If you own an Advent notebook or desktop PC with Windows 7 Home Premium, you can use it to watch and record TV. All you need is a digital TV tuner dongle , which plugs into a USB port on your computer. If you don’t have one, you can buy a USB TV tuner stick for under £25 from PC World.
Most TV sticks come with a portable antenna, but if you live in an area where the signal isn’t great, connect the TV tuner to your home aerial for the best results. If you don’t have Freeview at home at the moment, you should also check availability before you buy.
1. Install TV tuner
Plug the TV tuner stick into a spare USB port on your PC. A pop-up balloon should appear telling you the tuner has been detected and that Windows is attempting to install drivers. Click to View progress and wait until Ready to Use appears (as shown above) before clicking Close.
2. Open Windows Media Center
Click the Start button or press the [Windows] key to open the Start menu. Click All Programs and select Windows Media Center from the list. You can navigate Windows Media Center using both the mouse and keyboard: use the arrow keys to move between options, then either press [Enter] or click with the mouse to select it. Press the [Esc] key to move back to the previous menu or screen.
3. Set up TV signal
Start by navigating to the Tasks section (press the down arrow key) and then click Settings to continue. Select TV from the Settings menu then choose Set up TV Signal from the next menu, clicking Yes if any warning boxes appear.
4. Choose regional settings
A wizard will guide you through setting up your TV signal. Simply click Next to move on after making each selection. Start by checking that United Kingdom is selected and then enter your postcode. Two service agreements will appear. Click on Agree for each then wait while PlayReady is automatically downloaded and installed.
5. Scan for channels
Confirm that your TV tuner has been correctly identified – in most cases, this will be Digital Antenna (DVB). Select Yes, if this is the case, then click Next so Windows Media Center can scan for TV channels – they will be added in batches as the search progresses. This can take a while so use the break to get yourself a cup of tea, or something stronger. When it’s complete click Next, followed by Finish.
6. Access live TV
Return to the main menu. You can do this by either moving your mouse and clicking on the Windows Media Center logo in the top left-hand corner, or by pressing the [Alt] + [Win] + [Enter] keys together. Now, you’re ready to watch live television on your PC. Open the TV menu and select Live TV.
7. Watch and pause live TV
You should see BBC1 appear on your screen. Move the mouse and a series of controls should appear at the bottom. Note the Pause button – handy for when a phone call or knock on the door interrupts your viewing. When you’re ready to watch again just click the Play button. Cold callers will never disturb Corrie again.
8. Rewind and fast forward
You’ll also notice a timeline bar appear above the playback controls. When you start watching a programme, your PC automatically records it to a part of your hard drive called a buffer, so you can move forwards and backwards through the recording by clicking and dragging the programme marker with your mouse.
9. Switch channels
It’s possible to move between channels by clicking the + (plus) and – (minus) buttons to the left of the Stop button. Alternatively, just check out the 14-day TV guide to see what’s on. Click the Guide button (to the right of the Record button) once to bring up the compact guide. Click it twice and you’ll get a full channel-by-channel guide. Switch to another channel by clicking its name from the list.
10. Record TV
The simplest way to record a programme – or set up a scheduled recording – is through the TV guide itself. Simply find the programme you want to record and click on it with the mouse. Click Record to record that episode only, or click Record Series if you want every episode.
11. Tweak recording settings
By default, Windows Media Center will record all episodes shown, including repeats. If you only want the latest series of a show, click on it as before, but press the right arrow key to bring up the Actions window. Click Advanced Record, then click + (plus) next to Frequency to change it to Record Series, followed by the – (minus) button to bring up Show Type, which you can change to New. Click Record to finish.
12. Manage recordings
Your PC must be switched on and connected to the TV aerial for recordings to be made. They’ll record in the background, so you can still use your computer. You can view past recordings by selecting TV > Recorded TV. Right-click a recording to play or delete it and click View Scheduled to see what future recordings have been set up.