How to Record From DVR to Laptop

by Jeff Grundy

Transferring copies of recorded shows or movies from a digital video recorder to your laptop enables you to enjoy them virtually anywhere you go. Some DVRs include a USB port that you can use to connect to a desktop or laptop computer and configure the hard drive in the recorder as a removable storage device with a few mouse clicks. Using the DVR as an external storage device in this way, you can transfer video to your computer by simply dragging and dropping files in Windows Explorer. However, if you have an older DVR or one without USB support, you may have to use an external capture device to record video from the recorder to a laptop for safekeeping or viewing.

Connecting and Configuring the USB Video Capture Device

Step 1

Power off the laptop. Connect the large, flat end of the USB data cable for the capture device to a free USP port on the laptop, and then plug the other end into the “USB,” "USB Out" or “System” port on the video capture device. If the video capture box has an AC adapter cable to the capture box, plug it into the device and then into an electrical outlet.

Step 2

Turn on your laptop and log in to Windows normally. After you log in, wait about ten seconds or so for Windows to detect the USB video capture device and display a message prompting you for its driver installation disc. Insert the capture device's software installation disc into the optical drive of the laptop and wait for the setup wizard window to appear.

Click the "Install USB Driver" or "Setup Driver" link in the setup wizard window, and then follow the prompts to install the Windows device driver and capture software on the laptop. After installing the software, restart the laptop when prompted.

Connecting the DVR and Capturing Video

Step 1

Power off the DVR and television. Connect the DVR to the television if you have not already done so.

Step 2

Locate an unused set of "Audio Out" and "Video Out" ports on the rear or side of the TV. Connect one end of the RCA A/V cable set to the red, white and yellow ports labeled "Audio Out" and "Video Out." The colors of the RCA plugs and ports on the TV should match. Therefore, connect the yellow RCA plug to the "Video Out" and the red and white ones to the "Audio Out" ports.

Step 3

Connect the other end of the RCA A/V cable set to the matching colored ports on the USB capture device.

Step 4

Follow the instructions in the DVR user guide to load the recorded programming you want to record so that you can watch it normally on the TV. Once you select the recorded programming, queue it for playback, but do not press "Play" yet.

Step 5

Launch the video capture program on the laptop. After you start the capture application, wait for the program to recognize and configure the USB video capture box for initial use.

Step 6

Click “Capture," "Capture Video" or "Record Video" on the toolbar or menu bar of the capture application. After a few seconds, the preview window in the capture program turns from black to blue or green indicating the program is ready to receive video received through the capture device.

Step 7

Press the “Play” button on the DVR or its remote control to begin playing the recorded video on the television screen. As the video plays on the TV, the USB device captures the video using the stream from the "Audio Out" and "Video Out" ports on the television. As the USB device captures the DVR recording playing on the TV, the capture application records it to the laptop.

Step 8

Click the “Stop," "Stop Capture," "Stop Recording" or other similar button in the capture program preview window. Wait a few seconds for the capture program to shut down the recording process and finalize the new video file. Follow the prompts to save the recorded video on your laptop.

Open and view the recorded DVR video on the laptop using Windows Media Player or another media player application.


  • If for some reason the application fails to detect the USB video capture device, shut down the program and check the cable connection from the box to the laptop. After you ensure the cable connection from the USB capture device and laptop is tight and secure, restart the capture program. It should detect and configure the device.

Items you will need

  • USB capture device
  • Capture software (usually included with the capture device)
  • DVR
  • TV
  • RCA Audio/Video cables

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