Ready for the DTV Transition? Windows Media Center makes it easy!

Posted: June 11, 2009 in Uncategorized

The DTV transition is this Friday, June 12. If you are receiving television with over-the-air analog television, you will no longer receive signal starting that day. So how do you rectify this?

By simply getting a new DTV tuner for your PC, your Windows Vista and Windows 7 Media Centers can automatically start using the new digital channels! For about $80-$120, you can upgrade your system and start receiving more channels than ever before. You can even record digital television with Media Center’s PVR functionality, without having to sign up for cable, satellite, or Uverse!

In case you didn’t know, digital over-the-air channels sport high or higher definition video and audio than you’ve seen or heard with your analog channels. You can also have multiple channels per station, so Fox may have two channels – one “main” station, and one with weather or sports or Cheers reruns all the time. These “subchannels” have a dash after the number, so if Fox was 59, then the channels for Fox would be 59-1, 59-2, 59-3 and so forth.

So how do you get started with upgrading your Media Center to support DTV?

Get a Tuner

First, find a DTV tuner. Some of these tuners will tune both cable and over-the-air DTV, so you can have the best of both worlds. This is especially true with local channels, which are often broadcast in HD during primetime – no need to spring for the more expensive HD cable package if all you watch is local channels. I’ve filled in the prices from Fry’s as of 6/11/2009:

IMAG0272 Pinnacle HD Stick ($69.99) / HD Pro Stick ($99.99) – I’ve had good luck with the HD Pro. It also includes a great antenna with a magnetic bottom. These are both USB solutions and very easy to install. I also like the ability for this to tune “Clear QAM,” which means it can tune many HD cable channels, if available in your area.

IMAG0270 Hauppauge WinTV HVR ($54.99). This is a PCI Express card. Hauppauge also makes excellent WinTV USB-based solutions.

IMAG0271 EVGA TV Tuner ($29.99 after rebate) – I haven’t personally tried this tuner, but for about thirty bucks, it’s probably worth trying. Let me know your mileage. I didn’t see a lot of returned units.  There was a Plus TV product that seemed to have a lot of returns… I don’t know if that’s because of the driver software being buggy (usually the case), or some other reason.

TIP: Make sure you use the Media Center installer if the TV card you choose has a separate installer for such.

Get an Antenna

If your tuner didn’t come with an antenna, go get one. Your local Radio Shack, Fry’s, and Best Buy will have antennas, often for under $50. Just make sure the connector on your tuner is compatible with the connector that comes with the antenna.

Set up Media Center

Once you’ve installed the hardware drivers, you should be able to launch Media Center and it should detect the new tuner and walk you through a Wizard to scan for channels. I can’t cover each tuner card individually, but I can say the manuals are usually very clear on Media Center configuration.

Ok, you’re all set! A quick trip to Fry’s or Best Buy and 15 minutes of using a wizard, and you can start enjoying your television with Media Center!

image WINDOWS 7: BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Windows 7 sports Internet TV access, too! So, not only will you be able to tune DTV – you’ll be able to get many streaming television channels, Netflix, and more starting this October! Sweet!

More Information

The government has really been pushing the HD transition. You’ve probably seen all those ads on TV. Well, they also have quite a great Web site for helping you find info:

There are also many other great resources online:

  • Titan TV – Over-the-air DTV, Cable, and Satellite listings, all in one place, in a TV Guide like format.
  • DTV 2009 Converter Box Web Site – For a free coupon to help you save on a TV converter box for your old analog sets, visit this government Web site.
  • DTV Answers – A Web site from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).
  • Windows Media Center Web Site – to learn more about WMC and all of its awesome capabilities.
  • Your local TV station Web sites may have a wealth of information about the conversion and their own DTV offerings.

Want me to cover more? Send me an email or post a comment! Enjoy your DTV!

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