Do Home Security Cameras Record All the Time?

When it comes to security cameras, 36 million American households have a home security system. While years ago a CCTV system would have been reserved for the wealthy, the smart home industry has been able to put home security in the hands of more consumers. In this age of video technology, you might be wondering, do home security cameras record all the time?


Smart security is abundant and affordable, whether you are installing a video doorbell or home security system throughout your home. While a security system will offer evidence if your home is broken into, they all operate very differently. This causes some homeowners to wonder, if their house is broken into, will the crime be captured on tape?


Do Home Security Cameras Record All the Time?


Some systems will constantly record footage, while others only do motion recording. Cameras that constantly record are ideal if you desire the peace of mind that comes with being able to check on what is happening at home when you are away.


There isn’t an easy answer to this question, as it depends on how many cameras are installed, the available space, the recording method, camera resolution, and the purpose of recording surveillance footage. The amount of time footage is maintained depends largely on recording space. For homes, footage lasts one to two weeks with constant recording.


Do Home Security Cameras Record All the Time?

There are two situations when it comes to saved footage: footage saved to a security camera system and footage saved to external recorders. Before we can delve into this topic, we need to discuss what transpires when there is no space left.


Where Does Old Footage Go?

When SD cards/hard drives fill up with data, new footage usually overwrites previous footage. For example, if you have been recording for two weeks and that is the maximum your system can hold, it will reach its limit. In most cases, new footage will simply overwrite the old material. This is the easiest method.


However, some people would rather manually delete old surveillance. You can easily do this by adjusting an NVR’s web interface setting.


Edge Storage Options

Edge Storage Options


Some cameras contain a MicroSD card slot. Storage on these cards ranges from 128 GB to 256 GB. When recording to an SD card, footage tends to be recorded when motion triggers them to turn on. Line crossing or motion detection usually triggers the security camera system to begin recording. The amount stored will then depend on how much activity is being recorded.


If you live on a busy street with a great deal of motion, you may only be able to store footage for a few days. However, your storage may last weeks or months without running out of room for limited recordings.


SD cards generally work best for standalone cameras. Yet, even for a full surveillance system, it is advisable to use an SD card. This will allow you to retain a backup if anything happens to the NVR/hard drive.


Steps to recording:


  • Make sure the SD slot always contains the SD card.
  • Connect your camera to your network.
  • A computer will require the same network to be able to run camera software.
  • After software and network connect, you can begin setup.
  • Begin recording footage on the camera.


Should you need more information on the best hard drive for your security camera system then check out this article I wrote on the Best Hard Drive for Security DVR.


External Storage Options

External Storage Options


Some systems will store your security camera footage using an external recorder. When dealing with an IP system, they are referred to as Network Video Recorders (NVR). If you have an analog system, they are known as Digital Video Recorders (DVRs). These tend to have a minimum of a single hard drive installed. Larger models may contain four.


Steps to do this include:


  • Connect a camera to the Network Video Recorder.
  • After they are connected, the NVR and camera will begin communicating.
  • Connect your NVR to your Smart TV or monitor to set things up.
  • Go to the video recording setting.
  • Adjust your settings to record voice detection and/or motion to begin the recording process.


A cost effective security camera option would be light bulb security cameras. I wrote an article on the best light bulb security camera reviews which can be found here. These security light bulbs can be used indoors or outdoors.


Computer or Laptop Options

Computer or Laptop Options


You can keep storage on a laptop or a computer. Whether your camera is wireless or wired, you can use a computer to record any footage. Additionally, you can use USB drives to record continually running activity.


Steps to connectivity include:


  • Connect the wireless camera to your network.
  • Tune the computer to the same network so that you can run the software.
  • After you are connected, choose your video recording settings.
  • Recordings can be established based on how you want the recording to run.
  • Select your path for saved files.
  • Keep software running continuously.


How Long Should You Retain Footage?

Every household has different needs. Most experts recommend that homeowners buy a device that can hold home security camera footage for about one week. When setting up your system, you will rarely require footage that is older than two weeks at the most. The majority of homeowners know within a few days whether they need to retain or erase video footage.

Some like to hold on to video footage for longer than a week to be on the safe side. That is perfectly fine, as everyone has their own comfort zone.


How Can You Store Footage for Longer Than Two Weeks?

As previously mentioned, the recorder and surveillance camera will begin recording over your previous material once it is full. This automatically occurs with little effort on the part of the homeowner. In some cases, footage may need to be retained for longer than an SD Card or hard drive will permit.


If you need to hold on to footage, then you’ll need to export it. You can store it on a separate hard drive or on a computer.



Do home security systems record all the time? Unless they are turned on by voice or motion, most systems will continually run until they reach their limit. Then, they will record over the previous footage if it is not being stored elsewhere. How much footage is stored depends on activity, connectivity, and overall traffic. Also, the size of the storage device plays a significant role in this as well.


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