I have been using some of my home PC’s as Media Centers for a long time. Watching recording, scheduling and converting live TV for some time.[since 1998 actually].
To this end I have, for the most part, relied on third party software to do this.
You do need to have a TV Tuner Card to watch live TV. There are many available but I am partial to Hauppauge and ATI. Both seem to have no issues if the correct Operating System drivers are used. And you will need a Video card with an output that can connect to your TV [HDMI is preferable] if you wish to watch your shows on your television and not just your PC. There are plenty reasonable priced options available.
I have used ATI’s Media Center(included with the ALL-In-Wonder and TV Cards), Hauppauge’s WinTV(included with their TV cards), Beyond TV (a great software solution), GBPVR, and I’ve tried many others.
However with the advent of Microsoft’s Vista Media Center Microsoft really improved the ability to do this ‘natively’ within Windows.
With Windows 7, Microsoft has really hit it out of the park for anyone wishing to create an HTPC (Home Theater PC). The integration, ease of use, available plug-ins and native functionality are amazing! Nearly anyone can install a TV card and be recording and watching TV through their PC very quickly and just as easily using their PC as a PVR for the TV shows, watching them on their TV. There is so much that can be done with the media center including; streaming movies and music to other machines on your local network (or even the internet!), copying or moving your recorded movies or music to other devices and more.
I have sent out a number of Windows Media Center how to’s in the past and helped many others to build their system. Many of the tips and instructions including information I put together from various sites and my own experiences and insights. Trouble is most people will not take the time to do any research and to learn something new and will instead contact someone else to ‘set it up for them’. Granted I have and sometimes still do earn some decent money from these people but usually it is family and close friends who insist on not learning for themselves. If you take the time and learn you will be far ahead of the game and have a great deal more enjoyment from your technology.
What I am going to do here is try and put together one of the most complete set of links to information on how to setup, configure and tweak a Windows 7 Media Center.
The 1st place to start is Microsoft’s site. Microsoft has what I believe to be some of the best tutorials and how to’s available anywhere! There loads of videos on how to do just about everything.
Start with the ‘Do I have it?’ video
and work your way through the whole batch of videos. VERY well done.
In my very long history in supporting Microsoft Products I have watched as their training/tutorials for end users has become nothing less than spectacular.
Next stop would be the folks at the How To Geek site. They have put together some very good tutorials and walkthroughs. Many much like the ones I have sent out myself in the past only some of theirs are a little more thorough.
From the HowToGeek site:
Stream Music and Video Over the Internet with Windows Media Player 12
Share and Stream Digital Media Between Windows 7 Machines On Your Home Network
Learning Windows 7: Setup Live TV in Windows Media Center.
Automatically Start Windows 7 Media Center in Live TV Mode.
How To Skip Commercials in Windows 7 Media Center.
Increase Live TV Pause Buffer in Windows 7 Media Center.
Increase Skip and Replay Intervals in Windows 7 Media Center.
Learning Windows 7: Manage Your Music with Windows Media Player.
Share Digital Media With Other Computers on a Home Network with Windows 7.
View Weather Conditions in Windows 7 Media Center.
Some other plug-ins:
Media Center Plug-Ins you should get.
Copy TV to iPod or other Media player:
You will need: