record digital TV without "digital cable ready" PC?

Discussion in 'Windows Media Center' started by kar13, Dec 27, 2008.

  1. kar13

    kar13 Guest

    I just purchased a Dell XPS 420 (with ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner)
    under the assumption that I could use Media Center to record TV, including
    the HD versions of my local news. I am able to get standard def channels, it
    appears, and record them to the PC. Going through the setup, I received a
    message in Media Center that my computer "is not digital cable ready" and I
    "will not be able to use a CableCard" with this computer.

    I am very annoyed that Dell would sell me the ATI tuner and not inform me
    that the PC selected was not digital cable ready. However, I only subscribe
    to Comcast standard cable... no digital packages, no HD... so am I right to
    assume that a "digital cable ready" computer would not benefit me anyway?

    When the transition happens in Feb, will I still be able to receive my
    current channels via the ATI tuner/PC set up as I do now?

    What is the benefit of a "digital cable ready" PC, *really*?

    My intent for this computer set up was to be able to record TV programs
    digitally, and do away with VHS recording. I'm hoping to use certain
    recordings in the classroom for educational lessons (burned on DVD)

    Dell has a 21 day return policy. My 21 days expire in 2 days (12/29) Should
    I return this XPS unit and order one that's "digital cable read" or is that
    overkill given my current Comcast subscription and intended use for the

    Any advice is greatly appreciated!
    kar13, Dec 27, 2008
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  2. kar13

    Curious Guest

    Did you have your cable company come out and install as cable card in the
    slot in your ATI tuner?
    When you say you can get SD channels are your referring to SD analog
    channels or to SD digital channels or both?
    Is it possible that you are trying to receive HD channel 2 by selecting
    channel 2 which would give you analog channel 2 instead of your cable
    companies channel number for digital channel 2? For example with my cable
    company I have to select channel 702 to get CBS digital channel 2.
    Curious, Dec 27, 2008
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  3. You need to contact Dell support. Your XPS 420 should be Digital Cable
    Ready. A BIOS update should correct this issue, and it was a known issue
    with a number of the early Dell 400 series PC's that were shipped with the
    ATI Digital Cable Tuner.

    Additionally, you didn't mention if you have the Cable Cards from your cable
    company or not. You will need those if you want to get your premium content
    (HBO, Showtime and etc.) in HD.

    Doug Knox, MS MVP DTS-XP
    Win 95/98/Me Tweaks and Fixes
    Associate Expert
    ExpertZone -
    Replies to the newsgroups only please!

    Can you please explain why you suggest to send it back?
    What does the "digital cable ready" version of Vista really do for me?
    I'm trying to get the most information I can. I have read numerous
    posts of people using MediaCenter 2005 and older machines and they are
    able to get digital channels.
    Doug Knox - [MS-MVP], Dec 28, 2008
  4. Digital Cable Ready means that the PC has been certified by CableLabs to
    meet their requirements that ensure you can't interrupt the content stream
    and copy protected content. If you bought a machine with a Digital Cable
    Tuner and did not get the Digital Cable activation key, then I would indeed
    send the machine back to Dell.

    You may want to check all the literature that came with the PC. The Digital
    Cable activation code may not be on the PC, it may be on a separate insert
    inside the packaging.

    Then, if you still wish to order a PC from them with the ATI tuners, I would
    do the ordering over the phone and ensure that they understand exactly what
    you want, and what you expect from the PC you're ordering.

    Doug Knox, MS MVP DTS-XP
    Win 95/98/Me Tweaks and Fixes
    Associate Expert
    ExpertZone -
    Replies to the newsgroups only please!

    I was on the phone/internet chat with Dell for a few hours yesterday.
    He "flashed" the BIOS. He updated the ATI tuner drivers. The sticker
    on my computer that has the Windows product key, does not also have a
    digital cable ready key. The tech support said my computer was thus
    not equipped with the necessary "key" to allow digital cable. He said
    I am unable to just purchase or download this "key" even though
    everything else about my computer is ready for digital cable.

