Did you know that it's possible to watch and record live TV on your computer? All you need is Windows Media Center—a feature included in Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Ultimate—a TV signal, and a compatible TV tuner device. To learn how TV signals and TV tuners can work together, see TV on your computer: Understanding TV signals and TV tuners.

There are three ways to set up a TV signal in Windows Media Center, depending on your hardware configuration and your TV signal type:

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To set up a TV signal from a cable TV wall jack or a standard TV antenna

If your TV signal comes from a cable TV jack in the wall or an over-the-air antenna, follow these steps to set it up in Windows Media Center:

  1. Connect your TV signal cable to the TV-IN jack on a compatible TV tuner that is connected to the Windows Media Center computer.

    If your PC has more than one tuner, you can use a cable splitter to divide the TV signal. This will enable you to record multiple programs simultaneously, or to watch a live program while recording another program. To receive a TV signal using multiple tuners, each tuner must have a TV signal connected to it, and the signal must be the same for each tuner.

  2. On the start screen, scroll to Tasks, click settings, click TV, and then click Set Up TV Signal.

  3. Follow the steps to connect a TV signal, depending on the type of tuner or tuners that the cable is connected to, as well as the type of programming to which you subscribe.

To set up a TV signal from a cable TV box or satellite TV receiver

Many cable or satellite subscribers have a cable box (sometimes referred to as a set-top box) or satellite receiver. You can set up your TV signal to pass through one of these devices on its way to your Windows Media Center PC.

Cable boxes and satellite receivers can include channels that are either standard or high definition. In Windows Media Center, a digital high-definition signal that is transmitted through one of these boxes will be converted to an analog standard-definition signal.

  1. Connect the cable from the cable source (wall jack) to the cable input jack on the cable box or satellite receiver.

    If you have two cable boxes or two satellite receivers that you want to use with Windows Media Center, you can use a splitter to divide the TV signal from the wall jack to the boxes. Each cable box or satellite receiver must have a TV signal connected to the cable input jack.

  2. Connect a cable from the cable output jack on the cable box or satellite receiver to the TV-IN jack on the appropriate TV tuner on your Windows Media Center PC.

    If your PC has more than one TV tuner, make sure each tuner has its own TV signal connected to the TV-IN jack. (This means that you'll need one cable box or satellite receiver for each TV tuner on your Windows Media Center PC.)

  3. Connect an IR blaster to your computer and your set-top box. (An IR blaster is a small, infrared device that is packaged with many Windows Media Center remotes and TV tuners. For more information, see the documentation that came with your IR blaster.)

  4. On the start screen, scroll to Tasks, click settings, click TV, and then click Set Up TV Signal.

  5. Follow the steps to connect a TV signal, depending on the type of tuner or tuners that the cable is connected to, as well as the type of programming to which you subscribe.

Note

  • Cable boxes and satellite receivers can include channels that are either standard or high definition. In Windows Media Center, a digital high-definition signal that is transmitted through one of these boxes will be converted to an analog standard-definition signal.

To set up a digital cable TV signal with a Digital Cable Tuner (United States only)

If you have a digital cable service from your local cable provider, and you own a specially certified PC known as a Digital Cable Ready computer, you may be able to watch and record digital cable TV in Windows Media Center. To do this you'll need a couple things: a Digital Cable Tuner, which is a device that comes with most Digital Cable Ready computers, and a CableCARD, which is a device that must be inserted into your Digital Cable Tuner to allow it to receive digital cable. A CableCARD serves as a replacement for a digital set-top box, and can only be obtained from a participating digital cable provider. With the proper CableCARD inserted into a compatible Digital Cable Tuner, you can watch digital cable channels (both standard and high definition) that are available by subscription from your cable provider. (Some premium digital cable channels might contain protected content that cannot be recorded.)

  1. If necessary, follow the instructions from your computer manufacturer to set up your Digital Cable Tuner. In order for the Digital Cable Tuner to receive cable content, your computer must be a specially marked Digital Cable Ready computer.

  2. Write down the UnitAddress and the CableCARD S/N (serial number) from the outside of your CableCARD. (You'll need these numbers for the activation process in step 7.)

  3. Insert the CableCARD into the Digital Cable Tuner. (This step is usually performed by a technician from your digital cable provider.)

  4. Connect the cable from the cable source (wall jack) to the TV-IN jack on the Digital Cable Tuner. (This step is usually performed by a technician from your digital cable provider.)

  5. On the start screen, scroll to Tasks, click settings, click TV, and then click Set Up TV Signal.

  6. Follow the steps to connect a TV signal, depending on the type of tuner or tuners that the cable is connected to, as well as the type of programming to which you subscribe.

  7. Contact your service provider to pair your CableCARD with the Digital Cable Tuner—this will activate both so you can receive digital cable content. You will be required to provide the following information to your service provider:

    • CableCARD ID: This number will be reported in Windows Media Center on the Call your cable company page. (Example: 000-298-933-268-5)

    • Host ID: This number will be reported in Windows Media Center on the Call your cable company page. (Example: 029-000-000-104-7)

    • Data: This number will be reported in Windows Media Center on the Call your cable company page. (Example: 132-028-947-08)

    • UnitAddress: You'll find this number on the outside of your CableCARD device. (Example: 000-02989-33268-246)

    • CableCARD S/N: You'll find this number on the outside of your CableCARD device. (Example: NG3549TA0113)

Note

  • If you have a Digital Cable Tuner (or another type of digital tuner) but no digital cable service, you may be able to use an antenna to watch and record over-the-air High Definition Television (HDTV) (sometimes referred to as ATSC), standard TV, and digital cable channels that are not encrypted (such as "clear QAM" channels).