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A Complete Guide to TV Tuner Cards

We have been reviewing a lot of TV on Your PC software recently, but today we are going to take the whole TV on your PC thing in a new direction. Getting a TV Tuner Card is an alternative to watching television through the internet. A TV Tuner Card is a piece of hardware that allows you to watch cable television directly on your PC. I have had a few TV Tuner Cards over the years, and they are great if you want to watch your cable service on a PC. They also allow you to record television shows, turning your PC into a DVR which is a really useful feature.

Selecting the Right Card

Summary: I currently recommend the WinTV HVR 1600. This card allows you to watch HD broadcasts on your PC, and includes a remote and easy to use software.

When looking for any piece of computer hardware you want to make sure that it will work with the computer you have and make sure that it has the right features and will provide the performance you are looking for. In the case of TV Tuner Cards, there are really two different types of cards, PCI and PCI express. Before buying a card you need to find out if your motherboard supports PCI express which is about 16 times faster than PCI. If it does than a card that supports PCI Express is the obvious choice. If not, don’t worry TV tuner cards are not like graphics cards and there really isnt much of a difference when it comes to just watching television on your PC.

One thing that is worth mentioning is that some of the current generation of TV Tuner Cards can’t handle HD broadcasts so if you are looking to watch HD television on your PC, make sure you find a card that can receive HD digital cable, not just over the air HD broadcasts.

dock-2.jpgA great card that can do pretty much everything is the WinTV HVR 1600. This powerful card and allows you to watch ATSC high definition digital TV in full 1080i HD or traditional analog cable. The card comes bundled with a remote that you can control the TV tuner software with. The WinTV HVR 1600 will only work with Windows. If you want a card that can receive HD broadcasts, and comes with a remote and powerful software, this is a good choice.

For those who don’t want to open up their computer…

If you want a quick and easy way to start watching TV on your PC I recommend looking into the WinTV HVR-1950 External USB HDTV Tuner/Video Recorder, which is an external TV Tuner that is ready to go out of the box. You just plug it into your computer with a USB cable and your good to go.

Hauppauge has also just released a next generation TV tuner the WinTV-HVR-1800 which is a PCI Express card that supports HD broadcast. This card has an NTSC tuner for analog TV broadcasts and a ATSC tuner for digital broadcasts. If you are looking for a top of the line card, you should definitely check this one out.

Personally I shop at Amazon or Newegg, they usually have the best deals on most computer hardware, so your best bet is to check there first. You should be able to pick up a decent card for around $65.00 (as stated above, if you want a card that supports HD it will cost more). Some of the top of the line cards are a few hundred dollars, however I would only recommend getting one of these if you are doing professional video capturing and editing.

The great thing about Amazon and Newegg is that they are not only cheap, but they ship your items ridiculously fast, I’ve gotten my items in one business day before with just the standard ground shipping.


Once you have your card, you will need to install it in your computer. If you arn’t a technical person or a computer guru, then installation may be a bit tricky, however its not really that bad. There are basically 4 steps when you are installing a TV tuner card. I’ve simplified the process a bit, however as long as you follow the instructions that comes with your card, and use this as a general guide as well, you should be fine.

Step 1 – Hardware Installation
First you must install the card in your computer. To do this you must open the case of your computer up and insert the card into a PCI or PCI Express slot. These slots are easy to find and should be near the base of your motherboard, if you have a graphics card or sound card they will be plugged into one of these slots as well (there are usually 3 PCI slots and 1 PCI Express slot.) Once you plug the card in close back up your computer case.

Step 2 – Connect a Video Cable to Your Computer
This step is the easiest. After you have installed the card in your computer you need to plug a cable that will transmit the television signal, if you have cable television you should be able to plug a coaxial cable directly into the TV tuner card you have just installed. Your card may support other types of video in so its not really limited to a coaxial cable, however that seems to be the most common.