    I'm confused what exactly "digital cable ready" means for me. What
    does that do?
    Doug Knox - [MS-MVP], Dec 28, 2008
  5. kar13

    Barb Bowman Guest

    in addition to all the other replies--

    the ATI Digital Cable Tuner without a cable card inserted is an
    analog tuner. Using it this way would be pretty much the same as
    coax from the wall to a regular TV.

    do you have a set top box from Comcast on your regular TV? you are
    going to eventually need one (cable is going thru a different
    transition to digital). if you hook up that STB to your TV, you
    would probably get 231 on Media Center.

    if you resolve the issue with Dell and order a cable card from
    Comcast, you would be able to see many channels in HD. You do not
    need to order premium channels.

    to help with the problem with your Dell, go to
    and scroll to the bottom of the page and send email to clardy. I'm
    betting he will get you an exchange or do whatever is needed.


    Barb Bowman
    Barb Bowman, Dec 28, 2008
  6. kar13

    Curious Guest

    Since MC does not currently support clear QAM digital channels you can not
    use your ATI tuner for any digital channels without leasing a cable card
    from your cable company. Most cable companies encrypt all digital
    channels(100+) not just the premium ones with the exception of the local
    ones which you can receive with an antenna and just a plain HDTV tuner card
    in your PC.
    I do not have a cable card installed. I thought the cable card was
    only necessary for premium channels (HBO, etc) I do not have premium
    cable through Comcast. I am simply trying to get local news, and
    possibley CNN or History channel, in digital, or HD. I'm not sure
    what's possible without a premium digital cable subscription. Through
    my ATI tuner, I am able to get channels up to around 100. That means
    they are all analog, right? When I try to get channel 231, which is
    WPVI-DT (digital version of my local station, I assume) I get this
    message: "Cannot play program. Channel may not be supported...."

    Perhaps I have my intentions wrong. I was thinking that if I could get
    a digital signal, I could record items from my local channels, and
    other non-premium channels, in better quality than what I get on a VHS
    recording. Am I wrong in that thinking?

    With no digital cable package from Comcast, am I not able to receive
    any kind of better quality (SD digital or HD) signal? Is it a
    limitation of Media Center? I've read posts of people using Hauppage
    tuners and they get QAM (which I believe is a better picture than SD
    digital or analog, right?) I've read conflicting reports of MC not
    supporting QAM. What's the truth?

    Do I even need "digital cable ready" functionality within Vista? How
    are people recording digital tv now - without that functionality?

    When the digital transition happens in Feb, will everyone then need
    "digital cable ready" OS functionality?
    Curious, Dec 28, 2008
  7. kar13

    Barb Bowman Guest

    Dell's fact sheet on the 430 states

    "XPS 430Intel® Core™2 Q8200 Quad-Core (4MB L2 cache,2.33GHz,1333FSB)
    Specifications - XPS 430

    Operating SystemGenuine Windows Vista™ Home Premium w/Digital Cable
    Support, 64-bit"

    so it sounds like you should get what you need.


    Barb Bowman
    Barb Bowman, Dec 31, 2008
  8. kar13

    Barb Bowman Guest

    send an email to . tell him that you've been
    told by a MS Media Center MVP (me) to relay the entire story to him
    about receiving a second XPS machine without OCUR/DCT support

    also go to and
    post a thread titled

    att jim clardy help with NON DCT ready XPS


    Barb Bowman
    Barb Bowman, Jan 8, 2009
  9. kar13

    Jaime Guest

    In addition to Barbara's comments, a simple physical check of the system can
    verify whether or not your system is cable card ready.

    You should have a slot to accept the cable card from Comcast, the card looks
    like this:
    Jaime, Jan 8, 2009
  10. kar13

    Curious Guest

    It sounds like your Vista OS includes VMC TV-Pack which includes digital
    cable support which means that it supports a ClearQAM tuner and/or a cable
    card tuner.
    However, that does not mean that the system configuration itself includes a
    cable card tuner check your actual order invoice to see what physical
    components were ordered and included with the system.

