How to Set Up a Cable Box at Your New Home

Moving can be difficult and stressful even in the best of situations and with the best of help. There is so much to coordinate, often in a limited time. You might only have a few days to take care of everything. It is easy to feel overwhelmed. Among all these chores and tasks is how you will set up your living room, and more specifically, how you will set up your TV and entertainment center. Chances are you haven’t made too many modifications since your last move, but you still might not know what to do.

And while you can take your time and fine-tune many of the furniture details, the one thing we want to focus on here is your cable box. You might be doing it alone, or your cable company might be involved, but in either case, you want it done right; everything connected with assurances that it will work properly for years to come. It is, after all, the center of many people’s entertainment.

We understand if setting up a cable box seems confusing or worry-some, especially if you haven’t done it before. Well, you have nothing to fear. We can guide you through the steps no matter your situation, so keep on reading below for more info:

Working with Your Cable Company or Professionals

If you are moving into your new home and working with a new cable company, someone might have to come out to help you set up. This might also be the case if you are getting internet with your cable plan as well. It isn’t a judgment of your skills per se, but instead, they have access and tools you might not. Cable can affect an entire neighborhood, so installing it correctly is essential, especially if infrastructure needs to be checked. It’s a rare occurrence, but would you want to climb a telephone pole to install your cable? Some of you might say yes, but let’s avoid that scenario.

Here’s everything you need to know:

When Should You?

When are you going to need help with this? You might not have much choice in some points, and in others, you might want self-installation if you want cable service anytime soon. Other times might come down to your judgment on whether you can install yourself or not. Consider the following:

  • Are you working with the same company and taking your box with you? Then you might be able to handle the installation yourself if you call your service provider with that intent.
  • Note that you should contact the cable company to let them know you’re moving no matter what.
  • Does the cable company have a self-installation plan? Is it advertised?
  • You can probably find instructions online for self-installation. Each set of instructions might be slightly different, but if the instructions look followable to you, you’re in good shape.
  • Are you installing your first cable box or set of equipment or a second in your home? Your first box, especially if it’s a new service, may require a technician. If it’s your second the installation will not be as difficult, as long as the wires fit.
  • Note that this can vary based on the layout of your home and some other factors.
  • Self-installation is often only available in certain areas. The cable company should notify you one way or the other, but you’ll have no choice but to use a technician in some cases.
  • Are you going to be running cables or electrical lines through your new home? If so, make sure you know exactly what you are doing or contact a professional. The expense (if there even is one) is not worth electrocution or problems in your home.
  • Have you done self-installation before? If you have and it’s not explicitly mentioned that a technician needs to come out, then you have nothing to fear. The instructions given are clear and easy to follow.

Other rare factors may affect whether you should, but just use your better judgment and common sense, and you’ll be fine. And it is not like you cannot call for help if you run into difficulties with self-installation.

What to Do and Notice

If a cable technician is doing most of the heavy lifting for you, there are still some things you need to do and pay attention to. Try to do the following before and during the designated time:

  • Before anything else, make sure there is a designated time or appointment for everything to take place. And while we know it can be annoying to plan your day around the potentiality of someone arriving (the dreaded five-hour appointment window), make sure you or another member of your household that you trust is there to let them in and watch over things.
  • A simple call or online setup can work for this, especially if you already have a relationship with the cable provider.
  • If you’re working with the cable company for the first time, chances are you’ll set up an appointment (if necessary and not doing self-installation) when signing up for services.
  • If the cable company needs to reschedule or they don’t come, make sure to pick a date where you or someone you trust will be home again.
  • Do not feel bullied into a time slot where you will have nothing to do. Moving is difficult as it is, so try to balance efficiency here. Keep a few tasks around the house ready, so you aren’t just waiting around.
  • Make sure that the intended area of installation is clear and that the technician can access everything. If you haven’t unpacked all your boxes yet, then at least move them out of the way of the TV, the entertainment center, and outlets for cable and electricity. Not everything needs to be perfect, but try to make a clean, pleasant space for them to work in and not block anything off.
  • If you can, set up your entertainment center relatively how you’d like it. While you can certainly make changes later, there’s no need to make more work for yourself.
  • Take note of any additional instructions your service provider or technician gives you.
  • You may want to have your account details on hand to connect your box or activate your service.
  • At the same time, let them know if some outlets might not be working or if there are other problems with the home right now. 
  • If you have any questions, ask them. The answers might help you later. 

On Running Cables

While this might be applicable for only a few of you, we did want to make a few notes about running cables through your home, whether cable service or electrical related:

  • In some cases, you can do it yourself, especially if you aren’t going to be potentially messing with other wires or going through the walls. Drilling a hole through the floor to lead the wire down is doable with some know-how and the right tools. Just be sure to be careful and take proper measurements and checks first.
  • Know your limits. Do not do anything you feel even remotely unsafe doing.
  • Note that as the cable length increases, the signal strength decreases with many types of wires. Anything 30’ or less shouldn’t cause an issue, but be wary of anything longer. If so, you might want to reconsider your setup.
  • Anything done outside should be done with care to the weather. While normal wear and tear might not affect too much, can the wires or setup the worst your region has to offer? There are plenty of insulation and shield options to pick from, and they are great investments.

Doing it Yourself

In many cases, you will have the opportunity to set things up yourself, which is perfectly doable in today’s world. Cable may be complicated in some regards, but setup doesn’t have to be. Many cable boxes and services are designed to be easy to work with now. You might even be able to get it done in a shorter time than it takes to read this article in full.

