How to watch HD TV on your computer for under $70

Can you really watch TV on your computer?

As everyone knows High Definition (HD) TV is so much better than regular TV. I didn’t have an HD capable TV myself and I didn’t want to run out and spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on another TV, so I thought I would investigate other alternatives. I thought there was probably a way to watch TV on my computer, but I wasn’t sure about if it would be in HD or not. I found the answer.

I don’t know that much about TVs, I just know that watching HDTV vs. a normal analog signal is about as drastic of a difference as color was to black-and-white. And then I of course heard about how all television will be going digital in less than a year and those of us with “old-school” TVs will have to get an adapter and possibly a new antenna just to watch the local news.TV tuner to watch HD from your computer

So anyway, I was pleased when I got this cool little TV tuner for my birthday a couple of weeks ago. It plugs into your computer via a USB port and is about the size of a jump drive.

I am still really excited about my little toy. I keep finding out more and more features:

  • It has a TV scheduling program that will allow you to schedule a time for it to record a TV show for you directly to your computer’s hard drive. Basically just like a TIVO. Now I will never miss another episode of “The Office” again.
  • When ATSC digital TV comes next February the TV tuner will also receive the new digital TV channels, so I won’t have to buy an adapter or anything else.
  • It also comes with an RCA adapter and an S-Video adapter which will allow you to hook up a VCR or DVD player and play those videos on your PC as well AND record them. So, now I can take all of my old video tapes and record them and burn them to DVD.

Steps to watch and record HD TV on your computer

  1. You will first need to get a HDTV tuner card, I got this gadget and it costs less than $65, but there are bunch that you can use to watch TV (check closely, because many are TV tuners, but not all are HDTV tuners). I chose the one I did, because it was very simple to use – just plug in and go. The how to watch HD TV on your computerdownside, of course, to having an external one as opposed to an internal one is that it is taking up space in your USB port. I prefer this over having to do PC surgery to install the internal one.
  2. Installation was very simple for me. It comes with a CD that contains the necessary software and drivers. You just drop the CD in, run the setup program and it installs all of the programs and files for you.
  3. Now that the software is installed, you can plug in the tuner stick. The one I received came with a small antenna that attaches to the stick to allow for better reception. Or, you if you have cable you can connect the cable line to it as well.
  4. Next, you can open the software program that the TV tuner came with. You will then need to have the tuner scan for TV channels. It will probably do this for you automatically, if not you may need to dig around the menus to find the option. I was pleasantly surprised that my TV tuner found about twice as many channels as I could watch on my regular TV.
  5. Now, you are ready to start watching TV on your computer!! It’s just like the Jetsons!!

Actually watching HD TV on my computer

Watching TV from my computer

Above is a screen-shot of the program that came with my TV tuner. By a click of a button, it goes to full screen so you can make the most out of your computer monitor’s space.

Although you can change channels and adjust volume from your keyboard, I chose to buy a PC remote control for about $30. Just to make the HDTV watching experience that much better ๐Ÿ˜‰ . I have not yet received the remote control, but I will write about it to let you know how it works with my whole computer TV system.

Getting hundreds of channels to watch on your PC

I have heard about things like this that allow you to watch hundreds of channels on your computer for a small one-time fee. I am not sure exactly how it works, but I am going to try it out soon and I will write about that as well. (Added 12-31-08: A user had a bad experience with this product, see comments below)

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  1. Dave

    This is a great way to get into HDTV for minimal cash investment. I built my own HTPC (Home Theater PC) 4 years back for less than anything on the market…and the programming was all OTA (Over The Air – FREE!).

    This worked great for 3 years, but I was the only one that knew how to work it! Now I have 2 HDTV PCI tuners gathering dust.

    Everyone in my house now prefers the DishNetwork multi-tuner receiver. Best part, I don’t have to be tech support for that.

  2. Tippy

    I bought the Eye Tv for Mac & it works great. I like the DVR function as well.

  3. bob

    You are seem to be way ahead of the curve – you were probably one of those people who got an iPhone the day it came out ๐Ÿ˜‰

    thanks for the info – hopefully I can teach my wife how to use it!!

