How to Hook Up a VCR to a Digital Converter Box

by Robert Vaux

In the first half of 2009, American TV stations will begin broadcasting exclusively in digital format, rather than analog format as they have for the past few decades. The conversion is scheduled to start on February 17 and, as of this writing, must be completed by June 12. Digital converter boxes--available at any electronics store--allow those without cable or satellite service to continue receiving TV stations for free. Most converter boxes are compatible with analog VCRs, which means you can continue to record shows and watch VHS movies if you wish. It's very easy to hook the two devices up to each other.

RCA Connection

Check the back of your VCR. Under a label of "Video In" or "Input," you should see a series of three round cable jacks, each sporting a different color (one yellow, one red and one white). The jacks may be in the front of the VCR on some models.

Look at the connection ports on your digital converter box. You should see an identical row of three round jacks (yellow, red and white), just like the VCR, under the label "Video Out" or "Output."

Connect the "Output" jacks from the digital converter box to the "Input" jacks on the VCR with standard A/V cables available at any electronics store. The cables are color-coded the same way the jacks are. Just plug the yellow cable into the yellow jacks, the red cable into the red jacks and the white cable into the white jacks.

Turn on the TV and the converter box, then press the "Line" button on your VCR. (It may be labeled "Input" or "L1," depending on the model you have.) That switches the signal over to the Input jacks and should allow you to receive and record programs as normal.

Coaxial Connection

If your VCR doesn't have the three color-coded A/V jacks, you will need to hook it up using an older coaxial cable. Find the outlet on the VCR labeled "In From Antenna" or "Ant In." Then find the corresponding outlet on the converter box labeled "Out to TV" or "Ant Out."

Connect the two outlets using a length of coaxial cable, available at any electronics store. Make sure you push the cable in firmly so that it is connected properly.

Turn on your VCR and set the channel to 3 or 4. You should now be able to watch and record programs.


  • check While you can still watch and record programs on your VCR through a digital converter box, you will not be able to record one program while watching another. The channel the converter box is set to is the one it will record. If you change the channel, the recording will change as well. Check your VCR carefully to make sure you have hooked the cables up to the "Input" jacks rather than the "Output" jacks. Some models have both, and both come in the same three-jack configuration (yellow/red/white).


  • close Do not change the channel on the VCR once you receive a TV signal. Whenever you want to change the channel, use the converter box instead. When you change the channel on the VCR, you're switching it away from the signals received from the Input jack and will get nothing but snow or a blank blue screen. If you inadvertently change the channel on the VCR, simple change it back to 3 or 4 if you are using a coaxial connection, or "Line" or "L1" if you are using an RCA (yellow/red/white) configuration.

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