How to Use a Computer as a DVR

By Editorial Team

Updated September 22, 2017

Items you will need

  • Possible external hard drives

  • Spare computer

  • Upgraded Windows Media software

  • TV tuner or tuner card

You no longer need to run out and spend the money on a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) or rent one from your local cable company. All you need to have is a computer, a little knowhow, and in no time you can have your very own DVR system. Your new DVR system will have all the features of the basic DVR at a fraction of the price. In fact, a TiVo subscription will cost you $10 to $20 dollars a month, every month, whereas the DVR you built yourself will never cost you another dime after it is setup.

Use a Computer as a DVR

Purchase a TV tuner. This will allow you to run the cable into your computer and give you access to all the channels your TV receives. The TV tuner will come fully quipped with a program on how to set up your DVR.

Upgrade your media software. Windows Media Center is a great option, which is usually included with newer model PC. If you need it, an outright purchase of this software would be well worth the upgrade to produce a homegrown DVR.

Purchase an external hard drive. If your computer is so old that the hard drive cannot contain at least 40GB of data, then you can simply go out and purchase a large external hard drive. This will allow the large video bytes room to breathe on your computer and allow for flawless viewing.

Record while not using the computer. Unless you are using a brand-new computer which has a duel core processor, it is recommended you do nothing else while the DVR is running. This will make certain your favorite shows record seamlessly.

Use your new media center to set up your DVR to record your favorite shows. Your new tuner will have most of the basic features of any DVR. You might not get the TV schedule that is downloaded for you by TiVo, but you will be able to record your favorite shows. You will also have a calendar feature allowing you the opportunity to set recordings for the future.


Use an old computer to become your new DVR. If you use your current computer to do both functions, you may experience interference. For instance, if you use your computer as it is trying to tape a show, the video will be poor and the audio can be out of sync. Dedicating an old computer to this function makes more sense.