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The most common Roku problems and how to fix them

Rokus are awesome media streaming devices. They’re priced right, they support virtually every streaming service we can think of (and then some) and they’ve got one of the friendliest and easy-to-use user interfaces available. Sometimes though, your Roku device doesn’t do what you expect it to do, or it simply does nothing at all.

Whether it’s a glitch with the remote, the Roku device itself, or a sneaky hidden gotcha like an app compatibility issue, Roku problems can be frustrating when they pop up. The good news is that 99% of the time, there’s an easy fix. Here’s a list of the most common Roku problems and how to fix them.

How to fix Roku problems at a glance:

  • How to update, restart, and reset your Roku
  • Roku remote control problems
  • Roku Wi-Fi problems
  • Roku audio problems
  • Roku video problems
  • Roku HDMI problems
  • Roku hardware problems
  • Roku app problems

How to restart, update, and reset your Roku

Most Roku problems can be quickly solved by a restart, a software update, or in worst-case scenarios, a factory reset. Before moving on to any other troubleshooting steps, try these first.

How to restart your Roku

  • Press the Home button on your Roku remote.
  • Scroll up or down and select Settings.
  • Select System.
  • Select System Restart.
  • Use the remote’s directional pad right arrow button to highlight the Restart button and press OK.
  • Your Roku device will now restart.

Sometimes, Roku devices will simply freeze up, and the remote appears to be completely unresponsive. When this happens, you can often restart the device without needing the on-screen menus. To do this, follow this button-press sequence on your Roku remote precisely:

  • Press the Home button five times.
  • Press the Up arrow one time.
  • Press the Rewind button two times.
  • Press the Fast Forward button two times.
  • After a few seconds of completing this sequence, your Roku should restart.

How to update the software

If a restart doesn’t help, your software may be the problem. Roku software updates usually happen automatically in the background, without any need for you to take action. But now and then, this process doesn’t work. If you’re experiencing problems, it’s always a good idea to check the status of your Roku software before moving on.

  • Press the Home button on your Roku remote.
  • Scroll up or down and select Settings.
  • Select System.
  • Select System Update.
    • This screen will show you the current software and build version, and the date and time it was added to your Roku.
  • Select Check Now to manually check for updates.
  • If an update for your software or your installed channels is available, it will be downloaded and installed automatically and your Roku will reboot. It’s very important that this process is allowed to complete without interruption.

How to factory reset your Roku

A factory reset is the thermonuclear option for fixing problems. As the name suggests, it returns your Roku to the same state it was in when you pulled it out of the box. This means that all of your settings including downloaded channels and network preferences will be wiped out. As such, we suggest keeping this one in your back pocket for when everything else fails.

  • Press the Home button on your Roku remote.
  • Scroll up or down and select Settings.
  • Select System.
  • Select Advanced system settings.
  • Select Factory reset.
  • Select Factory reset everything and then follow the on-screen instructions.

The above instructions assume your Roku is still responsive and gives you the option of using the on-screen menus. If it doesn’t, switch to plan B by using the physical reset button on your device.

Roku Roku

On some Roku products, like the Roku Streaming Stick and Streaming Stick+, the reset button can be pushed with your finger. On set-top devices like the Roku Ultra, it’s usually a recessed button that requires a paperclip or other small, pointed object to press.

Once you’ve found it, make sure your Roku device is powered on, then press and hold the reset button firmly for about 10 seconds. The indicator light will blink rapidly on most Roku devices when the factory reset is complete.

Roku remote control problems

Roku devices come with two different kinds of remote controls. One kind is an infrared (IR) remote and the other is an enhanced “point-anywhere” remote. Before you try to fix problems with your Roku remote, you should figure out which one you have.

Roku Roku

Remove the battery cover from the back of the remote. Just below where the batteries sit, you may find a small button. If you do, you’ve got an enhanced “point-anywhere” remote. If you don’t, yours is an IR remote.

