Just Make It Work! How to use a Universal Remote!

by Meg on October 11, 2010

Just make it work is a series of articles aimed at helping women embrace technology to make their life easier!  Tech non-tech girls by girls.

Just Make It Work!

How to use a Universal Remote.

On a recent trip home, my mom asked for some help with the universal remote from the cable provider.  Since my last visit, my parents got a new cable box and with this latest box, the concept of a universal remote was introduced to them.  Prior to this, every component of their entertainment system operated with its own separate remote: one for the TV, one for the cable, one for the stereo, one for the DVD player and one for the VCR.  I decided there might be some others out there in the dark about universal remotes.

Although the idea of adding yet another remote to an ever growing collection seems like more clutter, working a universal remote into your life can help simplify using your electronics!

What is it?

Simply put, a universal remote is exactly what it sounds like: a remote that will help control most, if not all, of your major electronics associated with your entertainment system.  The universal remote, unlike older remotes you might have, can talk to a number of devices you already have.  You just have to learn how to tell the universal remote what device you want to talk to.

Note – not all universal remotes are made equal!  If you get a universal remote from your cable company, the range of deceives it can control is going to be more limited vs investing in a high end universal remote.  An example of a higher end remote would be like the tech Harmony® One Advanced Universal Remote http://www.logitech.com/en-us/remotes/universal-remotes/devices/6441.  This will set you back about $250 and has a high learning curve to program it.
The one from your cable company will most likely serve your TV viewing needs!

How does it work?

What you should understand: The universal remote works by being able to “talk to” most electronic devices associate with your entertainment system.  The devices it can help you control are: televisions, cable boxes, separate stereo systems, DVD players, and VCRs.

In most cases, you will still need to use game controls associated with their own systems such as a Wiimote used with the Wii system.  Speciality gadgets like Apple TV will also need to use their own remote.

The “geeky” explanation: A universal remote works by having a broader range of IR signals vs low-end remotes that only communicate with the device they came with.  More at Wikipedia!

How do I make it work?

Typically, along the top of a universal remote, should be a set of buttons that say something like: DVD, AUX, TV, CBL – I’ve included a range of pictures below.

The key to using the universal remote is probably telling the remote what you want it to do.  This is typically done by:
1. Select Device Button
2. Choose Function Control

So, let’s say you have a separate stereo system that is set to work with the AUX button and you want to turn up the volume.
1. Press Aux
2. Turn up the Volume

Now let’s say you want to change the channel on the cable.
1. Press CBL (or SAT)
2. Change the channel

Pretty easy, right?  Well, the tricky part about these remotes is people often forget they need to do step 1.  No fears though!

Common Problems

Common Problem #1: You use the “all on” button or press power and not everything turns on!

Explanation:  If your remote does have an “all on” button,but not everything turns on, it is most likely because one or more of the devices were turned off separately.  Despite the name of the button, when you press “all-on” the more basic remotes are sending out a signal that simply says “if you’re on, turn off,” or “if you’re off, turn on.”  This is why maybe only half your devices will turn on.

If your remote does not have an “all on” button, then you probably need to go through and select each device first on the remote, then press the on button.

Solution: Individually turn off all your devices, then press the “all on” button again.  It should work!

Common Problem #2: I am pressing the button for [electronic device], but nothing is responding!

Solution: First, check your batteries and that everything is turned on.  Second, you might need to make sure the new device is programmed to work with your remote.  Consult your remote’s owner’s manual.

Tip: Lost the manual and don’t want to wait on hold for customer service?  Do an internet search for “[remote kind] [serial number – if you know it] manual”  For example, I could do “Fios TV remote manual”

Pro-Tip: TV Input!

Make sure you know where the TV input button is on your remote!  Sometimes it can also be known as “A/V” input.

This is the button that will often help you navigate to using some of your other devices that could be hooked into your TV like, a video game system, an Apple TV, or if you want to pig your computer into your TV.

Make sure you select TV before you press the TV Input button!

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