Beginners Guide to Security DVRs and How to Install Them

A Security Digital Video Recorder (Security DVR) system records high resolution digital images to a hard disk drive (HDD), the same type of hard drive used in PCs. However there is no operating system stored on the hard drive, it is simply a storage medium so if it should ever fail you simply replace it. Installing a hard drive is quite simple which is why we give you the option to save some money by buying it without the hard drive and you install your own. Most security DVRs use a Linux operating system that is stored on internal flash memory and are quite robust and reliable. Since the video images are stored digitally, the image quality will not degrade overtime, as would a VHS tape when recorded over multiple times.

These types of standalone security DVRs generally come in 4, 8, and 16 channels, some are offered in 24 and 32 channels but are less common. The number of channels means how many cameras can be plugged into them. 4 channel recorders are pretty common among most homeowners but if you feel you may want to add more cameras later then choose an 8 or 16 channel. Most manufacturers also offer software that can connect multiple DVRs together so the number of cameras you can use is quite large if needed.

Think of the security DVR as the brain of your security system. Just as you need eyes to see what is going on around you your DVR will need cameras plugged into it to see. You can use most any standard resolution security camera with most any security DVR. Then when the high definition 1080p cameras were first introduced they generally needed a specific format of video recorder such as HD-TVI, AHD, or CVI to see and record the images. However most security DVRs produced today have the ability to record multiple HD formats, making it much easier to use any HD camera whether it is TVI, AHD or CVI.

If you are confused and need help deciding on which camera you need please refer to Tips for Choosing the Right Security Camera for some helpful ideas. The cameras will usually be mounted to a wall or ceiling in the area you want to monitor. All cameras need power to operate but it is not necessary to have a power outlet where the camera is mounted since it can receive its power through the power and video cables that will need to be connected. Most cameras only come with a 2ft or 3ft starter cable so you will need to buy extension cables. The easiest way is to purchase pre-made cables in the length you need since they will have the correct connections for the camera and DVR already installed. We offer pre-made cables with power and video in 25 ft, 50 ft, 100 ft and 150 ft. If for example you only need 40 ft. then buy the 50 ft. cable and just leave the remainder coiled up by your DVR or in a attic space.

This extension cable will have power and video connections on both ends, so one end of this cable is connected to the camera's power and video leads. The other end of the cable is run back to the DVR which is usually located inside your home or business where access and power outlets are most convenient. Of course most people do not want to see exposed wires so you may need to run the cables through walls and attic or crawl spaces if you want to hide the wires or along baseboards. If running the wires through walls or attics is something you are not comfortable doing most any electrician or handyman could be hired for that aspect of the installation.

Then back by the DVR you will attach the video lead from the extension cable into one of the video inputs on the DVR which provides the video image from the camera, then the power lead of the extension cable plugs into the camera's power supply which is how you get the power out to the camera. You will need to do this for each camera so you will probably want to use a power strip with multiple outlets or a 12 volt DC power box if you have a lot of cameras installed. The DVR also has its own power supply that will need to be plugged into an outlet. Another option is to buy bulk RG59 or RG6 cable and make your own cables. To make your own cables you will need to purchase twist-on or crimp connectors for the video inputs. If using crimp connectors you will also need a proper crimp tool. Making your own cables is generally done by professional installers but anyone can make them with a little practice.

Now that you have a security DVR and cameras hooked up how do you see the images? Since the DVR is just a recorder like a VCR it will need to be plugged into some type of monitor to setup its features or see the video. Most newer DVRs that provide 1080p or higher resolution have HDMI outputs for plugging into HD TVs or monitors as well as VGA outputs. Whichever output you choose when you first turn on the DVR you will probably need to input the default username and password to see a menu of options. These icons will direct you to the different functions but usually the first thing you should do is set your time and date so any video recorded will have the correct time and date the event happened.

The operation of most security DVRs is quite simple but that doesn't mean they lack features and will probably require some reading of the manual to understand all it can do. Any of the security DVRs we offer today will do just about everything you need in normal circumstances such as record video only when there is motion or on a schedule you set up or even 24/7 if you want. They also make it quick and easy to search for any incident that may occur by either searching by motion events or by date and time. If you find video you want to save for evidence or for later viewing you can easily back that up on common USB thumb drives, eternal USB drives or to your computer if your DVR is connected to your router. If you have your DVR setup for remote viewing through your router you will be able to view and control the DVR from remote locations using a computer, or most mobile devices and smart phones.