Set up a TV Tuner for Your Media Center PC

Family watching sports on home theater

Robert Daly / Getty Images 

Home Theater PCs (HTPCs) are considered by some to be the best DVR solution available. You generally have more freedom and access to more content than with a cable/satellite DVR or TiVo. If they have one disadvantage it is that they require more work. To make your HTPC life as easy as possible, let's walk through the installation of a TV tuner in Windows Media Center.

Keep in mind that depending on the type of tuner you have, the process might be a bit different but Media Center is quite good at detecting your tuner and walking you through the proper steps.

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Physical Installation

During this walkthrough, we're going to assume that you understand computer basics and know how to install add-on cards to a computer. USB tuners are obviously the easiest as you simply plug it into any available USB port. Driver installation will typically be automatic. If installing an internal tuner, you'll want to shut down your PC, open the case and connect your tuner to the appropriate slot. Once it is properly seated, button up your case and restart your PC. Before jumping into Media Center, you'll want to install the drivers for your new tuner. These are required so that your PC can communicate with the tuner.

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Starting the Setup Process

screenshot from Media Center showing live tv setup
Select "live tv setup" to continue.

Now that the tuner is physically installed, we can get started on the fun part. Again, depending on the type of tuner you're installing, the screens you see might be a bit different but these are the most typical. Media Center can recognize ​tuners easily and will almost always point you in the right direction. With that said, let's get started.

Located on the TV strip in Media Center you'll find the "live tv setup" entry. Select this.

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Selecting Your Region and Accepting Agreements

screenshot from Media Center showing license agreement
You'll see several screens like this. Acceptance of the license agreements is required to proceed.

The first thing Media Center will do is determine if you have a TV Tuner installed. Assuming you do, setup will continue. (If you don't, Media Center will inform you that you need to install one.)

Next, you'll need to ensure that your region is accurate. Media Center uses your IP address to determine your region so this should already be correct.

Next up, Media Center needs to start it's preparation to provide you with guide data. After selecting your region, you'll be asked for your zip code. This can be entered using a keyboard or a remote so you don't have to worry about having a keyboard attached if you happen to be in your living room.

The next two screens you'll see are simply accepting licensing agreements regarding guide data and PlayReady, a Microsoft DRM scheme. Both are required in order to continue setup. After that, the PlayReady install will proceed and Media Center will download TV setup data specific to your region.

Once you've been through all of these screens, Media Center will begin examining your TV signals. Again, depending on the type of tuner you've installed, this can take some time.

While the majority of the time, Media Center will find the correct signal, at times it doesn't and you'll have to do things manually.

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Selecting Your Signal Type

screenshot from Media Center showing TV Signal Type
Simply choose the signal you receive.

If Media Center does fail to detect the correct signal, simply select "No, show more options". Media Center will present you with all of the tuner options available to you.

Select the proper signal type. If you have a set-top box that you received from your provider, you need to make sure you select it as Media Center will need to walk you through a special setup. For now, however, we'll select "No" as I don't have an STB connected to my system.

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Finishing Up

screenshot from Media Center showing Update Play Ready
You will see several screens which are simply updates to the software that will be used while viewing live and recorded TV.

At this point, if you’re only installing one tuner, you can finish up TV setup on the next screen. If you have more than one tuner, be sure and select “Yes” and go through the process again for each tuner you have.

When you’ve finished setting up all of your tuners, the next screen is simply a confirmation.

Once you've received your confirmation Media Center will check for PlayReady DRM updates, download your guide data and present you with a screen where you simply hit “enter” or “select” on the “Finished” button at the bottom of the screen.

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screenshot from Media Center showing TV Signal Setup Finished
You'll see this screen once all components are updated and your guide has downloaded.

That’s it! You’ve successfully configured a tuner to work with Windows 7 Media Center. At this point, you can view live TV or use your guide to schedule program recordings. Your guide provides 14 days’ worth of data. This should be enough to set up series recordings for currently running television programs.

While it may seem daunting and there are a lot of different screens to view, Microsoft has made installing and configuring a TV tuner as simple as possible. Other than the occasional signal hiccough, each screen is pretty self-explanatory. If you do run into trouble, you can always start over at any time. This allows for the correction of any mistakes.

Again, while an HTPC tends to require a bit more work, you may find that it’s completely worth it in the end.