If you have made the decision to cut the cord, there’s a good chance you have also decided to invest in a Roku Streaming Stick.
With streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, personal media apps like Plex, and a vast catalog of private channels at your fingertips, a Roku Streaming Stick can provide almost all the video entertainment you could wish for. But like any new piece of kit, it takes some time to set up correctly. Yes, it’ll plug-and-play straight out of the box, but to really reap the benefits of a Roku Streaming Stick you’ll need to put in some extra legwork.
If you aren’t sure where to begin, don’t worry. Here’s the complete guide to setting up your new Roku Streaming Stick!
In Brief: A Summary of Steps
If you just want a TL;DR version of this guide, follow the steps below:
- Connect your Roku Streaming Stick to your TV.
- Follow the on-screen Guided Setup wizard.
- Refine some additional settings.
- Delete default channels you don’t want.
- Add public channels from the Channel Store.
- Add private channels using the web portal.
If you want a more detailed explanation, keep reading!
What’s in the Box?
Let’s start at the very beginning. When you open the box of your Roku Streaming Stick for the first time, you’ll find five things.
- The Roku Streaming Stick dongle
- A point-anywhere Roku TV remote
- Two AAA batteries
- A USB power cable
- A USB electrical socket adaptor
The first thing to do is insert the AAA batteries into your remote, and you’re then ready to begin.
Connect the Roku Streaming Stick to Your TV
Before you can enjoy anything on-screen, you need to connect your Roku to your television.
Your Roku Streaming Stick will only work if your TV has an HDMI port. Assuming it does, go ahead and insert the Streaming Stick dongle. If your TV is old and doesn’t have an HDMI port, you need to buy a Roku Express+ instead.
You can power your Streaming Stick in two ways; using your TV, or using a wall socket.
Regardless of which method you choose, insert the micro end of the supplied USB cable into the dongle. If your TV has a USB port, insert the other end of the cable into it. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to use the electrical socket adaptor and power your device from the mains.
All set? Great, turn on your television and change it to the appropriate HDMI channel. Typically, you’ll next to press Input or Source on your TV’s remote to make the selection.
Guided Setup Wizard
When your fire up your Roku for the first time, a Roku logo will fill the screen for a few seconds.
You’ll then see the Guided Setup wizard. It will guide you through the initial steps. If you make a mistake, don’t fret. You can change all these settings from within the app’s menu once the wizard is complete.
Firstly, you’ll be asked to choose your language. At the time of writing, the Roku Streaming Stick supports four languages: English, Spanish, French, and German. Press OK on your Roku remote to make your selection.
On the next screen, you will see a list of all the Wi-Fi networks within range. Connecting to a Wi-Fi network is a vital part of the Roku Streaming Stick’s functionality; without an active connection, you won’t be able to watch anything.
Use the Roku remote to choose your network, then use the on-screen keyboard to enter your network’s password.
Your Roku will now connect to your network. An on-screen graphic will display the progress. For full functionality, you need to see three green ticks alongside Your Wireless Network, Your Local Network, and The Internet.
The final part of initial setup wizard will update your Roku software. As you’d expect, it’s important to keep your Roku up-to-date; it means you’ll never be vulnerable to any security flaws, and you will always have access to the latest channels features.
Depending on your internet speed, the update could take several minutes.
If you want to be able to add channels to your Roku Streaming Stick, you’ll need an accompanying Roku account. First, you need to create one. Secondly, you need to link your Roku device to the new account.
Creating a Roku Account
Creating a Roku Account is easy. Just head to my.roku.com/signup on a computer and fill in the registration form.
Warning: You might see some sites recommending that you should use a VPN and create a U.S.-based Roku account. The logic is you’ll have access to a wider choice of channels. This is not recommended, as apps like Netflix (which now uses Google’s DNS servers) won’t work.
On the next screen, you’ll need to create a PIN number. The PIN number can be used to control who can make purchases on the Roku Store and restrict who can add new channels. Again, click Continue when you’re ready.
On the final screen, you can save your billing information. This is not a critical step; if you’re not planning to buy any channels directly from Roku, click Skip, I’ll Add Later. You can pay for purchases on a case-by-case basis in the future.
You now have a Roku account and you should be looking at your account’s landing page in your browser.
Link Your Roku Streaming Stick to Your Roku Account
Return your attention to your TV screen. Once the Guided Setup wizard is complete, the first screen you see will say Activate Your Roku. Make a note of the on-screen code. It will be six digits long.
