cable confusion 2HDMI, component, composite, DVI, optical audio, coaxial, Cat 5, s-video – the list of cable types goes on and on and on. What cables go where? And why do you need to have 600 wires connected to your television? For the modestly tech savvy individual, these wires and connections are enough to drive you mad. Every time I move the television to dust and vacuum, my wife asks me why there are so many wires are back there, why we can’t get rid of any–and, at the very least, couldn’t I hide them so it doesn’t look so tacky?

I cannot offer any tips to eliminate the number of cables, or recommend solutions to pretty up your home. But, I can try to help and explain what those cables are for and what your best options are to make the most efficient connections.

First off, TDS TV is installed either through coaxial cable or Cat 5 cable. Don’t know the difference? Check this page out and it’ll help explain the difference. Coaxial is the same kind of cable used for cable TV. Cat 5 cable is Ethernet cable. ethernetYour Whole-Home DVR is required to have a Cat 5 connection, so you’ll see an Ethernet cable going from the back of your box to a jack installed in the wall. The other set-top boxes in your home, can be connected via Cat 5, or you can have the technicians use existing coaxial jacks. That’s the easy part. Now, it’s getting those boxes connected to your television that can be a little tricky.

If you have a newer HD TV:
hdmiThe standard for high definition TV’s is an HDMI cable. TDS will provide this as part of the installation process. A single HDMI cable will provide HD picture and sound. You may have an older HD set, in which case component cables are your best option for connecting the box to your TV.

If you have an older HD TV:
componentComponent cables are a set of three cables, colored green, blue and red – these provide the TV picture. You may also have a set of five component cables, the three colors I just listed plus a red and a white cable – those are for your sound. It’s not a big deal if you have the three cable layout, you’ll just need an additional audio cable (which is red and white) to provide the sound.

If you have a SD TV:
compositeIf you have a TV that’s not HD, you’ll almost always go with a composite cable. This is also a set of three cables, yellow, red, and white. Those red and white will be the same sound carrying cables as above, while the yellow carries the picture.

If you also have surround sound:
I have a 7.1 surround sound system connected at home as well. My receiver has a Blu-Ray player built in, so an HDMI cable connects it to my television. Since I want my TDS TV to be on surround sound as well, I have to connect my set-top box to my receiver. Normally, you’d want to connect that via HDMI, but in my case, I don’t have an open port. That’s where I connect an optical audio cable from the set-top box to my receiver. It’s not true high-definition sound, but it does a really nice job. I then get to have eight sets of speaker wire connecting to my receiver (talk about clutter!).

When you don’t have enough inputs:
switchI recently ran into a situation with my parents where they had too many devices and not enough inputs on their television. There’s a fix for that situation—you can buy a hub style device (like this one, for example). With it, you can connect 5 different electronics to the hub, and with the push of a button, select the one you want to display on your TV. This can be handy if you have a DVD player and a couple different gaming systems in one place.

Of course, you’ll always want to connect TDS TV through HDMI cables if possible. It offers the highest quality picture and sound on the market. No doubt about it. But, since your other devices could have a variety of connections, a switch could be handy if you need it. There is an HDMI switch out there too, which would be great if you also do high-def gaming, have a Blu Ray Player, and maybe connect your computer or any other high-def device.

When cord shopping, shop around
My biggest piece of advice to you, regardless which cables you use – is shop around. Don’t drive to your local big box store and buy your cables. Inevitably, you’ll end up spending anywhere from $10 to $100 dollars more for something that shouldn’t cost that much money. HDMI cables tend to be marked up the most, versus buying them from Amazon. I recently needed a new Cat 5 cable and the big box store was charging $40 dollars so I got one from Amazon for $6.

It certainly can be confusing, but once you get the hang of how things need to be connected, it’s not that bad. I promise.



  1. Hey Austin– have you ever used a Tivo? I an about to switch to TDStv and have a Series 2 dual tuner Tivo with lifetime service. While I know I can connect it to the antenna and still use it that way (single tuner only), I’ve been wondering if it might be able to work with the TDS service the way it does with cable now?

    I realize that I’d still need to use the digital converter box to link the TDS service to the Tivo because the old Tivo is analog, but when I was reading the article above it made me think even that might not be possible because it sounds like in order to install TDStv they will run brand new ethernet rather than using the coax I already have all over the house. Can you clarify this perhaps? Does TDStv only work over ethernet or can it come in over coax and then link to the wireless router via ethernet?

  2. Thanks for sharing this great information with us.It is very useful for us.

    Cat 6 Phoenix

  3. My new house has blue coaxial ports in every bedroom and living room. What are they for?

  4. missbuell – not sure i have ever seen blue coax before, but if it is indeed coax, it would be for television boxes or cable modems. TDS tries to use cat5 wiring when possible, but will use coax when readily available.

  5. I have tds telecom how do I fix this what should I do? when I hit my DVR button my screen pops up make sure this TV receiver and the DVR receiver are connected to the network. the recorded TV list is unavailable what can I do to fix tried to reboot mortem and main box

  6. We have your bundle package and I am in need of another cable hook up for another room. My husband has stage 4 cancer and I need to set him up in his bedroom and we need to get this room connected to cable. Please let me know when this could be done. Thanks, MJ Snipes

  7. I have TDS basic cable. TDStv is not available in my area. I have a newer HDTV that I only get 4 HD channels. The other 62 are analog. Can I use a tivo dvr with TDS?

    • It should. I hooked my old series 2 dual tuner up a long while ago and got it to work but I use their DVR now because it records 4 shows at once.

  8. If I have hd box and a hd cable do I need the other cables connected

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