    Well, I received my new Dell XPS430 today.
    First thing I did was look on the back of the machine for the extra
    "digital cable ready" key #. Nothing. I only have the same sticker as
    the old machine, listing the Microsoft Vista key. After going through
    the Windows Media Center set up, I still get the same message when I
    try to go through Settings > Set up TV signal: "Your computer is not
    digital cable ready. You will not be able to use it with a CableCard."

    I called Dell support. I explained that this is the 2md computer and I
    ordered it over the phone so I could explicitly order the new system
    with DCR set up. This new support guy ran through the same
    troubleshooting steps (trying to reconfigure Media Center) I told him
    that last time, I was told the computer needed some special BIOS key
    set at the factory. He assurred me that my XPS430 computer was totally
    ready and capable of working with digital cable. (When I look at my
    computer properties, it lists Windows Vista Premium 64 bit. No mention
    of Digital Cable Ready)

    He told me to make an appointment with my cable company to get the
    cable card... and that I will also need a digital cable box as well.
    Is that really it?? I need a digital cable box? The error message I
    receive in MC says "your computer is not digital cable ready" so to
    me, that sounds like a deficiency in my computer's set up, not the
    cable set up. Am I crazy? Is it an issue with having a 64-bit OS? Am I
    simply lacking a digital cable box?

    I have an appt with Comcast on Saturday morning. I have my fingers
    crossed that this will fix the problem, but I won't hold my breath.

    Any insights?
    Curious, Jan 8, 2009
  11. kar13

    Curious Guest

    I post my post above before I saw and read your most recent post.
    Barb is the expert on cable card and She will probably correct that my
    following hypothesis is correct.
    AFAIK systems with Vista MC TV pack can configure a cable card tuner without
    the separate cable card key.
    If this is true then the error you received from MC saying your system was
    not cable card ready was caused by the fact that did not have a card
    installed in the tuner yet and you do not have a separate clear QAM capable
    Curious, Jan 8, 2009
  12. kar13

    Jaime Guest

    That is the card that came installed in the system?
    Jaime, Jan 8, 2009
  13. kar13

    Barb Bowman Guest

    or an external USB tuner with a slot to accept it.


    Barb Bowman
    Barb Bowman, Jan 8, 2009
  14. kar13

    Barb Bowman Guest

    that particular error message is caused when the BIOS support needed
    is missing. James Clardy at Dell is the fastest way to resolve this.

    Barb Bowman
    Barb Bowman, Jan 8, 2009
  15. kar13

    Barb Bowman Guest

    Barb Bowman, Jan 9, 2009
  16. kar13

    Barb Bowman Guest

    it works fine on 64 bit. if it were me, I'd go through the

    I'd love a copy of that email. I've sent you an email at the hotmail
    address in this post.


    Barb Bowman
    Barb Bowman, Jan 9, 2009
  17. Doug Knox - [MS-MVP], Jan 12, 2009
  18. Your inforamtion is completely wrong here. The TV pack does nothing with
    regards to making a Digital Cable Tuner work without the separate Digital
    Cable product key. Without that, you will not be able to activate Digital
    Cable with a CableCard, period.

    And as Barb pointed out, the error message is caused soley by a missing bit
    of informaiton in the BIOS of the PC. It must be there, on any Digital
    Cable Ready PC. If not, you'll the the error the OP provided. That's why
    you can't just go out and buy a Digital Cable Tuner and slap it into any old

    Doug Knox, MS MVP DTS-XP
    Win 95/98/Me Tweaks and Fixes
    Associate Expert
    ExpertZone -
    Replies to the newsgroups only please!
    Doug Knox - [MS-MVP], Jan 12, 2009
  19. kar13

    Barb Bowman Guest

    The original poster has gotten in touch with the right person at
    Dell. The issue is that for some reason Dell is suddenly claiming
    that they don't officially support OCUR/DCT on x64. So the two
    machines shipped (including the replacement) didn't have OCUR
    support enabled in the BIOS. Dell is going to help their customer
    enable DCT support, but at this point, they won't "officially"
    support it. I have escalated to the right person inside Microsoft as


    Barb Bowman
    Barb Bowman, Jan 12, 2009
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