questionsis there a dvr that does not require a…

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@havocsback: Awesome! I will see if I still have my old one.

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@caffeine_dude: I'd had mine replaced under warranty once, then found a forum online that described the problem AND the fix: there are 2 pairs of capacitors that are bad(they even listed part #s and pics of the location). Replaced those, never happened again. Matter of fact, I like the old thing so much that I removed and imaged the hard drive and installed a 320 GB drive instead(it's IDE, not SATA, so a larger drive or SSD isn't really an option).

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I had the Polaroid @havocsback: mentioned when woot sold it, it died with in 4 months, the company replaced it, (it was not Polaroid who made it, some other company (I do not remember the name) made it and slapped the Polaroid name on it.) Then the replacement died.
The DVR that was like a VCR was popular at one time, they seem all but gone.

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Like @omnichad I use the HDHomeRun Prime and I love it. I bought it from woot for I think $155 after shipping and saves me $17 a month from using Comcast's HD DVR. I also bought a 2TB HD because unfortunately it does fill up a lot quicker when you're recording in Windows Media Center.

I think an average HD show tends to take up 30GB of space. I have MCEBuddy automatically convert the shows and remove the commercials with comskip though and that helps tremendously (both of those are free, though the donate version of comskip is substantially better imo). It takes about an hour for my computer to convert, delete the commercials, and delete the original file. The files end up being 1-2GB after converting to high quality mkv.

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For a standalone unit, Polaroid used to make one that had a single tuner and could handle digital signals, but no higher than 480 resolution. They still sell for $50-$80 on eBay.
For multiple tuners, installing them yourself in a reasonably capable PC and running something like Windows Media Center, XBMC or MythTV will do the job just fine. Drive space is cheap now, so that's a good route- if you can do it yourself or have a friend/family member who's capable.

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Windows Media Center is built-in to Windows 7. So you only need a Windows 7 computer that can connect via HDMI, a remote control if you'd like that, and something like the HDHomerun tuner. The HDHomerun works with either over-the-air antenna HDTV, or the cablecard version will work with any cable provider that supports cablecard (by law, that's everyone, but many companies have waivers).

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I can attest that Windows Media Center works great with cable service. I picked up a Hauppauge TV tuner card. It came with a version of WinTV, but that program was awful. WMC was easy to set up and it's really simple to use as well. It even works with Netflix, but you don't need a TV tuner card for that.

The bad news is that I've heard rumors that Microsoft is dropping support for WMC because it doesn't get used as much as they thought it would. I hope they don't, or in the least, if they do, that they allow user support patches, etc.

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I use Windows Media Center. I connected my TV to my computer and treat it as a second monitor. I'm a little cheap so we only have over-the-air channels, but I don't see why it wouldn't work with a paid TV service. The hi-def channels take up a lot of space so you might not want to let it sit on your hard drive forever, but it's a great alternative to other subscription options.