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.

In brief:

  1. Connect your Echo's power supply
  2. Install the Amazon Alexa app on your phone
  3. Connect your phone or tablet to your Echo's Wi-Fi network
  4. Switch to the app and choose Set up a new device
  5. If prompted, enter your Amazon username and password
  6. Select your Wi-Fi network and enter its password
  7. The Alexa assistant is ready to use

How to set up an Echo or Echo Dot

After unboxing your Echo remove the plastic protection from the unit plug its power supply into a wall socket.

How to set up Amazon Echo

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 to sign in with your 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.

Next, go to your phone's settings and the Wi-Fi settings. Look for your new Echo in the list: it'll appear as 'Echo-2JZ 'or similar. Tap on it and it will connect straight away since no password is required.

Now switch back to the Alexa app. If it doesn’t automatically start the process, tap on the three horizontal lines and choose Settings > Set up a new device. You may see existing Amazon devices in the list because Alexa is also available on the Fire TV, some Fire tablets and other devices. including the Amazon Echo Show, reviewed.

When prompted, select your home Wi-Fi network from the list and enter its password. The Echo will now try to connect to your Wi-Fi network. Your phone or tablet should automatically reconnect to the same network as it no longer needs to be connected to the Echo.

Assuming your router has an internet connection, Alexa should announce that she is ready to go. To start, 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.

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.

How to set up Amazon Echo

Below Settings 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 and add Skills. 

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

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.

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.