Alexa is by most popular home assistant and, according to figures from Statista, a quarter of all smart speakers sold worldwide use Amazon Alexa.
Whether you're about to set up your first smart speaker, or simply want to know the right way to get Alexa up and running on your latest purchase, you'll find all you need to know right here. Alexa is available on more devices that just smart speakers: the assistant is integrated into Amazon's Fire tablets, Echo Buds earphones, the Echo Auto for cars, and even some dash cams.
The process is easier than ever, and the first step is to install the Alexa app on your phone if you don't have it already. (If your device with Alexa isn't made by Amazon, you may still be able to set it up using the Alexa app, but check the quick-start guide provided with the device to see if a different app should be used.)
You will need an Amazon account to use the Alexa app and an Echo device. If you don't have one, just sign up at www.amazon.co.uk/account. You don’t need an Amazon Prime subscription to use Alexa, but you’ll miss out on a few features, such as the ability to play music from Amazon's library. You can, however, ask Alexa to play music from other services such as Spotify and Apple Music.
Here are the basic steps to set up an Amazon Echo:
- Install the Amazon Alexa app on your phone and sign in with your Amazon account
- Connect your Echo's power supply and turn on the switch at the socket
- Open the Alexa app. You may see a notification that an Echo is ready to set up. Tap on it.
- If you don't see a notification, tap More (bottom right), then Add a Device
- Tap Amazon Echo
- Choose the appropriate model and follow the instructions on-screen
- Once Alexa is connected to your Wi-Fi network, set-up is complete
The setup process is slightly different if you have an Echo Show - Amazon's smart displays which have a touchscreen as well as speakers. You'll find specific Echo Show setup instructions below.
How to set up an Amazon Echo speaker
Note: if you have more than one Echo device, each has to be set up individually in the Alexa app.
After unboxing your Echo remove the plastic protection, attach the power cable and plug the power supply into a mains socket.
You'll see the LEDs glowing and after a short while, Alexa will greet you and tell you to follow the instructions in the Alexa app. So if you haven’t already done so, install the Amazon Alexa app on your Android phone, iPhone. You can also use the Alexa app on an Amazon Fire tablet.
When you open the Alexa app, you might see a pop-up message asking you to set up your new Echo. If so, tap Continue.
If not, tap on the More (1) and then on Add a Device (2).
Tap Amazon Echo (3) and then on Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Plus and more (4).
Then tap the exact model of Echo that you have.
Make sure there is an orange light on your Echo, which indicates that it's in setup mode. If not, you may have to reset it.
The reset procedure is different for each device, so check Amazon's instructions here. However, in most cases simply press and hold the 'action' button, which is the one with a little dot on it. Hold it for about 6-10 seconds until you see the orange light and Alexa announces "Now in setup mode".
When you see the orange light, tap YES to confirm your Echo is in setup mode.
The app will search for devices and you should then see your new Echo appear in the list.
Tap it, and then wait while the Echo searches for available networks to connect to. Pick the Wi-Fi network (usually your home router). If prompted, enter the password for the network and after a short while you'll see a screen confirming that the Echo is connected.
Alexa should announce that there is a connection to the internet, and the app will prompt you to select which language to use.
Next, you'll be asked for your address, so you can get local weather forecasts and other location-based information such as how long it will take to get to work or other places. Lastly, specify in which room you've placed the Echo. This is for various things such as grouping smart devices and playing music.
At the end of the setup process, you'll see the screen below. Tap Let's Go to finish.
Alexa, on your Echo, should run through a few functions, including showing you how to set an alarm and a reminder, what the alarm sounds like and more.
In the app, you might see a prompt to set up smart home devices (which could be smart plugs, smart lights, or other gadgets). You can tap Skip if you don't have any, or Yes if you have one and are ready to set it up.
For more information on what you can say and what's on offer, see our guide on how to use Alexa.
Do I have to say "Alexa"?
No, but the default wake word is Alexa. You can change this to "Amazon", "Echo" or "Computer" by going into the settings in the Alexa app. In the US, you can also choose "Ziggy", and in some countries you can enable "Hey Santa" which is fun at Christmas, but a bit strange at other times of the year.
You can’t choose your own wake word.
To find the voice settings, tap Devices (1), Echo & Alexa (2) and then select your Echo from the list (3). Tap the settings cog (4) and then scroll down to Wake Word (5) and tap on the word you want to use.
Each Echo has its own settings so you can have different wake words for each one.
There are other settings here, such as Alexa's Voice where you can choose from Original (female) and New (male).
Tip: you can also get Alexa to whisper her replies.
How do I set up an Echo Show?
For Echos with screens, you don't need the Alexa app for setup. Simply connect the power supply and follow the instructions on the screen. An on-screen keyboard lets you type in your Amazon account details and Wi-Fi password.
You can swipe down from the top of the screen on an Echo Show (or Spot) to get to the settings and shortcuts. This is the fastest way to update the Wi-Fi password or network if you ever change your router or the name of the Wi-Fi.
Tips for getting the most out of Alexa
Now your Echo is set up, you will want to know what to say. That's covered in our separate guide on how to use Alexa.
You might also like to use Alexa to make voice and video calls to friends and family.
She is great for the basics, but really comes into her own when paired with compatible gadgets, such as lights, thermostats, switches and more. When your hands are full, it's really useful to be able to say "Alexa, turn on the lights" when you walk into a dark room.
If Alexa can't control something directly and requires you to enable a Skill, you may need to use its name in your command.
If you have a Nest thermostat, for example, you can't just say "Alexa, set the heating to 20 degrees".
Instead, you need to say "Alexa, set the [name of thermostat] to 20 degrees" or "Alexa, make the [name of thermostat] warmer".
Where possible, change the names of your devices to be simple and short so Alexa can more easily recognise and understand them.
If you see a pulsing yellow, purple or other lights on your Echo, here's what all the colours mean.
We've also put together some useful tips & tricks for getting the most from Alexa.
Here's a rundown of all the current Echo models, should you decide you want to have extra smart speakers around your home.