Watching TV in Windows Media Center: frequently asked questions

Here are answers to some common questions questions about watching TV in Windows Media Center.

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What is a TV tuner and why do I need one?

A TV tuner is a hardware device that allows you to connect a TV signal to your computer so that you can watch and record live TV. If you have a TV signal from a cable subscription or from an antenna, you can connect it to a compatible TV tuner using a coaxial cable, then set up the TV signal in Media Center. For more information, see TV on your computer: Understanding TV signals and TV tuners and Set up a TV signal in Windows Media Center.

Why do I get an error when I try to watch TV?

The following table provides information about error messages when watching TV in Media Center. For more answers to some common questions about codecs, see Codecs: frequently asked questions.

If you see this error message
Try this

Tuner not installed (external USB tuner)—The tuner might not be plugged in, have updated drivers, or be configured for use with Windows Media Center.

Make sure that your external TV tuner is plugged in to your computer, and that you have the right drivers installed. For information about updating drivers, see Update a driver for hardware that isn't working properly.

You can also check the documentation that came with your TV tuner, or get help from the manufacturer. For more information, see Get help for your TV tuner.

For information about setting up a TV tuner and TV signal, see Set up a TV signal in Windows Media Center.

Tuner not found (internal tuner card)—The tuner card might not be installed, enabled, have updated drivers, or be configured for use with Windows Media Center.

Make sure that your TV tuner card is installed properly in your computer, and that you have the right drivers installed. For information about updating drivers, see Update a driver for hardware that isn't working properly.

You can also check the documentation that came with your TV tuner, or get help from the manufacturer. For more information, see Get help for your TV tuner.

For information about setting up a TV tuner and TV signal, see Set up a TV signal in Windows Media Center.

Tuner in use—The tuner might be in use by another program.

Close all other media programs that might be using the TV tuner, and then try to watch live TV in Media Center again.

Tuner error (invalid TV format)—The tuner hardware does not support the TV format for the country or region selected.

Change the channel. If you're still receiving the error, try closing and then reopening Media Center. If the problem persists, restart your computer.

Video error—The video decoder is in use by another program.

Close all other media programs that might be using the codec, and then try again.

Video error—The video decoder has malfunctioned or is not installed.

Close and then reopen Media Center. If you're still receiving the error, restart your computer. If the problem persists, you probably need to reinstall or update your codec software. Contact your hardware manufacturer for help with this.

Audio device error—The audio card is not installed, enabled, or does not have updated drivers.

Make sure that the audio (sound) card is installed properly in your computer, and that you also have the appropriate drivers installed. For more information, see Sound cards: frequently asked questions.

Why did the TV stop or the channel change unexpectedly?

It might be because the FM radio input on your TV tuner is in use. Some TV tuner devices have an FM radio input as well as an input for a TV signal and, usually, these devices can't receive an FM radio signal and a TV signal simultaneously. If your tuner is in use for FM radio when a scheduled TV recording is about to start, a warning will appear saying that the FM radio session will be stopped when the TV recording starts. If you don't make a selection, Media Center will automatically stop FM radio and begin recording the TV program as scheduled.

If you're using one or more Windows Media Center Extenders over your home network, and the computer running Media Center only has one TV tuner, someone else might be accessing the TV tuner from another room.

For more information about TV tuners, see TV on your computer: Understanding TV signals and TV tuners.

I'm using an IR blaster and a set-top box with Media Center. Why can't I change channels?

An infrared remote control cable—also known as an IR blaster—is a small, infrared device you can use to control a cable or satellite set-top box using your Media Center remote. These are often packaged with Media Center remotes and TV tuners. For more information, see the documentation that came with your IR blaster.

If you receive your TV signal through a set-top box and Media Center can't change channels, or it changes channels incorrectly, check the following:

  • The IR blaster is connected to your remote control receiver. If the IR blaster is not connected, Media Center can't send a signal to the set-top box to change a channel.

  • The IR blaster is positioned correctly on the front of the set-top box. If you're having trouble placing the IR blaster on the set-top box correctly, try using a flashlight to locate the signal receiver on the set-top box.

