How to Record TV Shows on a PC: 5 Methods That Work
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Do you remember the good old days? If you needed to record a TV show to watch later, you’d throw a cassette in the VCR and set up the timer. It was easy.

Today, VCRs barely still exist (though you will have to use one to convert your VHS collection into digital format How to Digitize Old VHS Tapes How to Digitize Old VHS Tapes It's time to digitize your old VHS tapes! We'll show you the hardware setup and free software you need to bring your VHS tapes to the 21st century. Read More ). As the cord-cutting phenomenon continues to gather pace Everyone Else Is Cutting the Cord, So Why Aren't You? Everyone Else Is Cutting the Cord, So Why Aren't You? I cut the cord back in 2013 and more and more people are following suit, completely ditching their cable service. But not everyone is cutting the cord, and we decided to find out why... Read More , more people than ever are watching TV through their computers.

So, if you want to record TV shows on your PC, what options do you have available? A lot depends on how you’re receiving the video in the first place.

In this article, we’re going to introduce you to a selection of apps, devices, and services that’ll let you record TV on your PC.

How to Receive a Signal

Broadly speaking, there are three ways to receive a live TV signal on your computer screen.

Over-the-Air (OTA) Antenna

An OTA antenna can pick up any free-to-air channels in your area. You can pick up cheap OTA antennas at your local supermarket, but for a sleek high-end option, check out the popular Mohu Leaf.

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We will discuss how to record OTA footage later in the piece.

Cable TV

You can pay a cable company for access to premium channels. The packages vary from $20 per month through to a couple of hundred. The average cable bill in the U.S. is $103.

For both cable TV and an OTA antenna, you will also need a TV tuner if you want to watch the content on your computer. You can either use an internal Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) card, an external USB card, or a network attached device. A network attached device – such as the HDHomeRun – is the preferred option.

Getting a cable TV signal onto your computer is further complicated by the channel encoding format. It is called Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM). QAM frequencies vary between cable providers; it can be difficult to establish the correct frequencies for your provider.

Luckily, there’s a workaround. We’ll discuss it shortly.

Online Services

There are an increasing number of online services which offer live TV. The three most popular are SlingTV, DirecTV, and PlayStation Vue.

These services are the easiest way to get live content on your computer, but they are the most fiddly to record. You will need to decide whether the tradeoff is worth it.

Great, let’s take a closer look at some of the apps and devices that can help you record live TV.

1. Plex

If you’re a keen cord cutter, you will already know about Plex Plex Pass: What Do You Get for Your Money? Plex Pass: What Do You Get for Your Money? In order to know whether or not you need a Plex Pass, you first need to know exactly what you get for your money. Read More . It’s one of the best ways to access, manage, and cast your locally-saved media.

Plex offers a premium service called Plex Pass. The subscription costs $14.99 for three months, $39.99 for a year, and $119.99 for a lifetime.

One of the best features of Plex Pass is access to live TV. If you pick up an antenna and a digital tuner, you can watch any OTA channels in your area What Can You Watch Using a TV Antenna? What Can You Watch Using a TV Antenna? What if there was a cheap, legal way to gain access to many of the big networks? You'd probably lap it up. Well, it turns out there is! Step forward the trusty TV antenna. Read More . The content is displayed on a full electronic program guide (EPG).

Plex Pass also provides you with a DVR Plex Live TV: Everything You Need to Know Plex Live TV: Everything You Need to Know Plex has added live TV channels to its service, but what exactly is Plex Live TV? We have everything you need to know about this exciting new option for cord-cutters. Read More . It means you can use the EPG to set programs to record. When the recording has finished, it will be available on your Plex server. You can watch it on any of your Plex apps.

2. Movavi Screen Recorder

If you don’t use Plex, you might consider purchasing a subscription from one of the TV “skinny bundle” providers. Right now, three services lead the way: SlingTV, DirecTV, and PlayStation Vue Sling TV vs. DirecTV Now vs. PlayStation Vue: How Do They Compare? Sling TV vs. DirecTV Now vs. PlayStation Vue: How Do They Compare? In this article, you’ll learn the differences between three major OTT internet television streaming services: Sling TV, DirecTV Now, and PlayStation Vue. Read More .

