7 Tips for Switching to Digital TV

Let the countdown to the end of analog television begin.

On Friday, all full-power television stations across the country will stop broadcasting in analog and switch to digital.

Of the country's nearly 1,800 broadcasters, 756 stations have already made the transition. In four days, the remaining 1,030 will join them in the digital age.

But about 3.5 million U.S. television households, or 3.1 percent, aren't ready yet, according to a May poll from Nielsen Media Research.

VIDEO: Tonight all TVs must be digitally compliant or they?ll fail to work.

If you're one of the TV watchers who still needs to prepare for Friday's deadline, don't worry. Here are a few tips to get you set up and running in no time.

How To Make the Digital Switch

1) Before you panic and head out to your local electronics store, make sure your TV's not already digital-ready.

To help make the process a little easier, the broadcasting industry's DTV Transition Coalition created a searchable database to help you figure out if your television has a built-in digital tuner.

If you can't find it there, check your television for any labels or markings that indicate that it contains a digital tuner. Statements to look for include: "Integrated Digital Tuner," "Digital Receiver," "DTV," ATSC" or "HDTV."

Televisions that are 25 inches or larger, or were purchased since 2005, are more likely to have a digital tuner.

If your television was purchased before 1998 or is a smaller LCD set (15- to 18-inches) it probably has an analog tuner.

Also, TVs labeled as "HD-ready," "Digital Ready" and "Digital Monitor" may sound promising but don't necessarily contain a digital tuner.

From Analog to Digital TV

If you're still not sure if your TV has a built-in digital tuner, check the manual, other instructional materials or the manufacturer's Web site, or contact your consumer electronics retailer.

2) Once you know you have an analog television, weigh your options.

If you already have cable or satellite service, you're in good shape. But if you're only reliant on rooftop antennas or rabbit ears, you'll have to choose one of a few options to upgrade your TV for the new digital era.

In the $40-$70 range, a digital-to-analog converter box is the cheapest option, especially in this economy.

But if you're in the market for a new TV, anyhow, you could potentially find one with a built-in digital tuner starting at $200.

Or, for $20 or more a month (not including the cost of renting the equipment), you could subscribe to cable, satellite or other premium television services.

(For more information on your options, visit the government's transition Web site here.)

3) If you want to stick with your current TV and programming options, buy a converter box.

Walk into any consumer electronics retailer and they should be able to help you find an digital-to-analog converter box. They range in price from $40 to $70, but consumer advocates say you should be just fine with the lower-end models.

"Our reviews show that the cheapies are just as fine as the expensive boxes," Chris Murray, senior counsel for the Consumers Union, told ABCNews.com.

To help us make the transition to digital television broadcasts, the government created a program to subsidize the cost of the digital converter boxes.

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