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HP and Compaq Desktop PCs - Receiving Digital TV Broadcasts in Media Center

This document only pertains to PCs with Media Center.

Standard analog TV signals have been in use for more than 50 years. Digital Television (DTV) is a broadcasting technology that is replacing analog TV broadcasting in many areas. You can use this document to determine if you can switch to digital TV.

NOTE: Digital TV (DTV) is not the same as High Definition TV (HDTV). HDTV requires special equipment. Check with the cable or satellite provider to learn about HDTV-capable equipment and to obtain the proper set-top box to view HDTV.
NOTE: Many countries/regions have switched to digital or will switch to digital broadcasting. For example, in the United States, most TV broadcast stations in the US have been transitioned from analog to digital broadcasting on Jun 12th.

Step 1: Finding the type of local TV broadcasting available in your area

Both analog and digital TV signals can be received through a cable set-top box, through an over-the-air antenna, or by way of satellite. Determine what types of TV signal types are available in your area. Contact a local cable TV provider, satellite TV provider, and local TV broadcaster to determine if a given type of signal is available at your location.

If the TV signal used by Media Center is a standard signal from cable or satellite TV, go to Step 6 to setup the TV signal.

If you want to receive a digital signal and do not have cable or satellite TV, perform the following steps to determine if an over-the-air digital signal is broadcasted locally:

  1. Connect the wire from the TV antenna to either a digital television, or a converter box connected to an analog card in the computer.

  2. Make sure the computer is connected to the over-the-air antenna wire, and not a cable TV or satellite TV wire.

  3. Perform a channel scan on the computer to see which stations the antenna receives. If a list of digital TV stations appears, the antenna is capable of receiving digital TV broadcasts.

  4. If the antenna does not receive digital TV broadcasts, it may need to be replaced. Check with a local antenna provider.

Write down all types of TV broadcasting available at your location:

  • Cable TV (QAM)

  • Satellite TV.

  • Analog over-the-air broadcasts (NTSC, PAL)

  • Digital over-the-air broadcasts (ATSC, DVB-T, DMB-TH)

    NOTE: At the time of this writing, Windows Media Center might not work with certain digital broadcasts that use advanced compressions - such as DVB-T with MPEG-4 compression. If Windows Media Center does not work with the digital broadcast in your area, you can download and install a free software program that is capable of supporting the signal (such as MediaPortal Non-HP site (in English)).

Once you know the type of broadcasting available at your location, go to Step 2 .

Step 2: Find out what type of tuner is installed in the PC

To determine which TV tuners are installed in the computer, open the Device Manager:

  1. In Windows 7 or Vista, click Start
    , right-click Computer , select Properties , and then click Device Manager on the left side of the window.

    In Windows XP, click Start , right-click My Computer , select Properties , click the Hardware tab, and then click Device Manager .

  2. Click the + button next to Sound, video and game controllers to view the TV tuners in the computer.

    Figure 1: Device Manager Screen

    Screen shot of the Device Manager Screen
  3. Right-click the TV tuner and select Properties to find out more device information.

Write down the type of TV tuner you have:

  • Analog (NTSC, PAL)

  • Digital (ATSC, DVB-T, DMB-TH)

  • If the computer has more than one type, write down digital.

Once you have determined the type of TV tuner installed in the computer, go to Step 3 .

Step 3: Check the Media Center version

Find out what version of Media Center you have. Early versions of Media Center (before Media Center 2005) do not support a digital tuner card.

  1. In Media Center, select settings .

  2. Select General .

  3. Select About Windows Media Center .

  4. Select Software Version .

  5. Write down if your version of Media Center is 2005 or greater.

    NOTE: The first version of Media Center to support digital TV tuner cards is Media Center 2005. Previous versions only support analog TV tuner cards.

Once you have determined the version of Media Center installed in your computer, go to Step 4 .

Step 4: Choosing a TV signal setup

If digital broadcasting is not available in your locale, continue using analog. Do not use the remainder of this document until digital broadcasting is available.

If digital broadcasting is available in your area, choose from one of the following scenarios:

  • If the computer has a digital or analog tuner with any version of Media Center and you want to receive TV from a cable or satellite set-top box , connect a cable from the TV-out on the set-top box to the TV-in on the computer and complete the TV setup screens in Media Center ( Step 6 ). The connection between the set-top and the TV tuner on the computer is analog (either through coaxial or S-video).

  • If the computer has any tuner and you want to receive digital HDTV programming from cable or satellite , the PC might require special hardware. ATSC/DVB-T tuners will not work. In some areas, "Unprotected" HD programming, such as ClearQAM can be received when using a QAM-capable tuner in Windows 7 or Vista Media Center. To view "protected" and "unprotected" HD programming from a cable company a specially configured PC system called a "Windows Digital Cable compatible PC" might be needed. In short, if you want to view digital HD programming from your cable or satellite TV provider, call them and discuss your options.

  • If the computer has a digital tuner with Media Center 2005 or greater and you want to receive digital over-the-air broadcasts (antenna) , connect the antenna to the Digital TV-in port on the computer (ATSC, DVB). On some tuners, the TV-in connector is the same for analog or digital. Once the antenna is connected, rerun Setup TV Signal in Media Center selecting Digital antenna as the input source. After you have completed the TV Setup in Media Center you are done. If the reception quality is bad, you may need to purchase an antenna that works better with digital broadcasts. You do not need to use the remainder of this document.

