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Wired vs. Wireless Security Cameras: How to Choose Which is Best for You

It can feel like a lot is riding on your home security camera choices. Learn which ones fit your security goals.

SimpliSafe camera mounted outdoors.
Security cameras can help protect your property. Which type is best for your needs?
Chris Monroe/CNET

If you're worried about keeping your home safe, there's good news: security cameras work. Some studies have found that visible cameras deter criminal activity. This is because, according to research from the FBI, most burglaries aren't planned in advance -- they happen because of opportunity.

One way to make sure that your home doesn't present itself as a potential target is by equipping it with a home security system. That can include smart locks to protect your door, sensors to detect any unexpected activity and security cameras to keep an eye on it all.

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But which security camera is right for you? There are wired cameras and wireless cameras. Each comes with its own set of pros and cons that could make it a good fit for your situation or more of a hassle than you'd expect. We'll walk you through the difference between wired and wireless security cameras to help you choose which is best for you.

Wired home security cameras

A wired home security camera is a security camera that's hardwired to a full-time power source. These cameras are typically permanently or semi-permanently located around your home, connected via wiring to a central hub that serves as the core of your home security system. The wiring provides electrical power, as well as any internet connectivity and the ability to transmit data and footage to a central location. In some cases this may be a single cord, like a power over ethernet cable.

With a wired home security camera system, footage can remain local or be viewed remotely depending on the system. Typically, these systems will use a digital video record to store footage for playback. In some cases, a coaxial cable is used to transfer footage from the cameras to the central hub. These systems will typically require a power cable to keep the cameras connected, as well.

Some hardwired cameras operate with internet connectivity, which allows for access via a networked video recorder system. In this case, PoE cables are typically used, and the footage may be accessed remotely.

Pros

Because wired home security cameras are hardwired and have a steady connection there is typically no restriction on the quality of video outside of the camera's capabilities. For that reason, video and audio quality is typically better with a wired home security camera.

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Likewise, because a wired security camera is plugged in directly and isn't reliant on maintaining an internet connection in order to function, it will have a more stable and reliable connection. If the internet goes down, your camera won't suddenly be offline. It can continue to record and send the footage to a central location. 

Because these cameras don't have to be connected to the internet, they aren't prone to hacking and other potential breaches. The last thing you want with your home security system is for it to open up new avenues for privacy invasion. Wired security cameras are less of a risk in this regard.

Read more: Best Home Security Systems for 2022

Cons

The biggest downside of a wired home security camera is the "wired" part. These cameras require wires to be run from the central hub all the way to where they are located. This can be expensive and time consuming -- up to $2,000 for a four-camera system, according to some estimates. Typically, professional installation is required for these systems. 

Likewise, most wired home security systems are not very easily changed or moved. If you install a wired home security camera system in your home, you should expect that it will stay with the home if you move. Uninstalling it to take it with you is costly -- and then you have to pay to have it installed in the new location, too. In most cases, wired home security cameras are a permanent fixture in the home where they are installed.

Another potential problem with wired home security cameras is the fact that they're prone to shutting off during power outages. Systems typically have some backup power source like a battery, but they're largely reliant on being plugged in. If you lose power, you may lose your feed from the cameras, too.

Read more: Best Outdoor Home Security Cameras of 2022

Wireless home security cameras

Wireless home security cameras don't require a wired connection in order to operate. Some wireless cameras do still need to be wired for power, but many of them are battery-powered -- often referred to as wire-free cameras. Wire-free cameras are typically activated by a sensor and only record when they detect activity in order to preserve power. Wireless systems that plug in are more often always-on systems.

A white Wyze camera sitting on an outdoor table.

Wyze produces an affordable wireless security camera.

Wyze

These wireless cameras connect via Wi-Fi. Once they have an internet connection, they can communicate with a cloud server, which is typically where they will send video footage. This footage can be streamed, allowing you to view it in real time, but can also be archived and viewed later with some systems. Some wireless cameras will offer on-board storage that can save some footage, though the amount that can be kept on SD card or USB drive is typically limited.  

Wireless home security cameras are typically capable of connecting to other internet-connected devices. This allows them to be integrated into smart home systems. Most are compatible with smart assistants like Amazon Alexa, Apple's Siri, or the Google Assistant. 

Pros

Wireless home security cameras have made home security more accessible because they are easy to install and set up. They don't require any hardwiring like wired cameras so you won't have to run electrical wire through your home to connect them. Just place them near an outlet you can plug into or use a battery-powered camera that can be placed anywhere.

For the same reason, wireless home security cameras are easy to scale. A wired home security system is limited because of the amount of wiring and work that's required to set them up. A wireless system can consist of many cameras because they're more affordable and don't require much set up to get them online. 

Because wireless home security cameras aren't reliant on a central power source, they also are more likely to survive a power outage that might knock wired cameras offline. Wire-free cameras are entirely battery powered and won't be affected at all by a loss of power around your home.

Read more: Best Wireless Home Security Camera of 2022

Cons

While wireless home security cameras are easy to set up and get online, they also have a less reliable connection. They are prone to losing connection if your wireless network goes down or is unstable for any reason. This can leave you in the dark and unable to access your camera during internet outages.

Because wireless security cameras are connected to the internet at all times, they also present the possibility of being compromised by a hacker. Wireless security cameras can become a vector of attack on your home, though there are steps you can take to protect your privacy.

While wireless home security cameras don't require a wired connection, they do still have power needs, whether that is a nearby plug that can limit your options for where to install it or batteries that have to be monitored and replaced over time. You will need to make sure a wireless camera system remains powered and working as expected. 

Deciding whether you want a wired or wireless home security camera system depends on your home's needs and your expectations for the system. If you want an affordable, flexible option that is convenient and accessible, then a wireless security camera is likely best for you. If you're looking for something a bit more permanent, with high-quality footage and 24/7 monitoring, then a wired security camera might better serve your needs. Weigh all of the factors before making your decision.

If you're looking for more ideas for securing your home take a look at our picks for best cheap home security cameras and indoor security cameras and learn where to place them