First, some background. Like the United States, Canada has decided to transition all television broadcasts from analog to digital. These new digital signals have greater effective range, provide a crystal-clear high definition picture, and as with all over the air network TV broadcasts are free and legal to access. It’s worth noting that over the air signals represent the best high-definition picture quality you can get for network television – better than cable and much better than satellite. While high definition is available for a fee via cable and satellite, those high definition channels are subject to ever-increasing compression and picture quality degradation as they try to squeeze more and more content into your subscription. And unlike cable and satellite, over the air broadcasts are not encrypted and can be easily incorporated into a Media Center setup, copied over to your iPod, and are generally easy to use. The United States has completed their digital transition, and shut down the analog broadcasts in February 2009. Canada is well into its transition, with most major markets now broadcasting in digital and 100% of the country switching over to digital by late 2011 before we shut down our analog transmitters. Here in Toronto, I can get access to every major US and Canadian network in full high-definition glory using a $40 antenna that I put in my attic.
QAM is very similar except that instead of getting the signals over-the-air using an antenna, the signals travel over your cable company’s network. However in most of Canada this isn’t useful, as Canadian cable companies tend to encrypt or scramble their signal making it completely useless without buying their cable box. There are some lucky regions in the country however who do get access to unencrypted QAM, and for those people it’s a virtual nerdvana of digital TV.
Here’s how to get digital high-definition broadcasts into Media Center.
I’ve tried to provide excruciating detail, but don’t get scared. It’s not difficult, I’m just going a bit overboard with screenshots and explanation.
Step 1 – Force Media Center to allow ATSC and QAM in Canada
I’ve prepared some files that will automate the process for you. Simply download and extract the provided zip file (click here) to your desktop or any location on your desktop. Double-click on the file "EnableATSCandQAM.bat" which will insert some configuration information into the Media Center database that forces ATSC and QAM tuners to be recognized.
Step 2 – Configure Media Center to use your tuners
I’ll walk you through the setup of the tuner in Media Center, although this isn’t any different than what would normally occur out of the box. Launch Media Center and navigate to Settings, TV, Setup TV Signal. We want to set up Media Center using the correct region, Canada. If Media Center doesn’t automatically detect that you’re in Canada, be sure to select a different region and choose "Canada".
Enter your postal code, and agree to the terms of service (assuming you do indeed agree to the legaleze).
At this point, Media Center will configure all of the signal types that were detected. For any cable or satellite tuners, it will automatically link to the guide data for the region. For digital antenna (ATSC) it won’t find any guide data since it’s not officially supported. No worries, we can add in guide listings later.
Next, Media Center will scan for ATSC and QAM channels. This process took awhile for me, up to fifteen minutes.
Congratulations, your tuners are now set up! However at this point, you likely won’t have any guide listings associated with the channels that were detected via the scan.
Step 3 – Map guide listings to your ATSC channels
For those of you who have used the Vista hack, you may like me be pleasantly surprised by the way the guide works now. For each channel on each tuner you can specify which guide listings should be used, which is incredibly flexible. Media Center also now has some much-welcomed logic in the Advanced Record Settings that allows you to specify that any given recording should be recorded in HD Only, HD Preferred, SD Only, or SD Preferred. Because of this feature, I personally would recommend that you always attempt to associate your high-definition digital channels with listings from your cable company’s high-definition channel lineup or the US over-the-air listings so that the recording logic works properly. I’ll walk you through how to set that up.
First, navigate to Settings, TV, Guide, Edit Channels.
Select the channel that you want to work with by clicking on the callsign of the station.
In the settings page for the channel, click on "Edit Listings"
You’ll now be taken to a list of all the channels that your Media Center is aware of (including channels that were set up via other sources, such as Analog Antenna, Satellite, or my multiple guide listings hack). This list is organized alphabetically, and you can type in letters to skip to the appropriate point in the list. Select a channel with HD listings.
If you select a channel that also comes in via some other source (for example you get CBC Toronto on both cable and antenna) you will be presented with the option to merge the guide listings or to copy the listings. Select "copy" so that you can manage the high definition channel independently. Once you’ve selected the correct listings, you’ll now see that the listings are associated with the digital ATSC or QAM channel. Click Save.
