Love Vista? Hate missing TV? Then we've got a treat for you. Windows Media Center's PVR features will help you catch every last movie, superhero drama and sporting disaster – and archive the lot for safekeeping.
1. If you have Vista Premium, Business or Ultimate, Windows Media Center comes pre-installed. Click on Vista’s Start button and the main menu will show Media Center as an option. Media Center is an overlay; you can switch between it and the Windows desktop at any time.
2. Windows Media Center in Vista looks slightly different to Windows XP Media Center Edition. The major functions in Vista run in a column down the screen. The options within each function are listed horizontally. Move down to Tasks in the vertical column and across to settings in the horizontal row.
3. If you haven’t used Media Center before, you’ll need to set up the TV signal. This involves scanning the broadcast frequencies for available channels. Select settings, TV, Set Up TV Signal and follow the onscreen instructions. Analogue TV tuners should find five channels; digital tuners should find around 70.
4. Before recording any programs, tell Media Center where you want to store the digital recordings and how much space you want to allocate for storage. Select Settings, TV, Recorder, Recorder Storage. The top pair of buttons display the drives available; the bottom two specify how much hard disk space to allocate to each.
5. Take a look at the recording defaults screen. The first option specifies when Media Center can overwrite recordings – usually when you’ve run out of hard-drive space, but you can set a time limit. You can set time margins before and after a recording, as well as stating the preferred language for your recordings.
6. To schedule a recording in Windows Media Center, you must first use the EPG (electronic programme guide) to find the programme you want to record. You can only make a recording this way if the programme hasn’t already started. Click on the programme’s title in the guide to select it.
7. When you click on any yet-to-be-aired programme in the guide, it displays information about it. You’ll see three buttons on the screen. Press the Record button and a red dot will appear by its listing in the guide. You can now see at a glance which programmes are scheduled to record.
8. Things are slightly different if a programme you’ve scheduled to record is part of a series. The guide will automatically present an extra button marked Record Series on the information page. Click it and all episodes in the series will be scheduled for recording. It’s as easy to record a dozen episodes as to record a single one.
9. Options for recording a series of programmes include how soon recording stops after the programme ends, how many episodes in the series Media Center keeps and which channel it records them from. (The choice of channel can be important, if one channel shows a repeat that is an edited version of the original.)
10. You may schedule the recording of an entire series but, after watching the first couple of episodes, decide it’s not for you. You can cancel any remaining scheduled recordings at any point before the screening of the last episode. Click the Cancel Series button on the Information screen for any episode from that series.
11. To play a programme you’ve recorded open Media Center. Click up or down the vertical menu to TV + Movies and select Recorded TV. You can view programmes full-screen or in a window, allowing you to keep one eye on the telly while scanning through emails, browsing the web or performing other tasks on your PC.
12. Media Center displays a thumbnail image of each recording. Hover over each one to see an enlarged image and some brief information. Click on the thumbnail to show further information about the recording, such as the director and principal actors. You can also see when you the recording was made and its duration.
13. There are four buttons on the movie details screen. The Play and Delete buttons are fairly self-explanatory. The Keep Until button gives the option to keep video ‘until space is needed’, ‘until a set date’, ‘until I watch’ or ‘until I delete’. The final button, Burn CD/DVD, also does what it says on the tin.
14. If you want to archive a recording you’ve made, click the Burn CD/DVD button. Pick the recording format and name the CD or DVD, clicking the Burn CD/DVD button to start the transfer. You can make up a disc from more than one programme that has been previously recorded to the hard drive.