Step By Step: How to Program a Universal Remote

STEP 1: CHOOSE THE RIGHT REMOTE "You get what you pay for" definitely holds true with universal remotes. Cheap models offer basic features such as channel-changing and play-stop-skip controls but usually can't handle full system control. Mid-priced remotes, which add cool features such as macros and advanced learning capabilities, can manage most daily system operation. Higher-end units that have touchscreen interfaces, radio frequency (RF) control, and the ability to rename keys can replace all your remotes. Those at the highest echelon, from companies such as Crestron, AMX, and Elan, can be customized in every way. With features like RS-232 two-way communication and power sensing, they can operate even the most complex system with a single button.

STEP 2: READ THE MANUAL A quick look will tell you what kind of remote you're dealing with and how to get it into programming mode. But make sure the batteries are installed correctly and that your system is powered up, with your DVD player, VCR, and other components loaded before you start.

Option 1: Code Entry This is the easiest and fastest way to program a remote. First, look in the manual for the three- or four-digit code for the device you want to control. Then, once you have the remote in programming mode - usually by pressing the key for the device to be programmed (such as CD or DVD) and then holding down the Setup button - punch in the number. If your component turns off, you've found the right code. If the first one doesn't work, try the next. Once you find the correct code, write it down or circle it in the manual. Level of difficulty: 1

Option 2: Code Search If your component isn't in the code list, or none of the codes works, try a search. The remote will slowly cycle through its library of codes, emitting power commands. Chances are you'll hit the right one sooner or later. Level of difficulty: 2