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How to Get TV on Your PC

written by: Arnold Zafra•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 12/22/2008

There are various ways by which you can get TV on your PC, that is letting you watch your favorite TV programs on your desktop or laptop PC. We've listed down five of the most popular ways by which you can TV on your PC either by adding hardware or by simply buying TV programs via online stores.

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    Using a TV Tuner Card

    In the not-so-developed countries where TIVO is not yet a daily consumer commodity or Internet TV programs are not an option due to slow bandwidth, your best bet for watching your favorite TV programs on your PC's LCD is to connect your Cable to your PC using a TV Tuner Card. There are various TV Tuner Cards available in the market today and you can quickly find some cheap ones available at Amazon or in other electronic stores. There are four types of them actually - the Analog TV Tuners which is suitable for real-time viewing and outputs a raw video stream, digital TV Tuner cards which use a signal that is broadcasted as an MPEG-2 stream and requires no encoding, hybrid tuner cards which can both be programmed as an analog and digital TV Tuner, and Combo Tuners which have two separate tuners on the card itself. This TV Tuner Cards offer an easy Do-It-Yourself plug-and play way of connecting your TV Cable to your PC and can provide for a good TV viewing experience on your PC's screen. However, since TV Tuner Cards work on various different interfaces such as PCI Bus, Expansion Cards and the like, some may not be tech savvy enough to tinker with the insides of their PCs just to connect their cable into their PC. For a quicker way of doing it, the USB TV Tuner is the way to go.

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    Using a USB TV Tuner

    Like the TV Tuner Card, a USB TV Tuner also allows you watch TV programs on your PC. Unlike the TV Tuner Card, it has input ports that connect to the outgoing ports on your TV or entertainment center receiver. Digital or analog TV signals then travel through coaxial or composite video cable to the USB TV Tuner which is needed to let you watch TV programs on your PC. Of course, it connects to your PC via an available USB port. USB TV Tuners come in various specs and requirements which are different from one model to another. Some USB TV Tuners have included applications with the facility to pause, rewind or record live TV streaming. While others even allow you to directly burn TV Programs onto a DVD. Using a USB TV Tuner is a faster way of connecting your TV to your PC and lets you enjoy watching your favorite TV programs. It comes with a higher price than TV Tuner Card however.

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    Using TiVoToGo

    From the older ways of getting TV on your PC, we now go to the newer technologies enabling you to watch TV programs on your desktop PC or on your laptop. One of these newer technologies is TiVoToGo. This is used in conjunction with a Series2 TiVo. It lets you download TV programs you've recorded on your TiVo to your PC. TiVOToGo is a special service which lets you extract television programs you've recorded using your networked stand-alone TiVo device. To view TV programs you need to have these three software applications: TiVo Desktop for unlocking the .tivo file you've downloaded, the MPEG Codec for handling the MPEG file format which translates Audio and Video, and a DirectShow-capable Media Player which will display the TV shows. The best example of this software is, of course, Windows Media Player.

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    Downloading TV Programs from the Web

    If you don't want to hassle with setting up a TV Tuner Card, or if a USB TV Tuner is too expensive for your and so is a TiVo, your next option to get TV on your PC is to download freely available TV programs. These TV programs may be limited to archives of old shows, but they could be a good fare for your retro-TV watching experience on your PC. Or you can subscribe to some major TV networks which are already offering full episodes of their latest TV shows for a minimal fee. A good example is with full episodes of some of their hit TV series. You check out the official websites of these major TV networks to find out if they have TV programs available for download or for watching online. There are also international TV programs available for download and online streaming on the web. So, if you're interested with watching TV programs from around the world, you can always check out sites such as Beeline TV.

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    Of Course, You Can Always Buy Copies of your TV Programs

    If all the previous ways by which you can get TV on your PC didn't appeal to you, well you can always buy copies of your favorite TV programs from various online stores. Fee ranges from $1.99 - up per episode. And you don't have to think too hard to find one; the best example of these online stores which offers TV program episodes is the iTunes Store. Amazon Unbox comes second in terms of offering a comprehensive catalog of popular US TV Programs.