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There has to be a way (1 Viewer)


Dec 6, 2004
I am looking for a hard disk recorder like a TiVo only without the subscription service. I dont record anything on TV so I only need it for storage. I have loads of home and family movies on VHS that I want to back up. I do not want to put them on DVD, only on a hard disk.

I have been looking but it seems that units like TiVo and Realplay dont have inputs that would allow this. I know its possible with a computer based system but I dont want to do it that way. I am really looking for a system that would allow at least RCA inputs from a VCR and has a large storage capacity or can be daisy chained (the latter would be optimal). I just cant understand if there isnt such an animal available why it hasnt been done. It would seem benefical to be able to access your archive via hard disk thru menus without having to mess with disks.

I hope someone out there knows of a system that will do what I am looking for and wouldnt require me to take out a second mortgage. If they dont exsist maybe you can tell me why, if you have been allowed to copy VHS tapes onto DVD then what difference does it make if its on a hard disk.


Bob McElfresh

Senior HTF Member
May 22, 1999
Generally the hard-disk based recorders come tied to a subscription service so people can time-shift programming.

And the equipment is cheaper if they dont have to include electronics to merge audio & video and digitize it. They get off cheeper if a CATV or Sat system simply dumps the digital feed to a hard drive, then they just have to convert the digital to analog - a lot simpler/cheeper.

Most people dont want to store home movies on a hard drive, they want to archive them to a more durable storage medium like a CD/DVD. Otherwise you just have a limited amount of space on a $200 hard disk.

There are a bunch of VCR/DVD combo units that record things to DVD blanks. Some run under $200. The nicer ones that may include a internal hard-drive to let you buffer things can go up to $400-$500.

This JVC unit got a nice review:http://www.hometheatermag.com/dvdplayers/704jvc/

For about $289-$350.

Or Contact plasmadocs: www.plasmadocs.com and ask them what they offer in a VCR-DVD recorder with a hard-drive.


Dec 6, 2004
So basically your telling me that there is absolutely no way to do this. I really dont care if I spend 500 bucks on a unit, then fill it up and spend another 500 and keep going. I really hope someone out there knows of a way to do this without using external media (ie DVD). I do appreciate your help Bob and I do understand a DVD is safer and more durable and I totally agree. As an example here: You look at the rack size MP3 hard drives avalible for home theater, obviously CD's are more durable and safe. But the ability to be able to search through your entire archive and select them with instant access is much more efficient and pleasing. I am definately not arguing that DVD's should forever be ruled out for a hard drive. I personally have to have the original DVD and the box it came in.

Maybe that is my key, I need to invent something like that so I can have what I want. Let me ask you this, if a recordable hard drive was available (maybe it is and we dont know it) do you think nobody would want it?


Patrick Sun

Senior HTF Member
Jun 30, 1999
Wouldn't a DVD-Recorder with built-in hard drive do what you are asking it to do? Just have the VCR's A/V output recorded onto the DVD-Recorder's hard drive and that's that. If you wanted to dump the hard drive contents to a blank DVD later, that's an option.

The only thing is that the capacity that usually comes with the DVD-Recorders w/Hard drive isn't a whole lot, I'm most familiar with models that have 80GB-160 hard drives in them.

The Panasonic DMR line would be a good start. I read that DMR-E95HS has a 160GB hard drive in it.


Senior HTF Member
Aug 22, 2000
Real Name
It sounds like you want a media server instead of a DVR. I've been looking at adding a
D-Link DSM-320 and using my PC as storage. Just load all of my DVD's on a drive and access them with a few clicks of the remote.



Stunt Coordinator
Jan 13, 2004
It will take some research to figure out which ones, but there are some Series 1 TiVos that will work without the subscription. I think they had to have shipped with software version 1.3 or earlier. You can record from an external device using the composite or s-video input by configuring the unit to make it think it's using a cable or satellite box as it's source. I do this all the time with camcorder videos. My unit is hacked, so I then rename the programs with TivoWeb and can also extract the video to my PC if I want.

Even if you can't find one that works without a subscription, buy a used unit and get the lifetime subscription for $299. You'll be under the $500 you say you are willing to spend.

Lastly, you can upgrade the hard drive space easily. I have two hard drives in each of my TiVos.