Click on save, and at this point you can keep assigning channels or you may choose to go to the guide and test things out before continuing. Once you assign guide listings to all of your ATSC channels, you’re done the setup and should be able to enjoy pristine high-definition recordings on your computer and throughout your home on your extenders.
Questions and Answers
I’ll try to capture some key answers that come in over time here in this section. To kick things off, here are some things that came to mind for me.
What happens if I select "Merge" instead of "Copy"? I’ve found that by selecting merge, Media Center assumes that all sources for a given channel are standard definition.
Doesn’t Media Center support Analog Antenna in Canada, and can’t I use those guide listings? Yes analog antenna is supported and you’ll get the listings for your local channels, but because it’s analog Media Center will assume that all channels that use these guide listings are standard definition.
Media Center didn’t automatically detect all of the ATSC channels that I’m able to receive, is there any way I can manually add them? One of the users at digitalhome.ca maintains a list of all the channels that you should be able to receive in major centers of Canada. You can use these lists to manually add stations to media center using the functions in Settings, TV, Guide, Add Missing Channels, Add DTV Channel. Southwestern Ontario Kitchener-Waterloo Niagara Region Toronto & Hamilton Areas Montreal & Surrounding Areas Ottawa & Surrounding Areas Vancouver & Surrounding Areas
I’m not able to find guide data for all of my over the air channels, is there any way for me to get guide data for more channels? Yes, you can force Media Center to load in guide information from any region using my multiple guide listings hack. For example, my cable provider Cogeco doesn’t list many of the Buffalo-area over the air stations since they source their high definition content from Detroit instead. I added the listings for Buffalo over-the-air digital antenna to Media Center using the multiple guide listings hack, and used those to complete the mapping of my channels.
Thanks youm, your are my god!
WTF was M$ thinking about not providing this out of the box.... Still they can't figure my keyboard default setup and it has been like that fore years, I guess they never learn...
Is there any way to get the guide id for a specific Canadian postal code? I am looking for the guide id for S7H 5G9.
All of your help has been great. I am having recording issuses (shows in the record list but don't show up in the guide as to be recorded) and they don't record. If I select the show in the guide to be recorded, it will, but now I have 2 shows with the same name in my (series) record list?? Now zap2it has HDTV OTA for Calgary but I can't get the ID for it (to put into your fix) as MCE knows I am in Canada. If I try to use the right guide not remap them it might work better?
How do I get the ID number for Calgary OTA HDTV (antenna)? (I'll just put it into your fix)
Will Microsoft stop blocking the OTA HDTV guide for Canada?
Thanks in advance,
Hmmm.... it worked. WMC has recognized the digital tuners in my card. But it only gets a few of the channels. What's worse is that I can't seem to keep WMC going (listen to music etc) without having making Firefox unresponsive. It could be a coincidence so I'm asking if anyone else has had this problem. I ask since it's the last thing I did. (I didn't install the newer Beta version and don't know if it's necessary to do so.) I also wonder why my Panasonic picks up 10 digital channels with the exact same antenna if anyone knows. Also if it's possible to find and remove the fix should I need to (if this problem continues). Thanks. (HP p6000 series, Win7Home Premium, 6gb memory)
a couple of months later my wmc is toast. It started by running slow, then it got worse. It is corrupted, is all I'm told. How do I remove this code from my computer without having to reinstall windows?
I'd like to know why it is not automatically download with windows update to enable ATSC channels in Canada. I know a little about computer but for someone who does not know computer well can not use windows media center. thank you
does this work for rogers digital cable? i have hd boxes at home but i want to get hd channels on my computer and record shows, i followed the guide but it didn't work, it keeps giving me anolog tv and doesn't scan for any digital tv. can anyone help me out?
Hi - interesting article. It's now almost a year later, and I'm trying to configure a TV tuner to work with Windows Media Center to receive over the air TV Broadcasts using an appropriate antenna. The problem I'm having is a little bit different, when WMC goes through the process to determine my signal type, it seems to misinterpret the signal from the antenna as a "set top box". The set up process then fails from that point forward. Since it is an antenna, it won't complete the set up process properly, and when I try to manually configure it as an antenna, it proceeds as if it is an analog antenna, and since we don't have analog signals any more, it does not work. Any thoughts?