For IR remotes

IR remotes need to be able to “see” the Roku device they control. Almost all problems with IR remotes stem from the remote not having that direct line-of-sight to your Roku device. Most of the time, IR signals can bounce off walls and ceilings to reach their target, but even then, if your Roku device is stuck behind another object, those IR signals won’t make it.

Roku Roku

When seated wherever you normally watch TV, if you can see the entire front side of your Roku device, you should be fine. If you can’t, move the Roku until you can. Never place a Roku device that uses an IR remote behind your TV or inside a cabinet.

The remote’s batteries can also be the problem. If the remote works well sometimes, but not all the time, try pulling the batteries out and replacing them. That might fix a problem with a poor connection.

Weak IR signals can be another problem. Think of an IR remote as a flashlight that shines a light that you can’t see. If the batteries are old, that light will be too weak. If the batteries are really depleted, the remote might not respond to button presses at all. Try replacing the batteries with new ones.

For enhanced “point-anywhere” remotes

These remotes are a bit more sophisticated, so there are several ways to troubleshoot their operation. The first step is to try the same battery tricks as above — remove and replace them, or simply install new ones.

If this doesn’t help, the next step is to restart both the Roku device and the remote:

  • Remove the power cable from the Roku device.
  • Remove the batteries from the remote.
  • Plug the Roku device back in, and wait for it to finish booting up — you should see the home screen.
  • Reinsert the batteries into the remote and wait about 30 seconds. The remote should now respond to button presses.

If the restart procedure doesn’t fix your problem, you may need to re-pair the remote to your Roku:

  • Remove the power cable from the Roku device.
  • Remove the batteries from the remote.
  • Plug the Roku device back in, and wait for it to finish booting up — you should see the home screen.
  • Reinsert the batteries into the remote, but don’t replace the battery cover yet.
  • Press and hold the pairing button inside the battery compartment of the remote for three seconds or until you see the pairing light on the remote begin to flash. Depending on your remote, the pairing light might be beside the pairing button, or on the top surface of the remote, near the bottom end. If the light does not flash, try again. If the light still does not flash, try replacing the batteries.
  • Wait for 30 seconds while the remote establishes a connection with your Roku device.
  • You should then see the remote pairing dialog on your TV screen.

In rare instances, wireless signal interference can cause problems with enhanced remotes. If you own a Roku Streaming Stick or Streaming Stick+ and they’re plugged into an HDMI port on the rear panel of your TV, an HDMI extender cable could help move the Stick away from the main body of the TV, thereby reducing any interference the TV could be causing. If you own a Roku Streaming Stick, Roku will send you one of these cables for free.

It’s also possible that there’s simply too much congestion on the 2.4GHz frequency used by the remote to communicate with the Roku. One way to solve that problem is to switch your Wi-Fi router to a different wireless channel.

Another solution is to switch your Roku to your router’s 5GHz network if it has one.

Roku Wi-Fi problems

Ijansempoi/Shutterstock

If you’re experiencing degraded video or audio quality, overall slowness of your Roku when responding to commands, or you see “not connected” in the top right corner of your home screen, you’re probably dealing with Wi-Fi issues.

Checking Wi-Fi signal strength is the best place to start. Check the status of your Wi-Fi signal strength by going to Settings > Network. Assuming you’re actually connected to Wi-Fi, the signal strength will be listed as Excellent, Good, Fair, or Poor. If it’s Fair or Poor, you should try to improve it.

Obviously, relocating your TV won’t be an option very often, but you might still benefit from relocating the Roku itself. Try repositioning it and see if it helps. Roku Sticks are harder to reposition because they’re usually plugged right into the TV, but an HDMI extender cable can give you the extra play you need to reposition them. If you own a Roku Streaming Stick, Roku will send you one of these cables for free.

If moving your Roku is out of the question, consider moving your Wi-Fi router, or adjusting its external antennas if it has any. Even small changes to your router can have a big impact on how wireless signals move around your house.

If your Roku device has an Ethernet port and you’re able to connect it to an Ethernet cable, this is an easy way to test if it’s your Wi-Fi that’s at fault.

