digital Video Recorder DVR

Western Digital My Book AV-TV USB 3.0 (1TB) DVR Expander

Western Digital WD 1TB My Book AV DVR Expander External Hard Drive – USB 2.0 – WDBABT0010HBK-NESN

Motorola DCX3400 HD / DVR Set Top Cable Box with Standard 320GB Dual Tuner Hard Drive

TiVo BOLT 500 GB DVR: Digital Video Recorder and Streaming Media Player – 4K UHD Compatible – Works with Digital Cable or HD Antenna

TiVo Roamio OTA 1 TB DVR – With No Monthly Service Fees – Digital Video Recorder and Streaming Media Player – Compatible only with HDTV Antennas (does not work with cable)

Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition

I nuked my Motorola DCT6412 III

Slashdot | Build a BoxeeBox and Wean Yourself From Cable

Moments of Clarity…: We interrupt these cuddly adoption updates for something really unimportant

A Thermaltake ProWater 850i Liquid Cooling system in use

Hack Attack: Build your own DVR

MythTV, Open Source DVR

Frequently Asked Questions – MythTV

MythTV Wiki

MythTv Player

DeviceGuru » First impressions of Netflix’s $100 STB

Comparison of PVR software packages – Wikipedia

DeviceGuru » The BoxeeBox Cookbook

DeviceGuru » Boxee adds Netflix movie downloads

Independent DVR

SageTV® Media Center – PVR, Music and Photos for Windows and Linux PCs and consumer electronics devices

Analog showtime/hbo use with capture cards

04/01/2004 FCC mandate for IEEE1394 on all STB’s

DVR Box Ethernet Connectivity

DVR usage question

DVR missing programs

Extract shows from DVR?

All in One Wonder Box – DVR’s wild card in bundle battles? – Comcast to test DVRs that use cable lines

Adding a hardrive to DVR

DVRs tune in to integration

DVRs–are they hot or not?

Judge to hear DVR owners’ request

Microsoft plugs new DVR

MSOs Offer New Cable-DVR Set-top Boxes to Digital Customers

Is it possible to access the hard drive of the dvr?

How to change the HDD in a PVR SA8300

Sonicblue taps Amazon to sell new DVR

Sonicblue to change DVR service fees

Sonicblue granted stay in “spying” order

Sony DVR to sport broadband

Study: DVR adoption on the rise

TiVo collects and sells usage information

Slashdot | Timeshifting: Cram More Into Life

The Netflix way –

TiVo sues EchoStar over DVR patent

Would you like to learn even more about the history and events related to the Digital Video Recorder? Then follow this link to my old bookmark project. Most of the links above came directly from here.

A Commercial-Free Windows Media Center

TiVo Vs. Media Center Edition

How Do I Record DirecTV on my HTPC?

Download Instructions – LinuxMCE wiki

From Cool to Creepy, Latest LinuxMCE Has it All

Freevo – Wikipedia

Freevo Media Centre | Home Theatre Platform HTPC & PVR

Homebrew DVR – SatelliteGuys.US

HomeBrew DVR discussions AVS forum

What homebrew PVR do you use? – AVS Forum

Knoppix + MythTV = KnoppMyth (Or, How I Created My Own Homebrew PVR For $70) « Flyback Transformer

GB-PVR mediacentre. TV, Music, Video, Pictures, DVD


KnoppMyth – Wikipedia

[HN7000S] Cannot access DVR from internet with HN 7000S

[DVR] SA DVR 8300 (including HD) and External SATA HD

Home made DVR/media center help

Tivo or DVR alternative

Sketch Out Basic $0 Home TV/DVR Environment?

how important is mem/cpu//gpu with an HTPC?

[DVR] Transfer files off DVR / expand space ?

Find Geek Squad® services online at!

LinuxMCE: MythTV for the rest of us?


Free TiVo: Build a Better DVR out of an Old PC

Slashdot | Build Your Own DVR

Slashdot | First Impressions of the Neuros Link

DeviceGuru » First impressions of the Neuros Link

At-home entertainment and family bonding booms –

HTPC Set-up Issue Comcast

Hands-on the Moxi HD DVR summer update: So close, but yet so far

Your DVR Is Watching You – Cable eyes thermal smart cameras for DVRs

Boxee Watches $6 Million More In Funding Stream In

boxee blog » Boxee gets a $6M catalyst

How to turn a spare Linux machine into a media server | News | TechRadar UK