Recording TV on Your Desktop PC




Introduction: Recording TV on Your Desktop PC

This instructable will show you how to record your favorite TV shows from your Windows home computer. DVRs have become more and more popular over the years and estimates say that 42% of US households have one. For good reason too, because DVRs allow you to record your favorite TV shows and play them back at a convenient time for you. Anyone who is comfortable opening their desktop PC and installing a PCI card is capable of doing this, but if you are not comfortable with that (or you want to do this with a laptop) there will be a simpler USB alternative. Installing the PCI card will take about 15 minutes, and installing the drivers and setting up windows media center will take between 10 and 20 minutes.

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Step 1: Gather Components and Tools

These are the components that you will need, read carefully because there are two ways to do this:

• Windows Vista or Windows 7 Computer (This can be done with a Mac or Linux computer but this guide does not cover that.)
• TV-Tuner (This can be a PCIe card or a USB stick, refer to the links below for examples of each.)
• Phillips Head Screwdriver (Only necessary if using PCIe card)
• Cable subscription.

There are two ways to accomplish this, one is using a PCIe card TV-Tuner, the other is using a USB stick TV-Tuner. The USB stick does not require opening the computer so it is better for laptops or people who don't feel comfortable opening their computer. Before purchasing a PCIe card make sure the motherboard on your computer has an open PCIe slot and space for the card. Below are two links to recommended choices for two TV-Tuners:

PCIe TV-Tuner

USB TV-Tuner

Note: In the pictures I use an HVR-1800 TV-Tuner, it is similiar to, but not the same as the card linked above.

Step 2: Open the Computer Case

1. If you chose to use a USB TV-Tuner, then skip this step and go straight to major step 4.

2. To open your case you will start by unscrewing the screws on the back that hold the case on. Refer to the picture below for usual screw placement (screws are black in the picture and difficult to see, but that is the general location on most computer cases).

3. Now that the screws have been removed you should be able to slide the side casing off.
Note: if you are having difficulty opening your case, refer to the manual that came with your computer for instructions.

Step 3: Remove the Back Plate

Caution: Installing components carries an inherent risk of damaging your computer. Always be wary of static electricity, and do not attempt to do this on a rug or while wearing any clothing that encourages static electricity generation. Before touching any electronics always ground yourself by touching a metal part of the case first.

Identify the PCIe slot that you are going to stick the card into. Look at the writing right next to the slot to ensure that it says PCI Express or something similar. If in doubt consult your motherboard's manual.

2. Remove the screw holding the back plate on that is across from the PCI slot as shown in the photo below.

3. Remove the back plate. This will open up the space where the cards inputs will stick out of the back of the computer.

Step 4: Install the TV-Tuner

USB Instructions:
Plug the USB TV-Tuner into an empty USB slot on your computer. The TV Tuner is what decodes the cable signal and lets you watch certain shows.

2. Connect the Cable TV coaxial cable to the TV-Tuner. This is where we will get the cable signal from.

PCI Card Instructions:

1.Insert PCIe TV-Tuner Card into the PCIe slot. The TV Tuner is what decodes the cable signal and lets you watch certain shows.
Warning: DO NOT force the card into the slot, it should slide in easily. If it doesn't you are probably putting it in the wrong slot and need to consult your motherboard manual to find the right one.

2. Place the screw that you removed in major step 3 back in the position it was to secure the card in the case. This is to ensure that your card stays secure in the case and doesn't come loose during movement.

3. Do a final inspection of the case. Check for loose wires  in the way of fans or anything that shouldn't be inside the case like screws. Any metal left in the case could cause a short circuit and damage your computer.

4. Put the case back on the computer, following the opposite steps that you did to take it off in major step 2.

5. Connect the Cable TV coaxial cable to the TV-Tuner. This is where we will get the TV signal from.

Step 5: Install Drivers

Drivers are necessary so Windows knows how to talk with the new hardware that you just installed. Windows 7 is usually smart enough to find the correct drivers on it's own.

1. Set the computer back up the way it was before, and turn it on.

2. Upon booting into Windows you should see a popup box like the picture below as it automatically identifies and installs the drivers.

3. If Windows fails to automatically install the drivers, then insert the CD that came with the TV-Tuner and install from it.

Step 6: Setting Up Windows Media Center to Record Shows

1. Start Windows Media Center.

2. Go to Tasks->Settings->TV->Set up TV signal

3. Follow the instructions in each step. This menu will take you through scanning for all of your channels and may take some time. Feel free to walk away at the waiting sections and come back later.

4. Push the circular windows icon in the top left to return to the main menu.

5. Go to TV->Guide to see the channel guide for all of your shows.

6. Find a show that you want to record.

7. Click the show in the guide, and then push the record button.

Your computer is now setup to record cable television shows! Now you'll be able to enjoy shows on your time, and not have to worry about scheduling your life around your favorite shows. I recommend buying a large external hard drive if you want to save your shows for long periods of time. Once your hard drive runs out of space, Windows Media Center will automatically start deleting the oldest content first.

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    2 Discussions


    2 months ago

    So this is only for recording basic cable TV channels I assume? I have an Xfinity box that my cable inputs to, so I get premium channels, and HBO and NETFLIX. then I use an HDMI out to my 60" monitor. I also can go through internet browser but of course fear of lag times and hiccups when recording that route are another issue. So is there a way I can record from what comes out of this Xfinity box before it hits my monitor to view with my eyeballs?


    Question 2 years ago on Step 5

    Hello !
    Please help me.
    I have a VGA TV-Tuner. Is it possible to set up this process with a VGA TV-Tuner instead of a USB TV-Tuner? In my tuner there is one VGA output & one VGA input port with other audio and signal ports. Please help me to set up this process.
    Thanks for this good post !