Using the skinny bundle services has advantages from a budgeting standpoint. You can “shave” the cord If You Can't Cut the Cord, Try Cord Shaving Instead If You Can't Cut the Cord, Try Cord Shaving Instead If you've been paying attention, you know cord cutting is all the rage. But cord cutting isn't for everyone, so "cord shaving" is starting to gain traction. Read More ; reduce your existing cable TV package down to a basic package and sign up to one of the three providers. You’ll have more TV channels to choose from, but your monthly outgoings will be lower.

How to Record TV Shows on a PC: 5 Methods That Work movavi app 670x420

SlingTV offers a DVR facility, but it costs $5 extra per month and only permits you to store 50 hours of footage. PlayStation Vue also offers a DVR facility. It’s free, but there are no custom timer options; users frequently complain about the end of programs getting cut off. DirecTV does not offer a DVR feature.

The solution is to try a screen recorder. The Movavi app works well. It has a customizable capture area. Just fire up the app and drag the capture area over the top of the live stream. You can convert the file into the format you want at the end of the process.

Remember: It is illegal to distribute footage you record using the above method.

Download: Movavi Screen Recorder

3. Hauppauge HD Personal Video Recorder 2

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Let’s look at the problem from a different angle.

The two solutions we’ve discussed above both assume you want to record TV footage that’s coming through your internet connection. But what if you’re not a cord cutter? What if you still have a cable subscription and want to retain copies of shows, just like we used to do with VHS cassettes?

You will need a Hauppauge HD Personal Video Recorder (PVR) 2.

How to Record TV Shows on a PC: 5 Methods That Work Hauppauge pvr

The device is nothing new, gamers have used them for years to record their antics How to Record Xbox One Gameplay How to Record Xbox One Gameplay Want to record gameplay on your Xbox One? Here's how to capture video from your most awesome Xbox gaming moments. Read More and either post them online or save them for posterity. You can even use the device as part of your setup to digitize old VHS cassettes.

Setting up the device is relatively straightforward. You will need to connect component video and audio cables between your cable box and your Hauppauge device, then connect the USB cable from the PVR to your computer.

Install the necessary drivers and software on your machine, then follow the on-screen instructions to start recording. You can configure the audio and video settings, the recording format, and the bitrate.

Once you become proficient in using your new setup, you can perform more advanced tasks such as scheduling recordings and burning Blu-ray disks.

4. HDHomeRun

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The final way to record TV shows on your PC is to use an HDHomeRun device. It’s a TV tuner, so you will need to pair it with an OTA antenna to receive channels. Right now, the most popular and versatile OTA antenna is the Mohu Leaf. You can pick one up on Amazon.

HDHomeRun devices come in either a two-tuner or a three-tuner model. Both have the ability to record footage.

However, like SlingTV, HDHomeRun requires a subscription in order to use the DVR features. The subscription costs $35 per year, but also adds a 14-day TV guide, the ability to pause and rewind live TV, and a way to watch live TV while simultaneously recording another channel.

How to Record TV Shows on a PC: 5 Methods That Work hdhomerun

There are even a few quirky options, such as being able to set your favorite sports team and automatically record all its games during a season.

HDHomeRun recordings can be managed from your computer or through one of the mobile/smart TV apps. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to remove your recordings from the cloud and share them offline.

Alternatively, you could check out Tablo. Tablo is a standalone box that offers DVR capabilities when you attach an aerial. Again, you can access your recordings through the company’s apps, but you can’t take your recordings offline. Tablo only works with OTA television.

You can use Tablo’s DVR for free, but the $4.99 subscription introduces additional options such as series recording, a 14-day EPG, metadata, and artwork.

5. MythTV

There is one other way to record live TV on your computer, but it’s not user-friendly.

The app is called MythTV. It’s a free, open-source video recorder. It started life back in 2002 as someone’s pet project but has since grown to become a viable alternative to the now-defunct Windows Media Center.

