Do You Have to Use a Cable Service's DVR?

By Rob Kemmett

Consult the specifications on the DVR to find out how many programs it can hold.
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A digital video recorder, commonly known as a DVR, is a device that records television programs. Many major cable TV providers, such as AT&T U-verse and ComCast, supply customers with a DVR upon request. Opting for DVR service often adds to your monthly bill in more ways than one. Some cable companies charge you a monthly fee to rent a DVR and require you to pay a monthly service fee to use it. Although it is convenient, it is not required that you use your cable service provider's DVR. You may purchase and use a third-party DVR if you choose.

What is a DVR?

Digital video recorders record television programs and allow you to play them back at your convenience. Unlike VCRs, which save recorded programs on a cassette tape, a DVR records programs to its hard drive. Recorded programs can also be saved to memory cards, including thumb drives and SD memory cards. The programs saved are digital copies which can be played back on the DVR, portable media players and personal computers.

DVR Models

Motorola, TiVo and Monsoon Media are some of the manufacturers that sell digital video recorders that can be used in place of a cable company's DVR. SnapStream's Beyond TV is software that turns your computer into a DVR. Hook it up to a cable box and record television programs directly to your computer. DVRs can be purchased from online retailers, major retail stores or directly from the manufacturers.


DVRs are made for people on the go. With a DVR, you can record programs with the touch of a button. Set up the DVR to record an individual episode or the entire season of your favorite program -- the choice is yours. If you work long or unusual hours, a DVR is something you might want to look into, as you can watch recorded programs at any time you want. The programs are saved until you delete them. DVRs have large hard drives which store up to hundreds of hours of programming. If you save your programs to a removable hard disk, like a thumb drive or SD memory card, you can transfer the data to other compatible devices that play digital media. With a DVR, you can also pause, fast forward and rewind television programs.


Installing a DVR is no different than installing a cable box. Attach one end of a cable to the "Out" port on a cable box and the other end to the "In" port on the DVR -- it's as simple as that. The programming shown by the cable box will pass through the DVR and be recorded per your instruction. Each DVR is different and requires different cables. Some use coaxial cable, while others require HDMI cable.