Alexa is the virtual assistant built into every Amazon Echo. And she become even more useful if you add more skills. Alexa can also control many smart home gadgets such as lights, thermostats, switches and more. So if you've just got an Echo or you're looking to learn how to get more from your gadget, read on.

To set up Alexa...

  1. Connect your Echo's power supply
  2. Install the Amazon Alexa app on your phone
  3. Tap the Devices icon, then the + symbol
  4. Follow the on-screen instructions to connect the Echo to your Wi-Fi network and enter its password
  5. Alexa is ready for you to enable skills

Also see: Best Echo deals

How to set up an Echo or Echo Dot

After unboxing your Echo remove the plastic protection from the unit, then attach the power cable and plug the power brick into a wall socket.

You'll see the LED circling on top and after a short while, Alexa will tell you to use the app to complete the setup. So if you haven’t already done so, install the Amazon Alexa app on your Android, iOS or Amazon tablet.

You will need an Amazon account. If you don't have one, just sign up at www.amazon.co.uk/account. Without this you can't use your Echo. You don’t need an Amazon Prime subscription, but you’ll miss out on a few features, such as the ability to play music from Amazon's library. You can, however, change the default music provider by going to Settings > Music > Link New Service.

When you open the Alexa app, tap on the Devices tab (1) and then on the + symbol at the top (2).

How to set up Amazon Echo

Tap Add Device (3) and then on Amazon Echo (4).

Tap on the correct model of Echo that you've bought and you should see it appear in the list on the 'Select your Amazon Echo' page. Choose the language you want it to use.

How to set up Amazon Echo

Make sure there is an orange light on your Echo. If not, you may have to reset it. The reset procedure is different for each device, so check Amazon's instructions here.

However, assuming you do see the orange light, you can tap Continue and then pick the Wi-Fi network you'd like it to connect to. If prompted, enter the password for the network and after a short while you'll see a screen saying "Your Echo is online".

How to set up Amazon Echo

Alexa should announce that she is ready to go. For some Echo models you'll see a final screen (above, far right) which offer help on connecting external speakers.

But you can now start using your Echo. Try saying “Alexa, what’s the time?” and she should respond with the current time.

Note: if you have more than one Echo device, each has to be set up individually in the app using the process above.

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. You can’t choose your own wake word.

To find the settings, tap the three horizontal bars at the top-left corner of the app and choose Settings from the menu.

In order to make her useful, you should set your location in the Alexa app. This is again under Settings, and it’s also on this menu page you can change the units of measurement for weather forecasts and distance.

You will see a 'Things To Try' section which is a good introduction to Alexa’s capabilities. However, for a full guide see How to use Alexa. 

How do I set up an Echo Spot or Show?

If you have an Echo with a screen, you can set it up without a phone or tablet. Simply connect the power supply and follow the instructions on the screen. It can be a little fiddly to type your email address and password on the Spot's small display, but it is possible.

Note that you can swipe down from the top of the screen on a Spot or Show 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.

How to set up Alexa Echo Show or Spot

Tips for using Alexa

Alexa is great for the basics, but she really comes into her own when paired with compatible gadgets, such as lights, thermostats, switches and more.

If Alexa can't control something directly and requires you to enable a Skill, you may need to use its name in your command. Here's how to enable Alexa Skills.

Let's say you have a Nest thermostat. 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".

Similarly, saying "Alexa, find my keys" won't work. You need to say "Alexa, ask Tile to find Jim's Keys". That's because the name of the skill is "Tile" and the Tile in question is called "Jim's Keys".

Where possible, change the names of your devices to be simple and short so Alexa can more easily recognise and understand them.

We’ve also complied a wonderful list of funny things Alexa can say to you.