  4. Dave

    Ha! Well, in full disclosure it was spending like that (piled up on credit cards) which long overdue brought me to the realization that I ought not spend money I don’t have. Had I been able to check my tech appetite 4 years ago, I would be in an even better financial position today. Alas, there were no $70 USB options, and I was 4 years dummerer.

    The iPhone on the other hand was a planned purchase made in cash. I will gladly take friendly jibes all day long for that purchase, because it is a symbol of my liberation from credit card debt. And I can use it as a very handy flash light, guitar tuner, web browser, map, …….. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Cory

    OK – I know this isn’t a tech blog, but does anyone know how to get it from your computer to your TV once you’ve recorded it? It’s boring to watch TV at your computer desk, you know…

  6. Dave

    It can be relatively easy if you have the right connections. Otherwise it can be a major pain.

    If you have a newer TV it may have a DVI or VGA port and you have plug in your TV like a monitor. Some laptops will also have S-Video outputs, but then you won’t be getting HD quality picture.

    If those options are no good for you, you’d need to insert something in the middle to either convert your connections (I have a firewire capture box that can take firewire from my Mac and send SVideo/Stereo audio to the TV) or there are also some wireless solutions on the market that will send video wirelessly to your TV using your home network (assuming you have one).

    One box sits at your TV and your computer can broadcast to it. DLink has one I think. Slingbox may do this also, though I’m not as familiar with that.

  7. Pete

    I use the d-link dsm-320 to watch tv shows from my computer, on the TV. Basically the computer serves the show over the home network, and then the DLink unit plays the show on the tv.

    My xbox 360 does the same thing.

  8. Funny about Money

    This is interesting!

    My old TV, a hand-me-down’s hand-me-down, is about to give up the ghost. Since replacing it with a new HDTV will run somewhere between $400 (for a screen the size of my computer monitor) and almost a thousand bucks, I had decided that come February TV will be a thing of the past. I’ve got enough junk to dust, thank you, and so add-on boxes and still more junky wires do not appeal.

  9. bob

    I hate dusting too!! But, the good thing about this is that you can get multiple uses out of your monitor (so you don’t have to dust the TV) and it costs a fraction of normal HDTVs

  10. Linda Frank

    I just discovered your website and I love it.

  11. bob

    Well, thanks for the kind words!! I appreciate it!!

  12. zgreenwell

    I actually do this. New Vista PCs with Windows Media Center even have Tivo like functionality when you add a tuner like the one shown in the article.

  13. JK

    I’ve just started looking into this possibility of watching tv from the pc. It looks like there is no cable that needs to be run to the computer (which would mean needing to be signed up with the cable company). I’m very interested in this, as I don’t want all the expenses, etc. when everything switches over in a few months. From what this article says, all a person needs is the card. I’ll have to check into it.

  14. bob

    thanks for sharing that – I will mention it in the post above

  15. G

    That software they sell is just the TVU Player (you can see the name in the upper right hand corner of the screen shot) – it’s software that’s put out there for free and he’s just selling it.

    If you google TVU it’ll be the first link called “TVU Networks” and anyone can download the software for free there.

  16. Jasmine

    I purchased stream direct TV, and I am very satisfied with this software. Thinking about portability, this one is really good because you can install stream direct TV onto your laptop. Now I could watch TV anywhere and anytime I want.

  17. mandy

    I agree with Jasmine, Stream Direct TV is absolutely a great way to have thousands of Tv channels directly into your very own laptop. You don’t have to look any further because it will provide you with high quality channels that you will never found on other software!

  18. Jack Jensen

    Bob: Not being a “techi” in any sense of the word, please tell me how I can get TV programs on my laptop and watch them on my HDTV.
    I am tired of paying for cable.
    Thanks, Jack Jensen


    sincerely,i should say the truth, i do not have a t.v nor a computer.If the mercy of the Lord prevails i request to be assisted for the aggressiveness spread of the word of the Lord with less expensiveness.Thanks A lot.Amen.

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