How to Set Up and Connect a Digital Antenna to Your TV

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What to Know

  • Connect your digital antenna to your television’s coaxial antenna-in connection.  
  • Look for the cable/antenna option in your television’s settings menu and switch it to antenna. 
  • If you have an analog television, you need to connect a DTV converter box between your antenna and your television.

This article explains how to set up and connect a digital antenna to your television.

How Do You Set Up a Digital Antenna?

Setting up a digital antenna is a straightforward process if you have a digital television. Digital antennas connect using the same type of coaxial connector that was previously used by analog antennas, and you will probably find the setup process to be quite familiar if you ever set up an analog TV antenna.

Have an older analog television? You can still use a digital antenna, but you need to connect a DTV converter box to your television first. You will then be able to watch digital television channels on your analog television.

Here’s how to set up a digital antenna:

  1. Select and install an ideal location for your digital anntenna.

    A digital TV antenna mounted in a window.

    Some digital antennas are designed to be installed on your roof or in your attic, while others can be placed on a shelf near your television or mounted on a window with suction cups.

  2. Locate the coaxial antenna input on your television.

    An antenna input and USB ports on a television.
  3. Connect your antenna to the antenna input.

    A digital antenna connected to a TV.

    If you’re using an exterior or attic antenna, and you have cable internet or cable television, do not connect your attic or external digital antenna to your home’s internal coaxial system. You will need to install a new coaxial line between the antenna and your television.

  4. Connect your antenna to power if you’re using a powered antenna.

    A powered digital antenna plugged into a TV USB port.

    You can sometimes plug a USB-powered antenna into a USB port on your television. Check to make sure the USB port on your television is designed to deliver power, as ports designed for data won’t deliver enough power.

  5. Turn on your television, and locate the Settings menu.

  6. Look for a Cable/Antenna setting, and choose Antenna.

  7. Look for an auto program or channel scan option, and select it.

  8. Wait for your television to scan for channels.

    If your television doesn’t find the channels you were interested in, check out the next section for information about where to place your antenna.

  9. Your television is now ready to use with your digital antenna.

How Do I Get a Digital Antenna Signal?

Local television stations broadcast free over-the-air (OTA) signals you can receive with a digital antenna. Since it’s a free service, all you need to do is connect a digital antenna to your television and use the settings menu on your television to search for channels. If there are any television stations in your area your antenna is capable of picking up, your television will find them automatically.

If you aren’t close to any television stations, or your local stations broadcast weak signals, you may have trouble picking anything up with a weak indoor antenna. To maximize your chances of receiving channels in that sort of situation, it’s important to position your antenna in the best place possible. Remember to aim your antenna in the right direction if it’s a directional antenna.

Here’s how to position a digital antenna:

  1. Navigate to the FCC DTV Reception Map, enter your address, and click Go.

    Go highlighted on the FCC DTV reception site.
  2. Click each television station you’re interested in.

    A television station highlighted on the FCC DTV map site.
  3. Check the map to see where the stations are in relation to your current location.

    The FCC DTV map site showing the direction of a television station.
  4. Place or install your antenna on the side of your house nearest to the stations you’re interested in. Remember to it in that direction if you’re using a directional antenna.

  5. Repeat steps 4-8 from the previous section, and check to see if you are able to receive your missing channels.

  6. If you still can’t receive the channels you want after repositioning the antenna, the stations may be too far away, there may be too much interference, or your antenna may not be strong enough.

Why Is My Digital Antenna Not Picking Up Channels?

When a digital antenna fails to pick up the expected channels, there may be a number of factors at play. The TV stations may be too far away or send out a weak signal, there may be interference or the signal may be blocked, or your antenna may be too weak. If the television stations aren’t close to your location, you may need a powerful exterior antenna instead of an interior antenna.

Here are some fixes you can try if your digital antenna isn’t picking up channels:

  • Make sure you have a digital television. Look for the letters DTV or words like “digital ready.” If your television was made prior to 2006, it’s probably analog, in which case you’ll need a converter box.
  • Make sure your TV is set to use your antenna. If you search for channels in cable mode, your television won’t find any digital OTA channels. Make sure it’s set to antenna, and search again.
  • Check to verify the antenna is connected correctly. Make sure the connection is tight, and check the label of the coaxial connector on your TV. Some TVs have both an input and an output, and some have two inputs. Connect to the input marked antenna-in if you see such a label, or the number one input if they are numbered.
  • Reposition your antenna. Using the method described in the previous section, try repositioning your antenna, and also point it in the correct direction if you have a directional antenna.
  • Obtain a more powerful antenna. Make sure you've selected the best antenna for your area. If the local television signals are weak, you may need a stronger antenna or even an external roof-mounted antenna.
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