Set up a TV Tuner for Your Media Center PC

Setting up 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/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.

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

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.

Physical Installation

Family watching sports on home theater

Robert Daly / Getty Images 

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 your PC. Before jumping into Media Center, install the drivers for your new tuner. These are required so that your PC can communicate with the tuner.

Starting the Setup Process

Media Center showing live tv setup

Now that you have physically installed the tuner, 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.

Selecting Your Region and Accepting Agreements

Media Center showing license agreement

Media Center will determine if you have a TV Tuner installed. Assuming you do, setup will continue. (If not, Media Center will inform you that you need to install one.)

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

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

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 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 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.

Selecting Your Signal Type

Media Center showing TV Signal Type

If Media Center fails to detect the correct signal, 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 choose No.

Finishing Up

Media Center showing Update Play Ready

At this point, 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 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 select Enter or Select on the Finished button at the bottom of the screen.


Media Center showing TV Signal Setup Finished

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.

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 start over at any time, allowing for the correction of any mistakes.