How Universal TV Remote Controls Work

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How Universal TV Remote Controls Work

A universal TV remote control is a remote that can be programmed to control various devices including a television set, a Blu-Ray or DVD player, and even a stereo. Depending on the remote, it might work with only a small number of devices, or work with all devices in a home. Many low-end remote controls offer set programming which allows the remote to control devices such as a specific DVD player or a specific number of devices.

Universal TV remote controls can be purchased in electronics stores, household goods stores, online shops, and eBay. Depending on the market value, the remote might feature any number of programmable options such as the ability to control a specific number of devices or the ability to be upgraded to include any number of devices. Standard universal TV remote controls usually come with a large (but limited) number of compatible devices that have already been programmed in, which means that a person can use the universal remote control for most devices in the home. To get the most out of a universal TV remote, the user needs to know how to programme in new codes, how to find the device code, and how to choose the right universal TV remote for their needs, including from eBay.

How Universal TV Remote Controls Work

Most devices use a two-part control sequence to allow a remote control of any kind to work. The first is a LED flash and signal receiver that sends infrared pulses, which are picked up by the TV. The second is a series of codes that are unique to each TV set and can be programmed into a universal remote in order to allow it to control the device. In fact, many standard remote controls that come for free with a television, player, or PVR can actually be programmed to control additional devices. However, the process is often quite complicated, but can be done by the users, if they are patient enough to follow the instructions manual, or by a professional.

Depending on the device, the universal remote sends a series of numeric codes that have been programmed to cause the device to perform a specific action, such as change the channel, or turn the device off and on. Many universal remote controls are sold with a large number of these codes already programmed in, meaning that the device can control a great deal of devices. Others come with only one or two pre-programmed codes, meaning that the TV remotes must be purchased for use with a specific brand or TV set.

For example, 12-in-one remote controls can control up to 12 devices at once, but might have to be programmed. Most people find that common TV brands and popular electronic devices such as Emerson, Sony, or Samsung tend to work more reliably with universal remote controls because they are more likely to be programmed in than lesser known brands. However, older used universal remote controls that have not been updated, or do not come with updating features might not have the codes for a newer TV set.

Programming in New Codes

Anyone with an uncommon device, or one that has not been programmed into their universal TV remote control can also programme the remote themselves in order to allow it to work with the device or devices. In fact, this process can be done with most standard remote controls. A universal remote however, is more likely to offer the necessary features and functions to make controlling a secondary device easier. Universal remote controls are also a great deal easier to programme than standard remote controls because they include the necessary buttons to press to start programming.

Anyone who has purchased a universal remote control can use the following steps to program their remote. However, not all remotes support every device, and some rarer devices might have trouble working with all features due to incompatibility. The best idea for most buyers is to check the compatibility list and any warnings on the remote control provided by the manufacturer before purchase in order to ensure that it works with their device.

Finding the Device Code

Whether the device is a television or DVR recorder, it should have a code for the remote control. Usually this code can be found in the owner’s manual, although placement does vary with the manufacturer. Some manufacturers also list the code on their website, meaning that buyers can simply look there for this information. Anyone getting the code from a website should ensure that it matches their device make and model numbers, or the universal remote might not work. Some remotes allow users to automatically find the code by pressing and holding the setup button or alternative with the intended use device turned on until the LED blinks, and then pressing the device selector button (which can be ‘Volume’, ‘Select’, or even ‘Menu’, depending on the remote control model), until the device turns off.

Programming the Universal Remote

After locating the device code, users can manually enter it by turning on the device they wish to power and going from there. It is important to note that a remote can only be programmed to one device at a time, so anyone programming multiple devices should turn on one at a time. To programme a device, one needs to press the remote button that corresponds with the device being programmed (TV, Satellite, DVD), and then press the ‘Setup’, ‘Program’, or ‘Set’, button. The LED on the remote should blink to signal users to enter the device code. From there, it is possible to test the remote to see if it is working properly. If not, one should check the code and retry the steps from the beginning. The entire process should only take a few minutes on a programmable universal TV remote control.

