How to Troubleshoot HDMI Connection Problems

What to do when your HDMI connection doesn't work

Close up of an HDMI Cable

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HDMI is the main way to connect multiple components such in a home theater setup, including TVs, video projectors, Ultra HD and Blu-ray Disc players, receivers, media streamers, and even cable/satellite boxes. When an HDMI connection goes wrong, there are some things you can do to that, in most cases, will fix it.

Copy-Protection and the HDMI Handshake

One purpose of HDMI is to make it an easier to connect all your components together by using one cable for both audio and video. However, there is another purpose for the implementation of the HDMI: copy-protection (known as HDCP and for 4K HDCP 2.2). This copy protection standard requires that HDMI connected components be able to recognize and communicate with each other.

This ability to recognize and communicate is referred to as the HDMI handshake. If the 'handshake' doesn't work, the HDCP encryption that is embedded in the HDMI signal is not recognized properly by one, or more, of the connected components. This most often results in you not being able to see anything on a TV screen.

Before frustration sets in, there are some things you can do yourself if you find that your HDMI-connected components are not communicating properly.

HDMI Troubleshooting Tips

Here is a list of the key things you can do to correct HDMI connection problems before letting the panic set in.

  • Check Your HDMI Cable Connections: HDMI connections don't fit as tight as a component or composite video connections and can slip out sometimes if the equipment is moved slightly. If this is a problem – consider getting locks for your HDMI cables or get self-locking HDMI cables.
  • Try A Different Turn-on Sequence For Your Components: If you have a habit of turning on your TV first, then your Blu-ray Disc player, or other HDMI source component, try the reverse turn-on sequence and see if that works. Also, if you have a Blu-ray Disc player, or another component, connected to a home theater receiver and then to the TV – try different startup combinations and see if that works. If you find a sequence that works, remember it. Of course, make sure when everything is turned on, and that you have selected the correct input on your TV that the Blu-ray Disc player, or another source component, is connected to.

However, if changing the turn-on sequence of your TV and connected components doesn't seem to do the trick, with both the TV and source component on, just try switching to another input on the TV and then switch back to HDMI and see if the signal locks incorrectly.

Once you have determined the best turn-on sequence — write it down for future reference.

  • Check Your Source Device's Video Resolution Output Setting: If your Blu-ray Disc player or other HDMI source device has a video resolution output setting menu, check to see if it is set to AUTO. If so, reset it to match the native resolution of your TV or video projector (such as 720p, 1080p, or 4K, if you have 4K-capable TV or video projector) and see if that provides a more stable result.
  • Use The Process Of Elimination: If you have a Blu-ray Disc player (or another HDMI source) connected to a home theater receiver to a TV and you still don't get anything to show up your TV screen regardless of the turn on the sequence you try, use the process of elimination. Connect the Blu-ray Disc (or another HDMI source) directly to the TV. This bypasses the home theater receiver. See if that does the trick. If so, the home theater receiver, or the HDMI source component/home theater receiver combination is most likely the culprit. What you can do now is keep the HDMI source connected directly to your TV and then make a separate audio connection from your source device (such as a Blu-ray Disc player) to your home theater receiver. This is not necessarily the most efficient connection method, but you can still use the separate video and audio connection workaround a the best option for the time being, or as a permanent solution if you prefer.
  • Check For Firmware Updates: If you find that none of the above solutions work or work consistently — check to see if there are any announced firmware updates for your HDMI source and home theater receiver (or even your TV) that may resolve this issue. Also, check to see there have been complaints filed or posted by other users regarding HDMI handshake issues with your components.

The HDR Factor

The implementation of HDR on an increasing number of 4K Ultra HD TVs may also cause connection glitches.

If you have an HDR-enabled source device, such as a UHD Blu-ray Disc player or Media Streamer connected to an HDR-compatible TV/Video projector and are attempting to access compatible HDR-encoded content, you may run into a situation where the TV/Video Projector may not recognize the HDR content.

When an HDR TV or Video Projector detects an incoming HDR signal, a brief confirmation indicator should appear on the top left or right corner of the screen. If you do not see this indicator, or see a displayed message by the TV or source component that states that you need to connect the HDR source to an HDR-compatible TV or if a message that states that the incoming signal has been downgraded to 1080p due to the lack of proper HDR detection, there are ways that you may be able to correct this issue.

