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How to Build a DVR

DVR Software

There are several DVR software packages available, and some of them are even free. Some video capture cards come packaged with free DVR software as well, so if you like the program your card came with, you won't have to buy any additional software.

The specific software you choose comes down to personal preference and the operating system on your DVR computer. If you're running Linux, you can use Freevo or MythTV, which are free, or SageTV, which is a commercial application -- that is, you have to pay for it. SageTV is a popular choice because in addition to Linux, it also runs under Windows, along with GB-PVR (free) and BeyondTV (commercial). Mac users can try Elgato's EyeTV or Miglia's EvolutionTV (both commercial).


The main differences between the programs lie in their interfaces and how customizable they are. Some programs use a dedicated server to send programming information to your DVR computer (which will have to be connected to the Internet, of course), while others use a Web browser to access program data. Additional features include online services, weather reports and the ability to convert video files to portable formats.

There is one other interesting option: you could use Microsoft Windows Media Center to run your DVR. You could even integrate a computer running Windows Media Center with an Xbox 360 using Windows Media Extender. This way, you control the on-screen functions through the Xbox, which solves the remote control problem (which we'll address shortly). You can even purchase a special Media Center remote for use with the Xbox, but newer universal remotes can be programmed to work with the Xbox just as well. It's even possible to have your DVR computer in another room, as long as both the computer and Xbox are connected to your home network.

Once all the internal components have been connected and the software is installed, it's time to hook your DVR computer to your TV. First, attach your cable connection or satellite cable to the video capture card's input.

Next, connect the DVR computer's video card to your TV. If you plan to watch HD, you'd probably use an HDMI connection, although component, S-Video or VGA are also possibilities, depending on your particular system.

To get sound, you'll have to connect the audio output of your computer to the inputs on your home theater system, or your TV if you don't have a home theater system.

Finally, connect the computer to the Internet, turn everything on and let the program list load. You should be ready to watch and record TV shows with your own home-built DVR.

For more information on DVRs and other related topics, skip on over to the next page.

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More Great Links


  • "Ultimate DVR Resource List." (May 2, 2009)
  • Mathis, Blair. "How to Build a DVR to Record TV - Using Your Computer to Record Live Television." Associated Content. June 2, 2008. (May 2, 2009)
  • Pash, Adam. "Hack Attack: Build Your Own DVR." Lifehacker. April 11, 2006. (May 2, 2009)
  • Salvatore, Dave. "Do-It-Yourself DVR." Nov. 2, 2004. (May 2, 2009),2817,1819140,00.asp
  • Sharp, Ken. "Free TiVo: Build a Better DVR out of an Old PC." Make. April 25, 2005. (May 2, 2009)