A “not connected” message on the home screen indicates that you’re either completely outside of your Wi-Fi network’s range, or, you’ve entered the wrong Wi-Fi password for your router. If your phone, tablet, or laptop is connected via Wi-Fi — in the same general location as your Roku — that suggests a problem with the password. Check your Roku’s network settings and try again.

If you see Error code 009, it means that your Roku is successfully connected to your router, but it can’t reach the internet. If your other Wi-Fi devices are operating normally, restart your Roku. If the other devices can’t connect either, try rebooting your modem and router, and then restart your devices. If this fails, you should contact your ISP.

Roku audio problems

Audio problems on the Roku, like no audio, distorted audio, or audio dropouts, can be caused by software settings or problems with your hardware and/or cables depending on the complexity of your setup.

Before trying any of the following solutions, we suggest you first turn off your Roku and connected devices, unplug the power, wait 10 seconds and then plug it back in and power your gear on again. It sounds silly, but you’d be amazed how many problems — including audio problems — this can fix.

No audio at all? Check your connections and selected inputs

(If your Roku is a stick-style device connected directly to your TV, you can skip this section.)

  • Check to make sure your HDMI, optical, or component cables are securely inserted into your Roku on the one end, and your A/V receiver, HDMI switcher, or soundbar, on the other end.
  • Make sure all of your components are powered on.
  • Check that you’ve selected the correct input on your A/V receiver, HDMI switcher, or soundbar.
  • Check to see if your audio component’s mute function is on (if it is, turn it off).
  • Adjust the volume level on your audio component higher and lower to see if this makes any difference.

Still no audio? Check your Roku’s audio settings

If your Roku is connected to an A/V receiver or soundbar using an optical (TOSLink) cable, try the following:

  • Press the Home button on your Roku remote.
  • Scroll up or down and select Settings.
  • Select Audio.
  • Set HDMI and S/PDIF to Dolby D (Dolby Digital).

If your Roku is connected to an A/V receiver, soundbar, or TV via HDMI, try the following:

  • Press the Home button on your Roku remote.
  • Scroll up or down and select Settings.
  • Select Audio.
  • Set Audio mode to Stereo.
  • Set HDMI to PCM-Stereo.

Still no audio? Swap your cables

It’s fairly rare, but on occasion, your HDMI, optical, or component cables can be faulty. If none of the steps so far have helped, try switching out your cable(s) with another set. This can be frustrating if you don’t have an extra set handy, but the good news is that all three types are inexpensive and you can find them at your local retailer or online.

Selective audio

Sometimes, you’ll hear audio on some kinds of content but not others. This is usually a compatibility problem with the audio format(s) you’re trying to play and the audio format(s) your connected gear can support. If this happens, try the same procedure as above for HDMI devices and if you’re using an optical (TOSLink) cable, set HDMI and S/PDIF to PCM-Stereo.

You’re expecting surround sound but you’re only getting stereo

Normally your Roku can determine the capabilities of your TV, A/V receiver, or soundbar automatically, but sometimes it needs help. If you’re watching surround sound content that’s presented in Dolby 5.1, or Dolby Atmos, but you can only hear stereo sound:

  • Press Home on your remote control.
  • Scroll up or down to Settings.
  • Select Audio.
  • Your HDMI (or HDMI and S/PDIF on Roku players with an optical connector) will likely be set to Auto Detect. Choose the option that matches the capabilities of your TV, A/V receiver, or soundbar.
  • Channels can have their own discrete audio settings. For example, Netflix may require you to select English (5.1) under Audio and Subtitles.

Garbled or distorted audio

We’ve seen reports, specifically related to the Roku Ultra, but possibly on other models as well, of garbled or distorted audio. A fix that seems to work in this instance, is to begin playback of the desired video, then:

  • Press the Star or Asterisk (*) button.
  • Scroll to Volume Mode.
  • Select OFF by scrolling right.