Now, back to your Roku account. Click Link a Device or navigate to my.roku.com/link. Enter the code and click Submit. You Roku Streaming Stick will now be linked to your account, and the on-screen image will change to the Roku’s Home screen.
Additional Setup Steps
I know, you’re itching to get to the fun stuff and start adding channels. But stick with me, there are some other settings hidden away in the Roku menu that you should adjust. And you’ll have a much more enjoyable Roku experience if you do.
Using the Roku remote, highlight Settings and press OK. Let’s go through some of the most important ones step-by-step.
Go to Settings > Display Type to choose either 720p or 1080p high definition resolution. Obviously, 1080p will provide you with a clearer image, but it’s not available on all televisions.
Make your selection and press OK to save it.
Your Roku Streaming Stick supports Dolby Audio and DTS pass through via HDMI.
You can choose which audio outputs to use in the Settings > Audio menu. You can select PCM-Stereo, Dolby D, Dolby D+, Dolby D DTS, or Dolby D+ DTS. For each setting, Roku will show you a helpful on-screen diagram explaining how to set up your speakers for maximum effect. If you’re not sure which setting is right for you, choose Auto Detect.
As with any piece of technology, there are some privacy implications you need to be aware of.
On your Roku, you have two privacy-based options. Both are linked to advertising. To start, everyone should go to Settings > Privacy > Advertising and mark the checkbox next to Limit Ad Tracking.
Enabling the option also prevents Roku from sharing ad measurement data and viewing data to measurement analysts such as Nielsen and comScore.
The second option in the Privacy menu lets you reset your RIDA number.
Lots of Roku channels support subtitles and closed captions. If you want captions always to be displayed where available, go to Captions > Captions mode > On Always.
Within the Captions sub-menu, you’ll also be able to additional subtitle settings such as text size, text color, background color, background opacity, and more.
Roku’s default theme is purple. It’s not to everyone’s tastes. Luckily, you can change the on-screen theme to something more pleasing.
The Roku Streaming Stick comes with five built-in themes: there’s the native purple, and four more options called Graphene, Nebula, Decaf, and Daydream.
You can select Get More Themes to download more options directly from the Roku Channel Store.
Most of the technical stuff can be found in the System sub-menu. Again, use your Roku remote to highlight the entry and press OK.
Control Other Devices
Open Control Other Devices and mark the checkbox next to 1-Touch Play. It will let you immediately jump to your Roku’s Home screen just by pressing any button on your Roku remote, even if your TV is currently using a different input.
For example, it’s an excellent way to jump from cable to Roku without needing to touch your TV’s native remote control.
If you have either an Android or Windows device, you can mirror your screen directly to your Roku Streaming Stick without relying on any third-party apps or tools. Go to Screen Mirroring Mode > Always Allow to turn the feature on.
On Android, the Roku Streaming Stick supports Smart View, Quick Connect, SmartShare, AllShare Cast, HTC Connect, and Google Cast. In truth, even if the technology your device uses isn’t listed, it will probably work.
The process for casting your Android is different from app-to-app and device-to-device; as such, it’s largely beyond the scope of this article. Typically, you’ll find a small casting button in the upper right-hand corner of supported apps. You can often cast your entire phone’s screen by tapping a button in the notification bar.
Windows uses Miracast. To cast your Windows 10 screen, go to Action Center > Project > Wireless Display, and choose your Roku Streaming Stick from the list of options.
As you’d expect, this is where you can enter your time zone and decide whether you’d like to use a 12- or 24-hour clock.
Hey, wake up! That’s the end of the boring stuff. From a technical standpoint, your Roku Streaming Stick setup is ready to rock. So, let’s get stuck into the fun stuff.
Depending on locale, your Roku will come preloaded with some existing channels. Typically, you see a combination of the big-name streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime plus some local offerings. Luckily, unlike some devices, your Roku Streaming Stick lets you delete default channels you don’t want.
To remove a channel, highlight Home, press OK, and navigate to the channel in question. Once it’s selected, press the star icon on your remote and select Remove Channel.
Add Channels on Your Device
There are two ways to add public channels to your Roku Streaming Stick.
The easiest way is to use the store that’s built into your device. To access it, highlight Streaming Channels and press OK.
On the left-hand side of your screen, you’ll see a list of 26 categories. They include generic headers such as Featured and New, ways to find content-specific channels like Comedy, Sports, and Travel, and a selection of non-video categories such as Photo Apps, Themes, and Screensavers.