I have a couple of Series 1 standalones that I need to sell. If you are interested in buying one, I could set all of this up for you. PM if interested.

Westly T

Second Unit
Oct 5, 1999
Costco has a Pioneer DVR-810H with Tivo that does not require the Tivo Service and also burns DVD's. It's a very good quality DVD player too, has the Faroudja DCDi. It's not much good for editing though. It's only an 80 GB but you can record to it and easily save to the "now Playing" list. Includes 3 day listing of programs without the Tivo service. Costs $479


Stunt Coordinator
Apr 25, 2002
What about using a capture card attached to a PC with a dedicated hard drive for your media? Also, you can add software that would allow editing as well as limited restoration ability.


Back up your tapes onto one of the fine DVD recorders mentioned here, then transfer the files onto a PC.


Dr. Anthony Rosalia

Stunt Coordinator
Aug 6, 2004
Hi Kevin,

Unfortunatly Both Replay TV and Tivo have required services for their boxes. However, you have many other options. Most DVR's with built in hard drives like

Panasonic DMRE100HS 120 gig drive and SD slot for MPEG2 and MPEG4 transfers from digital cameras. IEEE ports will send data from your DV direct to the hard drive.It also has a PC card slot that is compatible with standard PC card, SD memory card, CompactFlash card, MultiMediaCard, Smart Media card, and Memory Stick. You can also record from tv direct to the HD. Also it has TV guide onscreen and time shift capability. Internal dubbing of copyright DVD's are impossible. (up to 200 hr record time)

Also available is the Pansonic DMRE85HS with 120 gig drive. Which is very similar.

Philips HDRW720

Has 120 gig drive TV guide function IEEE and record to hd same as panasonic, time shift and up to 200 hr record time. No memory card features. Looks very cool.

Toshiba RDXS32

Has 80 gig hard drive, VCR+, time shift, record to hd, digital noise reduction, 500+ lines of rez.

Other cool alternatives
The Kiss 608
or the KISS 585
Has its own electronic program guide like tivo with no fees, just hook it up to broadband...allows online games, weather, ethernet built in to stream anything from your computer to the HD on the box or back and forth, onilne weather, stream net radio to your tv or hifi, etc. Built in 80 gig hard drive. When full send it to your home pc for archive or stream directly from your pc.

The D-link DSM-320RD also with wireless 802.11g to stream video direct from your pc. It is also a DVD player with a 5in1 card reader like the panasonic. WE also have the DSM-320 (no card reader or DVR) is basically the same.

The Linksys WMCE54AG Media Center Wireless adapter will allow you to play media stored on your home computer wirelessly with this box connected to your tv. It allows streaming of video and audio from the computer to the box for playback.

Another option is the Denon Network Audio Video Server with hard drive option
With a disk drive option you can record to memory cards or to stream stuff from your computer or put it on the internal HD. It will do DVD quality. I have to see if there are any limits to playback time as it is primarily for photos and audio.

Yet another option is the Roku HD PhotoBridge http://www.rokulabs.com/products/pho...e/features.php that will do photos and video streams and Mpeg2 from your computer with a built in card reader.

You can also go with portable media servers such as ones from Creative (Zen PMC001) or the (IRiver PMC140) but they are small in size (max 40-60 gig) and have poor resolution for home viewing

Let us know if you would like quotes on these or availability.

Doug Brewster

Second Unit
Jul 22, 2002

I can understand that you do not want TV recording capability. I can accept that you want to store on a hard drive and not a removable media. What I can't understand is why you don't want to do this through a computer. You can get firewire/usb2 drives that store separately from the computer's hard drive and would do exactly what you are talking about. If you're willing to pay up to $500 per machine to be able to archive on a hard drive (which, at 13Gb per hour means you have to by a new one for every 9+ hours of video on a 120Gb hard drive), why not buy a media center computer or a computer video editing device and attach external hard drives? http://www.nextag.com/Storage_Device...wzm ainz5-htm
You'd save lots of money and accomplish what you want.

In answer to your question:
if a recordable hard drive was available...do you think nobody would want it?
I would say, not enough individuals would want it to warrant trying to market it. It just doesn't seem practical in light of what can be done with a computer and firewire/usb hard drive.

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