Choosing a Universal TV Remote Control

Buyers should look for universal TV remote controls that suit their needs. For example, anyone with only one or two devices might be able to easily find a cheap remote control that can handle their needs, and anyone who has simply lost a remote can easily replace it with a cheap universal TV remote. However, anyone who wants to control multiple devices with the same remote, or control uncommon devices with one remote might want to consider purchasing a more expensive option with better features.

First, the buyer should check the number of devices in the home. If there are more than8–12, it is probably a good idea to make sure that the universal remote control is an all-in-one with no device limits. Second, the buyer should check the brand models. Most universal remotes work better with popular brands such as Samsung, LG, Sony, Sharp, Panasonic, Toshiba, JVC, Sanyo, RCA, Thomson, Philips, Pioneer, or Hitachi than with less popular brands. More expensive universal TV remote models can be programmed to anything, so anyone with an off-brand should look into a universal remote with this option. Another thing to consider is that some universal TV remote controls might not work with combination devices such as a TV-DVD combinations.

Guide to Terms for a Universal TV Remote

Anyone purchasing a universal TV remote should look for terms and specifications to match the features they are looking for. Newer universal TV remotes can include everything from Bluetooth to PC setup, so anyone not familiar with setting up a universal remote should definitely pay attention to what they are getting. For example, a Logitech 1100 offers a touchscreen and up to six metres of control, with no line of sight required.



Bluetooth or RF

Non infrared device transmission; can often be used without line of sight


Display screen can be touchscreen or not


Ability to program in individual codes as necessary

Macro Programming

Ability to programme in key sequences to one key


Multiple device control without pushing a ‘device’ key

Programmable Soft Keys

Allows macro programming

PC Configuration

Remote can be upgraded and configured via PC

Phone Connection

Remote can be connected to home phone

Code List

List of compatible codes that come with the remote

Many less expensive universal TV remote controls might not have any of these features, but only the option to select a specific code from a list in order to work with an individual device. Mid-range and high-range universal remote controls, on the other hand, can be used for almost any electronic device, and can be even connected via Bluetooth to the home phone. Depending on the user, these features might be useful, or not, so it is important to decide how the remote is going to be used before making a purchase.

Buying a Universal TV Remote Control on eBay

Once you have decided how many devices and what devices you need your universal remote control to work on, you can look on eBay to purchase from a variety of different styles, qualities, and price ranges. Whether you are looking for a budget model, a second-hand one, or a top of the line multi-function remote, you can find it on eBay. You can start your search by typing 'universal remote control&' into the search bar on any eBay page.

You could also choose to search for a specific remote, such as a 'TV remote Bluetooth', an 'all in one remote control', a 'Logitech universal remote control', or a 'Panasonic universal remote'. After you have picked out a remote, you should feel free to contact the seller with any questions you might have. When buying from eBay, considerations include that new universal remotes might be available from eBay authorised sellers, and that any local sellers are able to ship your remote more quickly than international eBay sellers.


A universal TV remote control works by sending a specific series of codes via infrared or Bluetooth to an electronic device. Because each device usually contains a different series of codes to make it work, a universal remote control can either come pre-programmed with a large list of compatible devices, or can be programmed by the user with the device codes, as necessary. Most universal TV remotes can also be programmed with a new code, but on some devices, such as those without a 'Setup' button, the process can be quite complicated.

Different universal TV remote controls offer different features that can range from a specific number of supported devices to the ability to answer the telephone. Most high-end universal TV remote controls also offer options such as a touchscreen, programmable soft keys, Bluetooth support, PC programming, or unlimited device support. Universal TV remote controls can be purchased in most stores that sell electronics as well as household goods stores, online electronics shops, and eBay.

Additionally Google Chromecast is now available on the eBay marketplace. This allows users to stream content from mobile devices, directly to the TV.

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