How Can I Record What Is on My TV Screen?

By Brent Watkins

With the takeover of HDTV (high definition television), recording what is on your TV screen may not be as straightforward as it once was. The days of simply putting a videotape into your VCR and pressing record are quickly disappearing. Older, standard definition video recording equipment is not compatible with new high definition television signals. However, you can continue to record on a standard definition format like VHS or recordable DVD with the right equipment, or use your computer to record full HDTV video.

Assess What You Have

Determine the type of television you have. If you are using a standard definition television with a convertor box that allows you to receive HDTV signals, your convertor box may be the answer. Most are designed to allow composite RCA video outputs as well as a cable connection to your computer. Use the coaxial cable to connect the convertor box to your television, and the RCA jacks to connect your converted incoming HDTV signal to record onto your existing VCR or DVD recorder. You will not be recording in high definition (HD), but since you are not watching in HD to begin with, you won’t notice the difference in quality.

Recording HDTV

You may have already upgraded to an HDTV set to receive television programs in the best possible quality. Unfortunately, recording technology for HDTV can still be expensive. Blu-Ray discs offer the highest definition experience currently available. While Blu-Ray players have become more affordable, Blu-Ray disc recorders remain expensive. However, affordable alternatives exist to record HDTV. Personal video recorders (PVRs) are computer devices that allow you to pause, record, or schedule recordings of live television programs. Because high definition television is a digital technology, the recording medium is also digital. Videotape is an obsolete recording technology. New recording technologies typically involve a type of computer that stores what is recorded from your TV onto digital computer files. Companies like TiVo and cable and satellite programming providers offer PVRs that allow you to record programs to these devices. The number of programs you can record depends on the size of the hard drive included with the unit. A disadvantage of a PVR device is the inability to transfer the stored video onto another medium like a computer or DVD.

Add a TV Tuner to your Computer

If you already have a newer desktop or laptop computer in your home, you may have your answer for quickly and easily recording your television programs. Adding a device known as a TV tuner to your computer is easy, and will cost less money than investing in a personal video recorder. A computer TV tuner plugs into the USB port of your computer and allows you to receive and record HDTV signals directly to your computer. Depending on your computer model, you may also be able to view the programs recorded on your computer through your television. TV tuners receive and record television signals in full high definition quality. Your computer can be a powerful tool to help organize and schedule recording of your favorite television programs to view at your convenience. However, make sure you have adequate disc storage if you want to record a significant number of television programs. External hard drives are an easy and affordable way to add additional storage space. Consider a drive with at least 60 gigabytes of storage capacity for building a digital video library.