Whether you are shopping for a security surveillance system for your home or business, you need to know the difference between standalone DVR packages and PC-based DVR packages. A security surveillance system consists of video surveillance cameras that feed into a recorder. It used to be that the camera images would be recorded onto video tapes; today, we use DVR technology. Which DVR security package is best for your surveillance needs? Let’s compare the standalone versus PC-based DVR package.

Some Basics Stuff First…

Before I get into the pros and cons, I’d like to explain how each system is set up first. A basic knowledge of how standalone versus PC-based units work will help you understand the pros and cons of each. Generally speaking, standalone units have been around longer than PC-based units. PC-based DVR technology is still relatively new.

A standalone DVR looks much like your home DVR player or an old VCR. Standalone DVR units have all of their components encased in one cabinet. This includes the DVR’s CPU, IC chips, and power supplies. Everything that operates the unit and records your security images is located in one cabinet.

A PC-based DVR looks like a tower computer unit. Just like your PC, the DVR’s hard drive, LAN board, motherboard, and video card are located in the computer tower. You’ll also find a DVD-writer to burn your security video images to and a DVR card that records the security images.

Standalone DVR Pros

  • Standalone units use tried and true technology that has proven effective for many years.
  • Because their technology is older, standalone units are generally not as expensive as PC-based DVR units.
  • You can feed your security video feed using a TV output with a standalone DVR unit; you can’t always do so with a PC-based DVR.
  • Standalone DVR units are smaller, quieter, and can be hidden more easily.
  • Standalone DVR units have an embedded software system, meaning they do not require daily software updating and are not as susceptible to infiltration or computer viruses.

PC-based DVR Pros

  • Because a PC-based DVR is PC based, you have the same flexibility to add and remove components as you do with your personal computer.
  • PC-based DVR units are more user-oriented than standalone DVRs; they have more features users can interact with.
  • PC-based DVR units work with both analog and digital/IP cameras.
  • PC-based DVR units work with Point-of-Sale, or POS, and cash registers for greater retail protection.
  • PC-based DVR units have more power and greater memory, so they can store larger amounts of security footage.

Standalone DVR Cons

  • Standalone DVR units aren’t upgradeable; everything is tied into one motherboard.
  • If one component fails in your standalone DVR unit, you will most likely have to replace the entire unit.
  • Standalone DVR units have limited storage capacity.
  • Standalone DVR units are not easily integrated with other technology.
  • Standalone DVR units are tied to only one security camera system.

PC-based DVR Cons

  • PC-based DVR units are susceptible to external hacks, including security breaches and viruses.
  • PC-based DVR units are more expensive.
  • PC-based DVR units run computer-based software that requires regular updating and protection from Internet threats.
  • PC-based DVR units are larger and more bulky.
  • PC-based DVR units are susceptible to software and hardware conflicts because they are composed of many interchangeable parts.

The Best Package for Your Needs

Now that you understand the differences between how each unit is built and works, as well as each unit’s pros and cons, let’s talk a little bit about whether a standalone or PC-based DVR package is better for your security needs. The basic rules of thumb are what you are securing and how much flexibility you require within your security system.

For example, if you are adding video surveillance to your home security system, you will easily get by with a standalone DVR security package. Unless you live in a huge house with tons of outdoor space, you are probably looking at minimal camera coverage feeding into a single monitor, perhaps just two to four security cameras monitoring your outdoor space and feeding the pictures into your home office.

The advantage of a standalone system for home security coverage is its cost and simplicity. Standalone DVR packages are more affordable than PC-based packages, and they require less PC know-how and maintenance. The standalone DVR security package is ideal for those looking to secure their personal space.

If you’re a business owner securing multiple areas, you’ll probably do better with a PC-based DVR security package. PC-based packages allow for more security cameras, more security footage recording space, and they are easily upgradeable as your business grows. They can be easily tailored to your specific security needs.

PC-based DVR security packages can also be incorporated into your business’s current IT plan and run by your IT Department. They allow for multiple user accounts, so your IT staff can keep your security software up to date, and your security staff can monitor your business space. This keeps the technical part of a PC-based system running smoothly and the security of your business in the proper hands.

I hope this breakdown has explained the differences between standalone and PC-based DVR security packages adequately. If not, please contact us so we can explain the differences and discuss which package is better for your security needs. Whether it’s your home or business that you are securing, you want to make certain you have the best surveillance equipment. You’ve worked too hard for both to leave them shoddily secured or unsecured!

One Comment

  • February 28, 2016 H. Bernier says:


    I already have a professionally-installed 4CH hard-wired CCTV system in place for four very critical areas of this residential property. It wasn’t cheap and I cannot afford that kind of dough again.

    I am setting up another 8 CH simple standalone analogue system for more coverage that I will rewire myself with premade RCA/BNC cable into the DVR. I already have a couple inexpensive cameras that I have tested on a 24″ 1080p Insignia that put out a pretty decent signal with the cheapie cable. None of my runs will be more than 75′.

    Here’s the rub. What I need is a simple 8 CH CTTV DVR with about 720 TVL “actual resolution.” I simply want to physically monitor these cameras on a multiplexed screen – no PC crap hookups, remote viewing, or anything else. I also do not waht to have to put a playback sata hard drive into it either.

    I have seen what looks good, but 800 bucks is way beyond my budget for a simple 8 CH DVR without all the other bells and whistles.

    The only thing important to me is “actual” no games resolution of at least 720 TVL and relatively straightforward setup and understandable instructions re the setup. I might consider less resolution if it’s a very dependable DVR and not a POS from China.

    Any ideas on what or where to look? The other six cameras I will buy later to more or less match the DVR capabilities.

    Thanks so much for your help here. I do not trust the inexpensive stuff I am seeing on Amazon or Best Buy but cannot afford Speco, Samsung or Evertech either.

    H. Johnson

    Apple Valley, CA

Leave Your Comment