Cable Box Rebooting Problems

By Elizabeth Falwell

Your cable box -- sometimes referred to as a receiver or converter box -- is the link between your cable service provider and the images and sounds you see on your TV screen. This box acts as a gatekeeper for your cable service, making sure you get all the channels you ordered and blocking you from accessing the channels you haven't. Rebooting this box is the first step to troubleshooting many cable TV troubles.

Why Rebooting Is So Important

Your cable box is connected to your account with your cable company. It's through this box that your service provider sends updates regarding not only what channels you've ordered, but also information on pay-per-view programming, guide updates and software upgrades. Sometimes, these messages aren't properly received by your cable box; this can lead to poor picture quality, problems with the audio, inaccessible channels and issues with the on-screen guide.

How to Reset Your Box

The exact steps to reboot your cable box depend on two factors: your cable service provider and the type of cable box installed in your home. However, the general process revolves around one key element -- disconnecting your cable box from its power source. For example, Time Warner Cable urges customers to unplug their cable box for at least 30 seconds, while Cox Communications suggests unplugging the box for only 20 seconds. Regardless of the amount of time outlined by your service provider or box, when you plug the device back in, your cable box automatically searches for the newest updates from your service provider.

Troubleshooting: Cable Connections

Several different factors can inhibit your box's ability to reboot. The first place to start troubleshooting this issue is with the cable connections in your home. The coaxial cables running from your home's exterior cable box -- installed and maintained by the cable company -- to your set-top cable box are responsible for transmitting the cable signal into your home. A frayed, crimped or otherwise damaged coax won't be able to transmit the signal effectively; this includes the signals for updates, which travel along the same line as the broadcasting signals. Likewise, a loose connection degrades the signal. Check that all F-connectors on the end of your coaxial cables are screwed in tightly.

Troubleshooting: Power Problems

If your set-top cable box doesn't have a power source, it won't be able to reboot itself. First, examine the power cord running from the cable box to the wall socket to make sure it isn't damaged. Next, check the connection between the plug and outlet to make sure the plug is fully inserted into the socket; also check the connection between the power cord and your cable box for similar issues. If you're using a surge protector, it should be turned on and properly connected as well. Some wall outlets have reset buttons that act as mini circuit breakers and must be reset occasionally. Finally, if you are still having power supply issues, check the circuit breaker in your electric box to see if it's tripped.

Troubleshooting: Patience, Please

According to Cox Communications, it can take up to four minutes for your cable box to fully reboot. Unplugging or turning off your cable box during this time stops the process, forcing you to start over from the beginning. During this process, your TV screen -- if you have it turned on -- won't be able to broadcast any TV programs; in many cases, such as for Time Warner Cable customers, you may see a blue or black screen during the duration of the process. Even then, as with Charter TV customers, it can take up to an hour after the rebooting process for the programming guide to fully download. The key here is to have patience to allow the rebooting process to complete itself without interference from you.