So you want to learn how to watch cable TV on your computer? There are many benefits to getting cable connected to your computer. The biggest one is the ability to use programs like Windows Media Center to record and watch shows. Such a setup can also allow more space for recording programming and the ability to watch shows in different rooms on a plethora of devices. If you need to know where to begin on setting up a Cable TV/computer setup, this is your guide.
There are two main steps for getting setup to watch cable TV on your computer. First you will need to purchase a TV tuner card. Second, you will need to decide what software to use to actually watch and/or record programming.
Selecting a TV Tuner Card
There are many different types of TV tuner cards to choose from. Each of them have many different features. Let’s talk about a few of those features.
Many cable providers make basic channels available unencrypted via basic cable. That means you can simply plug in the coaxial cable to any TV Tuner and watch cable TV. If you want to watch encrypted channels on your PC, you will need a TV tuner that supports CableCARD. A CableCARD is provided by any cable provider in the United States. Most cable providers don’t like to advertise the availability of a CableCARD as they would rather sell or rent their own equipment to you. They are however required by law to support it.
If you wish to record one show and watch another, you will likely want a TV tuner that has multiple tuners. Look for devices that say they have a “Combo Tuner” (2 connections) or “3-Tuner” (3 connections).
External or Internal
TV Tuners are available as internal or external hardware. Internal cards can be installed internally in your computer, while an external tuner is a box that simply plugs into a port on your computer. I prefer the external boxes that plug into your wireless network router like the HDHomeRun HDHR3-CC. Such devices make the cable connection available across your network where you can access it from multiple devices. It even works with an XBox and iPad.
Once you have physically installed the TV tuner card of your choice, you will need to install the software that came with the device. They all have different steps, so follow the directions provided with your TV tuner card.
Once the software provided with the TV tuner is complete, you will want to select software to use for recording or watching TV. Many tuner cards come with software that allow you to do this already. The included software is usually very basic though and do not provide many features.
The popular choice these days is to use Windows Media Center. Windows Media Center will provide an updated program guide and handle the recordings of your shows. You can even access Netflix, watch ripped movies, and burn shows to DVD using Windows Media Center.
Windows Media Center comes free with Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate. You can obtain it as a feature pack for Windows 8 Pro.
This should cover everything you need to know on how to watch TV on your computer. If you have questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section below.