Step 3 – Install the Software / Drivers
After you have connected the cable to your computer, you can now try booting it up. When windows starts it should recognize new hardware and you should get a popup window asking if you want to install this new hardware. Your TV Tuner card should have come with a CD that contains drivers you need to install for the card to work with windows. Insert this CD and install the drivers through the add new hardware interface. If this popup does not come up, and it does not recognize the card, try inserting the CD into your computer and then running the setup program included on the CD.

After you install the Drivers, you may be required to restart your computer, and when you start it back up you should be pretty much good to go

Step 4 – Configure / Fine tune your card
dock-3.jpgWell you’ve finally made it to the fun part. When you installed the drivers and software in the last step you should have installed a software program that you use with your TV Tuner Card. Start this program up and it should recognize your card and start receiving television signals. You can then adjust any settings / video options to meet your needs.

Your card may have also come with a remote, if so, then you should be able to use it to change channels and what not once you have the software program running and the infared remote receiver plugged into a USB port.

Enjoy watching television on your PC.

I hope this guide has helped, and If you have any additional questions that the guide hasn’t answered, feel free to leave comments below and I will try to answer them ASAP.

11 Responses to “A Complete Guide to TV Tuner Cards”
Tiffany - November 7th, 2007 at 9:13 pm

Do you have to have cable before you can have tv tuner card???

The Guru - November 7th, 2007 at 10:39 pm

Yes you need to have cable.

trevor - November 18th, 2007 at 10:11 pm

I just bought a new WinTV-HVR-1600 card and installed it without a problem under XP. The next part I am not sure if I did correctly or not. I have Dish Network and have the cable coming from the transceiver to my DVD/VCR “in” and then from the DVD/VCR “out” I have a splitter with one cable going to the TV and the other going to my PC’s Win TV card. When I use the manager to scan for analog channels (I don’t HD TV) it only finds channel 4 and actually see the DVD that is in my DVD/VCR. Should I bypass the DVD player and go straight from the transceiver to the PC or does Dish Network not work with WinTV? Thanks for the help.

zxcasd - December 26th, 2007 at 11:33 am

trevor, i believe you need TWO set-top boxes…. one per TV… the dish’s cable goes into a splitter…. two wires out… each wire to a set-top box and the box connects to your TV…..

otherwise…. if you only have one settop box, the box controls what you are watching…. meaning you can only watch one channel on both your TVs

Andrei - January 20th, 2008 at 12:18 pm

But what if don’t have the cd any more? what should i do then?

The Guru - January 20th, 2008 at 10:00 pm

If you no longer have the CD with the drivers for your TV tuner card, you can probably find them on the manufacturers website for download.

Marshal - March 6th, 2008 at 6:27 pm

Suppose we have pc tuner card & a Reciever.Is there anyway to tune sattelite via tuner(not just watching-in other word, able to surf among channnels by pc tuner)

hardy singh - March 17th, 2008 at 2:05 am

i have bought an philips internal tv tuner card and has been installed as described above however when i start it gives the error findinterface iid_iamtvtuner .can u pl help

mike - January 26th, 2009 at 2:35 pm

To whom it may concern:
I have a tv tuner card, but I also have dish network? how an I to hook up the tuner card to make it work?


Frenchy - February 23rd, 2009 at 6:29 pm

I have a pinnacle TV HD Tuner PCI card for my PC.
It works well with my outdoor antenna when I connect directly to antenna coax with a coax coupler. I can get HD and SD channels.

However when I connect it and my HD TV to 4way (all power pass through) splitter I get no channels on PC card. But my HD TV does get the over the air channels.

I want the antenna to work for both.
What am i missing.

I only bought that splitter because it said it worked with HD. Not sure about the all ports channel part.

Bob - January 26th, 2010 at 12:54 am

If I install a TV tuner card on my computer and I have an extra monitor, can I watch TV while I use the computer (it’s a brand new dual layer computer)?

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