Media Servers

DIY Media Server and DVR Review


DIY Media Server and DVR Review Highlights

Are you tired of paying extra to rent sub-standard hardware from your cable company so you can watch & record your favorite shows? In this article I’ll discuss how you can easily build your own high-definition digital video recorder (HD-DVR) that will allow you to do everything your cable box can do – plus it’s a full-featured media server – with no rented equipment.

DIY Media Server and DVR Review

DIY Media Server and DVR Review Highlights Summary

  • • Building your own DRM-free HD-DVR is easy and relatively inexpensive
  • • No more equipment rentals - a (usually free) CableCARD is all that’s needed from your Cable-TV provider
  • • Software options are numerous but Windows7 Media Center is the best option for a diy-DVR
  • • Integration with a Network Attached Server (NAS) is nice but optional
  • • Since the system is basically a Win7 computer, the possibilities for streaming media services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Vudu and the like are nearly limitless.

Introduction to the DIY Media Server and DVR Review

As Chris Eberle mentioned in his recent Technical Media Server review, ( the world of Home Theater PCs encompasses a huge variety of solutions – nearly limitless ways – to stream, store, play, and record your media. These range from the fairly easy (e.g. Apple TV), to the quite complex (Linux & MythTV fans I’m looking at you), and not every HTPC does every function. I like to think that my system, while not quite as simple as an Apple TV, is on the easier side of this spectrum. Before going into the details of my system though, I’ll briefly go over what the basic components are for a DVR+media server system from a DIY perspective.

There are a few fundaments every media system (be it a full blown HTPC or just a media player) must have: (1) some sort of media center software (this is the core of any media system); (2) the hardware (e.g. a PC) to run said software; (3) storage for your media; and (4) a controller (e.g. remote control or wireless keyboard).

Optionally, some systems may have a tuner to bring in the live TV programs to the system (for the DVR aspect of the system) and an optical drive (Blu-ray or DVD).

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