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How to watch cable channels on my PC?

BlueWeasel

Lifer
Jun 2, 2000
15,893
308
126
I've got a multi-monitor setup and I'd like to watch standard definition cable (Comcast) on my PC. Ideally, I'd want the channels to be in a resizable window, not fullscreen, that could be moved between monitors easily.

I don't need recording ability or any other special features. Don't really even care about a remote, but would probably go with one if it makes flipping through the channels easier.

What cheap, recommended hardware do I need for this? My preference would be an external USB device, but would consider an expansion card. I don't think I have any available PCI-e slots left, but I do have a PCI slot or two.
 

Jovec

Senior member
Feb 24, 2008
579
2
81
Windows Media Center 7 and 8 are your only choices if you want to watch encrypted channels using a cable card tuner. I can go over the hardware you need for this if you want.

I believe all standard def channels are being moved (or have moved) to digital. USB sticks that do want you want. Note that ATSC is digital antenna, clearQAM is unencrypted digital from the cable company, and NTSC is analog. NTSC tuners may also have hardware encoding (the tuner encodes the TV stream) or software encoding (your CPU encodes the TV stream). Hardware encoding was a bigger deal for older, slower hardware, but NTSC is dying anyway. ATSC and ClearQAM signals already come encoded from the cable company, and these tuners merely pass the signal on to your computer.

You might also consider a networked tuner, such as the Silicon Dust HD Homerun. This allows a single tuner to be used with multiple computers.

For NTSC, ATSC, and clearQAM you have multiple software options, including Windows Media Center, the software that comes with the tuner (varies), Sage TV, MythTV, and more.
 
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LoveMachine

Senior member
May 8, 2012
491
3
81
I use a cheap USB to coaxial TV tuner (Can't remember the brand/model) that was ~$40 on the Egg that hooks up to my ol' fashioned roof mounted antenna for HD network OTA channels, using Windows Media Center. I've not used it with cable, but I think WMC can do non-premium cable content as with, with guide. Works great as a DVR as well, and can be windowed and moved around. A cheap $20 Rosewill WMC remote (or more specifically, the USB adapter plus a Harmony remote) works well, too, though is not required. Aside from the hardware costs, it was all free with Win7. Your sig says Win8.1, and if you have Pro, there is a fee to get WMC. Standard, I think you have to upgrade to Pro (mucho clams to MS). I'm not saying this is the best way to go, it's just what I have. I think most of the higher end Hauppage and Ceton tuners (PCI-E) do come with some sort of software to watch cable TV, but the software ends up being the weakest spot.

Edit: Damn, I took too long to type, and Jovec's answer was much better.
 

BlueWeasel

Lifer
Jun 2, 2000
15,893
308
126
Thanks for the info, Jovec and LoveMachine.

I assume it's all digital at this point, as all my TV's require the small Comcast boxes.

So if I go with the one of the USB devices linked by Jovec, will another Comcast box be required or does the USB tuner handle it?

All I'm interested in is the basic, standard channels - major networks, ESPN, TBS, etc. While we have premium movie channels, those are HD and only on the main living room TV.
 

BlueWeasel

Lifer
Jun 2, 2000
15,893
308
126
Kinda pissed off that I now must buy WMC for Windows 8.1, even though I have already have a key for it provided when Win 8 came out.

Just tried adding it but it claims the key isn't valid. Wonder if calling MS would fix the activation?
 

AnMig

Golden Member
Nov 7, 2000
1,760
3
81
Vulkano

Will stream your cablebox channel to any device android, apple, PC.

Quality is very good specially if you have a fast internet connection or streaming locally.

You can only watch one channel at a time but several devices can watch at the same time.

You can change channels using software remote that translates the signal back to the box via infrared.

You can even watch TV when you are not at home.

I tried the TV tuner card before but quality always sucked (thru coaxial).

I believe it works like sling box.

Good luck
 

ViRGE

Elite Member, Moderator Emeritus
Oct 9, 1999
31,516
165
106
All I'm interested in is the basic, standard channels - major networks, ESPN, TBS, etc.
Then those USB tuners will not work. Comcast encrypts most of their channels, and these days virtually every region has the expanded basic lineup (and above) encrypted, if not every channel period. Those USB tuners only support ClearQAM (unencrypted) channels, so they're useless for encrypted channels.

If you want to watch encrypted channels on your PC, you're going to have to follow Jovec's advice. You'll need a CableCard equipped tuner such as the HD HomeRun Prime or InfiniTV, a rented CableCard from Comcast, and you'll need to use Windows Media Center.
 

Schmide

Diamond Member
Mar 7, 2002
5,367
284
126
Windows Media Center 7 and 8 are your only choices if you want to watch encrypted channels using a cable card tuner. I can go over the hardware you need for this if you want.

You might also consider a networked tuner, such as the Silicon Dust HD Homerun. This allows a single tuner to be used with multiple computers.

For NTSC, ATSC, and clearQAM you have multiple software options, including Windows Media Center, the software that comes with the tuner (varies), Sage TV, MythTV, and more.
I haven't found a workaround, when you use a cable card device, it pairs with the computer. You can watch regular channels with other programs but encrypted (pay) channels are only available on the paired device. However you can use an xBox360 or WMC extender (expensive! get a used xbox360) to watch elsewhere.
 

Jovec

Senior member
Feb 24, 2008
579
2
81
I haven't found a workaround, when you use a cable card device, it pairs with the computer. You can watch regular channels with other programs but encrypted (pay) channels are only available on the paired device. However you can use an xBox360 or WMC extender (expensive! get a used xbox360) to watch elsewhere.
I use a cable card in a networked HD Homerun Prime and I get all my channels on all my computers, subject to my 3 tuner limitation. In this case the m-card (multistream cable card) pairs with the HD Prime, not to an individual computer. I don't pay for premium channels (just expanded basic), but I do get access to more channels than I did when I just had ClearQAM tuners so it is working.

OP, try calling your local cable office and ask them, but given that 1) you pay for premium channels which you can watch on your main TV, 2) your other TVs require cable boxes but do not get those same premium channels, your basic cable channels are unencrypted and a ClearQAM tuner should work.
 
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Schmide

Diamond Member
Mar 7, 2002
5,367
284
126
I have HD Homerun Prime as well.

I guess I used the wrong terminology. Pay DRM channels are locked to the paired computer and can only be viewed by it or a Microsoft approved extender.

I can see the non DRM channels as well on other computers.
 

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