Digital video recorders, or DVRs, are set-top boxes that record television content onto hard drives for later playback. They let users skip over commercials, pause live programs, and record one channel while watching another. When you want to travel, it's not feasible to take your DVR with you. However, it is possible to transfer high-definition videos from your DVR to a laptop computer. The method for doing so will depend on your DVR model, but it generally requires a few cables and some added software.
Networking Your DVR
Check your DVR manual to see if it can be connected to computer via a local area network (LAN). TiVo DVRs offer this function through a free program called TiVo Desktop.
Connect your DVR to your home network by plugging a wireless network adapter into one of it's USB ports, or connecting it's Ethernet port to your network hub with an Ethernet cable. If necessary, check the website of your device's manufacturer to see if they offer network adapters that allow their devices to connect to a computer.
Download and install software (such as TiVo Desktop for TiVo DVRs) that will let you access your DVR's content on your computer.
Open your Networks control panel by clicking "Start," then "Control Panel," and Network," then make sure "DHCP" is checked. This will enable your laptop to detect the DVR automatically.
Connect your computer to the network by turning on its wireless antenna or connecting it to a network hub with an Ethernet cable.
Launch TiVo Desktop, or the software specific to your DVR's manufacturer. You will be presented with an on-screen menu of all your DVR content, which you can then save to your hard drive in the format of your choice.
Connecting with A/V Cables
Buy a USB video-input card that has headphone audio and S-Video inputs, composite (red, white, and yellow) A/V inputs, or HDMI inputs. These are available at most electronics stores, although the variety with composite inputs will likely be the easiest to find.
Install any input card software drivers.
Download a free video editor such as FreeDV or Wax. You can also use Microsoft Movie Maker or Microsoft Media Center, which may be included on your computer.
Connect your DVR's video outputs to the inputs on your USB video card using cables with the appropriate connectors. If you are using an S-Video cable, be sure to also connect a headphone cable to carry audio. Composite cables with red, white, and yellow connectors carry audio and video, as do HDMI cables.
Turn on the DVR and launch your video editing software.
Select your USB video input card from the list of possible inputs, which can usually be found under "File" and "Preferences."
Use your DVR remote to select the content you want to save on the laptop and press "Play."
Click "Record" when the video and audio start to play on your laptop screen. You will be able to choose a file format and save the video to your hard drive.
Things You'll Need
Composite A/V cables
Video capture software