How to Enjoy DVR Without Subscription

In these trying times, it makes more sense to cancel cable subscriptions. I mean seriously, who needs a thousand channels? The problem though is that canceling cable TV service usually means you also forgo the DVR (digital video recorder) that goes with it. Unless you’ve been living under a rock all this time, you know that the DVR is a super-convenient way of recording TV programs on a hard disk instead of on a video tape. It frees us from scheduling our time around the broadcast schedules of TV programs.

Now without cable you can still get yourself a DVR service, since the convenience they bring is something that most people are beginning to take for granted. In 2006, a little over 1% of American households had DVR. By 2011, it was already being used by 42% of US households. And it won’t be surprising at all if the number has doubled now.

But these DVR services (such as TiVo) which you can use to replace cable services mostly require subscription fees as well, so what’s the point? Is there a way to enjoy DVR without subscription? It turns out that there is.

Your PC can also be used as your very own DVR. You simply need to install a few necessary components and you’re all set.

  • First of all, you don’t need a supercomputer for the job. If you have a modern PC that at the very least uses Windows XP, you’re good to go. For XP machines and Macs, you’ll need a minimum RAM of 512 megabytes. For Windows 7 (and Vista machines for that matter), 2 gigs should be the minimum.

Since you’re recording TV shows, you’ll also need ample storage space. TV shows can occupy as much as 500 megabytes per program, and you’ll need more for HD shows. If your hard disk space is getting a bit cramped, you may want to get an external hard drive with a terabyte or two of storage space.

  • Then you’ll need a television tuner card. There’s one for every type of TV, from standard to high-def. There are even some for analog TVs, which I’m told still exist in the US. Just make sure that the output connection of the card is compatible with the input sockets on your TV. There are some TV tuner cards which only work with over-the-air signals, but that’s fine really if you no longer have cable. But you should still consider a card that’s also compatible with cable, since you never know when you’ll change your mind and get a subscription again.

Get the ones which can be connected via a USB port, since the ones which need to be installed in your computer takes more effort. Most tuner cards also include the software you need so that’s one less thing to worry about.

Installing and configuring the PC can take a bit of time and effort, not to mention some know how. If you don’t want to be bothered with this, you can just do some online research and find a DVR that doesn’t charge any subscription. The Moxi HD DVR is one example, but be ready to pay $800 or so. But if the point is to save money by enjoying DVR without subscription, then the PC is definitely the way to go.

Jack Thompson