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6 tips on setting up your new Nest or Ring smart doorbell

We'll teach you how to get the most out of your new smart doorbell.

Megan Wollerton Alina Bradford
Megan Wollerton Former Senior Writer/Editor
Alina Bradford CNET Contributor
Alina Bradford has been writing how-tos, tech articles and more for almost two decades. She currently writes for CNET's Smart Home Section, MTVNews' tech section and for Live Science's reference section. Follow her on Twitter.
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It's easy to set up your new smart doorbell. We'll show you how. 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

With live video feeds and two-way communication, smart doorbells are the advanced successors to the simple peephole -- or peering outside from a nearby window. 

Smart doorbells are an easy way to make your home a bit more secure. When the buzzer is pushed, the doorbell gives you a look outside on your phone or smart display thanks to a nifty security camera. From there, you can choose how to interact with the person on the other side. This gives you a sense of security that the little hole in your front door never could. 

If you've recently gotten your hands on a smart doorbell, such as the Ring or the Nest Hello, you're going to need to know how to use it to its fullest potential. Here's your guide to getting started.

Read more about smart doorbells: The best connected buzzers we've tested

Installation basics

Smart doorbells are either wired or battery-powered, or both. Wired models use your existing doorbell's wiring to get power, while most wireless options have rechargeable battery packs. Which kind you get will influence how and where you can install it.

Wiring your new doorbell using your old doorbell's wires is pretty simple. There are usually only two or three wires that need to be connected. After turning off the power to your doorbell, just loosen the screw holding the old wire, remove the wire, loop the new wire around the screw and tighten it again.

Watch this: Install the Ring Video Doorbell 2 in a flash

The only hard part is determining which wires go where. In some cases, like with the Ring, it doesn't matter which wire you connect to which screw. With the Nest Hello, on the other hand, it does. 

Here's a little help. If you have a Nest Hello, go to the smart doorbell's app, scan the QR code on your doorbell and follow the simple wiring instructions. If you have a Ring Video Doorbell 2, you can follow the wiring instructions here

On the other hand, you could forgo the wiring all together and just mount the Ring 2 and use the included battery to power it. Just remember, if you go this route, you'll need to recharge it or change the batteries every two to three months. To be sure, check the app to keep track of battery levels.

Set up notifications

When someone approaches your home, or presses the button on your smart doorbell, you can get a notification on your phone. Then, you can open the doorbell's app and see who's at the door and talk to them.

This is one of the killer features of a smart doorbell -- for example, because it makes it seem like you're home even when you're not. 

The Nest Hello also has prerecorded Quick Responses you can use:

  • "You can leave it."
  • "We'll be right there."
  • "No one can come to the door."

Tap on the one you like and the person at your door will hear it. You can also tap Talk to have a live conversation instead. 

Ring has customizable Motion Alerts and Ring Alerts. Motion Alerts pop up as a notification on your device when motion is detected around your camera, while Ring Alerts send notifications when the doorbell is actually pressed.

You can see who's at the door on your smart display.


Connect to your home hub

If you have a Google Home or Amazon Echo, you can connect your doorbell to it so you can view your front-door camera on your TV or Echo Show and use the smart hub (the Home or Echo) to answer the door remotely. 

To use Alexa to control the camera, all you need to do is enable the Ring or Nest Camera Alexa skill and set it up through the Alexa app. 

With a Google Home, you'll need to connect the doorbell to your hub. Here's how:

  • Open the Google Home app 
  • Tap Add > Set up new device > Have something already set up? 
  • Choose Nest or Ring from the list of devices
  • Follow the onscreen steps on your phone to pair the devices
  • Tap Allow > Done
  • Open the Google Home app
  • Tap Home > Doorbell > Settings > Name 
  • Name your doorbell and tap Save

Share access

If you have multiple people living at home, you can give them access to your doorbell. Go to the app and add users so that your spouse, roommate or kids will be able to check the live video when the bell rings.

How to add users to Ring:

  • Go to Menu > Settings 
  • Tap the + icon in the right hand corner of the screen
  • Add the person's email address 
  • Tap Assign Role 
  • Choose from Owner, Shared User or Guest User
  • Tap Send Invite

How to add users to Nest Hello:

  • Go to Settings  > Family & Guests > Add a person
  • Add the person's name
  • Tap Continue
  • Enter the email address of the person you would like to add or tap Add from contacts
  • Tap Send

16 smart doorbells to watch over your front stoop

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Adjust motion-detection sensitivity 

Most smart doorbells will start ringing as soon as people approach your front door, before they even press the button. If your door is close to a sidewalk with a lot of foot traffic, you might get frequent alerts when someone merely walks past your home. 

The fix? Adjust the doorbell's motion-detection sensitivity. Both Nest and Ring let you set zones of space to monitor for activity.

The video before explains how to set up Ring Pro zones. Basically, you go into Motion Settings on the app and move the slider between People Only and All Activity. You can also tap on Motion Zones and draw a box around the area of your yard you'd like the Ring to focus on.

A Nest Hello zone is the area the camera will focus on to detect movement. To set up sensitivity areas for a Hello, you'll first need a Nest Aware subscription, which costs $5-$30 per month. Once that's set up, follow these steps to create a zone. 

  • Open the app and choose your camera
  • Tap Settings > Activity Zones > Create Zone 
  • Turn your phone so it's in landscape mode 
  • Tap and drag the zone on your screen to move it around 
  • Drag the eight dots around the zone's edge to change its shape 
  • Tap the Pencil icon, give your zone a name, then tap the Checkmark icon
  • Tap the new Checkmark icon to save your zone

Protect your footage

Smart doorbells can act as security cameras too, recording footage of a package thief or someone trying to break in. Often that video footage is available to watch from the doorbell's app for a limited time before it's deleted. But if you want to keep it longer, you can store it in the cloud, for a fee. 

You can set up cloud storage for the Nest Hello by signing up for a Nest Aware account. Ring requires you to sign up for a Video Recording Plan (free to $10 per month) to store video. Both types of storage accounts cost only a few dollars a month and the protection is well worth it.