How to Turn Your Laptop Into a Universal Remote Control
By Jeff Grundy
With televisions that connect easily to computers, receivers capable of streaming music over Wi-Fi and other high-tech gadgets becoming more commonplace, more users are looking for ways to streamline how their devices are controlled. If you are tired of keeping up with multiple remotes for all your gear, you can use your laptop as a universal remote, not only for your devices and but for controlling home automation gadgets as well.
Purchase a USB infrared transmitter/receiver. Units such as the USB-UIRT or the Promixis PIR-1 connect to the USB port on your laptop and allow you to control devices that respond to infrared signals (links in Resources).
Download and install a trial version of a remote/automation application designed to work with USB infrared receiver/transmitters. Programs such as Promixis NetRemote, Promixis Girder and IRCommand2 Universal Remote Control Software all work with USB infrared transmitters and enable you to control virtually any device that uses a remote control with the your laptop or desktop computer. Reboot the laptop after installing the remote/automation application, if prompted.
Connect the cable from the infrared receiver/transmitter to an empty USB port on the laptop, and then wait a few seconds for Windows to prompt you for the installation disc. Insert the installation disc for the infrared receiver/transmitter in the optical drive, and then wait a few seconds for the driver installation wizard to appear on the screen. Click "Setup" or "Install," follow the prompts to install the infrared receiver/transmitter driver on the laptop, and then restart the machine when prompted.
Launch the remote/automation application, and then click "Setup," "Configure Remote" or another similarly named option on the toolbar or menu bar. Select the USB transmitter/receiver as the default communication device, and then click "OK" or "Apply."
Position the infrared transmitter so that it faces the television or other device you want to control. Power off the TV or device, and then click the type of device you want to program with the laptop remote (i.e. TV or Stereo.) Click "Learn," "Scan" or "Search Codes," and then wait a few seconds for the remote/automation application to send a series of codes to the device and turn it off via the infrared receiver/transmitter. Alternatively, click the "Enter Code Manually" or other similar link, enter the remote code from the device's user guide or manual and then click "OK" or "Save."
Program other devices you want to control with the laptop remote as needed.
Click the name of the device you want to control in the main window of the remote/automation program. Use the on-screen controls to change channels or stations, increase or decrease volume, view menu settings or other functions you would normally perform with a standard remote control.
- If the remote/automation application cannot determine the correct remote code automatically, and you don’t have the user guide or manual for the device you want to control, you can use the regular remote control for the device to program the laptop remote. To do this, first click the "Receive Codes" or "Receive Codes from Remote" option in the device configuration window of the remote/automation program. Point the remote control for the device at the USB infrared receive/transmitter and press the "ON/OFF" button a few times until the application displays a "Code Received," "Code Learned" or other similar message box.
- Depending upon the remote/automation application you choose, the trial period lasts only between 7 and 30 days. Consequently, if you want to use the remote/automation application after the trial period expires, you must purchase a license key or code on the manufacturer website.
Jeff Grundy has been writing computer-related articles and tutorials since 1995. Since that time, Grundy has written many guides to using various applications that are published on numerous how-to and tutorial sites. Born and raised in South Georgia, Grundy holds a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.