How to set up a satellite dish

This article was originally published in Active Home magazine in 2007, and has been updated for GoneDigital

Many people think that setting up a satellite dish is a tricky task, and something that has to be left to the professionals, but that’s not really the case. If you’re confident with a bit of DIY, you can buy a receiver and dish, install them yourself, and you’ll be able to watch Freesat with its fairly wide range of channels – and if you have a Panasonic TV set with Freesat built in, that will also give you access to the BBC iPlayer as well, which might be sufficient reason to connect up a dish for some.

Freesat satellites

It’s worth mentioning that if you have a dish that was set up for Sky, you can use it for Freesat anyway – it points at the same satellite, and indeed most of broadcasts are the same for each system. The ‘orbital position’ of the satellite is 28.2 degrees east, which actually means that it’s 28.2 degrees east of due south.

Freesat also has some channels, and some important network information, on the Eurobird satellite, at 28.5 east. With a normal dish, you’ll get a signal from both at the same time, as they’re so close together. But if when you try to tune in the receiver, you find that a Freesat box claims it can’t find the signal, you might need to nudge the dish a fraction, as the likely cause will be that it’s not receiving the information from Eurobird that’s vital for setup, such as the list of channels and the postcode data that ensure you see the correct regions.

Pick your receiver

If you’re installing a standard set top box, then you just need a single cable from the satellite dish to the receiver. However, if it’s a recorder you’re installing, most of them have twin tuners, so you can record two channels, or record one while watching another. And, unlike with a Freeview system, for satellite, you need one cable per tuner (for the technical reasons, see this article).

If you’re buying everything from scratch, I’d recommend that you buy a multi-output LNB – each output feeds a single tuner – so you can add another receiver or upgrade to a recorder later, without having to readjust the dish. The LNB is the actual receiver bit on the end of the satellite dish arm – the dish just focuses the satellite signal on the LNB, which does the actual work.

Step by step installation

First, choose your satellite receiver or recorder – the Humax Foxsat HDR is a good Freesat recorder, and will need two connections to the dish. You can pick up a dish, LNB and cable from suppliers like Maplin or Turbosat.

Satellite F connector
Satellite F connectors are very easy to fit, but practice makes perfect

Preparing the cable

You’ll need to run a new cable from the satellite receiver to your dish – unless you already have a Sky minidish that you can use. You need satellite grade cable, and the plugs on each end are called F connectors. Strip the outer insulation back about 1.5cm, and trim about 1cm off the inner white insulation. Fold the copper braid back over the outer insulation, and then fix the connector by simply pushing it over the end of the cable and screwing it on, so that it grips properly. For now, just put a connector on the end nearest the receiver – you’ll need to get the other end outside before you can put the plug on.

Connect to the receiver

Make sure the satellite receiver is turned off before you connect the cable. Push the connector onto the LNB in socket (on a recorder, they may be labelled LNB 1 and LNB 2; some boxes have an ‘LNB out’ for a second receiver, which you can ignore), and rotate the end of it clockwise to lock it in place.

Dish it up

Now, follow the instructions to assemble your satellite dish; you’ll need to fit the LNB to the arm. Normally the connectors will face directly downwards. We’ve chosen an 80cm dish, and a universal LNB, which will enable us to set the system up to receive other satellites too. If you’re in the south of England, a 60cm dish will be ok for the Astra 2 satellite; for extra satellites, or if you’re further north, a bigger dish may be needed. Local satellite stores can give you advice.

Satellite bracket on the wall
Make sure the bracket is straight on your wall, or dish alignment will be much harder

Hinge and bracket

Now, you need to mount the fixing bracket on your wall; 28.2 degrees east means the satellite is that far east of due south, so you need to find a wall that will allow you to fix the dish, and move it sufficiently from side to side. Our chosen bracket keeps the dish quite close to the wall; choose one that puts the dish further out if you need more space to rotate it, or opt for a garden or patio stand – a dish doesn’t have to be high up on the wall; it just needs to be able to see the right part of the sky. Remember to make sure the bracket is lined up vertically, otherwise it will be hard to find the satellite. If you live in a conservation area, or rent your home, remember to check whether or not you are allowed to install a dish.

