Set up a TV Tuner for Your Media Center PC

Setting up a TV on Windows

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 or 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 setting up TV on Windows with the installation of a TV tuner in Windows Media Center.

Windows Media Center has been discontinued. The following information remains for reference.

Physical Installation

When installing add-on cards to a computer, USB tuners are the easiest, as you simply plug it into any available USB port. The driver installation is typically automatic. If installing an internal tuner, shut down your PC, open the case, and connect the tuner to the appropriate slot. Once it is properly seated, button up the case and restart the PC. Before jumping into Media Center, install the drivers for your new tuner. These are required so that the PC can communicate with the tuner.

Family watching sports on home theater
Robert Daly / Getty Images

Start the Setup Process

Now that you have physically installed the tuner, you 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 recognizes ​tuners easily and almost always points you in the right direction.

Depending on the type of tuner you have, the process might be a bit different, but Media Center is good at detecting the tuner and walking you through the proper steps.

  1. On the TV strip in Media Center, select the Live TV Setup entry.

    Media Center showing live TV setup
  2. Media Center determines if you have a TV Tuner installed. Assuming you do, the setup continues. If not, Media Center informs you that you need to install one.

  3. Ensure that your region is accurate. Media Center uses your IP address to determine your region, so this should be correct.

  4. Media Center prepares to provide you with guide data. After selecting your region, enter your zip code using a keyboard or a remote.

  5. The next two screens are licensing agreements regarding guide data and PlayReady, a Microsoft DRM scheme. Both are required to continue setup. After that, the PlayReady install proceeds, and Media Center downloads TV setup data specific to your region.

    Media Center showing license agreement
  6. Once you've been through all of these screens, Media Center examines your TV signals. Again, depending on the type of tuner you installed, this might take some time.

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

  7. If Media Center fails to detect the correct signal, select No, show more options. Media Center presents you with all the tuner options available to you.

  8. Select the proper signal type. If you have a set-top box that you received from your provider, select it as Media Center will need to walk you through a special setup.

    Media Center showing TV Signal Type
  9. If you're only installing one tuner, you can finish up the TV setup on the next screen. If you have more than one tuner, select Yes to go through the process again for each tuner.

  10. When you finish setting up the tuners, the next screen is a confirmation.

  11. After you receive your confirmation, Media Center checks for PlayReady DRM updates, downloads your guide data, and presents you with a screen where you select Enter or Select on the Finished button at the bottom of the screen.

    The Finish button
  12. 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 the guide to schedule program recordings. The guide provides 14 days' worth of data.

Microsoft made installing and configuring a TV tuner as simple as possible. Other than the occasional signal hiccough, each screen is self-explanatory. If you run into trouble, you can start over at any time, allowing for the correction of any mistakes.