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Alexa Troubleshooting: 8 common Amazon Echo problems and how to fix them

Why isn't Alexa working? The reasons could be many.

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In a perfect world, when you give your Amazon Echo a command, it performs exactly the way you want it to. However, that's not always the case when it comes to the Alexa voice assistant. Often times it'll say "I'm sorry, I didn't quite get that" or it'll perform a different action that you didn't ask for. 

These issues are frustrating, but rest assured, most of them can be fixed at home with some straightforward steps. Whether it's troubleshooting your Wi-Fi connection or trying to connect your smart lights to Echo, we've got you covered. Here are the most common Amazon Echo ($60 at Amazon) problems and how to fix them.

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What the Echo's light ring means

Alexa typically sits around completely dormant until called upon with the wake word ("Alexa"). But sometimes the LED ring around the top of the Echo and Echo Dot lights up even when you're not actively using the smart speaker. In this case, the colored light could alert you to a problem. Here are a few of the colors you may have encountered if you're having issues with your speaker.

  • Spinning violet. Indicates that there was a problem during Wi-Fi setup (addressed below). 
  • Spinning orange. The device is currently connecting to your network.
  • Solid red. The microphone has been turned off and Alexa is not actively listening for your commands. Push the microphone button to turn it back on.

The light ring can also tell you if someone is calling you, if your Amazon order is out for delivery, the volume of the speaker and more.

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Pay attention to what the light ring on your Echo is telling you.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Alexa can't find your smart home devices

Amazon Echos support a long list of smart home appliances. The growing list includes devices like the Ecobee3 and lines from companies such as Honeywell, Insteon, Lifx, Nest, Philips Hue and Wink. Even more devices and services have added official Alexa support by way of Skills that help make that service or device take your verbal commands (e.g., "Alexa, tell Philips Hue to turn on the kitchen light").

To add a new device, open the Alexa app > Add Device > select the device you'd like to add (like a smart switch or plug) and follow the instructions in the app. 

Even if the devices aren't natively supported and don't have Skills, you're not entirely out of luck. Alexa has an official IFTTT channel and also integrates with Yonomi, both of which have an extensive list of supported smart home devices.

If you've already added your devices but Alexa can't seem to connect to them, there are a couple of solutions. Check the command you're using, aka your invocation. The commands vary between different devices, Skills and connected services, like IFTTT. They can be oddly specific commands, and small differences in the phrasing or names of the devices can throw Alexa for a loop.

Some smart home devices have trouble staying connected due to software problems, crowded networks, being always on or other issues. Powering down the connected devices and turning them back on again will usually fix any connectivity problems you're having.

If that doesn't fix the issue, try rebooting the speaker, removing the device that's acting up and adding it back once more.

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If Alexa can't find your smart home device, try powering down the devices.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Alexa disconnects from Wi-Fi

If your Echo speaker isn't staying connected to your network consistently enough, there are a few ways to fix connection issues.

First, power-cycle everything -- the router, modem and Alexa speaker. After that, try streaming audio for a few minutes to see if the issue arises again. If so, attempt to move the speaker away from other devices, preferably closer to the router, and try switching the speaker to a 5GHz channel to decrease interference.

Alexa doesn't understand what you said

"I'm sorry, I didn't quite get that" -- a phrase often spoken by Alexa. It happens when the voice assistant didn't comprehend what you said. Fortunately, Amazon has added a new feature that allows you to ask Alexa what she just heard. You can say "Alexa, tell me what you heard" to find out what it thought you said.

You'll also want to make sure the Echo is positioned in an open space away from noisy household items like the washer, dryer and dishwasher. It may hear you better, then.

You can also use Voice Training, a tool in the Your Profile settings in the Alexa app. You'll read 25 phrases aloud in a "typical voice from a typical distance" so Alexa can get a baseline understanding of your pronunciation and cadence.

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Try not to crowd the speakers.

Accidental activation

Whether it's commercials or shows talking about Alexa on TV or you said a word that sounded similar to "Alexa," your speaker just activated and you're confused. Luckily, there are four things you can do to minimize this:

  • Say "Alexa, why did you do that?" -- This new feature gives you more insight as to why Alexa performed an action.
  • Move the speaker farther from the television.
  • Press the mute button on top while watching TV.
  • Change the wake word from the default "Alexa" to either "Echo" or "Amazon."
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When Alexa performs an action without your command, ask it why.

Ry Crist/CNET

Alarms and notifications are too loud

You may have noticed when timers or alarms go off, the sound is much louder (or maybe quieter) than the playback volume of Alexa. That's because alarm and timer volume is controlled separately within the Alexa app.

To set the alarm, timer and notification volume, open the Alexa app on Android or iOS and go to Devices > [your device name] > Sounds and drag the slider to the volume level you want.

Issues streaming music with Spotify

Amazon's Alexa speakers are capable of streaming music from third-party services like Spotify, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and Pandora. Of those, Spotify seems to have more hiccups than the other services, with music randomly stopping mid-stream for no good reason and sometimes not playing at all.

There is no definitive fix for the errors, but a good start to troubleshooting the problem is to reboot the speaker. Then unlink your Spotify account and sign in again. 

To unlink Spotify, open the Amazon Alexa app and go to Settings > Music > Spotify. Tap Disable Skill and confirm by tapping Disable. Next, tap Enable to use and follow the instructions to log in to your account again.

Another answer to the problem could lie with your Spotify account. Unlike Google Home ($99 at Walmart), which allows Spotify free users to stream, Alexa still requires Spotify Premium accounts for streaming.

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If you're having trouble streaming Spotify through your Echo, try unlinking the Skill in the Alexa app.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Trouble playing music on the proper speaker

Using Multi-Room Audio, you can control music playback on Echo speakers with a different Echo. The feature works with the Echo, Echo Dot ($50 at Amazon) and Echo Show ($230 at Amazon), and it lets you play music throughout the house.

However, if you don't have your Echo devices properly named, you'll run into an issue when trying to play music on other speakers. While you can name the speakers whatever you like, it will be easier to queue up music and remember which speaker is where if you name each speaker after the room it's in or its location in the house.

For instance, if you have one Echo speaker named Taylor's Echo Dot, you'll have to say, "Alexa, play Fleet Foxes on Taylor's Echo Dot." While that's not very difficult to say, it's certainly easier and more natural to say, "Alexa, play Fleet Foxes in the kitchen."

Having other issues with your Amazon Echo that we didn't address? Let us know in the comments. Also, check out the 10 weirdest things your Amazon Echo can do and how you can use your Echo to find your lost keys.

Updated original article this fall with new information.

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