How to activate CableCARD in Windows Media Center

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If you're an HTPC user that wants to start viewing premium HD content on your PC, Media Center with CableCARD is the way to go. Allowing you to view not just your local HD broadcasts but premium channels such as HBO or Showtime, CableCARD is the best way to get this content into your ecosystem.

Other than the purchase of a CableCARD tuner, there's one other step you'll need to take in order to enjoy this content in Media Center: Passing Microsoft's Digital Cable Advisor Tool (DCA). The tool tests your PC to ensure that you meet certain standards that will provide the best experience possible when viewing or recording HD content. The steps for running the tool aren't difficult, but passing is required if you want to add CableCARD to your HTPC experience. Here we'll walk through installing and running the DCA on your PC.

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Getting Started with Digital Cable and Media Center

extras gallery screenshot

The Digital Cable Advisor can be found in the Extras Gallery within Windows Media Center. Simply select the logo and hit OK on your remote and the test will begin. (The entire test can be completed with your remote so there's no need to grab a keyboard and mouse to run the DCA.)

If you're using a laptop, be sure you're not on battery power before beginning the test. As well, you shouldn't be running any other applications at the time as this will affect your results.

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Installing the Software

DCA welcome screen

When you select DCA in the Extras Gallery, you'll be prompted to install the software. Simply hit Install and the tool will get started.

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Accepting the EULA


Like with most other software, you'll need to accept the EULA before proceeding. Simply hit Accept and the software should install without issue. If there is a problem, simply jump back into your Extras Gallery and try again.

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Welcome Screen

DCA screenshot

You'll now come across another welcome screen explaining what the DCA will do. It's a simple information screen and you can feel free to hit the "Next" button and proceed.

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Another EULA for you to accept. This one relates to updates that will be made to your system if it passes the tests. You'll need to accept this to proceed to the actual test.

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Starting the Test

Analyze system screen
Adam Thursby

On the next screen, all that's required is for you to start the test. After clicking the button, the test will begin. The test can take anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes. Our experience has been that it's rather quick though. It shouldn't take long to get your results.

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Test Results

Test resilts screen

Once the test finishes, the software will let you know whether or not your system has passed. If it has, you're ready to add a CableCARD to your tuner and begin watching your favorite premium content. If ​not, however, the tool will let you know what parts of your PC comes up short.

There are several different messages the test might display if you've failed any part of the test. Since it's only testing a few components of your PC, the tool has the ability to make recommendations on what you should do to correct the issue. Remember, you won't be able to activate CableCARD services on your HTPC until you've passed the test. In order to do so, simply take the recommended action and then re-run the test afterward. Once you have, you should be all set to install your CableCARD and get started.

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Finishing Up

Congratulations screen

If you have passed, the next screen you'll see will ask you to update your system settings. This is required and only takes a few seconds to complete. Once that's done, you're all set! It's time to start enjoying premium HD content in Windows Media Center. Enjoy!