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How to View and Download Dashcam Video Footage

MUO 10/27/2022 Christian Cawley
© Provided by MUO

When you’re in an accident or some other road traffic incident, it’s useful to share your dashcam footage. Police, insurance companies, perhaps even news networks might want to take a look. Or you might just want to share it on social media, or upload to YouTube.

But, how do you view the footage recorded on your dashcam? Is special software required to watch and download dashcam video?

Here is everything you need to know about how to watch, download, edit, and upload dashcam video footage.

You Need to Review Dashcam Footage

Most of the time, video recorded by your dashcam is automatically deleted. Whether your cam is capable of 4K, 2K, standard HD, or even time-lapse, the storage space is finite. Consequently, footage is overwritten.

Fortunately, recordings of emergency events (usually initiated by gyroscopic sensors) are saved to a separate folder, and it is typically these that require reviewing.

But viewing dashcam footage is tricky. In some cases, there can be hours to get through, especially if the event you’re looking for wasn’t saved in the emergency folder.

Replay Dashcam Footage on the Display

The first thing you should try is replaying the video on the dashcam’s display. Most units have a built-in display (although some do not) and controls to help you navigate through recordings.

In many cases this should be enough to find what you’re looking for, although while the footage sits on your dashcam, you can’t do anything else with it. However, reviewing the recording in this way at least lets you establish if the footage exists.

A downside of watching the dashcam footage on the device’s display is that dashcam screens are typically tiny. Small displays lack the necessary detail for reviewing a road incident.

Note that you may need to have your vehicle’s engine running (depending on how the dashcam is wired) while reviewing the video.

Watch Dashcam Footage on the Companion App

Many dashcams have companion apps that sync over Bluetooth or an ad hoc Wi-Fi connection. Such an app can be used to review the dashcam footage and download it for sharing.

As with reviewing dashcam on the device itself, this will require the car engine to be running.

Does your dashcam have a companion app? To find out, check the device’s documentation. You should also check the manufacturer’s website and even your smartphone’s app store. With an app, reviewing footage is far easier than squinting at a tiny display.

Depending on what other apps you use on your device, you may be able to edit the footage and share it. (More on that later.)

Copy Dashcam Video to Your Computer

If no companion app is available, you will need to copy the video from your dashcam to your computer. You have two options here:

  • USB cable
  • MicroSD card

Let’s look at both in turn.

How to Get Dashcam Footage onto Your PC With a USB Cable

Probably the simplest option you have for copying footage from a dashcam to your computer is with a USB cable. Dashcams have a micro-USB or USB Type-C data port which can be used to connect the device to a computer. All you need is a suitable USB cable.

Once you have copied the video to your computer, you should be able to review it using the native video player. If not, consider a universal video player like VLC Player.

To view the footage:

  1. Detach the dashcam from its mounting
  2. Connect the dashcam to the computer using a suitable USB cable
  3. On your computer’s file manager, look for a new USB drive
  4. Open this to browse the videos stored on the dashcam

When you have finished playing or copying the video to your computer, remember to safely remove the USB device (i.e. your dashcam).

Copy Dashcam Footage from the SD Card to a Computer

If detaching the dashcam is impractical, or you don’t have a suitable USB cable, ejecting the SD card is your last option. This is perhaps the most convenient way to view dashcam videos, aside from using a mobile app.

To watch dashcam footage on your computer:

  1. With the dashcam switched off, eject the SD card
  2. Insert the SD card in your computer’s card reader
  3. Open your computer’s file manager to find the SD card
  4. Browse the videos from the dashcam

If you find the relevant footage, copy it to your computer.

View Dashcam Video With GPS Data

Some dashcams have built-in GPS units. Others support the addition of a GPS module. The result is that GPS data is recorded along with video; when time-stamped, it is possible to match up location with footage.

To do this, however, you need a dedicated app that can play both dashcam video footage and present the GPS data in a friendly way. That would typically be as a map.

If your dashcam has a recommended companion app (likely developed by or for the manufacturer) for this purpose, you should use that. It is likely free to use, and designed to play back the video and GPS data from your specific camera.

Should you use multiple dashcams from different manufacturers or no GPS player is available, consider Dashcam Viewer. This is a paid app for Windows 10 and macOS that comes with a free trial and a basic price of $35 (other options are available).

How Do You Send Dashcam Footage to Police?

In the event of an accident, police will want to see dashcam footage. However, if you’re unable to copy the data from the dashcam, this could mean handing over the device or the microSD card.

Rather than rendering your dashcam useless (or driving without it) you will need to know how to share it.

After identifying the file where the incident is recorded, decide whether it needs editing. Doing so will take additional time, but will also result in a smaller file. An edited video should display the events leading up to the incident and the aftermath. If editing isn’t an option, note the timestamp and share this along with the video.

Police officers should give you a special email or website for uploading dashcam video. Insurers offer a similar provision.

Where Can I Send Dashcam Footage?

Some police departments and law enforcement agencies actively encourage you to send footage. To find out if this is applicable in your territory, check the website for the corresponding agency.

Can You Upload Dashcam Video to YouTube?

Say you captured something amazing with your dashcam, like a stunning RTA in which everyone miraculously survived. You’d want to share it far and wide, wouldn’t you?

Replay Video

While you can easily upload video to Facebook, shorter clips are required if you plan to share footage on Twitter. Other networks have similar limitations. But if you have a YouTube account, you can upload your dashcam video. Just be careful not to reveal identifiable information in the video such as faces, or registration plates.

Our guide to uploading video to YouTube will help you here. You can upload dashcam video to YouTube from a desktop or a mobile device.

Now You Know What To Do With Dashcam Footage

You can watch it on the dashcam, maybe sync it to an app. Dashcam footage can be opened on a PC, viewed in a standard media player, or even in an app that displays GPS information (where available).

Whether you edit the footage or not, you can also share it with the police, your insurer, and even upload it to YouTube.

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