Does it work in Windows 8 Pro with MCE pack ?
Just tried it and it works in Windows 8 Pro with MCE pack
I still have a problem?
I've installed a kworld UB445-U tuner. Unfortunately when I was installing it I followed the instructions and also installed ArcSoft TotalMedia.
TotalMedia works fine and finds 20 channels.
When I tried to configure MediaCenter it doesn't find any channels even though according to TotalMedia there are strong signals.
I have run the patches for ATSC Canada and have now uninstalled TotalMedia.
I'm in the Montreal area so I can't imagine that there would be a problem with the signal being transmitted.
Any suggestions would be welcome.
I know this is over a year old topic... but what the hey! LOL I've been using WMC for over a year now using a Hauppauge hvr-2250. For the year, it's been working great. The TV guide was great. The only thing was, that I had to config. WMC as USA with a Buffalo Zip Code (14174). As mentioned here, a "quirk" BUG in WMC would only see the tuners as old NTSC.
So as USA, this worked nicely and WMC grabbed over 19 channels. Due to my bad location, I can't get some of the more desired Buffalo channels... channels that a $20 antenna can get from downtown Toronto. Oh well.
But, in comes CTV2 recently. But no Guide info. Then, after the daylight savings time change, channel 41.1 stopped having guide info.
So, I created a restore point and tried this method here to see what happens.
Well, the ATSC tuners were finally seen in "Canada:. BUT, when scanning, WMC now only picked up about 10 channels or so and they were not labled correctly at all. In fact, WMC just froze up when trying to scan through the channels to view them. Once I got some going, I did see that things were messy. I did a "add channel" scan and it did pick up a few more channels, but even Channel 57.1, City TV was not there! Seriously, Microsoft NEEDs to address this very old issue. Oh well.
So, I restored back to my restore point that I created today. Wouldn't ya know it. Windows 7 didn't restore 100% properly. Now WMC is totally wack. Sure, I got my expected channels back, but now the guide is showing no information for many channels that were once there.
I'm going to have to reconfigure, manually, WMC back to what it was.
What I do like, is the ability, shown here, to use other "behind the scenes" channel info for the guide (eg. 35.1 CTV2, use 3.1 and COPY).
Well, since the wonderful System Restore point didn't replace this configuration, I had to restore my entire system from an image file from 3Dec2012 to get back to where I was. Lucky I keep running backups.
UPDATE: well, I got things back to what they were and was at least able to use 3.1 for CTV2 on channel 35.1 for guide info.
BUT, I cannot get Global, 41.1 Toronto guide info at all. There's nothing around that seems to see that.
Has anyone figured out how to get 41.1 guide info back? I'm able to receive this channel, just the guide doesn't pick up info from anywhere.
I've even tried different zip codes (upstate NY) to no avail.
I've been using Windows 7 WMC with my Silicondust HD Homerun dual TV tuner connected to my HDTV rooftop antenna for a while now with no problems. But I recently bought a new computer with Windows 8 (and upgraded to Pro version with WMC), so I'm now experiencing problems with WMC because I live in Canada (Toronto). I've installed the Silicondust HD Homerun software... Setup completes fine, and I'm able to view live TV using the included QuickTV app. But when I go to WMC, I get several errors... I've run (and re-run) the ATSC and QAM batch file for Canada, but I still get an error that WMC does not support my region. Then I tried inputting a Niagara Falls NY zipcode, which lets me proceed... It detects the tuner and goes through several screens... But at the very end, it states that there was a serious error and TV setup could not be completed. It suggests restarting WMC and/or the computer. I've tried that, but it still didn't resolve the problem. Also tried removing WMC and adding it again. Also uninstalled the HD Homerun s/w and installed again to no avail.
Can anyone help please? I don't know what to do now... I don't want the extra $ I paid for the Windows 8 Pro upgrade to go to waste. The main reason I bought the new computer was so that I could have a more powerful (and larger capacity) machine for my recorded shows.