How to Install Cable at Your New Home

At a glance

Moving your cable TV service to a new home isn’t complicated—especially if you’re continuing service with the same provider. Current customers can usually take their cable box from their old location to their new abode, while new subscribers are sometimes given the option of having a new cable box delivered for self-installation.

Once you’ve switched, or begun, TV service at your new address, you can either hook it up yourself, or have a professional (the fabled “cable guy”) do it. We’ll walk you through the do-it-yourself route.

3 ways to install cable in your new home

These three routes to hook up cable yourself require active cable service, as well as a cable box. 

In the olden times—like, the early 2000s—you could simply connect the cable from the wall directly to your TV and get a decent array of basic channels. 

Not anymore: Full cable TV service only works with a digital cable box between that wall cable and your TV, even the smartest of smart TVs. We’ll be covering the connection between the cable box and your TV. These instructions could also be applicable to a satellite TV box.

HDMI cable—Best picture quality

Coaxial cable—Quickest setup

S-Video cable or composite-video cable—For older TVs

HDMI cable—Best picture quality

Newer cable boxes come equipped with an HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) port, a small rectangular slot labeled as such on the back panel. If your cable box doesn’t have one, you should request a new version made within the last 10 years, as cable companies don’t always alert you to new equipment upgrades (especially if they’re free to customers, which they usually are).

An HDMI cable is an all-in-one delivery system for video and audio, and it transmits the highest quality signal for both. You can buy HDMI cables almost anywhere, from electronics stores to big-box home improvement outlets, and the expensive ones aren’t necessarily better than the cheaper ones—it’s up to you how much you want to spend.

Cable-to-HDMI installation

  1. Fasten the cable from the wall to the cable box’s Input, then plug the HDMI cable into the HDMI port on the back panel. 
  2. Plug the other end of the HDMI cable into one of your TV’s back-panel or side-panel HDMI ports (most new TVs have more than one to accommodate multiple devices). It doesn’t matter which HDMI port you use, as they’re all identical.
  3. After the signal is established, you can use your remote to label the cable input for easy on-screen menu distinction between other devices (example: HDMI 1: Cable, HDMI 2: Blu-ray player, HDMI 3: Xbox, etc.).

Coaxial cable—Quickest setup

Like HDMI, a coaxial cable transmits both video and audio, just at slightly lower quality. Any cable box, no matter how old, will have a cable output connection—they look the same, so get a good view of the labels and don’t mix up the input and output or you’ll get no signal.

A coaxial cable is the same kind of cable coming from the cable company to your home, and short-connection household versions are as easy to find as HDMI cables. The most common length is 3’, and pricier ones (with gold-plated connectors, etc.) don’t give you a better picture than budget versions.

Cable-to-cable installation

  1. Connect the cable from the wall to the cable box input, then screw the coaxial cable onto the cable box’s output connector. 
  2. Screw the other end of the cable into the TV’s cable input connector on the back (most current TVs still have them). 
  3. If the TV doesn’t have a cable input, refer back to “Cable-to-HDMI installation” above.

S-Video or composite-video cable—For older TVs

If you have an old-old-old-school analog TV, chances are it will use an S-Video or composite video input. Some cable boxes will accommodate these kinds of connections, but most newer ones will require an adapter between the cable box and the TV.

S-Video cables have 4-pin connectors and deliver a low-grade standard-definition picture—which you likely won’t notice, since a TV with S-Video input will also be standard definition.

Cable-to-S-Video installation

  1. Connect the S-Video cable to the S-Video output on the cable box (or to an adapter).
  2. Plug the other end into the TV’s S-Video input.

Composite video cables are similarly low-grade, but they use RCA mini-plug connectors—yellow for video, red for right stereo audio, and white for left stereo audio. TVs with this type of connection will also be standard definition, and will probably require a connection adapter to work with a modern cable box.

Cable-to-composite video installation

  1. Plug one end of the RCA connectors into their corresponding color-coded inputs on the cable box (or adapter).
  2. Plug the other end of the RCA connectors to the TV.

The picture with this or an S-Video connection will tend to look dark and fuzzy if you’re used to high-definition TV. If your doorbell camera gives you a better viewing experience than your TV, it might be time to upgrade to HD.

About Bill Frost

Bill Frost
Bill Frost has been a journalist and TV reviewer since the 4:3-aspect-ratio ’90s. His pulse-pounding prose has been featured in The Salt Lake Tribune, Pacific Northwest Inlander, Coachella Valley Independent, Salt Lake City Weekly, and many other dead-tree publications. In addition to his CableTV.com work, Bill is a senior writer and streaming TV columnist at SLUGMag.com. By night, Bill cranks a Flying V with his band at the bar.