Use your remote to navigate to a category that interests you and press OK. You can now scroll through the list of channels until you find something that grabs your attention. Press OK to see a detailed description of the channel, and click on Add Channel to install it on your device.
Add Channels Online
If you find navigating the various channels to be too frustrating using just a TV remote, you can access the same content online. Visit channelstore.roku.com to start exploring.
Note: At the time of writing, the online version of the Channel Store is only available to users in the United States.
Browsing the store is self-explanatory. Use the categories to find interesting content, and click Add Channel to remotely install the app on your Roku Streaming Stick.
Add Private Channels
Make no mistake; there are a lot of public channels you can find in the store. However, you’ll find some of the best content is only accessible through private Roku channels.
A quick search on Google will reveal a few sites that are dedicated to listing as many private channels they can find. Some of the best to check out are Roku Guide, Stream Free TV, and CordCutting.com. And if you don’t want to go trawling through all of those sites, you’re in luck: we’ve already put together a handy guide of the best Roku private channels you can get your hands on.
Every private channel has its own unique code. Sites such as the three mentioned above will list it for you. Make a note of it. You’ll need it in a second.
You can only install private channels through your online account portal. There is no way to do it from the device itself.
To add a private channel, log into your account and go to My Account > Manage Account > Add channel with a code. Enter the unique channel code and click Add Channel.
Note: Make sure the content you’re installing is legal in your country. For example, some private apps will give you free access to the BBC’s range of channels. However, legally-speaking, you can only watch them if you live in the UK and pay for a television license.
You can organize channels in your Home screen by highlighting the channel you want to move, pressing star on your remote, and selecting Move Channel. Use the arrow keys on your remote to move it to the new location.
To launch a channel and start watching content, go to Home > [Channel Name] and press OK.
For help and advice on how to use individual channels, contact the developer directly.
Troubleshoot Roku Streaming Stick Issues
Sadly, from time to time things will go wrong. Thankfully, if you have problems with your device, they can generally be fixed quite easily.
Here are four of the most common Roku Streaming Stick issues, along with a few tips on how to remedy them.
1. Remote Control Not Recognized
Unlike some other models that use an IR blaster, you Roku Streaming Stick comes with a Wi-Fi connected “point-anywhere” remote. In practice, it means you can use your remote from anywhere in your home, as long as you’re within reach of your Wi-Fi network.
Unfortunately, the “connected” nature of the point-anywhere remote means it’s more likely to malfunction.
If you’ve been experiencing issues with your remote, you should first try turning off your Roku device at the mains and changing the remote’s batteries. If that doesn’t fix the problem, you will need to re-pair your remote with the dongle.
To re-pair your remote, power cycle your Roku Streaming Stick. As soon as it turns on, press and hold the Reset button on your remote for three seconds. You’ll find the button at the bottom end of the battery compartment.
If the remote’s light starts to flash, you know the pairing process has begun. It could take up to 30 seconds. See our guide to fixing your Roku remote for more help.
2. The Roku Interface Doesn’t Display
If the Roku interface doesn’t show on your TV screen, there are a few possible causes.
- Check your TV input: You might not have set your TV to display the input from the same HDMI port that your Roku is connected to.
- Check your power supply: The USB port on your TV might be faulty, try using mains power instead.
If you’re adamant everything is set up correctly, try using your Roku Streaming Stick on another television. It will help you determine whether the TV or the dongle is at fault.
3. Private Channels Aren’t Appearing
The nature of the Roku operating system means a freshly added private channel could take up to 24 hours to appear on your TV.
Luckily, you can hurry along the process. Just go to Settings > System > System Update > Check Now. The channel will immediately appear in Home as soon as the scan is complete.
4. The Roku Streaming Stick Doesn’t Fit Into Your TV
The design of some TVs means the elongated Roku Streaming Stick might not fit in the space provided. This is especially true if your television’s ports are located in a recessed area.
If you can’t fit your device into the space provided, don’t panic. You can order a free HDMI extender cable directly from Roku. Just head to my.roku.com/hdmi and fill in your details.
Call Your Cable Company
That’s it. Congratulations, your Roku device is fully setup and customized, ready for you to enjoy. All that’s left for you to do is to call your cable company and tell them you want to cancel your service. That’s probably the most fun part of this entire guide!
We hope you’ve found all of the information you need in this easy-to-follow guide, but if you’re stuck on something we haven’t mentioned, we’re happy to help. And for an alternative, check out our comparison of the Roku and Amazon Fire Stick.
Image Credit: Mike Mozart via Flickr