I think the days of Windows Media Center are drawing to a close, which is a shame. Microsoft no longer bundles the software with Windows, and I suspect few people will bother to pay extra for it.
That said, if you're still running Windows 7 on one or more PCs, or you did decide to splurge on the upgrade for Windows 8, you can still enjoy a truly excellent TV/DVR experience. All you need is a CableCard from your cable company and a CableCard tuner.
Let's talk about the latter. Today only, while supplies last, Woot has the SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime HDHR3-CC network TV tuner for $99.99, plus $5 for shipping. That's the lowest price I've seen by around $30.
The HDHR3-CC offers three digital tuners that can pull down HD and premium channels alike. (Sorry, no on-demand or pay-per-view, though.) You supply the actual CableCard -- or, rather, your cable company does. (Call them first to make sure they're available; not every provider supports them anymore.) The one I'm renting from Comcast costs me all of $1.50 per month; before that I think I was paying $10-15 for a DVR box.
What's unique about this particular tuner is that it plugs into your home network router, meaning you can share its tuners with multiple Windows PCs: one in the den, one in the bedroom, and so on. (Ideally, however, you'll want a wired Ethernet connection between those PCs and your router.)
I especially like the idea of recording a bunch of movies and TV shows on my laptop before taking a trip. Now I've got a bunch of great content I can watch free of charge, no streaming required.
SiliconDust also offers various apps for streaming live TV to your mobile devices, but the reviews are pretty dismal for most of them, and the iOS version isn't even available at the moment.
My only real complaint is that you can't plug the HDHR3-CC into a single PC if you prefer that kind of configuration. (For that, look to the Ceton InfiniTV 4 USB.) But for multi-PC households, the HDHR3-CC is a bargain at $99.99.
Bonus deal: Looking to clone your hard drive for backup purposes or (even better) to make the move to an SSD? Nothing beats a pro-level utility, especially when it's free. Today only, Glarysoft is offering DriveClone 10 Workstation (Windows) for free. Normally it would run you $49.95. Important! You must activate the program using the registration code provided in the readme file (and also in a pop-up window the first time you run DriveClone), otherwise you'll be left with the free, noncommercial-use version. Which is fine, by the way, but Workstation offers extra features such as drive mirroring, incremental cloning, etc.
Deals found on The Cheapskate are subject to availability, expiration, and other terms determined by sellers.
Curious about what exactly The Cheapskate does and how it works? Read our FAQ.