How Can I Tell If I Have a Bad Cable Box?

By Linda Donahue

If you are having trouble with your television's cable box, there can be a variety of troubling symptoms, including anything from static to no picture whatsoever. The image might be frozen, the channel might not change or playback features might not work. Depending on the problem, the trouble might be with the cable box or with some other element. To troubleshoot, you'll need to eliminate other potential problem-causing areas first. Then, if all else is working, try rebooting the cable box. If, after that, if the problem persists, you'll need your cable company to make any repairs.

Things You'll Need

  • Cable box
  • TV
  • cables

Step 1

Ensure your box and television are receiving power. Make sure they are both plugged into active wall outlets. Remember that some outlets may be controlled by a switch, in which case your set may not be working simply because the switch is off.

Step 2

Test your television to make sure a lack of picture isn't because the television isn't working. Test by playing a DVD or VHS tape. If these produce a picture, your television is okay.

Step 3

Check all connections between the television and cable box. Make sure all cables are plugged in firmly. As an additional check, try replacing the cables, especially if the cables have been bent sharply at the back. A connection inside could be severed.

Step 4

Tune in the television to the correct channel if using a coax line. This is usually channel 3 or 4. Make sure all input settings on the television are correct. Remember that most televisions have multiple inputs. You may not see the cable's output because the television is set for the wrong input. Adjust the television's input using the remote control.

Step 5

Turn on the cable box. Make sure you can see the power light.

Step 6

Reboot the cable box by unplugging it from the wall outlet. Wait about 20 seconds, then plug it back in. This should cause an automatic reboot which will usually fix most problems, including a frozen picture and features which no longer work. If a reboot doesn't do the trick, phone your cable company. Sometimes their remote rebooting is required.