As any good cord cutter knows, high definition over-the-air (OTA) broadcasts are a fantastic way to access your local news, sporting events and content provided by big networks like ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC. Do you know what’s even better than just having the ability to watch OTA content? Recording it so you can watch them on your schedule. In this guide, we’ll discuss using a PC DVR to record your favorite shows, live sports, and more.
Here at HowtoWatch, we’ve compared some of the best OTA DVR’s on the market, like the excellent TabloTV. But what if you don’t have a TV, or you don’t have room in the budget for an OTA DVR? Lucky for you, you can use your existing PC as a OTA DVR. This is a cheap and easy way to use a DVR recorder to your advantage, without purchasing an expensive set-top box. Read on to find out more.
What You Need to Use Your PC as an OTA DVR
As the title suggests, you’ll need a PC to act as your OTA recorder. It doesn’t matter whether it is a laptop or desktop, but you’ll want to make sure that it has a sizeable hard drive in order to have an effective PC DVR. There is nothing worse than scheduling a recording only to find out that the recording failed because there wasn’t enough space on your hard drive. The file size of your OTA recordings will depend on the length and quality of the program that you are recording, so you’ll want to ensure that you have a decent amount of free space on your drive, or alternatively, have an external hard drive that you can transfer your recordings to.
Secondly, you’ll need an antenna. Where you live and your proximity to TV broadcast towers, you can either go with an indoor antenna like the Mohu Leaf if you’re in a metro area, or an outdoor antenna like the Mohu Sky if you’re a bit further out. Make sure you consult our guide on how to choose the best TV antenna.
Last but not least, you’ll need a TV Tuner for your PC DVR. TV Tuners come in two different types, internal and external. To find out which best suits you, check out our earlier guide on the different types of TV Tuners and how to get your TV Tuner set up.
Use Your PC DVR to Record Your Shows and Enjoy!
With your TV Tuner installed, follow the instructions and scan for OTA channels. If you’re having difficulty receiving stations, have a look at our guide on how to get better TV antenna reception. When the scan is done, you should be able to tune into any of the channels that you’ve received, straight on your PC!
Most of the TV Tuners on the market today come bundled with software that will allow you to schedule recordings of OTA broadcasts. There are a number of other software options available to you, but if your PC is running Windows 7, there is a good chance you have access to one of the best TV recording programs available in Windows Media Center.
Unfortunately, Microsoft has discontinued the Windows Media Center app on operating systems past Windows 7, however with a little elbow grease it is possible to get Windows Media Center up and running on Windows 10. Alternatively you can buy the very similar My Media Center app for a nominal fee from the Windows app store, which is compatible with Windows 8, 8.1 and 10.
Once you have recorded your desired programming, you might want to consider converting the video files so that they are compatible with all of your devices, such as your phone or tablet. Luckily, there are a number of video conversion programs available that make this process simple and easy.
And there you have it, a simple way to transform your PC into a PC DVR. Now you can watch all of your favorite OTA programming when it best suits you, on your preferred device and have the ability of fast forwarding through all of those pesky commercials.
Do you use your PC as an OTA DVR? What video conversion programs do you use? Let us know in the comments!