How Do Universal TV Remotes Work
How Do Universal TV Remotes Work

Universal remote controls are versatile devices designed to operate multiple electronic gadgets, such as TVs, DVD players, and audio systems, regardless of their brand or model. Here’s how they function:

  1. Infrared (IR) Signals: Most universal remotes work using infrared signals, similar to standard remote controls. Each button on a remote is programmed to send a specific IR signal when pressed. These signals are unique codes that correspond to different functions (like power on/off, volume control, channel change) on various devices.
  2. Pre-Programmed Codes: Universal remotes come with a library of codes pre-programmed into their memory. These codes are designed to match the control signals of many different brands and models of devices. When you set up a universal remote, you either enter a specific code for your device or perform a search process where the remote cycles through its library of codes until it finds the one that works with your device.
  3. Learning Function: Some advanced universal remotes have a learning function that allows them to ‘learn’ commands from the original device remotes. This is done by pointing the original remote at the universal remote and pressing the desired button, thereby teaching the universal remote the specific IR code for that function.
  4. Radio Frequency (RF) Capabilities: While most universal remotes rely on IR, some can also use radio frequency (RF) signals. RF signals have the advantage of not requiring a direct line of sight, meaning the remote can control devices through walls or from greater distances.
  5. Smart Universal Remotes: With the advent of smart home technology, there are now universal remotes that can control smart devices using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. These remotes can be programmed via a smartphone app and can integrate control of various smart home devices along with traditional IR or RF-controlled electronics.
  6. User Interface: Universal remotes often have an interface that allows users to switch between controlling different devices. This interface might involve a screen on the remote or simply dedicated buttons for each device type.
  7. Macro Functionality: Some universal remotes offer macro capabilities, allowing users to program a series of commands into a single button press. For instance, you can program a macro to turn on your TV, DVD player, and surround sound system with one button press.

In summary, universal remote controls work by using infrared or radio frequency signals to replicate the functionality of original remotes, covering a broad range of devices through pre-programmed or learned codes. Their ability to control multiple devices from one handset simplifies the management of home entertainment systems and can enhance the convenience of operating modern smart home setups.

Eric Chan

Hi! I’m Eric and I work on the knowledge base at  You can see some of my writings about technology, cellphone repair, and computer repair here.

When I’m not writing about tech I’m playing with my dog or hanging out with my girlfriend.

Shoot me a message at if you want to see a topic discussed or have a correction on something I’ve written.

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