How to Watch OnAir TV on Your Computer


Authored by Dave Mallisk in Computers
Published on 09-09-2009

To watch on-air TV on your computer, you need to purchase a TV-tuner package that includes a TV-tuner and its software. The TV tuner has a coaxial-cable socket into which you plug the cable from your TV antenna, satellite-TV receiver, or cable service. TV-tuner software processes the TV signal so that your computer can play broadcast-TV programs.

Before purchasing any TV tuner package, study its customer’s ratings and product reviews carefully. Most websites selling TV-tuners include customer ratings. Also, many websites present TV-tuner product reviews; one example is About.com.

TV-Tuner Hardware

TV-tuner hardware includes the physical tuner, all connectors on that tuner, and a remote control (if any). You can choose either an external or internal TV tuner, which have similar capabilities. Here are two examples:

Installing An External TV Tuner – To install your external TV tuner onto either a desktop or laptop computer, do the following:

  1. Plug your external TV tuner it into an available USB 2.0 port. (Although a few external TV tuners can plug into laptops’ express-card slots, most plug into USB 2.0 ports.)
  2. Plug in the separate power supply for external TV tuner. (Almost all external TV tuners have separate power supplies.)
  3. Connect the TV-signal cable to the coaxial plug on your external TV tuner.
  4. Connect the remote sensor cable (if any) to the external TV tuner.
  5. Install software according to the procedure in ‘TV-Tuner Software’ below.

Installing An Internal TV Tuner – You can install an internal TV turner into only a desktop computer. Before you purchase any internal TV tuner, make sure the TV-tuner card can plug into the mother board on your computer. For example, a PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) card has a wide edge connector as shown here:

In contrast, a PCIe (PCI extended) card, has a narrow edge connector as shown here:

To determine which type expansion slots (PCI or PCIe) you have in your computer, either check its documentation or open its case and inspect its motherboard.

To install an internal TV tuner into your desktop computer, do the following:

  1. Turn off your computer, and unplug it.
  2. Open your computer’s case.
  3. To guard against static-electricity damage, connect a grounding strap between your wrist and the computer chassis.
  4. Insert the internal TV tuner into an available PCI or PCIe slot (see above).
  5. Close your computer, plug it in, and then turn it on.
  6. Connect the TV-signal cable to the coaxial plug on your internal TV tuner.
  7. Connect the remote sensor cable (if any) to the internal TV tuner.
  8. Install software according to the procedure in ‘TV-Tuner Software’ below.

TV-Tuner Software

Although TV-tuner software is usually part of a TV-tuner package, you can purchase it separately. Here are two examples:

Advanced TV-tuner software lets you use your computer as a DVR (Digital Video Recorder). To install your TV-tuner software, do the following:

  1. Run the TV-tuner software CD to install its programs on your computer.
  2. Check for and install any driver updates that apply to your TV-tuner.
  3. According to instructions provided with your TV-tuner software, set up your TV-viewing options.

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