Did you know that it's possible to watch and record live TV on your computer? All you need is Windows Media Center, 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.
If you're new to Media Center, see Getting started with Windows Media Center to learn the ropes.
There are different types of TV signals available in different regions, and it's important that your TV tuner is compatible with the TV signal you're trying to connect to it. Here are some common TV signal scenarios that will help you determine what type of signal you have, and what type of tuner you'll need. (Check the documentation that came with your tuner or visit the manufacturer's website to determine what type of signals your tuner is compatible with.)
Set up the TV signal directly from a cable TV wall jack, or from a set-top box using an IR blaster
Set up the signal directly from your antenna (see the section below about scanning for signal strength)
Note that the channels available using this method will vary depending on region, and you'll likely need to manually add some channels in Media Center in order to tune them properly. For information about adding channels, see Watching TV in Windows Media Center: frequently asked questions.
Premium high-definition digital cable (OCUR)
Set up the TV signal directly from a cable TV wall jack, or from a set-top box using an IR blaster to receive basic digital cable
Set up a digital cable signal using a digital cable tuner and a CableCARD (only available in the United States)
For more detailed information about signal types, see TV signals that are supported by Windows Media Center.
If you have multiple TV tuners connected to or installed in your computer, it's possible to set up multiple TV signals. This allows you to record shows on different channels at the same time. It's even possible to tune two different signal types using a hybrid TV tuner. However, Media Center might not be able to access both signals simultaneously.
For more information about TV tuners, seeTV on your computer: Understanding TV signals and TV tuners andWhat should I know before adding TV tuners to use with Windows Media Center?
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 Media Center:
Connect your TV signal cable to the TV-IN jack on a compatible TV tuner on your Media Center PC.
If your PC has more than one tuner, you can use a cable splitter to divide the TV signal, and then connect it to each tuner. 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.
On the Windows Media Center start screen, scroll to Tasks, click Settings, click TV, and then click Set Up TV Signal.
If you see a message saying that changing the settings will affect TV recording, it means you already have a signal set up. To go through the set up process again, click Yes.
Follow the steps to set up your TV signal. These steps will vary depending on the type of tuner or tuners that you have, as well as the type of programming to which you subscribe.
On the TV Signal Detection Result screen, if you see your tuner or tuners listed as expected, click Yes, configure TV with these results, and then click Next.
If a TV tuner is not showing up on this screen, make sure that it's connected properly to your computer, and that you have the appropriate drivers installed. For more information, see Update a driver for hardware that isn't working properly.
On the TV Signal Provider screen, scroll through the list and click the signal provider that most closely matches your location and service, and then click Next.
If you set up a digital TV tuner during the setup process, you can scan for additional channels that might be available. You can also check the signal strength for each channel, and turn off channels that aren't receiving a strong signal.
On the Windows Media Center start screen, scroll to Tasks, click Settings, click TV, click TV Signal, and then do one of the following:
Click Scan for More Channels, and then follow the instructions. Media Center will look for additional channels that might be available for your TV tuner.
Click Digital TV Antenna Signal Strength, and then follow the instructions. Media Center will scan each channel individually and display its signal strength. On the Adjust Digital TV Antenna and Choose Channels screen, you can clear the check box next to channels with little or no signal so they won't show up in the Guide.
When Media Center appears finished scanning for more channels, it might still be working in the background. If you didn't see the channels you were expecting during this scan, it's best to wait about 15 minutes before trying the scan again.
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 Media Center PC.
Cable boxes and satellite receivers can include channels that are either standard or high definition. In Media Center, a digital high-definition signal that is transmitted through one of these boxes will be converted to an analog standard-definition signal.
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 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.
Connect a cable from the output jack on the cable box or satellite receiver to the TV-IN jack on the appropriate TV tuner on your 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 Media Center PC.)
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 Media Center remote controls and TV tuners. For more information, see the documentation that came with your IR blaster.)
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.
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 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.
For more information about digital cable tuners, including how to run the Digital Cable Advisor to make sure your computer meets the minimum requirements for digital cable, see Digital cable tuners: frequently asked questions.
It's recommended that you work with a cable technician from your service provider to set up a digital cable tuner and signal. Many of the steps below should be performed by them.
If you have a Digital Cable Ready computer, follow the instructions from your computer manufacturer to set up your digital cable tuner.
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.)
Insert the CableCARD into the digital cable tuner. (This step is usually performed by a technician from your digital cable provider.)
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.)
On the Windows Media Center start screen, scroll to Tasks, click Settings, click TV, click Set Up TV Signal, and then follow the steps to set up the signal.
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 ID: 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)
If you have a digital cable tuner (or another type of digital tuner) but no digital cable service, you might 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).
Some premium digital cable channels might contain protected content that can't be recorded.
If you upgraded your computer to Windows 7 from Windows Vista, you might be able to preserve your TV signal settings from before the upgrade.
If Media Center detects previous TV signal settings, you'll see a welcome message asking if you want to set up the TV with the same settings. Click Yes, use my previous TV settings, and then click OK.
When Media Center is finished applying previous TV settings, click Finish.
If you see a message saying that TV setup was not successful, make sure that you have the latest driver installed for your TV tuner. For information about how to download and install the latest driver, see Update a driver for hardware that isn't working properly.
If you have the latest drivers installed for your TV tuner and Media Center still can't set up the signal using this method, try setting up the TV signal without preserving your settings from Windows Vista.
If you're having trouble setting up your TV signal, try using the Set up TV tuner troubleshooter to automatically find and fix some common problems.
Open the Set up TV tuner troubleshooter by clicking the Start button , and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type troubleshooter, and then click Troubleshooting. In the left pane, click View all, and then click Set up TV tuner.
During the setup process, you might be asked to install a program called PlayReady. PlayReady allows you to play protected, premium TV content from your service provider in Media Center.
If you receive an error while setting up your TV tuner—for example, a download error, or an error during PlayReady installation—you might need to go through the entire setup process again in order for your TV signal to work properly.