Audio and video are out of sync

Some users have reported that their audio and video lose sync while playing content. Though somewhat counterintuitive, a fix that seems to work involves tweaking the video refresh properties:

  • Press the Home button on your Roku remote.
  • Scroll up or down and select Settings.
  • Select System and then select Advanced system settings.
  • Select Advanced display settings.
  • Select Auto-adjust display refresh rate and choose Disabled.

Keep in mind that while this has been known to fix audio sync issues, it can also introduce some unwanted video problems like image jerkiness. If this happens, switch Auto-adjust back to Enabled.

Roku video problems

Problems involving video quality like buffering, stuttering, or degraded detail can usually be traced back to your network connection. Before moving on, see our section on Wi-Fi problems. If your Wi-Fi connection is stable, it’s possible that your internet plan doesn’t provide sufficient bandwidth for the content you’re trying to stream.

Roku recommends a minimum download speed of 3.0 Mbps for standard definition and up to 9.0 Mbps for HD content. 4K HDR content may require up to 25 Mbps. You can check your actual download speed here.

If your plan provides the necessary speed for the content you’re trying to watch, check to see if anyone else in your home is using high bandwidth applications on your other devices. You may also want to check your router’s administration settings to see if there are any unknown devices using your connection.

Manually adjust your bitrate

If you’ve tried everything to solve your buffering problems and are ready to throw in the towel, here’s one more trick that might help.

Normally your Roku will choose the best bitrate to use automatically — one that matches your network connection speed — but on rare occasions, setting this manually needs to happen. You do this through a hidden settings screen:

  • On your Roku remote, press Home five times.
  • Press reverse scan three times.
  • Press forward scan twice.
  • From the Bit Rate Override screen that is displayed, select Manual selection.
  • Select a lower bitrate and see if that solves the problem. If not, repeat this sequence and choose a lower bitrate.

Roku HDMI problems

Some Roku problems relate to the use of HDMI cables. When two or more devices connect via HDMI, they must establish a “handshake.” Generally speaking, once established, that handshake continues to govern the connection without issue. However, now and then the handshake doesn’t happen when the devices connect, or the handshake gets interrupted.

When this happens, it can cause a variety of problems from black screens to flashing video, to HDCP error messages. As with many problems, a reliable fix is to power everything down, remove and reinsert the HDMI cable ends into each device, and then restart.

HDCP errors

Roku Roku

HDCP errors that aren’t resolved this way may be a symptom of a different problem. HDCP stands for High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection, and it’s a way of preventing people from copying movies and shows that they stream on devices like a Roku. But unless each device in your HDMI chain supports the same level of HDCP, the video signal can’t get through and you’ll see an HDCP error.

For instance, if you’re using a Roku Streaming Stick+ or a Roku Ultra to stream 4K content from Netflix, all of your devices must support HDCP 2.2. But if you have any older A/V receiver or soundbar between your Roku and your 4K TV, it may not be HDCP 2.2 compatible.

To test to see if this is the problem, try connecting your Roku directly to your TV. If the problem goes away, that’s a good sign your middle device isn’t HDCP 2.2-compliant. Your choice at this point is to stick to non-4K content (only 4K requires HDCP 2.2), find a way to bypass your A/V receiver or soundbar for video (perhaps by using the HDMI ARC connection on your TV), or upgrade that middle device.

Replacing cables

Though rare, occasionally the HDMI cables themselves are the problem. If you’re seeing flashing video, or no video at all — or perhaps video with “sparkles” these can all indicate potentially faulty cables.

Before buying new cables, try swapping your Roku’s HDMI cable with any other HDMI cable you have, as a test. It’s very unlikely that two of your cables have problems, so if one works, you know you should replace the one that doesn’t.

There is one situation where you may need to replace a perfectly good HDMI cable. 4K HDR signals use a lot of bandwidth — much more than HD. Older HDMI cables might lack the necessary bandwidth to carry all of that data reliably between devices, especially over longer distances like 10 feet or more.

