Unless you’ve recently moved from Alaska to Texas and are feeling a little homesick, the last thing you want to see when you turn on your TV is probably snow. Combine a snowy screen with that loud, nasty static sound, and you’ve got trouble on your hands. Fortunately, you don’t have to be technical to fix your set-top box, just follow these easy troubleshooting steps to get your picture back in no time.
Cable box basics
Make sure your cable box is plugged in. I know it sounds silly, but after I have solved these problems over the phone professionally, you can trust me on this one. Save yourself the time and embarrassment of calling a professional just to tell you to hook it up. That also applies to the rest of the essential equipment (i.e. TV, VCR or DVR if you are transmitting the signal through one, etc.). It wouldn’t hurt to make sure the TV is on the correct channel, usually channel 3 or 4 or one of the input channels.
Make sure all cables are connected. Even if your TV and cable box are on, you won’t see a picture unless they’re connected. Check each connection to make sure it is tight and that none of the connecting cables or parts are damaged. Also check that the connections are all correct, which means that the video and audio should go from your cable or satellite box to the input ports on your television. The signal must follow a logical path. If the connections are correct but you still don’t see an image, replace the cables to see if that solves the problem. If you’re streaming through a DVR or VCR and you’re having trouble, skip the middle man and connect the cables straight from the box to the TV. If you get a picture, you know the problem is with the VCR.
After making sure everything is turned on and the cable connections are correct, try rebooting your system. Each company’s receivers have different reset methods, but a fairly universal way is to unplug the box for 10-20 seconds and then plug it back in. Don’t just turn the box off and on again, you’ll have to pull the plug out of the wall and then put it back in. Once the cable box is plugged in again, turn on the power and cross your fingers. If you still do not receive any images, unplug the receiver again for one minute and then plug it in again. This can be tedious and time consuming, especially when you are missing the fight of the year or the Super Bowl, but give it the full minute; you’ll spend less time doing it yourself than waiting for a repairman to come. and fix it.
Blurred picture or sound
If you get a picture but no sound; or sound but no image; or fuzzy picture or sound, recheck the cable connections to make sure they are tight and the cables or connecting parts are not damaged. Poor picture or sound is usually caused by one of three problems: poor cable connections, signal interference, or TV setup.
Going out to make sure nothing is interfering with your signal will help with the second problem. Of course, if you have cables underground, there is not much you can do to make sure they are free from interference (it reads, “Your neighbor cut it while gardening”). If you have a satellite dish, be aware that excessive accumulation of rain or snow on the antenna can cause signal interference. Be careful when checking your plate, especially if it is on your roof or in some other hard-to-reach spot around your house. The installer should have verified that no trees or other objects would interfere with the signal from the satellites, but take a quick look around to see if the new foliage is blocking the signal. If it is not on your property, do not cut or remove anything without prior permission from the property owner.
Finally, adjusting your TV settings can help when you get a clear signal and all connections are fine. Horizontal and vertical adjustments are the most frequently required adjustments, but consulting your owner’s manual can give you a better indication of other adjustments that can be changed.
Problem solving takes patience, so whip up lemonade, roll up your sleeves, and get started. If none of these suggestions work (9 out of 10 will), contact your service provider. They may have additional troubleshooting steps or resources that they can make available to get your cable or satellite TV up and running.