Book excerpt: Use your PC to record broadcast TV for free
The following is an excerpt from a book I think Savings.com
readers would greatly enjoy: "The Cheapskate Rules: 21 Easy Money-Saving Tech
It's chock full of great tips like this one, and it's
insanely cheap at just $4.99. You can read it on your Kindle, your
smartphone, your tablet, or even your Mac or PC.
Nepotism alert: I wrote it. But as you'll see from the glowing
user reviews, it more than pays for itself. End of plug; on with
I get a lot of questions from people who are looking for a way
to cut that pricey cable-TV cord, but don't want to give up
watching and recording their favorite network shows—especially
sports and other live broadcasts.
Turns out there's an easy and very affordable solution, one that
eliminates cable service (well, cable TV service—you still need
Internet in some form) and frees you from monthly fees.
It's called Windows 7. This may come as a surprise, but Windows
packs a very powerful TiVo-like DVR system called Windows Media
Center. When paired with an inexpensive TV tuner and a decent
antenna, it lets you watch and record broadcast television—in
high-def! For free!
The PC part is up to you. It can be a laptop or desktop, as long
as it runs Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate.
Media Center is available for Windows 8 users, too, but it's not
included with the OS. Instead, you have to add it by purchasing the
Windows 8 Pro Pack or, if you're running Windows 8 Pro, the Windows
Media Center Pack. The two add-ons costs $99.99 and $9.99,
You'll also need a reasonably large hard drive with a decent
chunk of free space. A one-hour recorded TV show can easily consume
7-8 gigabytes, so if you're envisioning recording multiple episodes
of multiple shows, make sure you have ample storage to spare.
Before we talk tuners, make sure you live in an area that gets
decent over-the-air (OTA) reception of local channels. A site
can answer that question for you and
tell you what kind of antenna you might need to get. (If you're
already watching OTA shows on your TV, just without a PC in the
mix, you're all set.)
Your antenna will screw into the tuner, which in turn will plug
into one of your PC's USB ports. Then you'll run Windows Media
Center and walk through the TV setup process.
So, what kind of tuner should you get? I recommend sticking with
a well-known brand like Hauppauge, just to ensure proper
compatibility with Windows Media Center. I've had good luck with
the WinTV-HVR-950Q, which has a list price of $99 but routinely
sells online for around $75. But there are other options out there
priced as low as $25, so shop around.
The tuner enables the PC to display and record broadcast TV
shows. There are no fees for using it, no fees for the Windows
Media Center program guide, and, thanks to that government
everyone' s always complaining about, no charge for the broadcasts.
I love this option. It's a great way to put an older PC to good
use.Veteran technology writer Rick Broida
is the author of numerous books, blogs, and features. He lends his
money-saving expertise to CNET and Savings.com, and also writes for PC