How to roku

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Roku media streamers, as well as TVs running the company's namesake platform, are among the most popular home entertainment products, not to mention some of CNET's favorites. Whether you recently picked up a Roku Express 4K Plus, a Streaming Stick Plus, an Ultra box or a Roku TV, it's time to take it out of the box and start putting it to use. 

To help make sure you'll have no problems we took out a Roku Streaming Stick Plus, one of our favorite overall streaming devices, to walk you through the process -- which should be basically the same no matter which Roku you're using. Here's how to set up your new Roku. 

Read more:Which Roku should I buy in 2021?

Now playing:Watch this: Which Roku is the go-to? We break it down


Step 1: Connect your Roku to your TV


There are a few things you'll have to connect whether you have a box or streaming stick. In our case, with the Streaming Stick Plus, you'll need to plug the included USB power cable into the Roku and plug the Roku into your TV's HDMI slot. 

For power, the Streaming Stick can use a USB input on your TV if it has at least 5 volts of power (some manufacturers list the voltage next to the USB designation) so your Stick is getting maximum performance. But if you can, we recommend using the included wall adapter instead to ensure that the Roku stays powered up and ready to go. Roku includes a USB extension cord with the Streaming Stick Plus. 

If your TV is wall-mounted and the HDMI port is hard to reach so it's difficult to plug in the Streaming Stick, you can get a free HDMI extender from Roku. 

After everything is plugged in, turn on your TV and select the input into which you plugged your new Roku. 

Step 2: Pair the Roku remote


After connecting your Roku and navigating your TV to the proper input, you should see Roku's interface ready to help take you through the next steps. You'll probably need to pair the included remote with your Roku (although some devices may be paired already). 

Before pairing, put the included batteries into the remote. It should connect automatically, but if not, hold down the button located by the battery slot for 3 seconds. 

Read more:Our review of Roku's rechargeable $30 Voice Remote Pro

Step 3: Connect the Roku to Wi-Fi, and the rest of the setup process

Now we can go through the setup process. After choosing your language, you'll be prompted to connect to Wi-Fi. If you have a Roku Ultra box or an Express 4K Plus with an Ethernet adapter, and have it plugged in via wired Ethernet, you may skip this step. Everyone else, click on your Wi-Fi network and enter your password. 


After confirming you're connected to the internet, your Roku may need to update its software. Let it do this and go do something else for a bit. This shouldn't take longer than a few minutes, but times will vary depending on your connection. 

Display (your TV)


Once updated, your Roku will ask to autodetect the type of TV you have. Hit OK and let this run. It will pick the best settings for your TV for playing media. If there's a problem you can retry the test; otherwise choose OK, go to automatic. If the screen looks good, click OK at the next prompt. 

TV control setup

If you have a Roku with a remote that can control your TV, you'll be prompted to set it up now. Your Roku will sync volume and power controls with your TV to allow you to control both with the Roku remote. Click OK and follow the prompt. Music will play, so keep your remote pointed at the TV. Follow the steps; if the music stops automatically you're all set. 


Otherwise, click No and choose Enter TV brand. Enter your TV brand and repeat the process until your remote syncs with your TV. 

Link your Roku account and activate your device

You'll need a Roku account to be able to use your new Roku. The accounts are free, but you will need to create one if you don't have one already. Enter your email address onscreen to link your account.

Once you enter your email, the onscreen display will instruct you to check the email address you just entered. You find an email with the subject line "Activate your device." Clicking the link there takes you to Roku's website, where you'll either create a new account or, if you already have one, go straight to the next step.


Next, assign your device to a room (or enter a custom name) and agree to the user agreement. Then you'll be taken through a guide that asks what services you already subscribe to -- like Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, Prime Video ($9 at Amazon) and HBO Max ($15 at HBO Max) -- and your interests. You can also skip this part, but you'll still get a page with even more channels to install, as well as an offer of free trials. 

Clicking "Continue" on these pages will (finally) cause your Roku to automatically begin downloading and installing the apps. You still, however, will need to log in to each app (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and so on) individually to watch. 


That's it. Your Roku should now be good to go. If you want more control you can download the Roku app on your iOS or Android device, which allows your phone to serve as your Roku remote, or add the Roku skill to your Google Assistant or Alexa app for voice control from smart speakers like a Google Home ($99 at Target) or Amazon Echo ($35 at Amazon). Roku also offers a few instructional videos to help you get the most out of your device. Also, remember to check your privacy settings.

Happy streaming!

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How to Set Up Your Roku Player and Connect it to a TV

With a Roku device, you can watch content from YouTube, Apple TV, Hulu, and more than 40,000 other paid and free channels. But before you can start watching all that content, you’re going to have to set up your Roku device first. Here’s everything you need to know about how to set up any Roku streaming device.  

