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How To Troubleshoot HDMI Connection Problems

What to do when your HDMI connection doesn't work

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HDMI Input and Output Connector Example

Home Theater Receiver HDMI Input and Output Example

Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
HDMI Connection Cable

Close-Up of HDMI Connection Cable

Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
MHL-HDMI Input Example

Photo of an MHL-HDMI input connection

Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
The HDMI Handshake

HDMI is now the main type of connection used in home theater setups that include HDTVs, video projectors, Blu-ray Disc players, home theater receivers, network media players, and even cable/satellite boxes. 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, copy-protection (known as HDCP). This requires that HDMI connected components be able to recognize and communicate with each other. This is referred to as the "HDMI handshake". If the "handshake" doesn't work, the HDCP encryption that is imbedded in the HDMI signal is not being recognized properly by one, or more, of the connected components. This most often results in 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

1. Check your cable connections: HDMI connections don't fit as tight as component or composite video connections and can slip out sometimes if equipment is moved slightly. If this is a problem - consider getting locking HDMI cables.

2. Try a different turn-on sequence for your components: In other words, 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 other component, connected through 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 other 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 in correctly.

3. 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 or 1080p) and see if that provides a more stable result.

4. Use the process of elimination: If you have a Blu-ray Disc player (or other HDMI source) connected through 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 sequence you try, use the process of elimination. Connect the Blu-ray Disc (or other 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.

On the other hand, if you find that none of the above solutions works or works 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.

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 other 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 are successful connecting an HDMI source component to a DVI equipped TV, you still have to make a separate connection to access audio.

Ordinarily, there should not be a problem converting HDMI to DVI, but there can be. Most of the time there is success, 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 other component. You may have to try a couple of different brand cables.

On the other hand, you can also run into a situation on older-DVI equipped TVs that even if they are HDCP compliant, they 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. First, 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:

1. Try booting up your PC/Laptop with the HDMI cable connected to a TV that is on.

2. You can try booting up the PC/Laptop while the TV is off and then turn on the TV.

3. If the above options don't work, try booting up the PC/Laptop first, and, with the TV on, connect the HDMI cable to both the PC/Laptop and TV.

If all those options fail, if your TV has a VGA input, you may have to use that instead.

Final Take

In the vast majority of cases, you won't encounter any problems that are the fault of HDMI connections. However, there are instances where you can run into a problem. If you do, don't panic, before you make any phone calls, or pack everything up and return to the store upset, try the above suggestions. If none of these solutions work, then proceed to contact tech support for your respective products. Only after exhausting all of the options you can try yourself should you call a tech or return to the store.

Also, to make your system "HDMI future proof" - if possible, upgrade all your HDMI cables to high speed 10.2 Gbps cables - 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 (such as 3D or 4K resolution) to access.

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