    Figure 2: TV Signal Screen

    screen shot from Media Center showing Digital antenna selected for TV Signal Type
  • If the computer has an analog tuner with Media Center 2005 or greater and you want to receive digital over-the-air broadcast (antenna) , upgrade the tuner to a digital tuner that is compatible with Windows Media Center. Replacing the analog tuner with a digital tuner provides the best functionality. Alternately, you can purchase and install a digital-to-analog converter box. This method might be the least expensive but is not recommended as the behavior of Media Center is impacted. If you still want to connect a converter box to your Media Center computer, continue using this document and skip to Step 5 .

  • If the computer has an analog tuner with a version of Media Center prior to 2005 and you want to receive digital over-the-air broadcast (antenna) , you should upgrade Windows Media Center to edition 2005 (or later) and upgrade the tuner with a digital tuner that is compatible with Windows Media Center. Upgrading Windows media Center and the tuner provides the best functionality. Alternatively, you can purchase and install a digital-to-analog converter box and you will not have upgrade Windows Media Center or the tuner. This method might be the least expensive but is not recommended as the behavior of Media Center is impacted. If you still want to connect a converter box to your Media Center PC, continue using this document and go to Step 5 .

Step 5: Connect an digital-to-analog converter box to the PC

Connecting an analog-to-digital converter box is not an ideal solution, but it can provide enough functionality to continue viewing TV from your Media Center PC. Use the following steps to connect a converter box:

  1. Connect a cable from the antenna to the converter box.

  2. Connect a cable from the converter box the TV tuner on the computer.

    Figure 3: Antenna to Converter to Computer Hookup

    Illustration showing connection between antenna, converter box, and computer
    1 - From antenna
    2 - Digital-to-analog converter box
    3 - Connect to TV-in or NTSC (not antenna)

Step 6: Setup digital TV signal in Media Center

Use the TV Setup within Windows Media Center to setup the TV signal, channels and guide.

NOTE: Different versions of Media Center appear differently. The following steps were taken from Windows Media Center Windows Vista version 6.1.1. Windows 7 and other versions are similar.
  1. Press Windows Media Center start button
    .
  2. From Windows Media Center, scroll through the choices and select Tasks .

  3. Select settings .

  4. Select TV .

  5. Select TV Signal .

  6. Select Set Up TV Signal .

    Figure 4: Setup TV Signal Screen

    screen shot showing initial tv signal setup
  7. After confirming your geographical region, Media Center downloads the TV setup options based on the media connections and tuner cards in the computer.

    Figure 5: TV Signal Configuration Result Screen

    screen shot from Media Center showing TV signal configuration results
  8. Since the options vary depending on the type of incoming signals and the tuners on your computer, these are some things to look out for:

    • There are a variety of digital-to-analog converter boxes, so the Media Center experience varies from box to box.

    • Media Center recognizes the converter box as a set-top box.

    • When setting up the converter box, the TV signal choice in some versions of Media Center is: Cable or Satellite . For setup purposes, the correct choice is Cable .

      Figure 6: TV Signal Set-top Box Selection Screen

      screen shot showing Set-top box signal choices
    • Media Center asks for the number of digits for the TV channels: two digits, three digits or four digits.

    • When selecting channels, it may be necessary to key in additional zeros at the end of a three- or four-digit number.

    • The programming guide shows the channel numbers for cable or satellite, which are inaccurate for the over-the-air antenna. Without the guide for the over-the-air antenna, the recording function is very limited.

    • To schedule TV recordings, the converter box must always be on and set to the channel being recorded.

    • Scheduling a different channel requires physically changing the channel setting on the converter box.

    • Media Center includes steps for configuring the converter box remote control, so it can be recognized by Media Center.

    • In order to change channels, the IR receiver from Media Center needs to be near the IR sensor on the converter box.

    • The converter box displays channels at the top right of the screen.

    • The converter box may produce an image that does not fill the screen and is framed in black, so the display on the monitor may need adjustment.

Supplementary Information

  • Digital TV signals supported by Windows Media Center are: ATSC (North America, Korea), QAM (United States), ISDB (Japan), DVB-T (Europe), and DVB-S (Europe and rest of world).

  • The Analog TV signals are: NTSC (North America, parts of South America, Japan, Philippines, South Korea), PAL (Africa, Europe, Australia, Asia, and parts of South America) and SECAM (Africa, Eastern Europe, former Soviet Union, Asia, Pacific Islands, and some countries in Europe and South America).

Related support

Installing or Replacing a TV Tuner Card: http://www.hp.com/cposupport/personal_computing/support_doc/c00371243.html (in English)

General information on digital TV from the United States government: http://www.dtv.gov/whatisdtv.html Non-HP site (in English)

Information about digital TV: http://www.dtvanswers.com/dtv_how2.html Non-HP site (in English)

Microsoft Windows Media Center TV signals website: http://windowshelp.microsoft.com/Windows/en-US/help/ef5b8360-958c-425b-9529-2922167e78631033.mspx Non-HP site (in English)

List of cards that are compatible with Windows Media Center: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/compatibility/ Non-HP site (in English)

Information about antennas: http://www.antennaweb.org/aw/info.aspx?page=FAQ Non-HP site (in English)

Connecting the digital-to-analog converter box: http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/setup-converterbox.html Non-HP site (in English)

NOTE: One or more of the links above will take you outside the Hewlett-Packard Web site. HP does not control and is not responsible for information outside the HP Web site.

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