How to Set Up Your Roku

To set up your Roku device, plug it into an HDMI port on your TV and a power outlet. Then follow the on-screen instructions using your remote. Once you are prompted, enter your email address and follow the onscreen instructions to set up your Roku device.

  1. Plug your Roku into your TV’s HDMI port. If you have a streaming box, you will have to use an HDMI cord.

    Note: Remember the number of the HDMI port you plugged your Roku into – you will need to know it later.

    connect Roku to HDMI
  2. Then plug your Roku player into a power source. The player should have come with a power cable or a micro USB cable and a wall charger.
    roku to power

    Note: If your Roku streaming box has an Ethernet port, you should plug that into your router at this point as well.

  3. Next, turn on your TV and set it to the Roku’s HDMI channel. This channel should correspond to the number next to the HDMI port you plugged your device into earlier. You can change your TV’s HDMI channel by pressing the Input, Video, or Source button on your regular TV remote. You will know you are on the right channel when you see the Roku set up screen.

    Note: If you are using a Roku device with a “point anywhere” remote, you will be asked to pair it now. You can do this by opening the battery compartment and pressing the pairing button.

    how to pair roku remote

    Note: If you are having trouble connecting your Roku remote, check out our guide on how to pair or reset your Roku remote here.

  4. Then select your language in the Roku set up screen. You can scroll with the up and down buttons on your remote and select a language by pressing the OK button.
    dev 1 1
  5. Choose Wired or Wireless. If you choose Wired, you can skip the next step. You can only choose this if your Roku player is hooked up to your router with an Ethernet cable.
    How to Set Up Your Roku
  6. Next, choose your WiFi network, enter the password, and select Connect. If you do not see your WiFi network, scroll down and select Scan again to see all networks.

    Note: If you are connecting your Roku player to the internet with an Ethernet cable, you can skip this step.

    how to set up roku
  7. Enter your WiFi password and select Connect. Use your remote to enter your WiFi password one letter or number at a time.

    Note: If you don’t remember your WiFi password, check out our step-by-step guide on how to find and change your WiFi password here.

    How to Set Up Your Roku
  8. Then select Auto detect display type. Your Roku will then display information about your TV’s resolution and frame rate.

    If the information is correct, select OK, go automatic. Otherwise, you can make your Roku device scan your TV again by selecting I’ve changed something, retry.

    how to set up roku

    Note: If your Roku is not detecting the correct resolution and refresh rate, you can select Cancel. This will let you choose your resolution and refresh rate manually. However, the problem might also be with your HDMI cable.

    how to set up roku
  9. Next, select Yes, screen looks good. If you select No, I will choose a different setting, or you wait until the timer runs out, you will be able to manually change your settings.
    how to set up roku

    Note: If your Roku device came with a remote that has volume buttons, you will then be asked to check your remote settings. Your TV will play music and ask if you can hear it. Then it will stop playing music and ask if you don’t hear it anymore. This music is fairly quiet, so make sure your TV’s volume is turned up.

    How to Set Up Your Roku
  10. Then select Enter Your email address.
    how to set up roku
  11. Next, use your remote to enter your email address and select Continue.
    how to set up roku
  12. Once you enter your email address, you will be sent a link. The link will expire in 15 minutes, so make sure to check your email fast.

    Note: Make sure to double-check the email address listed on the screen. If you entered the wrong email address, you can press the star (*) button on your remote and then select Edit email.

  13. Then go to your email inbox and open the email from Roku. You can do this from a computer or smartphone. If you don’t see the email, try checking your spam folder.
  14. Next, click the link in your email. The link will be under the text that says Roku Device Activation Link. This will open a new browser window.
  15. Then sign up for a new Roku account and click Continue. If you already have a Roku account, you can skip this step. Otherwise, you will have to enter your first and last name, a password, your date of birth, and your gender. Your password can contain letters, numbers, and symbols, but it must be between 8-16 characters long.
  16. Next, name your device and select its location. You can name your device anything you want. However, make sure to remember the name and location you set up for your Roku device. You will need this information if you plan to control your Roku player with voice commands.
    how to set up roku

    Note: Make sure to check the box next to I have read and agree to the End user License Agreement.

  17. Finally, follow the on-screen instructions to finish setting up your Roku. Your Roku device will try to get you to install channels and sign up for free trials. You can skip each of these steps by scrolling to the bottom of the page and selecting Skip or Continue. You can add any of these channels or sign up for free trials after your Roku device has been set up.

Once you know how to set up your Roku device, check out our guide on how to add apps on Roku, so you can start streaming.

home theater roku

Note: This article was updated with more accurate information.

HelloTech editors choose the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.

Updated on August 31, 2021

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What Is Roku And How Does It Work?

