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Tech how-to: Watch live TV from your computer without paying for cable

There’s been a big push recently to cut the cord from expensive cable subscriptions. Streaming services have made it easy to leave behind the costly cable or satellite subscriptions and still get access to the shows you want to watch. If you want to cut the cord, these are the best streaming options for any budget.

But while streaming services like Netflix will give you access to movies and shows to stream, they won’t give you access to your area’s local channels. If you want to watch local news, public access television or other over-the-air stations for free, you’ll need to go with the old school route instead.

To cut the cord and keep access to local stations, you’ll need a TV tuner to pull it off. These gadgets make it easy to watch live TV — even without a TV on hand. Here’s everything you need to know about TV tuners to help you get started.

TV tuners: What they’re used for and why

Remember back in the day when we all had antennas on our TVs? TV tuners were built into televisions back then and allowed the antenna to pick up free channels in your local region.

These days, most TVs don’t come with built-in tuners. That makes it difficult to cut the cord, which can be costly month after month. Without a tuner, you won’t be able to get access to any of the over-the-air channels in your area.

Luckily, you don’t really need a built-in tuner to make it work. There are third-party options for TV tuners that can help you cut the cord for good. These devices add a tuner’s functionality back into your TV, making it simple to watch shows for free.

What’s interesting is that the uses for third-party tuners aren’t just limited to TVs these days, either. You can use these tuners with computers, laptops and projectors to watch digital television broadcasts. Some even allow you to record, pause and playback shows — features you’d expect to get from a cable subscription, not a TV tuner.

As with any tech device, TV tuners come in a wide range of options and with a wide array of features. The price points vary quite a bit, too — so you’ll need to decide what you want to spend and what features you need before making any decisions.

If you’re looking for a way to get access to over-the-air channels on your computer or TV, check out the tuner options below to get started.

Related: Tap or click here to see which streaming services are worth the money.

1. HAUPPAUGE WinTV-DualHD Dual USB 2.0 HD TV Tuner for PC

One of the main benefits of the HAUPPAUGE WinTV-DualHD Dual USB 2.0 HD TV Tuner for PC is its dual tuners. That means you can watch one channel while recording another. You’ll never miss your favorite shows again.

It’s really easy to use, too. All you have to do is plug it into a USB port on your Windows PC or laptop. Once it’s plugged in, you can watch free over-the-air ATSC HD TV, plus clear QAM digital cable TV. You’ll even have the option to watch in a window or full screen.

As a bonus, it also includes WinTV v8. That’s the TV application for Windows that lets you pause TV and record shows right from your computer. You can even use it to watch cable TV from your computer if you have a cable TV subscription.

Promising review: “Tuner works very well. Easy to setup. Been working every day since I got it over a year ago. No complaints. Comes with included PC PVR software that works with the Titan TV website. Also works with Next PVR standalone. Have used it with Kodi media player.”

Related: 9 streaming service pro tips to save money

2. Mediasonic ATSC Digital Converter Box w/ TV Tuner

If you’re looking for a basic TV tuner with a few extra perks, the Mediasonic ATSC Digital Converter Box w/ TV Tuner is a good option. You can get it for less than $30, and it offers everything you need to watch over-the-air ATSC digital broadcasts.

This tuner is a good fix for watching over-the-air shows on TVs without built-in tuners. It’s versatile, too — and can be used with projectors, computer monitors and digital and analog TVs. All you have to do is plug it in to access the shows you want to watch.

It even allows you to record shows and play them back on your TV or computer. The only downside is that it doesn’t work with cable or satellite, but it’s a great option for the price — even without those features.

Promising review: “Plugged in a PNY 128GB thumb drive and I have to say I’m impressed with it for such a low price. Setup was quick. It has both HDMI and old fashioned RCA plug analog output to the TV. Its tuner sensitivity seems to be as good as my older Hitachi TV and in some ways is a bit better. It records a 720×480 image in MPEG-2 + AC3 in an MTS transport stream that my PC has multiple programs that have no problem reading as well as itself playing back the file.”

3. SiliconDust HDHomeRun Dual Tuner

Want a TV tuner that can do it all? The SiliconDust HDHomeRun Dual Tuner is right up your alley. This TV tuner is the Cadillac of TV tuners. It lets you watch high-def TV on multiple devices throughout your home with just one device.

If you want to watch one show in your room while the kids watch TV in another, you can do that with this device, which comes with four different built-in tuners. You can even use it to watch TV on your tablet, computer or phone. All it takes is the tuner and a Wi-Fi signal or a wired ethernet cable that’s connected to your router.

You’ll pay a little more for this tuner than the other options, but it comes with tons of features for the price. You’ll get live TV through the HDHomeRun DVR app, which also lets you record, pause, rewind and schedule your favorite shows through the optional, built-in DVR service.

You can also watch and record Live TV with Plex, or you can record, pause, rewind and schedule programs using the Kodi/XBMC add-on or compatible third-party DVR software.

Promising review: “So far it’s been perfect. I’m using Plex being I have a lifetime pass and it’s better than the Homerun app, which isn’t even available for Apple TV. Much smaller size than I figured it to be. I have replaced my Tablo, which was costing me $5 a month.”

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