How to Set up a DTV Converter Box on an Older TV

Published August 26, 2009 | Updated June 30, 2015

If you lost your television signal when TV stations converted to the all-digital format, then you need a digital converter box, sometimes called an ATSC tuner. Once you have that box, you need to connect it to your existing television and antenna. With these easy steps, you'll be watching digital TV broadcasting on your analog (NTSC) television in no time.

Hooking Up a Digital Converter Box:

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Things You'll Need
Digital converter box
Your analog television
"Rabbit ear" antenna
  1. Unplug Your TV

    Turn off your television and unplug your TV before you begin.

  2. Connect Your Antenna

    You'll still need to use an antenna on your television with your DTV converter box. You can use your old "rabbit ears" antenna, or you can update with new digital antenna. Disconnect your antenna from your TV and connect it to your converter box's "antenna in" port (which may be labeled as "ANT. IN") using the type of connector that the antenna has. Really old antennas may need adapters to connect.

  3. Choose Your Connector Type

    Digital converter boxes have a few different ways to connect your television.

  4. Types of Connectors:

    S-video connections should be your first choice because they will give you the best picture quality. This connector tip looks like a circle with small pins inside.

    If there is no S-video connector, use the RCA video connection, which is typically a set of connectors: one red, one yellow, and one white.

    If neither of these connections are an option on your TV, use the coaxial connector to connect the converter box to the television; a coaxial connection will carry both the audio and the video. The tip of this connector usually looks like a circle with a single pin in the center.

  5. Connect the Box to the TV

    With a coaxial cable, you'll connect it to the spot where your antenna had previously been connected, probably on the back of the TV. If you're using the red, yellow, and white RCA connector, the spots for connecting these are color-coded on both the TV and the converter box; they may be located on the front or the back of the TV.

  6. Plug In Your TV and Converter Box

    Once you connect your digital converter box to your television, make sure both the converter box and the television are plugged into a power outlet and turn them both on.

  7. Tune Your TV to the Right Channel or Input

    Depending on how you connected your digital converter box to your television, you may need to set your television to channel 3 or 4 or possibly to an input setting specific to using either the RCA video input or the S-video input on your television, such as "Video 1" or something similar. The user's manual for your television is your best source of information here.

  8. Search for Channels

    Once everything is connected and turned on and your TV is set to the correct channel or input, the digital TV menu should appear. The DTV may step you through a set-up process. You will then need to perform a "channel search." (If the channel search process doesn't find any channels, try adjusting your antenna and perform the channel search again.) Once you've completed these steps correctly, you should be able to enjoy digital broadcasting from your old TV.

Digital Conversion Tips:

If your television was manufactured after March 1, 2007, you do not need a digital converter box to watch broadcast network channels. Your TV already contains a digital tuner.

If you subscribe to cable television programming, you do not need a digital converter box. Your cable subscription package should include local channels.