People keep asking how to make a video surveillance system quickly and cheaply.
Here is a quick MacGyver method, that anyone can use. If you have an available web camera, then this is a no cost solution.
First here is a website you can go to and download a free software product for conducting and recording video surveillance. It is free of charge for ever it you are only doing one camera. I know it works I have used it for months, mainly to test IP and USB cameras.
The nice thing about this piece of software is that it works, and so far has worked on every camera both IP high end cameras, even pan tile and zoom, as well as cheap USB cameras. It has a irritating setup procedure, for the first time you use it, but most of the problems I had were because I was expecting it to be harder. But there are enough help points, that you will not have a problem. In fact with USB cameras, they came up so fast, I was still trying to figure out how to install them when it appeared on the screen.
webcamXP - Webcam and Network Camera Surveillance Software
Ok, now installed it on any old computer PC's are the only thing I have tried them on, but so far even old PC's I had in the attic, have worked.
Plug in a USB web camera, into an available USB port, I thought I had one laying around, I did not, so I made a quick trip to a local Comp USA store, but Wall Mart, even many drug stores have them. I paid $9.95 for one, and 19.95 for two more, just to see how well they worked. All worked immediately, the $9.95 USB camera worked but has a poorer picture than I really wanted. But it is good enough to cover a large room, all the way to the front door, and I could recognize people in the recording. The 2 $19.95 cameras, worked better than I could have ever expected. Both by the way had little LED lights on them, so for a range of about 20 feet, they had a useable picture in total outside darkness.
I recorded all cameras, for an hour each, and played them back with out a problem.
If you need to use more than one camera, the webcamXL has a few other options up to five cameras for 50 bucks, and unlimited cameras for 150 bucks. I have not tried either of the other products, but feel free, or at least with a small cost.
This system has a scheduling capability so you can set it up to work only when you want. It has frame count options so you can use a little or a lot of storage depending on what you have available.
If the thief steals your computer they will get the recording, but I used an old USB hard drive I had sitting around and hid the drive behind a wall, which should keep a thief off of it. They normally just unplug everything from the computer and take it.
I hope you find this helpful, I am sure others will have more info for you. But even with the drive to the store for the USB camera, I had this system up and running in less than an hour.