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To Build or Buy? That Is the Question

When one decides to purchase a PC-based DVR, they have the options of either building the entire DVR themselves, purchase the DVR card or cards and install them into an existing machine, or have one built for them.  It may seem as if any of these options may be feasible.  But, there are definitely advantages and disadvantages concerning each of these options. Building a PC-based DVR from the ground up almost always seems to be the most cost effective.  One can save a lot of money on the total cost of the machine by shopping around for the individual parts.  But, compatibility issues could arise from using a custom built machine.  It’s very imperative that one must do their research and make sure that all of the parts are going to be compatible with each other.  Otherwise, the cost savings will not be significant.  This could be very time consuming.  Compatibility issues can cause a person to spend enormous amounts of time on a technical support line. Purchasing individual DVR cards and installing them into an existing machine may seem to be cost effective as well.  The issues of compatibility also arise when doing this.  Most machines that are purchased from major PC manufacturers are preconfigured according to the manufacturer’s standards.  This can make things difficult when installing third party hardware or software.  Factory preconfigurations can interfere with hardware and software installations and functionality.  This could also cause one to spend hours on the phone with the PC manufacturer or the manufacturer of the card. The best option, when purchasing a PC-based DVR, is to have one built by an established business.  Buying the entire machine from a reputable firm can insure that all of the parts that are included with the machine will be compatible with each other.  Your product would most likely come with a warranty.  And, your chances of acquiring quality technical support would be greater.  You might spend a little bit more money buying a prebuilt PC-based DVR, but you will be saving yourself a lot of headache.  The extra cost that you pay is to ensure quality and reliability.

Brian Merritt


  1. Anthony Fost on February 15, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    I’ve experienced a lot of issues when trying to use Geovision
    drivers and software with preconfigured copies of Windows in Dell machines. I would much rather purchase a custom built machine.

  2. Peter on August 18, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    I installed 2 8-channel cards in a cheap PC 4 years ago, and have had pretty good results. I paid about $75 of the PC and about $50 for the cards, the software was free. Now Im considering buying a used DVR on Ebay currently@$80 ($100 wins it?) which seems like a bargain. I’d stay the old system, sending 9 frames to the TV-out requires 16ch 480FPS card, which costs $100. 4 years ago, I couldn’t find a good used DVR. But now they’re available and its a much better deal to sink $100 into a used DVR than a new PC card.

    • spage on September 3, 2011 at 3:06 pm

      Hey Peter,

      Be careful buying stuff on ebay. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories of damaged goods and rip-offs. Unless you have done business with the seller before, I’d avoid them.

      Yea, it’s really amazing some of the price drops in the last few years for surveillance equipment… it’s a lot like tv’s and computers. Lots of advancements being made in the security camera/access controls business.

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