A guide to using your PC as a TV

A guide to using your PC as a TV

Keep family disputes at bay by using your Advent PC as an extra TV

The days of limited viewing choices on the TV are long gone. With dozens of channels to choose from, it’s rare that the whole family will sit down and tune in to the same programme at the same time. It can be a challenge to remain master of the remote with stroppy teenagers demanding a dire reality show while your other half wants a nature documentary on a different channel.

Luckily, your Advent PC can settle family disputes without resorting to a revolution. It can double up as a spare TV, either through your aerial or via the internet. So, when you’re desperate to settle down to Downton Abbey on a Sunday evening you can simply boot up your PC and tell the kids to get comfy in the other room.

Watching TV over the internet

Thanks to some clever technology called ‘streaming’, you can now watch TV online without having to wait ages for the programme to download first. The internet has also benefited from the explosion of new channels through Freeview, satellite and cable. This means you can watch most free-to-view channels online in real time. With the four big providers (BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5) all now offering catch-up services, you can watch pretty much any programme you like at a time that suits you.

If you want to watch ‘live’ TV online, your best bet is to visit TV Catchup. Despite the name, this site actually gives you real-time access to over 40 digital UK TV channels. Best of all, it’s free and you don’t need any special software, you simply watch the channel through your web browser.

Watch free-to-air channels without a TV, using TV Catchup.

You will need to register to use the service but it’s a simple process and just requires an email address and your choice of a username and password. Once you’ve logged on, just click on the logo of the channel you want to view, sit through a brief advert and then start watching the channel in real time.

You also have the choice of three levels of viewing quality. ‘Standard’ is the default option but you can choose to switch to lower or higher quality, depending on the capabilities of your internet connection. The highest setting will put the most pressure on your connection so, if the picture freezes, switch to a lower setting. The picture won’t be as crisp but it’s still perfectly watchable.

Watching BBC online

You can watch any of the BBC channels live by visiting BBC iPlayer. Once you’re online, scroll down to the channel list on the bottom left, pick the channel you want and click Watch Now. It’s that simple.

BBC iPlayer is also the place to go to catch up on programmes you missed first time round. You’ll find most shows on here and they’re kept for at least a week after their TV debut, so you’ve got plenty of time to catch up. You can either use the search facility to find programmes, or you can browse by genre, by channel or alphabetically. Some series include the entire backlog so you can settle down for a whole evening of uninterrupted viewing.

If a programme is about to expire on iPlayer but you still haven’t found the time to watch it, don’t despair. If you download and install the iPlayer application, you can download programmes to your computer and watch them any time, up to a month after they’ve been on TV. And because they’re downloaded, you don’t even need to be connected to the internet to watch them. 

BBC iPlayer provides live and catch-up TV programmes that you can watch now or download and enjoy later.

Other catchup TV services

It’s not just the BBC that offers catchup TV. Channel 4 and its related Channels (E4, More4 and 4Music) all have streaming shows on 4oD. You can also catch up on old classics and favourite episodes of previously aired programmes, most of which are free to watch.

Channel 5 also has its own streaming service at Demand 5 or, if ITV is home to your favourites, then head to ITV Player for all the ITV channels. All of these catch-up services work in a similar way. There are instructions at each site, which are all easy to follow but you usually just select the programme you want and watch it through your browser.

The ITV Player offers a range of streaming content from across its many channels.

And, if you thought YouTube was just a place to upload video footage of dancing dogs, you might be surprised to learn that this is another great resource for old TV programmes, with the TV channels themselves supplying a lot of the content. Just log on to YouTube, click on TV Shows and browse until you find something you want to watch.

The ITV Player offers a range of streaming content from across its many channels.

Watching TV through your aerial

You don’t have to go online to use your PC as a TV. If you have a TV tuner dongle , you can plug in a USB stick and your computer can pick up terrestrial television in the same way as Freeview. Prices start from just £29.99 for the PCTV nanoStick USB Digital TV Tuner.

The AVerTV is compatible with Windows Media Center, which means you simply plug it into your laptop or computer and it will automatically install itself without an installation disc. Many dongles come with their own portable aerials, but you may have to plug it into your house aerial to get the best signal.

With a TV tuner and Windows Media Center, you can pick a show to watch from the guide.

Click here to follow a complete step-by-step guide to watching and recording TV through a TV tuner on your PC.

It’s quick and easy to set up your advent PC to watch TV. So, if you’re looking for a way to settle family disputes about programme preferences, this could be the answer. There won’t be tears before bedtime, after all.