How to Build Your Own Cable Box

Companies that manufacture household TV sets for cable-readiness are on the rise, but that does not help people who have yet to invest in a newer appliance. Instead, many people rely on set-top boxes to get the benefits of higher-quality cable television programming. Some households -- especially apartment dwellers -- rent these converters because they may not be able to justify investing in a cable box that they cannot use at a new residence. If this is your reasoning as well, but you still wish to have your own equipment, you can use a Windows-based PC to build a cable box.

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Custom-built cable boxes move with you.

Step

Obtain an external TV tuner that connects to USB ports on PCs. USB ports are readily available on desktop and laptop computers. The fiber optic cords that extend from the wall in your home screw onto the coaxial cable connection on your computer's TV tuner card. Follow the TV tuner manufacturer's instructions for installing the hardware and drivers, until you finally connect the cable cord to the tuner. This completes the equipment-building phase of your cable box.

Step

Click "Start" on the taskbar at the bottom of the Windows desktop. Type "Windows Media Center" in the search box at the bottom of the "Start" menu. Press "Enter" to open WMC on the start screen.

Step

Press the down arrow on the keyboard to highlight "Tasks" on the start screen. Click "Settings." Choose "TV." Select "Set Up TV Signal." Click "Yes," if prompted.

Step

Click "Next" after making selections on the pages that follow in WMC. These pages differ, based on the TV tuner card that you decided to use. The questions and settings selections include the following: region, ZIP code, terms of service and end-user license agreement. Also, pay attention to setting up the "TV Program Guide" page, because this mimics the feature in cable boxes that lists what is coming on in the future.

Step

Click "Yes, Configure TV With These Results" on the "TV Signal Detection Result" screen if you see your TV tuner listed on the page. Click "Next."

Step

Scroll through the list of signal providers on the "TV Signal Provider" screen. Click on the provider that best matches your service and location. Click "Next." Select "Finish" to complete the programming phase for the cable box.

Step

Click the "Back" button in WMC to return to the start screen. Select "Live TV" to begin using your cable box.