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How to Setup Free Smart TV using a PC

Updated on September 16, 2013
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Overview

A "How To" guide on setting up a PC and use it to run your main TV. Effectively eliminating cable TV, gaming consoles, remote controls and all the other antiquated ways of delivering entertainment to your living room.

This method of setting up a home computer to run as a HTPC (Home Theater PC) assumes you already have TV reception in your area. If you do not have good reception you can still use this guide but you may need to grab your favorite TV shows directly off the net.

This Hub will guide you on how to convert your TV to a smart TV without the expense. I have done this type of setup 3 times at home and twice for friends.

Pros:-

  • No Remote controls needed
  • No cable TV charges
  • Play computer games in your living room on a big screen
  • See full screen TV or in a window
  • No need for game consoles, Xbox or Playstations. A PC TV will do it
  • Switch to internet viewing such as YouTube
  • Pause/Record live TV or record
  • TV guide integrated into TV viewing
  • No more fuzzy cable TV
  • Play MP4's DVD's and most other media
  • No more super repetitive cable TV advertisements.

Cons:-

  • Cost of electricity to run PC and cost of PC




Windows 7 Media Center

Windows Media Center icon
Windows Media Center icon | Source

Getting Started

Basic minimums:-

PC: Pentium 4, with 2 gigs RAM and a digital TV tuner. Note: This lower end PC may not play some true HD videos in 1080p.

TV: Must accept digital input by a HDMI cable or a PC video cable, or use a computer monitor.

Ideal Setup:-

PC: Any Pentium dual core processor, or better, with 4 gigs RAM with a dual channel digital TV tuner and a 1 gigabyte video card.

TV: Digital HD1080p with input by a HDMI cable or a PC video cable, or use a computer monitor.

All Setups:-

All PC's need to be running Windows XP, 7, or Windows 8. Vista does not support the TV guide nor many other extras. The software used to run the TV should be Windows Media Center (not to be confused with Media Player). Windows Media Center is standard with XP, 7 and some versions of Windows 8 and can not be uninstalled.

About the TV tuner for the PC:-

There are many TV tuner brands but I can only recommend AVerMedia and Leadtek. Both come in two types, an internal card or a plug in USB. Of the AverMedia I have had perfect results with AVerTV TwinStar PCI-E card Model A188D and the AVerMedia AVerTV TwinStar USB Model# A825. There is no need to spend more than $60 to $120 on this item unless you want 3D features etc.

About the PC to TV Cable:-

The quality of the HDMI cable is not important, either it works correctly or it does not. So there is no need to spend more than $10.00. If you use an HDMI cable to connect the PC to the TV, the cable will carry both he audio and video to the TV. The picture will be somewhat centered correctly on the TV screen. If it is not it is very difficult to correct. Try the HDMI cable, if it works then that is fantastic. If the picture is not centered then try to adjust this on your TV settings. On the other hand, if a standard monitor cable is used you will not have audio directly to the TV so you will need another cable just for the audio. This audio cable will need to be plugged into PC speakers or a HiFi system. You can not send the audio to the TV speakers because the TV is using the PC input video signal and nothing for the audio. So the advantage of HDMI is you get audio to you TV speakers and the disadvantage is the picture my not be centered on the screen. If you use standard PC cable you have no sound to the TV but you can center the picture on the screen using your video card software. I have used both. Standard PC to monitor cable is fine, and the HDMI leaves on my TV a 1/2" black boarder on the left and right, and a 1/4" one at the top and bottom. I use the HDMI because the borders are not noticeable and I save electricity by not running my HiFi.


Adapters

If your PC does not have a HDMI out then you can use an adapter to connect to the television. There are two types; If the PC has only DVI socket for the video/monitor then use a male to HDMI adapter. If it only has VGA socket then use a VGA male to HDMI adapter. No need to get too confused here as it is only an adapter to allow you to use the HDMI cable. You can check the back of the PC and compare to these photos:-

DVI-I to HDMI Converter Adapter

DVI-I to HDMI Converter Adapter
DVI-I to HDMI Converter Adapter | Source

VGA to HDMI Converter Adapter

 HDMI plug connector at one end and at the other end a DB-15 VGA with an audio jack on the side, this provides stereo from PC to the TV.
HDMI plug connector at one end and at the other end a DB-15 VGA with an audio jack on the side, this provides stereo from PC to the TV. | Source
Source

Putting it all together

Okay, we now have most of what we need to put it all together.

1. Check it will work before spending money

It would be a good idea to check if the PC is ready firstly by starting up Windows Media Center (WMC), it is a green circle icon with the Windows Icon inside the circle. Normally WMC will be in the start menu by default if not search for "Media Center" or "ehlshell.exe" and create a short cut on your desk top.