A Roku is a device (made by the company Roku) that streams media (shows, movies, and even music) from the internet to your TV. It offers a practical and affordable way to add internet streaming or expand internet streaming options, to the TV and home theater viewing experience.

Roku requires minimal setup and connects to the internet the same way your PC does. Roku media streaming devices incorporate an operating system (OS) that allows users to access and manage internet streaming content.

To help you navigate the world of Roku, we've compiled all our articles on the device into a handy guide. You'll see it's separated into five sections: Get Started With Roku, Using Your Roku, Roku Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting Your Roku, and Our Recommendations: Reviews and Devices. Inside each section are several articles filled with tips and hints for you. To use the guide, open the links in the navigation pane.

There are three types of Roku devices available:

  • Roku Box: This option is a standalone box (such as the Roku Premiere) that connects to the internet via your broadband router using either Ethernet or Wi-Fi connection. A Roku Box can connect directly to your TV or through a home theater receiver via HDMI (like a DVD or Blu-ray player).
  • Roku Streaming Stick: This option is a compact device that is slightly larger than a USB flash drive, but instead of plugging into a USB port, you plug it into an available HDMI input your TV or home theater receiver. The streaming stick has built-in Wi-Fi for connection to a broadband router.
  • Roku TV: A Roku TV is an all-in-one solution that does not require the connection of an external box or stick to access internet streaming content as the Roku operating system is already built into the TV. The TV connects your broadband router either via Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection. TV brands that offer Roku TVs in their product lines include Hisense, Hitachi, Insignia, Sharp, and TCL. Roku TVs come in several screens sizes, and 720p, 1080p, and 4K Ultra HD versions are available.

The 5 Best Roku TVs of 2021

What Is Roku And How Does It Work?

Roku Channels and Apps 

All Roku products provide access to up to 4,500 channels (location dependent) of internet streaming content. Channels range from popular services, such as Netflix, Vudu, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu, Pandora, iHeart Radio, to niche channels such as, Local News Nationwide, Crunchy Roll, Euronews, and lots more. Even major networks, like NBC, have apps now. (NBC's Roku app, by the way, allows you to live stream major sporting events such as the Olympics.)

20 Great Roku Channels That You Should Add in 2021

However, although there are many free internet streaming channels, there are also many that require an additional subscription or pay-per-view fees in order to access content. To be clear, you buy the Roku device and you'll maybe still have to pay for things to watch.

In addition to internet streaming channels, Roku also provides additional apps that allow users to access video, music, and still image content stored on PCs or media servers that may also be connected to your home network.

For a complete channel and app listing, check out the  Roku What's On Page.

Beyond streaming, on most Roku TVs as well as select Roku boxes, the ability to play back video, music, and still image files stored on USB flash drives may be provided.

Setting Up A Roku Device

Once you get a Roku device, the setup procedure is easy:

  1. Connect the Roku Box or Streaming Stick to your TV, or turn on your Roku TV.

  2. Select your language.

  3. Establish wired or wireless network access. If using Wi-Fi, the device will search all available networks - choose yours and enter your Wi-Fi password.

  4. Enter a code number to activate the Roku product. Use your PC, Laptop, Tablet, or Smartphone to go to Enter the code as instructed.

  5. Create a user, password, and address information, and also a credit card or PayPal Account number. There is no charge for using Roku devices, but payment information is requested to make it quick and easy to make content rental payments, purchases, or pay additional subscription fees if needed.

  6. If you have a Roku TV, additional items, such as verification of an antenna or cable TV connection and channel scanning will be included in the setup procedure.

At the end of the setup process, the Roku Home Menu will appear and enable you to access the device operation and channels/apps selection.

Convenience Features

Once you get a Roku device up and running, here are some great convenience features that you can take advantage of.

  • Voice Search: Roku's on-screen menu is easy to navigate using the buttons on the remote control, but if you have a Roku device that includes a voice-enabled remote control or you use the Roku Mobile App, you can use voice search to find content by actor, directors, movie or program title, or launch streaming channels in natural language.
  • TV Everywhere Single Sign-On: For those who use a Roku Device in combination with cable or satellite service, this feature reduces the constant need to log into TV Everywhere channels. TV Everywhere Single-On (TVE) allows users to store up to 30 channel sign-ons.
  • The Roku Channel: Although Roku serves as a gateway to thousands of internet streaming services and channels it also offers free movies and TV shows along with live news and sports on its own Roku Channel without having to log in. Free content does contain limited commercials. The Roku Channel includes access to paid content from HBO, Starz, and other select services as well.
  • 4K Spotlight Channel: For users of either a Roku 4K-enabled streaming stick, box, or TV, a special onscreen menu option is provided that makes it easy to find 4K content via categories, such as genre. The 4K spotlight channel only appears when a 4K-enabled streaming stick or box detects that is it connected to a compatible 4K Ultra HD TV. The 4K spotlight channel is built-into 4K-enabled Roku TVs.

