How to Install an HDMI Switch Box

What to know about setting up an HDMI switch

What to Know

  • Connect each device to the inputs on an HDMI switch box with HDMI cables.
  • Connect your television to the HDMI output on the HDMI switch box.
  • If your switch is powered, plug it into power and turn it on.

This article explains how to install an HDMI switch box on your television, monitor, or projector.

How to Install an HDMI Switch Box

An HDMI switch box can allow you to plug several devices into your TV, monitor, or projector even if you only have one available HDMI port. To install an HDMI switch box, you'll need the switch itself, one HDMI cable to connect the switch to your TV, and enough HDMI cables to connect the switch to each of your devices. For example, you would need three HDMI cables to connect a game console and a Blu-ray player to your TV through a switch box.

Look for a switch that has enough inputs for all of your devices with a few inputs to support new devices in the future. For example, consider a 4x1 (four inputs, one output) switch if you have two or three devices to connect.

Here's how to install an HDMI switch box:

  1. Find a position for your HDMI switch box where you’ll be able to reach it or where nothing will block the remote if it has a remote control. It will also need to be close to a power outlet, your television, and your devices.

    An HDMI switch box on a shelf ready to set up.

    Jeremy Laukkonen / Lifewire

    If you’re using a passive switch, place it as close as possible to your television and components, and use the shortest HDMI cables possible.

  2. Connect HDMI cables to the inputs on the switch box.

    HDMI cables plugged into inputs on an HDMI switch box.

    Jeremy Laukkonen / Lifewire

  3. Connect the other end of each HDMI cable to a device.

    An HDMI cable plugged into a device.

    Jeremy Laukkonen / Lifewire

  4. Connect an HDMI cable to the output on the switch box.

    An HDMI cable connected to the output on an HDMI switch.

    Jeremy Laukkonen / Lifewire

  5. Connect the other end of the HDMI cable to an input on your television.

    An HDMI cable connected to an input on a television.

    Jeremy Laukkonen / Lifewire

  6. If you have a powered HDMI switch box, plug in the power adapter and turn the switch on.

    A powered HDMI switch box plugged into power.

    Jeremy Laukkonen / Lifewire

  7. Your HDMI switch box is now ready to use.

How Does an HDMI Switch Box Work?

An HDMI switch works by taking signals from several source devices and sending one at a time to a destination device even if the destination device only has one HDMI port. The sources can be game consoles, streaming devices, Blu-ray players, and other home theater devices that output audio and video through an HDMI connection. The destination device can be a television, monitor, projector, or anything that accepts audio and video through an HDMI connection.

The HDMI inputs on a switch box are typically numbered or labeled with letters so that you can easily distinguish between them. Some switches operate with a physical button, and others are remote-controlled. Passive switches that don’t have to be plugged into power usually have physical switches, while switches that need to be plugged into power have remote controls.

When you push a button or use a remote to select an input device on your HDMI switch, it connects that device to the HDMI output and sends the audio and video signals to your television. When you push the button again or select a different input with the remote, it switches from the first input to the second and sends the new signal to your television.

Does an HDMI Switcher Need Power?

Some HDMI switch boxes need power, and others don’t. Passive switches don’t need to be plugged into power, while active switches do. Passive switches are usually less expensive, smaller, and use physical buttons. Active switches can also have physical buttons, but many let you switch inputs with a remote.

While passive switches do work without any external power source, they don’t always work as well as powered switches. Signal strength can become an issue, so the best results are usually obtained using the shortest HDMI cables possible when connecting a television with a passive switch. Active switches are less prone to issues like that, and you can use longer cables without connection problems.

Why Is My HDMI Switch Not Working?

If your HDMI switch isn’t working, it could be an issue with your source devices, your destination device, your HDMI cables, or the switch itself.

Here are some common fixes to make your HDMI switch work:

  1. Make sure the TV and source device are both turned on.

  2. If you have an active switch, make sure it’s plugged into power and turned on.

  3. Make sure the TV is set to the correct HDMI input.

  4. Unplug each HDMI cable and carefully plug them back in, making sure they are fully inserted.

  5. Try different HDMI cables.

  6. If you have a passive switch, make sure you’re using the shortest cables possible.

    Your devices may not work with a passive switch. Try different source devices, and try the switch with another television or monitor to rule that out.

  • How do I connect a laptop to a switch box with HDMI?

    To add your laptop to a switch box, plug an HDMI cable from your computer into an input port on the switch box. Once you connect your laptop to an HDMI switch, you can switch between the computer and other HDMI input sources connected to the destination display.

  • How do I set up an HDMI splitter?

    HDMI splitters differ from HDMI switches by doing the opposite of switch boxes; rather than switching between source devices, splitters take one source and mirror it to multiple devices. For that reason, setting up an HDMI splitter involves connecting the splitter to the primary source, such as a TV, through the input port and plugging all the other devices into the available output ports on the splitter.

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