After fixing the mounting bracket to the wall, or whatever else you’re using, adjust the pole to ensure that it’s vertical – check with a spirit level on at least two sides. When you have the pole straight, make sure any bolts and screws are done up tightly – you don’t want the dish to move in high winds. Now you need to find out roughly what latitude and longitude you are at. The quickest way is to go to, and type in your postcode. Click Go and right at the bottom of the page, click the link in the phrase “Click here to convert coordinates.”

Where to point the dish

Make a note of your latitude and longitude; for our example, it’s 51.5 North and 0 East. At Satellite Signals there’s a calculator that will tell you where to point your dish. Enter 28.2 in the ‘Satellite orbit’ box, and your latitude and longitude in the next two, then click the button to calculate the results.  The important information is the ‘Dish azimuth relative to magnetic north’ which tells you how far to rotate the dish left and right, and the ‘Dish elevation’ which is how far up in the air to point the dish.

Satellite dish elevation
The elevation setting on your dish points it at the satellites above the equator


Mount the dish on the pole and tighten to bolts enough so that it doesn’t move on its own, but you can still move it from side to side with a little pressure. Now you need to set the elevation; the dish is designed so you can read the value from a scale when it’s mounted vertically – on our dish, in fact, the scale is marked in latitude, rather than elevation, so we set it to around 51; other dishes have the elevation marked on the scale. We’ll do the fine adjustments later.

All points

Now you need a compass, like the ones sold by outdoor stores – this one cost around £7. Rotate the numbered dial so that the azimuth value you found earlier is by the black marker. Then – making sure you’re not near large metal objects that could affect the reading – rotate the compass so that the arrow pointing north is between the two luminous dots.

Using a compass to point the dish correctly
A compass like this makes pointing the dish much simpler

When it is, the mark on the dial, and the luminous line at the end of the compass will show the direction in which you have to point your dish. Holding the compass below the arm of the dish may help you line it up.


The dish is now roughly aligned, so now we can connect it to the receiver. You’ll need to drill through a wall or window frame to route the cable outside to the dish. When you’re drilling through the wall of a house, always remember to do it at an angle, so that the outside is lower than the inside; this stops water running into the hole. You can also get a cover to protect the outlet, too. Feed the cable through the hole from the inside. Cut off a short piece – around two meters long – and fit a connector to each end of it, and then fit a connector to the piece that leads back to the receiver.

A satellite meter
A cheap satellite meter will help you align the dish to the satellite - but won't tell you if it's the right satellite

Find the satellite

This is a satellite finder, and costs about £15; it makes a high pitched whistle when it’s receiving a signal from the LNB. Connect the receiver to the labelled socket, and use the short cable you made to link from the LNB to the other one. Turn on the receiver, and then adjust the knob on the satellite finder so the dial reads about 5. Now, slowly move the dish until you find the strongest signal.

When you’ve done that, hopefully everything should be lined up. Now you can go into the setup screens on the receiver, and try to tune it in. If all is well, the Freesat box will tell that it’s found the satellite, and then proceed to set itself up.

However, if it doesn’t, a Freesat receiver can be a bit fiddly; if you have a friend with a dish, you could plug your receiver into their dish first, and set it up. Then, plug it in to yours, and select a channel like BBC1, and as well as the indication from the meter, you’ll also see the picture appear on the TV screen.

What if I can’t tune in?

If no channels are found, the dish is not aligned correctly, so go back and check everything carefully. Positioning is crucial – budget satellite finders like the one we used will find any satellite, not just Astra 2, so if you’re a long way off, you could be pointing at a different one – there’s a satellite at 23.5, for example, too. More expensive meters will confirm the name of the satellite on the display, but since you’ll probably only be doing this once, I don’t think it’s worth spending the extra cash.