  • The IR control codes are configured correctly. If channels consistently change incorrectly, the IR control codes might not have been configured correctly during TV signal setup. To reconfigure your TV signal, on the Windows Media Center start screen, scroll to Tasks, click Settings, click TV, and then click Set Up TV Signal.

Why can't I get a signal for standard TV channels?

There are two types of TV signals: standard and digital. If you get a message saying that Media Center can't detect a TV signal on a standard channel, it might be for one of the following reasons:

  • If you receive your TV signal through an over-the-air antenna, the channel might be temporarily unavailable, or you might not have reception.

  • If you subscribe to a cable or satellite service, it's possible that your subscription doesn't include the channel you're trying to access. To hide channels that you don't receive, on the Windows Media Center start screen, scroll to Tasks, click Settings, click TV, click Guide, and then click Edit Channels.

  • If your TV signal passes through a cable or satellite set-top box, the set-top box might not be tuned to the appropriate channel. Make sure the set-top box is actually tuned to the channel that you are trying to locate.

  • If you have one or more TV tuners connected to your computer, there might be something wrong with one of them. Make sure that each TV tuner is enabled and that the appropriate drivers are installed. To make sure that your TV tuners are compatible with Windows 7, go to the Windows Logo'd Products List website.

  • If you receive your TV signal from an over-the-air antenna or cable jack in the wall, make sure that the cable is connected properly to the TV-IN jack on your TV tuner.

  • If your TV signal passes through a cable or satellite set-top box, make sure that the set-top box is turned on, and that these two cables are attached:

    • A cable connecting your TV signal to the set-top box.

    • A cable connecting your set-top box to the TV-IN jack on your TV tuner.

  • The service in your area might be down. Contact your TV service provider to ensure that your service is active and has no technical difficulties.

Why can't I get a signal for digital TV channels received from an antenna?

If you are using an over-the-air antenna and a digital TV tuner to receive a digital signal, and you get a message that Media Center can't detect a TV signal for a digital TV channel, try the following:

  • Make sure that you're receiving a strong enough signal. To do this, move the antenna to an unobstructed location, and then check the signal strength.

    To check TV signal strength for digital TV channels, on the Windows Media Center start screen, scroll to Tasks, click Settings, click TV, click TV Signal, click Digital TV Antenna Signal Strength, and then follow the instructions. (If you don't see this option, it's because Media Center doesn't recognize any digital TV tuners. Make sure your tuner is enabled in Media Center and that the appropriate drivers are installed.)

    For more information about positioning your antenna to increase signal strength, check the information that came with the antenna.

  • Make sure that the coaxial cable is firmly connected to both the digital TV tuner and the digital TV antenna. Some digital TV tuners have more than one connector, so make sure that the cable is connected to the TV-IN jack.

  • Check the information for your antenna to make sure that it supports digital TV. If you have a signal amplifier for the antenna, make sure that there's a cable firmly connecting the two, and that the signal amplifier is powered on.

  • If you live in Europe and have an antenna that supports Digital Video Broadcast-Terrestrial (DVB-T) channels, Media Center might have identified channels that you don't actually receive. You can hide these channels in the Guide by doing the following:

    On the Windows Media Center start screen, scroll to Tasks, click Settings, click TV, click Guide, and then click Edit Channels.

Why can't I get a signal for a digital cable TV channel?

If you get a message that Media Center can't detect a TV signal on a digital cable TV channel, it might be for one of the following reasons:

  • Your digital cable subscription might not include the channel. Contact your cable company for more information about your service. If a channel appears in the Guide and it's not part of your cable service, you can remove it by doing the following:

    On the Windows Media Center start screen, scroll to Tasks, click Settings, click TV, click Guide, and then click Edit Channels.

  • If you have a CableCARD, it might not be configured correctly. For more information about CableCARDs, see Set up a TV signal in Windows Media Center.

How do I troubleshoot problems with my TV tuner?

You can run a troubleshooter that automatically diagnoses and repairs problems with your TV tuner.

  1. Click this button:

    Picture of a Fix it button

    Fix this problem

  2. Click Run, and then follow the steps in the wizard.