  • Make sure you are using Hi-Speed HDMI cables (at least 10.2 Gbps rated — with 18 Gbps preferred).
  • If you have your HDR source routed through a home theater receiver to a compatible TV/Video projector, make sure your home theater receiver is also HDR compatible.
  • Access your source device's video resolution output settings and see it is set to AUTO. If so, change the resolution output setting to 4K (sometimes labeled 4K/2K) and see if that corrects the problem. The reason that this problem occurs is that the firmware of the TV/Video projector may not be reading the HDR signal correctly when the video resolution setting output is set to AUTO, so changing the source device's setting to 4K may correct the problem. Check your TV/Video Projector has the most recent firmware update.
  • If possible, upgrade all your HDMI cables to ones that support 18 Gbps transfer speed. This doesn't make a difference with the handshake issue, but it does solve the problem with any new or future HDMI features you may need.
  • After changing your settings, and upgrading your cables, if your TV/Video projector is still not recognizing your HDR source, then content tech support for your TV/Video projector, or even your source device(s), and see if they can address the issue.

Troubleshooting HDMI-to-DVI or DVI-to-HDMI Connection Problems

Another HDMI connection issue sometimes arises when it is necessary to connect an HDMI-enabled device to a TV or monitor that has a DVI connection, or a DVI-enabled source device to an HDMI-equipped TV.

In this case, you need to use an HDMI-to-DVI conversion cable (HDMI on one end – DVI on the other) or use an HDMI cable with an added HDMI-to-DVI adapter or a DVI cable with a DVI-to-HDMI adapter.

The added requirement is that the DVI-equipped device you are connecting is HDCP-enabled. This allows the proper communication between both the HDMI and DVI devices.

One other thing to point out is that where HDMI can pass both video and audio signals, DVI connections can only pass video signals. This means if you successfully connect an HDMI source component to a DVI equipped TV, you still have to make a separate connection to access audio. Depending on the TV, this may be done either via RCA or 3.5mm audio connection.

Ordinarily, there should not be a problem converting HDMI to DVI, but there can be. For example, you will find that 3D and 4K signals are not compatible. With standard 480p, 720p, or 1080p resolution video signals, most of the time this is successful, but you may have the experience where some adapters and conversion cables don't work as advertised. If you encounter this problem, it may not necessarily be the TV or another component. You may have to try a couple of different branded adapters or cables.

You may also run into a situation on older-DVI equipped TVs, even if they are HDCP compliant, may not have the proper firmware to recognize the identity of the HDMI source component you are trying to connect. If you run into this situation a call to tech support for your TV or source component is a good idea before proceeding further.

Connecting Your PC/Laptop to a TV Using HDMI

With more consumers using their PC or Laptop as a home theater source component, problems can arise when trying to connect an HDMI-equipped PC/Laptop to an HDMI-equipped TV. Make sure that you go into your PC/Laptop settings and designate HDMI as the default output connection. If you can't get an image from your laptop to show up on your TV screen, try the following:

  • Try booting up your PC/Laptop with the HDMI cable connected to a TV that is on.
  • You can try booting up the PC/Laptop while the TV is off and then turn on the TV.
  • If the above options don't work, try booting up the PC/Laptop first, and, with the TV on then connect the HDMI cable to both the PC/Laptop and TV.

If you unsuccessful connecting your PC to your TV using an HDMI cable, if the TV has a VGA input, you may have to use that instead.

HDMI Without Cables

Another form of HDMI connectivity that is available is "Wireless HDMI." This is most commonly done by an HDMI cable coming out of source device (Blu-ray Player, Media Streamer, Cable/Satellite Box) to an external transmitter that sends the audio/video signal wirelessly to a receiver, that, in turn, is connected to a TV or video projector using a short HDMI cable. Currently, there are two competing "wireless HDMI" format, each supporting their own group of products: WHDI and Wireless HD (WiHD).

On the one hand, both of these options are intended to make it more convenient to connect HDMI sources and displays without an unsightly HDMI cable (especially if your TV or video projector is across the room). However, just as with traditional wired HDMI connectivity, there can be "quirks" such as distance, line-of-site issues, and interference (depending on whether you are using WHDI or WiHD.

Also, there are differences on how both methods may be implemented on a brand and model level, such as whether some surround sound formats and 3D can be accommodated, and, most "wireless HDMI" transmitters/receivers are not 4K compatible, but, as of 2015, this is starting to be implemented.

If you install a "wireless HDMI" connection option and you find that it is isn't working properly, the first thing to do is try changing the position, distance, and component turn-on sequence and see if that solves the problem.

If you find that following those setup that issue cannot be resolved, contact Tech Support for your specific "wireless HDMI" connection product. If that still does not solve the problem, the "stability" of a traditionally wired HDMI connection setup might work best for you. For long distances, there are also additional HDMI connection options to consider.

The Bottom Line

Love it or hate it, HDMI is the default interface used for connecting home theater components together. It was originally designed to provide a single, convenient, connection for both audio and video, with built-in copy-protection and the added ability to be upgraded over time. However, due to the fact that both the source and display devices have to communicate and recognize each other and encoded content has to be properly detected, glitches can occur. However, following the practical steps outlined above can solve most HDMI connection issues.

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