Cables to Use

The right cables make all the difference when connecting your TV to your cable box or making other connections. The best cables can provide the best picture and audio quality, and the worst cables will make you feel like you’re in the 1970s. There is both the cable connection itself from the wall to the box (not much variation here) and the method of transferring information from your cable box to your television, which is a bit more varied.

We recommend the following steps for each type of cable.


The HDMI cable is effectively king when it comes to good signals and connections. While there are variations within HDMI cables (try to get HDMI 2.1 if you can), nearly all of them will work great. They also happen to be cheap and easy to set up your cable box with. All you need to do is:

1. Connect the cable from the wall outlet to the back of your cable box.

2. Insert one end of the HDMI cable into your cable box.

3. Connect the other end to your TV.

And that’s it in terms of the cables for a basic setup. There might be more, but that has more to do with the cable box itself and your service provider (more on that below). 


A simple option and one that should almost always be available, you can connect your cable box to your TV via a coaxial cable. It might not provide the same signal quality as HDMI, but it will handle both audio and visual data. To do so:

1. Take the coaxial cable and connect it from the wall to your cable box’s input. Be sure to screw it in snugly.

2. Take the other coaxial cable and screw one end into the output of your cable box.

3. Connect the other end of this cable to the back of your TV, screwing it into the input port.

4. If the TV does not have cable input (unlikely but possible), then you will want to find an adapter. Alternatively, you might just want to invest in an HDMI cord or get an updated cable box from your provider.

One last note is that coaxial cables are more fragile than most of the other types listed here. Take care not to bend or snap them in a way that will break the wire or weaken the connection.

S-Video or Composite-Video Cable Connections

If you are using a very old TV, you may be using an S-Video or Composite-Video cable to connect your cable box. While rare, here are the basics if you need to make the connection:


1. Check to see if you are going to need an adapter. Many cable boxes will not support S-Video. Fortunately, finding an adapter should be easy with a simple online order.

2. Connect the S-Video Cable to either the adapter or the S-Video port on the back of the cable box.

3. Connect the other side of the S-Video Cable into your TV’s S-Video input.


1. See if you are going to need an adapter for your cable box (newer cable boxes might not be accommodating). Try to find an adapter that will not interfere with the already inferior signal too much. They are easily found online.

2. Plug the RCA connectors to their appropriate inputs on the cable box or adapter.

3. Plug the other end of the RCA connectors into the TV. Make sure the connections are snug.

Doing the above will work, though in general we strongly recommend that you get a new TV if these are your only options. Most televisions relying on these ports will be standard definition, and picture quality has come a long way since then, no matter the channel. You simply won’t be getting the most from your cable box or cable subscription.

The Following Steps and Differences Between Cable Boxes

We cannot go into the exact steps for every cable box, as there are simply too many of them. While going over every provider might be possible (there are perhaps a dozen or so major ones that would cover most users), cable box models change frequently, and even software changes can make a huge difference. However, there is a general order to things, and this is what you can usually expect:

1. Be sure to follow the specific instructions in the manual or what came with the cable box. 

2. After connecting it securely, turn the cable box on if you have not done so already. Please wait for it to start properly and for the relevant lights to turn on. If there seems to be an issue, that might be simply because it is not activated yet. You may also need to go to step three.

3. If you have not done so yet, plug your TV back in and turn it on. In some cases, the cable box will turn on at this stage as well.

4. You may want to connect the remote at this time, putting the batteries in, and following those instructions to program it.

5. Change the input of your TV if you find the need. You can either use the new remote or the buttons on the TV (they should be there to allow for switching) 

6. It is likely at this point, you will activate your cable box. You may do this online or by phone, and the process could be a bit different for each provider.

7. It may require a few extra minutes for confirmation, activation, or simple processing of your plan, etc. However, after a short while, you should be generally set up with your cable and you can start enjoying whatever programs you’d like.

8. As one last check, you may want to scroll through all the channels to make sure you got the exact package you ordered. While there shouldn't be any problems, it helps to catch these things early and report them if needed.

9. You might want to take this time to go through the settings on both your TV and your cable box to create the best possible experience for yourself. See if there are shortcuts to favorite channels you want to set up, closed captioning options, and more. 

10. This is often a separate process, but you may want to set up or check on on-demand or DVR services at this time. 

Additional Notes for Doing it Yourself

If you are doing it yourself, we recommend the following:

  • If you think there is something wrong with your cable box, make sure that there isn’t something wrong with the wire first. They are much easier and cheaper to replace.
  • Do not force anything. While wires should be snug, if you feel you have to force a connection then there is something wrong. Examine the wire and cable box to make sure you have the right fit.
  • You might want to have someone help you, if only so that you do not have to move around so much in a cramped space behind the entertainment center. Having an extra pair of hands to keep devices and furniture in place can make a huge difference.
  • Note your surroundings and any special circumstances about your home. You know your home best. If something gives you pause, it is with good reason. 


In most cases, hooking up your cable box shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes to a half-hour. Once it is set up properly, you likely won’t need to think about it for years or until you move the setup again. Whatever your method and whatever you need, we hope you got helpful information above and that you can move forward with confidence. We wish you the best of luck with the new home, the cable, and whatever you’d like to watch and enjoy.

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