A hard drive video recorder is also more commonly known as a digital video recorder or DVR or personal video recorder or PVR and 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 storing it on the hard drive. Storage is in the same MPEG format as transmitted.
Hard drives are convenient for storing video for a several reasons. First, 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 as was the need for VHS tapes and VCRs. A menu lists recorded programs and the recordings are quickly accessible 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.
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. However, many reports exist of these type of units lasting 10 or more years, which is remarkable considering their frequent use. 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 several other features other than high recording capacity and the fast search options mentioned above. Most are affiliated with a satellite company or cable company programming guide. Selecting the recording of programs and possibly time shifting them 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 to replay any missed parts or simply to replay interesting scenes. Hard drive video recorders can also record a program and start watching it after it has started and while it is still recording. In some cases when recording programs, skipping commercials is an option and some units are programmed to do this automatically.
Most PVRs or DVRs allow the recording of two programs at once or the viewing of one program while recording another. Some can record two programs and watch a third simultaneously using a triple tuner. The features available in a DVR hard drive 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 the archiving of programs on other storage media such as VHS or DVD. However, in general, the recordings are poorer quality than the original broadcast. This done to prevent the production of high-quality digital copies.