Update: 15 Nov 2012
This problem has been a very tough one and has made me wonder whether my setup was worth canceling our cable TV and investing time in connecting our PC to TV via A/V receiver. I’ve tried several different solutions, spent several months and many hours trying to solve this problem, and now I believe I have solved the problem, so I hope this helps anyone having the same problems. I’ll try to be brief but hit all the main points in chronological order. If you want to skip to the total solution for all my problems, then skip to the bottom of the post where I discuss the new cable I purchased.
- HDCP error. When this occurs, “HDCP Error” flashes on the A/V receiver, and the picture goes blank. When I first set up the A/V receiver, I occasionally got this error if I watched a DVD or streaming content for an hour+ consecutively. Since it did not occur all the time, I wasn’t very concerned. This never occurs when I’m only streaming audio from Pandora from the PC to the A/V receiver/speakers. This error has come and gone, but has recently began occurring more frequently. I’ve tried to understand the problem, but I’m still not sure what’s causing it.
- Half-Solution. I haven’t found one yet, but I have detected that it is definitely a problem between the receiver and the HDTV, and doesn’t involve the PC or video card or long HDMI cable. One solution may be to use another type of cable instead of HDMI (i.e. component) from the A/V receiver to the HDTV. When I unplug the HDMI cable going from the receiver to the HDTV and plug it back in, this usually fixes the problem. Otherwise, I just have to turn off the receiver and HDTV, wait for 5-10 minutes and turn them back on to get picture and sound back to normal.
- Another half-solution. With the inexpensive repeater I purchased, I no longer had these problems. However, the repeater introduced new problems, like occasional not being able to connect the PC to the Receiver/HDTV. Please see the bottom of the post for the total solution, a new HDMI cable.
- Green Pixels. The bane of my existence for a few months now. Though this doesn’t look horrible on the photo, it is. This started occurring a few months after installing the home theater system. At first it was very infrequent, happening about once every 3-4 hours of viewing, so I could go a couple days without seeing any pixels. The initial solution was to turn off the HDTV and receiver and then turn them back on. Then, it became more frequent, happening about once every hour of viewing. So, I began to look for solutions.
- Troubleshooting/Attempted solutions.
- First, I read a little bit about the problem online, and I couldn’t find my exact problem, but generally the discussions pointed toward a bad HDMI cable. I’m running a 35-ft cable under the house, so luckily I didn’t spend a fortune on the first cable. So I bought a new 35-ft standard speed (couldn’t get high-speed in that length) cable from Monoprice.com. I connected it from the PC to receiver within the house (before installing it under the house), and watched several hours of streaming content on several days. No pixels! I then installed the cable under the house, and after about an hour of streaming, pixels returned!! Super frustrating, but at least it mostly ruled out a bad cable…or at least I thought!
- Next, I waited for the green pixels to appear again, and then I connected the HDMI cable from my PC directly to my HDTV to see if pixels occurred. They did, and that ruled out my A/V receiver as being a problem.
- So now I knew that it was likely a problem with either the HDTV or my PC that was causing the problem. Although I hadn’t ruled out a cable issue since the cables I had bought weren’t really top quality. I tried a shorter cable from the PC to the receiver/HDTV, and I got no pixels but I did get a few green lines very occasionally when watching a program (pixels seem to happen most on CBS streaming). So this confused things a bit more.
- Next, I called the company “Blue Jeans Cable” because I heard they had a top notch “bonded pair” cable but it was quite pricey compared to my previous cables. I thought this may be a good idea, but before I dove into buying a $100+ cable, I looked at a few more options, especially since the “Blue Jeans Cable” customer service person hadn’t heard of my green pixels issue before and thought it may be a problem with my video card (the source of the signal).
- Video Card. I had updated my video card driver via Windows 7 recently, but now I went to the actual Radeon 5770 site to download the latest Catalyst Control Center and driver. This upgraded my CCC setup significantly and the driver was much newer than the one Windows 7 installed. And lo and behold, the pixels disappeared after changing a few settings (checked “enable GPU scaling–maintain aspect ratio”). This was temporary, however, and the pixels reappeared a day or two later!
- Next attempt…Before I made the leap for the $100+ bonded-pair HDMI cable, I thought I’d try a solution a friend suggested, and had read about occasionally on a few internet postings. An HDMI repeater is apparently supposed to extend the source signal to allow for longer HDMI cable length, maintaining an accurate display. I thought this may give a “boost” to my source signal (from PC/video card I suppose) so I wouldn’t get the green pixels anymore. I ordered the relatively inexpensive repeater (~$13) from monoprice.com, and I installed it. Basically I placed it between a short HDMI cable coming from my PC and the 35-ft HDMI cable that went under the house and up into the A/V receiver. The repeater doesn’t require power and is a small device. The first couple times I connected it, there was no signal, but after connecting a few times, I got a signal. Amazingly, I have had no HDCP errors or green pixels for more than a week now! The key word is week. After several weeks of using this method, the PC began to not recognize the Receiver/HDTV. It would show that I only have one monitor (my small Acer LCD monitor). I could unplug the HDMI cable from the back of the PC, and this would work usually. But it’s a pain, and sometimes it wouldn’t work at all. Again, a solution attempted but only resulted in more frustration.
- Next attempt: Powered HDMI extender/repeater. This is similar to the solution above, but the thought (and advice from Monoprice tech support) was that the power would help the PC make a constant connection to the Receiver/HDTV. I couldn’t get any clean signal with the power supply connected to the extender, so I sent this back in short order. Another dead-end.
- Real Solution and working well so far!!!! I purchased a new cable. I was reluctant to do so because the costs are 65 dollars+ and require some rewiring, but I had run out of less expensive options. So I purchased this Redmere slim series HDMI cable and it worked right away. I’ve had no pixels or HDCP errors or dropouts for one week. This is still early, but I have hope.