A hard drive video recorder is also more commonly known as a digital video recorder or DVR or personal video recorder or PVR and is used to record digital television content.
In the analog television days there was the VCR and VHS tape to record TV programs for later viewing or archiving, but now with digital television, the content is recorded on a DVR hard drive. The recording is in MPEG format and there is no encoding necessary prior to it being stored on the hard drive. It is stored as it is being transmitted in the same MPEG format.
Hard drives are very convenient for storing video for a number of reasons. First of all, the capacity of this type of storage medium is very high and cost effective. It allows for the storage of many hours of digital and high definition video content and the capacity of these units is increasing every year. Hard drives allow fast random access to the content and so it is not necessary to fast forward or rewind to find a program. The recorded programs are listed in a menu and can be accessed quickly by simply selecting the recorded program from the list. Also, when watching a video, the fast forward or rewind functions are much quicker than the sometimes long wait times associated with VHS tape technology. However, like a hard disk drive in a computer, a hard drive video recorder can fail suddenly. The typical lifetime of these recording devices is in the 2 to 5 year range and most only have a warranty for one year, but this varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. An extended warranty may be a good option to consider for this type of device because hard drive repair costs are usually more than the purchase of a new unit.
Hard drive video recorders provide a number of other features other than high recording capacity and the fast search options mentioned above. Most are used with a satellite company or cable company programming guide. Selecting programs to be recorded and time shifting are very easy, quick, and convenient tasks to perform when using the programming guide. The PVR or DVR hard drive also allows the pausing of live TV or the rewinding of a program in order to replay any parts that have been missed or simply to replay interesting scenes. Hard drive video recorders can also be used to record a program and start watching it after it has started and while it is still recording. Of course, when programs are recorded, commercials can be skipped and some units actually are programmed to do this automatically. Most PVRs or DVRs allow two programs to be recorded at once or the viewing of one program while recording another. Some have the ability to record two programs and watch a third simultaneously through the use of a triple tuner. The features available in a DVR hard drive really depend on the unit and so a little shopping around will be required. Cable and satellite companies often have units that are specific for their systems and in this case there is no choice on which PVR to purchase.
A hard drive video recorder allows programs to be archived on other storage media such as VHS or DVD. However, in general, the recordings are poorer quality than the original broadcast. This is purposely done in order to prevent the production of very high quality digital copies.