When you first start WMC it will not work, it must be set-up first, but we will detail that later. Also it would be good time to temporarily plug the PC into the TV to check if it actually works and the picture fills the screen correctly. If you used a HDMI cable to connect to the TV then the way the picture appears on screen can not be changed to fit the screen perfectly, see above notes about HDMI verses normal computer cable.

2. Connect your TV tuner to the PC

If you chose the USB TV tuner,or the internal card type just follow the manufacture's setup guide including their software. This will include connecting your TV antenna to the PC.

3. Setup Windows Media Center

Simply start Windows Media Center, and it will guide you through the set up to the point where you can now see TV on your screen. Here I can not help myself by saying, all the computer gurus out there dog Microsoft at the drop of a hat, but these same guys (99%) have nothing but praise for the Media Center, and no one has much nice to say about other TV software, like the software that comes in the the TV tuner package.We will uninstall non-Windows Media Center software later.

4. Tweak Windows Media Center (optional)

There is little to do with tweaking but you can go one step further by adding the station's icons to your TV guide. It does cost but only a dollar or two, see http://www.mychannellogos.com

Here is a nasty. When you are in live TV and you rewind more than once or twice the screen will go black for a minute or two then return to the program or not return at all. This may not bother some, and it does not bother Microsoft as the fix is too easy, see http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_other-pictures/losing-soundpicture-when-rewinding-live-tv-in/6e0f575a-4bed-4248-9cac-a6392b7b6d16-

Locate and delete these two registry keys and reboot to fix the issue: [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\Curr entVersion\Media Center\Extensibility\Entry Points\{7e7a8710-9e4a-40a3-824a-7b0baf38abcf}] and

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\Curr entVersion\Media Center\Extensibility\Applications\{a0cd8951-e5b6-4662-9c9c-d56c5b38ca59}]

5. Remove the software that came with your TV tuner (optional)

At anytime after installing the TV tuner you can uninstall the software that came with the tuner. The only thing you need to be c areful of is not uninstalling the TV driver. Most uninstall programs will give the option, uninstall all or uninstall all except driver.

6. Lets make it a nice experience

I recommend never taking the remote control that may have come with your TV tuner out of its package, but rather buy a wireless mouse and keyboard. I use an Aurora Micro Wireless KB008W because it includes the mouse into the keyboard. see www.enermax.com/home.php?fn=eng

Now hide the remotes, I can not imagine what you would need them for. Think about it, would you prefer to hunt and learn the keys on the remote, or use a mouse and click on what you want to do.

If you want to play quick paced games then I suggest using a wireless mouse too.

That's it - nothing more to do except call the cable TV company to cancel your subscription. If your missing your favorite sitcom try site like http://www.tvshow7.eu/

Comments are very welcome.

Media Center's TV guide with My Logos
Media Center's TV guide with My Logos | Source
High quality Enermax wireless keyboard & Mouse
High quality Enermax wireless keyboard & Mouse | Source
Put a bullet in your remote
Put a bullet in your remote | Source

Free TV content verses cable

Is free TV content now better than pay TV?

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Comments

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    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      This is a very informative Hub. Some of it is somewhat technical so I will bookmark for later reference. I am still enjoying using my indoor antenna which works great for me. I gave up Cable TV long ago. I do enjoy the Roku box.

      I have linked this Hub into mine about giving up cable TV. Thanks.

      It's about time people realize they don't have to depend on the Cable TV companies!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      I will be back to this hub. We were just talking about this the other day with our TV I want to set it up with to my PC. Now I just need to get time to do it. Great information. Voted up.

    • Que Scout profile image
      Author

      Stephen Hodgkinson 4 years ago from Sydney Australia

      Hi moonlake

      Thanks for the vote up. If you have questions about the set up, feel free to ask.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very interesting and saves hassles and money too. Voted up. Bookmarking this.

    • Que Scout profile image
      Author

      Stephen Hodgkinson 3 years ago from Sydney Australia

      Thanks Rajan

      I do not have a desk computer. All my internet stuff is done whilst sitting on my sofa, keyboard in lap and TV screen in front. It is great for switching between TV, downloaded movies and surfing. I would find it difficult to go back to the standard TV.

      Thanks for your comment.

    • profile image

      Adm 2 years ago

      short answer: yes, but your noalecnmture is off. there are dvd's (digital video discs) and bd's (blu-ray discs). the encoding of each, and the type of player used to read each, is different. but yes you will be able to play both old-school DVD's and the high-def blu-ray discs on your playstation 3; and yes, use HDMI cables for your connections to get the best-quality picture.

    • profile image

      Thiago 2 years ago

      I just want to tell you that I'm very new to weblog and truly eneoyjd your blog site. Most likely I’m likely to bookmark your website . You absolutely have really good posts. Appreciate it for revealing your web-site.

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