A TV tuner is a device that makes it possible to connect a TV signal to your computer. With Windows Media Center—a feature included in Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Ultimate—and a compatible TV tuner, you can watch live TV shows and movies on your computer, and record programs for future viewings.

Acquiring a TV tuner

TV tuners from various manufacturers are available for purchase today. Many TV tuners even come with a Windows Media Center remote that enables you to change channels, record a show, and much more—all from across the room. When shopping for a TV tuner, keep an eye out for these three basic types:

  • An internal TV tuner card, which you must install inside your computer.

  • An external TV tuner that can be plugged into an available USB port or IEEE 1394 port.

  • An external TV tuner card that can be connected to a CardBus slot or ExpressCard slot on your mobile PC.

To find out which TV tuner models are compatible with your computer setup, contact your computer manufacturer or go to the Windows Vista Hardware Compatibility List website.

Receiving a TV signal

To receive a TV signal on your computer, the signal type must be supported both by your TV tuner hardware and by Windows Media Center. After you have connected a compatible TV signal to your computer, you can set up the signal in Windows Media Center to watch and record TV shows and movies. The type of television programming that you can watch and record on your Windows Media Center computer depends on the following:

  • The system resources available on your computer. This includes processor speed, memory, and video graphics card capabilities, as well as available card slots, USB ports, and IEEE 1394 ports.

  • Your location, including the type of signals that are broadcast there. Contact your local cable or satellite provider for more information.

  • Whether or not your TV signal is analog or digital. Analog TV signals are typically sent via cable, satellite, or over-the-air to an antenna. Digital TV signals are broadcast in a similar way, but are meant to provide superior picture quality and improved audio quality over analog. For detailed information on the various signal types that are compatible with Windows Media Center, see TV signals that are supported by Windows Media Center.

  • Your TV tuner hardware, including the type of signal it can receive. Contact your hardware manufacturer for more information.

  • The type of antenna that you have connected to your Windows Media Center computer. (This only applies if you are receiving a TV signal from an over-the-air antenna.)

Adding TV tuners to your computer

With a single TV tuner connected to your Windows Media Center computer, you can watch or record live TV on only one channel at a time. With two TV tuners or a dual-tuner device connected to your Windows Media Center computer, you can do the following:

  • Watch live TV on one channel while recording a show on a different channel.

  • Record two different TV shows that are on two different channels at the same time.

  • Watch a previously recorded show and record live shows on two different channels at the same time.

Before you add TV tuners to your Windows Media Center computer, consider the following:

  • You may need to install a driver for each TV tuner that you connect to your computer. For information about how to download and install the latest driver, see Update a driver for hardware that isn't working properly. You can also visit the website of your computer manufacturer or TV tuner manufacturer for driver information.

  • Windows Media Center supports a maximum of two analog TV tuners and two digital TV tuners per computer. (If your setup includes Digital Cable Tuners, the maximum is two Digital Cable Tuners.)

  • If you have multiple TV tuners of the same type connected to your computer, they must have the same signal source. For instance, if you have two analog TV tuners, and your analog cable TV signal is coming directly from a coaxial cable in the wall, you can use a splitter to divide the cable before connecting it to your computer.

  • When using a device that contains multiple TV tuners (such as a dual tuner or a combo tuner), Windows Media Center recognizes each TV tuner as a separate device. For example, one dual analog tuner counts as two analog tuners.

  • If you have an analog tuner and you plan to install a Digital Cable Tuner (a special device needed for receiving a digital cable signal), you must uninstall the analog TV tuner. (This restriction does not apply if you are receiving a digital signal via satellite or over-the-air antenna.)

  • You can add multiple TV tuner hardware devices that enable you to receive high-definition TV. For example, you can have two digital TV tuners that support a digital signal (such as ATSC), and two Digital Cable Tuners.