If you suspect this applies to your situation, you probably need to buy a new, Premium High Speed HDMI cable. But don’t worry — they’re relatively inexpensive and you can buy them almost anywhere. Check out our full HDMI cable buying guide.

Roku hardware problems

Roku Roku

Roku devices are usually highly dependable but here are two situations where the hardware itself can experience problems.

Overheating

If your Roku device sits on top of other equipment or is located in a poorly ventilated space, it can overheat. If this happens, you’ll see an on-screen warning message appear in the top right corner of your screen. Some Roku devices like the Ultra and Roku Express also have a front LED that will turn solid red when they overheat.

If your device overheats, immediately turn it off, unplug the power and disconnect all cables. Wait at least 10 minutes before reconnecting it and powering it back up. If you see the solid red light or warning message again, repeat this process. If it still happens, you should contact Roku as it may indicate a more serious problem with your device.

Insufficient power

@RokuSupport is this the only channel I'm supposed to get? pic.twitter.com/LUJtT3P6P1

— Ryan R. Ellis (@rrellis) June 16, 2017

If your Roku device is powered by USB — e.g. Streaming Sticks, and Roku Express — there’s a possibility it’s not getting enough power.

This usually happens when people plug their USB power cable into an available USB port on their TV or their A/V receiver. Unfortunately, not all USB ports deliver the same amount of power, and some aren’t intended to supply power at all.

The best way to solve the “insufficient power” on-screen warning (or flashing red LED on the front of Roku Express or Express+) is to plug the USB cable into the USB power adapter that shipped with your device.

This adapter is designed to deliver the amount of power your Roku needs. If, after switching to the included adapter, you still get the insufficient power warning, you should try plugging the adapter into a different power outlet. If you’re using a power strip or an extension cord, try plugging the adapter straight into a wall socket.

Roku app problems

The Roku app for iOS and Android is a must-have add-on for your phone. It can act as a replacement remote control, plus you can add/remove channels, use the private listening function, and cast videos and photos from your phone to your TV.

But none of those things will work if the app can’t find your Roku device.

Your Wi-Fi network is likely at the heart of the problem, so before moving on, consult the Wi-Fi problems section. If that doesn’t help, here are a few things you can try.

Make sure your phone and Roku are on the same network

Some Wi-Fi routers let you create a guest network that is physically separated from your normal Wi-Fi network. It’s possible that your phone or your Roku are using these two different networks. If so, they won’t see each other. Make sure both devices are using the exact same Wi-Fi network.

Most Wi-Fi routers create two separate networks for each Wi-Fi frequency band (2.4GHz and 5GHz). Though technically it shouldn’t matter if your phone and Roku are using different frequencies (both bands share the same subnet on your router so devices can talk to one another), to be absolutely sure, place both your phone and your Roku on the same Wi-Fi frequency band.

Check your Roku’s network access

It’s possible that network access to your Roku has been disabled. Here’s how to check and correct:

  • Press the Home button on your Roku remote.
  • Select Settings then System followed by Advanced system settings.
  • Select External Control and then Network Access.
  • Make sure Default or Permissive is selected.
  • “Default” should work, but if not, try “Permissive.”

Still can’t find your device? Try connecting manually

  • Inside the Roku app, at the bottom of the device discovery screen (or within the three-dots menu), tap Connect Manually and enter the IP address of your Roku device. You can find the IP address by visiting Settings > Network > About on your Roku device.
  • Restart your Roku device and ensure it is connected to the correct wireless network.
  • Restart the Roku mobile app.
    • On iOS devices with a home button, double click the Home button and then swipe the Roku app to close it. Once it’s closed, tap on the Roku app icon to launch.
    • On iOS devices without a home button, swipe up from the bottom of the screen and slide your thumb or finger to the right in one continuous motion. Swipe through the list of open apps until you find the Roku app and then swipe up on the app to close it. Once it’s closed, tap on the Roku app icon to relaunch.
    • On Android devices, press the Recents button and then swipe the Roku app to close it. Once it’s closed, tap on the Roku app icon to relaunch

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