How to Hook Up Your Cable Box to Your TV Without HDMI

Hook Up Your Cable Box to Your TV Without HDMI

Your cable box is the electronics that keeps your cable program flowing. If you have cable service, you probably have a cable box. If you’ve ever watched TV, you’ve used a cable box. Even if you don’t have cable service, your landlord probably has a cable box for the TV in your rental unit.

As a result, you’ve almost certainly seen one. In other words, your cable box is pretty much everywhere. It’s so ubiquitous, in fact, that most people rarely think about how they connect their cable box to their TV. That’s why you’re reading this. We’re here to help you avoid some of the most common cable box mistakes so you get the most out of your box.

Set your cable box to input only

Let’s start with the basics. If you have a cable box and you’re not already using it to receive TV programming, it’s probably already set to “Input Only.” You should be using it for its intended purpose. If you’re not, though, you risk damaging the box, making your cable company mad, and possibly losing your cable service.

The only reason to connect your cable box to your TV via HDMI or another digital cable connection is if you have specific needs. For example, you may want to use your cable box as a set-top box and use your TV as a display. If you’re not sure why you’re connecting your box to your TV via HDMI, contact your cable company. They’ll be happy to help you out.

Don’t use a cable box-specific remote

If you’re using a remote for your cable box that has a cable box button, you’re doing it wrong. That button should be used to navigate your cable channel lineup. The remote that comes with your cable box is probably a universal remote with buttons for your TV and other electronics. If it’s a TV-only remote, you’re in trouble.

If you’re using a cable box remote that’s not a TV-centric remote, you could be missing out on some really exciting features. Some cable boxes let you use the remote to change channels and other functions. Others let you use the remote as a universal remote to control other electronics. It’s worth checking out what your remote can do.

Get a TV antenna

An antenna is a great way to watch over-the-air (OTA) TV. It’s arguably the best way to get TV content without a paid subscription. However, an antenna will only work if you have the right one for your location. It won’t work with the cable box in your attic. It won’t work with the one in your rental unit.

It’s useless outside your house. You need an antenna that just looks for OTA signals and amplifies them, like a TV antenna (also known as a rabbit ears antenna). Make sure to get one that’s amplified, not one that’s just “cable-ready.” You might also want to get a digital TV antenna to get even more out of your antenna, such as local HDTV channels, over-the-air TV channels, and online video channels like Hulu and Netflix.

Don’t use an HDMI cord

Many people think they need an HDMI cord with their cable box, but they don’t. As long as you have a cable box that outputs as a digital signal, and you have a TV that can receive that signal, you can use a standard composite (red and white) or analog (yellow and white) signal.

Analog cables are cheaper than HDMI cables, so many people use them without issue. If you use a composite or analog cable with your cable box, you will need a converter to get the signal to your TV’s HDMI port. This is true for all types of cables: Ethernet, component, and digital. Converters are affordable, and most cable boxes now come with one. If yours doesn’t, you can buy one inexpensively.

Use an Ethernet cord

Most people use Ethernet cords with their cable boxes, but they’re usually using an Ethernet cord that was “cable-ready” that is not the best option. The best cord to use with your cable box is an Ethernet cord. Ethernet cables are cheap, and they’re everywhere. You’ll likely find one near your router, so you don’t have to search around for it. You’ll also find them at electronics stores and sometimes even at grocery stores. Ethernet cords have far fewer problems than HDMI cables. Avoid a cable box-specific Ethernet cord, as those are more likely to cause problems.

Don’t connect to the TV’s HDMI port

If you have a cable box that’s outputting a digital (HDMI) signal, you want to connect that cable to your TV’s HDMI port, not your TV’s input (or composite, red and white, or yellow and white) port. Most TVs have a single HDMI port, but some have several (such as three) and some have none (such as one). There’s no way around it: Connecting cable boxes to TVs via HDMI is the best way to go. If your cable box isn’t outputting a digital signal, there’s no reason to connect it to your TV via an HDMI cord.

Try Component cables

Many people have tried to hook up a component cable from a cable box to their TV’s HDMI port, thinking that would work. It won’t. A component cable is just a red and white or yellow and white cable. It’s not a cable that transmits a digital signal. You must use an HDMI cord to connect it to your TV. 

Hook up your cable box to your TV via an AC outlet

If you’re hooking your cable box up to your TV via HDMI, you’re doing it wrong. When you connect your cable box to your AC outlet, your box will draw power from your house’s electricity.

This is not a safe way to power your box. It is a way to make your TV more expensive. It is a way to potentially damage your box.  Turn off your power at the wall before connecting your cable box to your TV via HDMI. If your cable company won’t let you, call your provider and see . They can send someone out to swap out the wiring in your house.

If not, see if there’s a local power company that can do it for free. If there isn’t, see if you can pay them to do it. It’s worth the cost to get your cable box connected safely.


Hopefully you’re convinced now that HDMI doesn’t need to be your cable box connection of choice. If your cable box is connected via HDMI, it needs to be switched to input only, and you should be using an Ethernet cord. If you want to use a component cable, make sure it’s a cable box-specific component cable. And if you want to use an analog cable, make sure it’s an Ethernet cable.



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