This may all seem like a chore, but as long as you’re careful, it’s actually surprisingly easy to align the dish.

After you’ve finished, remember to make sure all the bolts are tightly done up – without nudging the dish as you do so – so that it can’t be blown out of alignment by the wind.

25 thoughts on “How to set up a satellite dish

  1. i live in a council house (detached) and intend doing a satellite dish self install
    the dish will be mounted on a pole fitted to a paving slab at the side of the house with the cable coming through the window sill on that side of the house
    i would like to know whether i need permission to install the dish or is this not required as it is not mounted on the actual house?
    there are numerous houses both in the scheme i live in and the scheme beside me with dishes the majority being mounted on the building though there are four houses in my scheme which have the dish ground mounted two of them at the front of the house in full view the third and fourth houses having them at the rear of the property one property has four dishes set up which get foreign tv channels
    those at the rear of the property is due to being able to get the dish aligned propely with the satellite
    any advise and help would be appreciated
    i live in scotland if this helps as know english planning permission is slightly different from scotland

  2. Having just got through all the present jargon in IT. I’m learning the new science of satellites. I’m sure in the future someone will make a plug and play version. And we will all be better at it. But at least for now my Mk4 Sky dufor is tuned into the grey box and linked with the menu written in expertise. But sometimes I wonder who writes these guides and self installation handbooks. A guide to the words and their exact meaning would help. I had a step repeated twice in the dish set up, which I thought was “have I missed something”. I roughly set the dish up by hand as the neighbours was nearby i.e 20ft (old school) and got a signal strength straight away. But the next day the strength meter arrived and great the satellite was tuned to 98% signal. As a further test the rain helped set up confidence. So buy a decent dish and the meter. The meter gives you a scale and a audible signal. This is great if someone has provided the instructions with it. But generally you put the meter in line Dish–Meter—Box and then turn on the boxes 12vdc supply this lights up the meter, you adjust the meters knob until 1 , then you can move the dish slowly to tune it in. Slow and steady movement is best. The pitch of the bleep goes higher and the needle shows more on the scale. Mine was near to the setting and needed slight adjustments. I know this was alot better than fighting with the freeview. I have been told there is a meter for this purpose. But with the red button not showing on the freeview half the time, this is the reason for the dish. I wish all, sucess in their task ahead. Sometimes a rest with a brew and another read can solve all your headaches.

  3. Hi Nigel, I do not know which of the three Astra satellites best serves Belfast, Northern Ireland. I have successfully located all the data required to set up a dish directing the it at 28.2 E Astra 2D. However, maybe I have not chosen the correct Satellite to point at as 28.2 E Astra 2A and 28.2 E Astra 2B are also available. I would be pleased if you could put me right on the correct satellite to aim at. Maybe it does not matter which one I use but unfortunately I have not got a clue.



    1. For the purposes of setting up, they all appear to be in the same place; so if you get one, you get them all.

      In fact, you’ll also get 28.5, which is also used to broadcast to the UK for some Freesat services, and is broadly considered in the same place. If you find that you’re not getting the EPG, or you’re missing some channels, you may be just a touch too fr in one direction or the other.

  4. Hi Nigel,

    I’ve recently purchased an apartment in Italy, about 93 KM North East of Milan and wanted to install a Freesat dish and receiver there. Do you know if I would run into any ‘potential’ issues setting up a dish and pointing it to the satellite as you’ve advised? Thanks

      1. i was living Monza 20kilometres from milan but i was able to receive all the chanels of astra 19.2E and 28.2E and that was 2011 with 80″ dish, but i have now move to vimercate that is 6 kilometres monza but am having it defficult to point to astra 28.2E but i got astra 19.2E very easily. Any advice and technical information will be very much appreciated

  5. Thanks Nigel,
    Seems I need a 60cm dish then but you’re right, it’s not looking good for the UK spot beam as shown in the first diagram.
    The last diagram is a tricky as it looks border line. Am I correct?
    What do you think of my chances if I gave it a go?
    Any help is hugely appreciated. Thanks

    1. You’d probably be better off with a larger one, if you’re on the edge of the marked area, which will pull in more signal (though need slightly more precise positioning).

