The growth of digital television means getting TV on to your PC is easier than ever. After you install a television tuner and drivers, launch the media control software to configure your application. From the opening screen, select the TV option. This will take you through the setup process.
After selecting the appropriate region, click the Start button to begin scanning. Depending on your type of card (and your location), you will receive analogue or free-to-air digital channels. The number available will depend on your local reception. Boost the signal by plugging your device into the main household aerial.
Once the channels have been set up, select one to watch. The TV Stick we've used is HD-ready, offering high-definition picture quality. As well as being able to watch fullscreen, you can set programmes to record. Click the red button on the console at the bottom of the screen. Programmes will be saved to your hard drive.
You aren't restricted to capturing the programmes you're watching. By scheduling recordings you can use your TV as a video recorder - ideal if you're going away. Select a channel, date and time to copy video. The recording will be saved as an Mpeg2 or Mpeg4 file. It will say how much space is required.
If your PC is powerful enough (ideally, it will be equipped with a dual-core processor), you'll be able to encode and play a TV stream simultaneously. If you're recording while watching, you can pause the video without affecting how it's captured to disk and pick up a show later with no loss of quality.
Your TV tuner card should come with an EPG (electronic programme guide) - an onscreen list of scheduled broadcasts that allows you to select programmes according to content, time, title or genre. If you subscribe to such a guide, you can use it to schedule recording times for programmes.
If you're using Vista or Windows Media Center you can use the built-in interface to organise recordings. From the Start screen, select TV + Movies to watch video that has been recorded to your hard drive. Click the + and - buttons to move between channels or to save programmes to disk.
Windows Media Player 11.0 comes as part of the Vista OS. XP users can download this from click here. In addition to a slick new interface, WMP 11.0 provides a useful media-sharing feature for streaming your media library across a network, as well as better synching features for mobile devices.
To use WMP 11.0 to play back your recorded TV shows click Library then, under the icon in the top lefthand corner, select Recorded TV. Media Player searches selected folders for files, but you can add other recorded TV shows by going to the ‘Click here' link and selecting the Add button.
When you've created a library, double-click programmes to play them or create a playlist of your favourite clips by selecting Create Playlist. You can archive your programmes to disc by selecting the Burn button. Drag selected items into the Burn List before clicking on Start Burn.