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Roku setup: Your 4-step getting-started guide

Setting up a new Roku is actually really simple, if you know what you're doing.

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Time to set up that new Roku. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

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,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?

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Step 1: Connect your Roku to your TV

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Plug your Roku into your TV's HDMI port. 

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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

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Pressing down on a button below the battery slot pairs your Roku with its included remote.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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. 

Wi-Fi

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)

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Your Roku will analyze your TV to find the best settings.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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. 

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The Roku Streaming Stick remote can be set up to control a TV. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

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Roku will ask what services you use to stream. 

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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, HuluPrime 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. 

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All done. 

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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. 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!