Amazon’s Echo smart speakers are helpful assistants which become even more useful if you add more skills. And if you have smart home gadgets such as lights and heating systems, Alexa can control lots of those too. Here we explain how to set up Amazon Echo and Alexa.

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

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

The unit will start up and 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 Fire phone or tablet.

You will need to sign in with your Amazon account (you have one of those, right? If not, just sign up at www.amazon.co.uk/account) as your Echo won’t be usable without one. You don’t need an Amazon Prime subscription, but you’ll miss out on a few features.

Switch from the app to your phone settings and look for your new Echo in the list of Wi-Fi networks. 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.

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

Note: if you have more than one Echo device, each has to be set up individually.

By default, the wake word is Alexa, but 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, sadly.

To start, try saying “Alexa, what’s the time?” and she should respond with the current time.

How to set up Amazon Echo

In order to make her useful, you should set your location in the Alexa app. To do this, swipe right to show the menu, tap Settings, tap on your Echo device under ‘Alexa Devices’ then set the location and ensure the time is correct. Here you can also change the wake word and the Wi-Fi network to which your Echo connects if you ever need to (or just hold the Action button on top of your Echo for five seconds).

It’s also on this menu page you can change the units of measurement for weather forecasts and distance.

Under the main menu in the Alexa app you will also see a Things To Try section which is a good introduction to Alexa’s capabilities.

One word of advice: if you have any smart gadgets you want to control, such as lights or a thermostat, use the shortest name possible for it. For example, even when paired with the 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". Longer names or names with multiple words increase the chance of her mis-hearing and failing to do what you asked. 

Also, if you want to use a skill, you may need to use its name in your command. For example, saying "Alexa, find my keys" won't work. You need to say "Alexa, ask Tile to find [name of Tile]". 

For a full guide see How to use Alexa and add Skills. Plus, we’ve also complied a wonderful list of funny things Alexa can say to you.