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Do smart home security cameras record all the time?

There’s an abundance of smart home security cameras available today, featuring everything from tiny indoor cameras to large outdoor floodlights. Products from Ring, Arlo, Wyze, and other major brands do a great job of protecting your property and giving you peace of mind — but do security cameras record all the time?

The answer’s not as straightforward as you’d expect. Here’s a look at which types of products are likely to offer continuous video capture, and which only record when motion is detected.

Battery-powered units typically don’t record all the time

The Wyze Battery Cam Pro mounted outside on a wall.

It should come as no surprise, but battery-powered security cameras typically aren’t designed to record 24/7 footage of your home. Most of these cameras have to straddle the line between performance and longevity, and recording footage when no motion is detected is a surefire way to tank battery life.

In other words, most battery-powered security cameras will only record when motion is detected. The rest of the time, it’s simply waiting for motion to trigger its camera.

A great example of why battery-powered cameras don’t offer continuous recording is the Wyze Battery Cam Pro. The battery-powered camera offers continuous recording when a microSD card is installed, but users can expect the battery to be fully drained after just 24 hours of recording. That’s less than ideal for most situations, though it’s a nice feature to have on hand if needed.

Wired security cameras are better for continuous recording

Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight Camera closeup
John Velasco / Digital Trends

If you want a smart home security camera that records all the time, you’ll want to shop around for products with a wired power source. These tend to be a bit trickier to install (you either need to run a cord to a power outlet or deal with existing wiring), but the unlimited power supply makes them great for capturing footage around the clock.

Arlo offers continuous video recording (or CVR, as the company calls it) on select models including the Arlo Ultra and Arlo Pro Series. However, these devices must be plugged into a power supply to access the feature. When enabled, you’ll get 24/7 video capture, along with the option to rewind the footage and view every second of action.

Meanwhile, some Ring cameras offer something called Pre-Roll. This isn’t continuous video recording, but it does allow the camera to record footage 4 seconds before motion is detected. It’s a unique feature, as it offers a bit more coverage of your property without the intense power requirements needed for continuous video recording.

Note that a monthly subscription may be required to access continuous video recording.

Check your settings for continuous video recording

To determine if your smart home security camera is recording all the time, you’ll need to dive into your accompanying smartphone app. The exact steps will vary for each product, though you’ll typically need to find the tab for the camera you want to modify, open its settings menu, then look for its video capture or recording settings submenu.

If you have a wired camera, there’s a good chance you’ll find an option for continuous recording. But if it’s battery-powered, you’re probably out of luck.

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Jon Bitner
Jon Bitner is a writer covering consumer electronics, technology, and gaming. His work has been published on various websites…
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