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Help File: Last-Minute Digital-TV Tuning Tips

By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, June 7, 2009

Q My digital-television reception has gotten iffy. What should I do to fine-tune it before analog TV goes off the air on Friday?

ANothing. At this point, you might as well give it a rest until after June 12. When analog TV signals go off the air at the end of that day, many broadcasters will make upgrades to their digital signals -- and then you'd have to redo any antenna adjustments.

The biggest changes will come as a minority of stations move their digital signals to airwaves now occupied by their analog broadcasts. In the Washington area, for example, WJLA and WUSA will relocate digital transmissions to their old VHF slots.

You won't have to learn new channel numbers, but you will need to have your TV, converter box or video recorder rescan the airwaves to pick up these and other signal shifts. Usually, you'd do that by pressing the remote control's "menu" button and then navigating to its channel-setup screen.

Look up possible changes in reception at http://dtv.gov, a site run by the Federal Communications Commission. Click the "Reception Maps" link on that site and enter an address, city or Zip code to get an interactive map showing what stations you should be able to pick up -- listed from the strongest to the weakest signal -- after June 12. You can also click on a station's call sign to see more details about its digital transition, including a link to a "Gain/Loss Map" plotting its predicted coverage changes.

If you still have reception issues after a week, then consider upgrading antennas. (See http://hdtvexpert.com for tests of some recent indoor and outdoor antennas; http://hdtvantennalabs.com can be another good resource.) If you're more than 10 miles or so from a station, you might also benefit from a model that can boost your signal strength.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or robp@washpost.com. Visit http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward for his Faster Forward blog.

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