      There must be some sites for expats in Italy with information, I’d have thought

  6. Ciao. Presto mi trasferirò all’estero, ma vorrei continuare a vedere la TV italiana compresi i canali Mediaset. Penso l’unica soluzione sia il Tivùsat e per questo ho acquistato un decoder con la scheda e la tessera. Purtroppo ho scoperto che nell’appartamento in affitto dove mi trasferirò non hanno ne parabola ne permettono di forare muri o finestre per il montaggio e i cavi. Esiste un’antenna auto-installante per interni? a quale satellite bisogna puntare e questa antenna potrebbe fare al caso mio? :…TRONG/d-2775490.
    Grazie spero di non essere troppo fuori tema

  7. I am looking at installing myself but I run into a few problems.I live in flat in central London surrounded by other buildings of similar height. I wanted to get Sky, but tell me because of the buildings around the flat that I would have problems getting a signal. Can I just put a dish on the side of the building myself or would this be a problem?

    1. In theory, as long as you can get a clear view of the right part of the sky you can do this – but bear in mind that

      1. trees can grow and cause problems
      2. you may need permission from the management company in flats
      3. doing it up a ladder is a lot fiddlier than doing it on the ground, as I did

  8. why does every body avoid the question of which way to rotate the lnb is it clockwise or anticlockwise and make it clear is this from the front of the dish or not. I have the skew setting but not sure which way to turn.

  9. All the info there but how to set the lnb skew. I have been trying to find out which way to turn it. This article avoids it also. Bit dissappointed.

  10. Screwfix are doing a meter to set dishs up, for only £10.69
    You have to make your own patch lead up for it,but works fine
    Some meters meant for small dishes, wont do big dishes , as the adjust knob, cant turn the sensitivity back enough…
    Some small meters like the Labgear one, have a preset inside to turn, to give you less gain for setting large dishes…
    The further North in Britian you are, you will need a Larger Dish, but A Large dish will work well anywhere, and will keep working in Rain and Snow…
    Tightening The bolts, that fix the Dish on,usually makes the dish move slightly, so tightenen one bolt, then the other, while watching the meter, if you push lightly on the dish rim you can see if you have gone past the peak,if this brings signal up a bit.
    Normal Black PVC Electrical Tape should be tightly wrapped over the Plug,and the Threads, it seems to last longer, than the proper self Amalgemating type.

  11. Set up satalite dish using sat finder, got hundreds of channels but there all foreign, what am I doing wrong, I live in redcar north Yorkshire, any help would be much appreciated

    1. Almost certainly you’re a little off with the alignment. A cheap finder will simply tell you that you have a signal, not that it’s the right one.

      I had exactly the same when I first did that, and found I was pointing at 19.2 instead of 28.2. You could be over that far, or you might perhaps be looking at 23.5, around half way between the two.

      Have a look at and see if you recognise any of the stations listed there, or at

      That will help you work out how much further round you need to turn the dish.

  12. The installation process was helpful but what i don’t still get is that i track france 24 english but i don’t have green on my ait frequency ? Does it mean i haven’t set my dish in a right position? And also i want to know which degree am suppose to be when i am tracking ait ie 11007v30000 pls help me am a newbies tans

  13. I would like to buy I dish but I dont no wich diametre is good to watch all astra channels from london? I have alreadi one 80cm , but I thing its not ennought.

    1. 80cm should be plenty in London – you can get away with much smaller than that. If you’re not getting anything with an 80cm dish, you have other problems

    1. Nice try guys; you’ll notice I’ve updated the name on your post, and removed the link that you put in to your own satellite installation company. Please don’t try to get a free ride on the back of my blog in such a dishonest way.

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