Additional Features For Roku TV Owners With Antennas

For those that opt for a Roku TV, you can use it to also access TV programs using a connected antenna in addition to streaming content. Also, Roku provides some added conveniences specifically for Roku TVs.

  • Smart Guide: This feature combines both over-the-air TV channel listings with streaming channel app listings for a more seamless navigation experience. You can also list your favorites, and for streaming content, allow you to play from the beginning or resume playback from a specific point. You can also display broadcast TV listings up to 14-days in advance.
  • Roku Search For Over-The-Air Content: Not only does search work with streaming content (up to 500 channel apps), but you can also search through over-the-air content in combination. If you find a program listed on both, you can just simply choose with one to watch.
  • Voice Control For Roku TVs: In addition to Roku functions, such as searching and launching apps, Roku TV voice control can also be used to switch TV inputs and tune to a local broadcast channel. Also for those that do not have a voice control remote, you can use a compatible mobile phone to perform these voice control tasks.
  • Fast TV Start: Voice control allows the user to turn on the TV, go to a specific over-the-air TV channel or launch a streaming channel app. In other words, with the TV off, you can give a command such as "launch Netflix" or "Tune to CBS" and the TV will turn on and go directly to that channel or app.
  • Private Listening For Roku TVs: On select Roku TVs, users can listen to antenna-received or streaming programming via earphones connected to either a headphone jack-equipped Roku remote control or earphones plugged into a compatible smartphone.
  • Optional Roku TV Wireless Speakers: To get better sound for your Roku TV, you can connect it to a sound bar or home theater audio system, but Roku also offers up their own wireless speaker system specifically made to pair with Roku TVs.

Which Roku Option Is Best For You?

Roku provides several options for adding comprehensive internet streaming to your TV viewing and music listening experience, but which option is right for you?

The 5 Best Roku Devices for Streaming TV of 2021

Here are some possibilities:

  • If you have a TV with an HDMI connection but it does not have smart features — consider adding a Roku streaming stick or Roku box.
  • If you have an older TV that does not have an HDMI input — Roku makes a limited number of models, such as the Roku Express+ that will connect to a TV using analog video/audio connections.
  • If you have a smart TV, but it doesn't offer the streaming channels you want — you can add a standard Roku Streaming Stick or Roku Express, as a way to expand your selection.
  • If you have a 4K Ultra HD TV and it is not a smart TV, or it is a smart TV that does not offer enough streaming channels, consider the Streaming Stick+ or Roku Ultra that support 4K streaming available from selected apps.
  • If you are in the market for a new 1080p or 4K Ultra HD Smart TV — a Roku TV might be an option to consider.

The Roku Mobile App

Roku also provides a mobile app for iOS and Android devices that allows even more flexibility. The mobile app provides Voice Search, as well as duplicating several menu categories that are a part of the main Roku TV onscreen menu system, allowing you to control Roku devices directly from your phone.

For Roku TVs, the mobile app also controls both internet streaming and TV functions, such as input selection, OTA channel scanning, and both picture and audio settings.

You can also use a smartphone or tablet to send videos and photos from the phone to a Roku box, streaming stick, and see them on your TV, or directly from the phone to a Roku TV.

Another added bonus is that you can use your smartphone's earphones for private listening of the content you are accessing on your Roku device.

How to Take Your Roku Streaming Stick or Box With You

You can take your Roku Box or Streaming Stick with you when you travel. When staying in a hotel, someone else's house, or even a dorm room, you'll just need to plug the Roku device into the HDMI port of the TV. You'll also need access to Wi-Fi.

Just follow the additional instructions after logging in to your account, and you'll be good to go. For Roku boxes, don't forget to pack an HDMI or Ethernet cable just in case you need one!


  • Although Roku is mainly used to stream content from subscription services such as Netflix and Hulu, there are many free channels available. The Roku Channel is built in to your Roku device, and you can add Pluto, Tubi, and other free channels. You'll just have to watch a few commercials.

  • Roku PINs are features of the parental controls on Roku. You can set a PIN to prevent purchases on Roku if a PIN isn't entered. This is a useful feature for parents with children who also use their Roku.

  • Roku Pay is Roku's name for their own direct payment service. If you add a payment method to your Roku account, that's signing up for Roku pay. You can then use this payment method to make purchases directly on your Roku device.

Thanks for letting us know!

(2020) What is Roku? Roku Tutorial - Explaining the Basics of Roku and How it Works!

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REVIEW: 2021 Roku Streaming Stick 4K (Is It Good?) - 4K Streaming Stick For Under $50

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