Online video streaming

Thanks to the increasing speeds of home broadband services, it's now easier than ever to watch video through your computer. We're no longer bound by television schedules, or even the stock of the local video shop. So where do you start?

Firstly, look at the equipment you have. Most modern computers, and even some games consoles and other electronic devices, have the ability to play moving images, but if you intend to watch a lot of content it may be worth upgrading your video and sound cards. If you don't want to disturb anyone around you, a good pair of headphones will be a worthwhile investment.

If you want to connect your computer to your television so that you get the full benefit of any images, a simple cable between the two will allow you to watch internet-based content on the big screen. More expensive wireless devices are also available, and some of these will let you connect your computer to more than one television if required.

Remember that if you watch live broadcasts, you will also need a TV licence. You don't need one for downloading content that isn't being simultaneously broadcast to a television, but if you are watching live sport on the BBC website for example, then a licence is required. Remember also, that it is illegal to download pirated content, so steer clear of illegitimate file sharing sites if you want to avoid prosecution.

Of course, you will also need to be online to access the content. The faster the broadband connection you have, the better - live images use a lot of bandwidth, and it can be very frustrating to wait for images to load on a slow connection. Carry out a broadband speed test to see what you are getting, and consider upgrading if your speeds are low.

Once you're set up, it's time to search for content to enjoy. Your first stop is probably at YouTube, the free site with millions of videos to view. The good thing about YouTube is that anyone can post a video, so there is tonnes of stuff to choose from. The bad thing about the site is that anyone can post a video, which means that it can be quite difficult to browse or even to find something specific that you want to see.

Next, take a look at the sites of the terrestrial and - if you have a subscription - some of the satellite broadcasters. The BBC's iPlayer is the best known, but ITV, Channel 4 and Five all have their own sites that let you view content that has previously been broadcast. Some sites will also allow you to watch programmes live, which is great for sport or news - the types of programmes that need to be watched immediately.

It's early days yet, but it's now also possible to download full movies or television series to your computer. Lovefilm or Netfilxs, the DVD rental service, for example, have thousands of titles available for download, some of them free. There are also plenty of others available - so get searching!