Recording From a Cable/Satellite DVR to a DVD Recorder

What to Do With the Video on Your DVR After the Hard Drive Gets Full

Magnavox and Funai DVD Recorders
Magnavox and Funai DVD Recorders. Images provided by Magnavox and Funai

With the increasing use of digital video recorders (like cable or satellite DVRs) there comes the question of what to do when their hard drives get full. You may be able to transfer your hard drive recordings to DVD, but there are some limitations. To find out more, keep reading.

Before You Get Started

The physical process of recording from a DVR to a DVD recorder is the same as recording to a VCR, or a DVD recorder/VCR combo.

In fact, your DVR or DVD Recorder user manual should have a page illustrating this.

You can connect a DVR to a DVD recorder, provided the following connection options are available. Use either the S-Video, or Yellow Composite video outputs, along with the read/white stereo audio outputs of the DVR to the S-Video or Composite Video and the red/white analog stereo inputs of the DVD recorder.

It is important before you purchase DVD recorder, or DVD recorder/VHS VCR combo that your DVR does have the connection options listed above - if your DVR only has HDMI outputs for video/video or HDMI for video and digital optical/coaxial outputs for audio, then you are out of luck as DVD recorders do not provide these input options - In other words, it is necessary for your DVR to analog video and audio outputs in order to be able to transfer video and audio signals to your DVD Recording device in order for you to copy your recordings from the DVR to DVD.

The Copy-Protection Factor

Also, even your DVR and DVD recorder have compatible connections, another factor to keep in mind is that with some programs you may have recorded on your DVR, such as those originating from HBO, Showtime, On-demand program services, and even some non-premium channels, employ a type of copy-protection that allows an initial recording on a DVR, but will prevent that program from being copied further onto DVD or VHS.

Since this is random, you won't know until you try it or take note of any copy-protection message before the program starts. If the DVD recorder detects a copy-protected signal, it will usually display a message on the DVD recorder's front panel and, possibility, eject the DVD disc.

For more details on the increased use of copy-protection that may prevent transferring recordings from a DVR to a DVD recorder, refer to my article: The Case of the Disappearing DVD Recorder.

DVR to DVD Recording Steps

If you want to transfer recordings that you have made on your DVR to DVD, here are the basic steps to follow.

  • Check your DVR and see if it has the following connections: S-Video, Composite Video (Yellow) and Audio outputs (Red and White).
  • Check your DVD recorder for these same connections as input options.
  • Connect the S-Video or Composite (Yellow) video and Red/White audio outputs of the DVR to the corresponding inputs on the DVD Recorder (labels include - video 1, video 2, line 1, line 2, or AV-in, AV1, AV2 - this labeling varies by manufacturer).
  • Set the DVD recorder to line or video input (line 1, line 2, video 1, video 2, AV-in, AV1, or AV2).
  • Insert your Blank DVD disc into the DVD recorder.
  • Follow the playback and recording instructions for the DVR and DVD recorder.

Other Things To Take Into Consideration

 If you subscribe to HD cable/satellite services, and have an High-Def DVR as part of that service, the recording on the DVD recorder will not be in high-definition, as DVD is not a high definition format. What will happen is that the DVR will downscale the recording output to standard definition via the S-video or Composite (yellow) video outputs so that the DVD recorder will be able to record the signal onto DVD.

If you are thinking that using a Blu-ray Disc recorder will allow you to make copies of your cable/satellite content in HD, it is also important to note that in the U.S., you can't record any HD content from a DVR to a Blu-ray Disc recorder.

Lastly, for more specifics on DVD recorders can and cannot do, check out our complete DVD Recorder FAQs