How to Record TV Shows on a PC: 5 Methods That Work mythtv 670x378

The feature list is impressive. You can record analog and digital TV, pause live shows, automatically skip commercials, and even deploy parental controls The Best Windows 10 Parental Control Tools The Best Windows 10 Parental Control Tools Wondering how to make your PC child-friendly? Our Windows 10 parental control tools and advice will help you control kids' computer usage and keep them safe online. Read More .

So, what’s the downside? Well, the installation process is a nightmare. You will need to compile the app yourself as the developers don’t offer an EXE file. Explaining the process is beyond the scope of this piece, but you can check out the instructions on the app’s official wiki.

How Do You Record TV Shows on Your PC?

We’ve shown you four different ways you can use your computer to record live TV. Some methods – such as the Hauppauge PVR and the Movavi app – will create an offline version of the show which you can use anywhere.

Others – such as Plex and HDHomeRun – don’t provide you with portable copies of your recordings but do allow you to watch the videos from anywhere in the world through their families of apps.

Now it’s over to you. How do you record TV shows on your PC? Which apps, devices, and services do you use?

Explore more about: Media Player, Plex, Record Audio, Record Video, Television.

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  1. Kav
    May 5, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    NextPVR is great.So easy to setup recording by simply putting in a keyword for the show/film.Seems like the author really understands what you need with this kind of software.

  2. Jon
    September 22, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    How many channels can you record at once?

  3. Dave
    July 15, 2016 at 9:40 pm

    what is the best way with windows10 ?

  4. reggi
    April 29, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    thx a lot for info

  5. MrG
    April 14, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    What about MediaPortal?

  6. Greg
    April 8, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    I use windows media center in my house, and we love it. All of our pictures, home videos, music, live tv, recorded tv is all in one place.

  7. Chriscarroll1988
    March 4, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    This is illegal

    • Dave Drager
      March 4, 2011 at 6:25 pm

      It is most certainly *not* illegal in the United States. The doctine of time-shifting television programming is well established; the only thing that would be illegal is if you record it and then send it to others.

      • Aibek
        March 5, 2011 at 7:08 am

        I am with Dave, it's illegal only if you're distributing it.

        • Aibek
          March 5, 2011 at 2:06 pm

          btw, great article Dave!

    • John
      March 24, 2011 at 12:38 pm

      This is no different then say a DVR that the cable company provides or a TiVo system

  8. Victord66
    March 4, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    "The cheapest way is to install an antenna and bring in an OTA (Over-the-air) signal."

    Ok, now that I have an antenna, how do I attach the antenna to my pc? Your article omits a few steps here......

    • Dave Drager
      March 4, 2011 at 6:24 pm

      The antenna should have a coax output. So it depends on the antenna, but you would mount it and then bring the wire down to your computer. You need a tuner card on your computer.

  9. Victord66
    March 4, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    "The cheapest way is to install an antenna and bring in an OTA (Over-the-air) signal."

    Ok, now that I have an antenna, how do I attach the antenna to my pc? Your article omits a few steps here......

  10. Ivan kolevski
    March 4, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Here's two of my favorites:
    http://www.team-mediaportal.co... Media Portal
    http://xbmc.org/ XBMC

  11. Larry
    March 4, 2011 at 11:04 am

    I use an analog-digital converter box for OTA signal for my television. I have a very basic cable service as well. Both signals go to my TV through coax cable. How do I get the signal into my PC as none of them have a port for coax?

    • Dave Drager
      March 4, 2011 at 6:23 pm

      You would need to use a tuner card. Basically it will work like your television. Uusually this means change to channel 3, and then tune with the analog-to-digital adapter. The problem is that you can't automatically record anything without having a complicated setup, because you need an ir transmitter to tune the adapter for you.

  12. Jamie
    March 4, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Great BUT will I get in trouble?

    • Aibek
      March 5, 2011 at 2:05 pm

      no you won't. just don't share/distribute the recording.