How to Troubleshoot HDMI Connection Problems

What to do when your HDMI connection doesn't work.

As the standard connection device for TVs, game consoles, media streamers, set-top boxes, and video projectors, HDMI is an important component of any entertainment setup.

This troubleshooting guide applies to all HDMI-related devices, whether it's a computer, TV, etc.

Why HDMI Problems Happen

HDMI is supposed to make it easy to connect all your devices with one HDMI cable for both audio and video. To do this, connected devices must be "licensed" to communicate with each other through a standard known as HDCP.

This ability to recognize and communicate media and devices is referred to as the "HDMI handshake." If the handshake doesn't work, that means the HDCP encryption embedded in the HDMI signal is not recognized by one or more of the connected devices. This usually results in you not being able to watch your movies or play your video games.

There are some things you can do to work around this issue. Here's how to troubleshoot problems with HDMI.

How to Troubleshoot a Faulty HDMI Connection

Here are some steps that may help correct HDMI connection problems so you can get back to gaming or watching.

  1. Check HDMI Cable Connections: Make sure the cable is tightly fitted at both ends. HDMI connections don't fit as tightly as a component or composite video connection and sometimes slip out. If this happens often, consider buying locks for your HDMI cables or self-locking cables.

  2. Reverse the Turn-on Sequence For Your Devices: If you tend to turn on your TV first followed by other devices, try turning on the secondary devices first, followed by the TV. If you have several different HDMI components, try starting them up in different order combinations.

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

  3. Try a Different HDMI Input: With your remote, switch to another input on the TV and then switch back to HDMI to see if the signal locks correctly. Failing that, plug your device into a different HDMI input and repeat the above steps.

    Make sure to select the correct input for the device you are attempting to use, whether it be a game console or Blu-ray player. Some devices are tuned to specific channel inputs and require you to tune to that input on your TV remote.

  4. Check Your Source Device's Resolution Setting: If your HDMI device has a settings menu to control the video resolution, check to see if it is set to AUTO. If so, reset it to match the built-in resolution of your TV or video projector, such as 720p, 1080p, or 4K, if you have 4K-capable TV or video projector.

  5. Use Process of Elimination: If your device is connected to an audio receiver or other intermediary, remove the HDMI connection and plug it directly into the TV. If that works, then the receiver or intermediary device you're using is likely the problem. Keep the HDMI source connected to your TV and make a separate audio connection from your device to the the TV until you can determine the problem with the receiver.

    If the problem is the HDMI input on the audio receiver, you may still be able to use the receiver's audio inputs to transmit sound from your HDMI device.

  6. Check For Firmware Updates: Check online for firmware updates for your TV, HDMI device, or audio receiver. Also look for user comments or complaints regarding HDMI handshake issues, and follow discussions and links to the proposed solution.

How to Troubleshoot a Faulty HDMI Connection on an HDR TV

The implementation of HDR in many 4K Ultra HD TVs has been know to cause HDMI connection problems. If you have an HDR (High Dynamic Range) TV and none of the above steps work, follow these troubleshooting tips:

  1. Make sure your audio receiver or other intermediary device is HDR-compatible.

  2. Make sure the TV of video projector's firmware is up to date.

  3. If you haven't already, swap out your HDMI cable for a Hi-Speed HDMI cable with a speeds of at least 10.2 Gbps, but preferably 18 Gbps.

  4. If you have an HDR-enabled device, such as a UHD Blu-ray player or streaming device, connected to an HDR-compatible TV, it's possible that the TV is not recognizing the HDR-encoded content. When an HDR TV or video projector detects an HDR signal, a confirmation should appear on the screen. If it does not, the problem may be a matter of compatibility rather than connectivity.

  5. If your TV or video projector still does not recognize the HDR source after changing settings and upgrading cables, contact tech support for either the TV or the HDMI source device.

How to Troubleshoot HDMI-to-DVI or DVI-to-HDMI Connection Problems

Illustration of a person trying to watch phone video on big screen TV with a big "no" circle on it
Ashley Deleon Nicole / Lifewire

If you are attempting to connect an HDMI device to a TV with DVI connection, you may need to use an HDMI-to-DVI conversion cable. Alternatively, you can use an HDMI cable with an added HDMI-to-DVI adapter or a DVI cable with a DVI-to-HDMI adapter. This allows communication between the HDMI and DVI devices.

Although HDMI can pass both video and audio signals, DVI connections can only pass video signals. This means if you connect an HDMI source device to a DVI equipped TV, you have to make a separate audio connection. Depending on the TV, this may be done with either an RCA or 3.5mm (AUX) audio connection.

Older DVI-equipped TVs may not have the firmware to recognize an HDMI source device. Contact your device's manufacturer to proceed further.

How to Troubleshoot a Faulty HDMI Connection with a Laptop or Computer

If you're attempting to use a PC or laptop as a source component, make sure your computer settings designate HDMI as the default output connection. If you can't get an image from your laptop to appear on your TV screen, try these troubleshooting tips:

  1. Boot up your computer with the HDMI cable connected to a TV that is already on.

  2. Boot up your computer while the TV is off and then turn on the TV.

  3. Boot up your computer and turn on TV before connecting the HDMI cable.

    If your TV has a Video Graphics Array (VGA) input you may have to use that instead of HDMI.

How to Troubleshoot a Faulty HDMI Connection With Wireless HDMI

Wireless HDMI devices—those that use an external transmitter to wirelessly transmit audio/video signals to a receiver—can also cause connectivity problems.

There are two main "wireless HDMI" formats, each supporting their own group of products: WHDI and Wireless HD (WiHD). These are intended to make it more convenient to connect HDMI devices without a cable. Follow these troubleshooting steps if you're trying to connect a wireless HDMI device:

  1. Change the distance and position of the wireless devices. Just like with Wi-Fi, a successful wireless HDMI connection depends on minimal distance, a clear line-of-site, and limited interference. For particularly long distances, there are additional HDMI connection options to consider.

  2. Try different turn-on sequences like those mentioned above.

  3. Check product specifications and compatibility with any wireless HDMI device. Wireless HDMI devices have a lot of technical differences when it comes to brand, model, and industry standards, and devices may not be compatible down the line.

  • How do I connect a laptop to my TV via HDMI?

    Connect your laptop to your TV by connecting one end of the HDMI cable to your TV and the other to your computer. Make sure to change your HDMI-In source on your TV to match the HDMI port you use. You may need a specific HDMI adaptor for your laptop model.

  • How do I connect my TV to a set-top box using HDMI?

    Connect your TV to a set-top box using an HDMI cable, then switch the input on your TV to the HDMI port you chose. Some HDTVs won't let you select the port until you've actually made a connection.

  • How do I use an HDMI switch box?

    To install an HDMI switch box, connect each device to the inputs on the switch box with HDMI cables. Then, connect your television to the HDMI output on the switch box.

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