Roku’s streaming boxes, streaming sticks, and smart TVs have a reputation for being easy to use, but that doesn’t mean every useful feature is obvious from the start. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find plenty of tricks and hidden features that make the experience even better.

So, consider this your ultimate guide to Roku. Read on, and you’ll learn to navigate more efficiently, search more effectively, discover new things to watch, and even make your streamer a little more private.

Setting up Roku’s home screen

Jared Newman / IDG

Install apps remotely: Instead of thumbing around with the remote, use the Roku Channel Store website to install lots of apps quickly. Just log into your account, search for the apps you want, then choose “Add channel.” You can also install apps through the Roku app for iOS and Android.

Rearrange your apps: Once you’ve installed all your apps, the next step should be to move your favorites up top. To rearrange the app list, press the * button while highlighting any app, then select “Move channel.” Use the arrow keys to select a new spot and press OK when you’re done.

Hide unwanted menu items: If Roku’s sidebar menu feels overly cluttered, you can remove the movie and TV stores, Featured Free section, special offers, and live TV guide. Just head Settings > Home screen, then select “Hide” for the elements you don’t want.

Navigation tricks

Jared Newman / IDG

Learn some remote shortcuts:

Browse by voice: The voice control button on most Roku players is an efficient way to navigate if you know how to use it. Consider the following voice commands for inspiration:

Don’t neglect genre search: While searching by voice, you can also ask for specific genres, such as sci-fi or comedy. Scroll down the results list, and you’ll even see recommendations from your existing subscription services, with no need to browse through each individual app.

Jared Newman / IDG

Channel surf: Head to Roku’s newly-launched “Live TV” sidebar menu, and you can click the “Live TV” icon for a grid guide full of linear channels. While these channels differ from what you find on cable, they do offer a similar background-TV experience. You can also add this live TV guide as an app on your home screen.

Playback improvements

Jared Newman / IDG

Use the Replay button: Missed a bit of dialog that was too hard to hear? Hit the remote’s Replay button (the one with the arrow moving counter-clockwise) to quickly jump back 10 seconds. You can also set the Replay button to include closed captions by heading to Settings > Accessibility > Captions mode, then choosing “On replay.”

Make dialog easier to hear: Press the * button during any video and scroll down to “Volume Mode” to access several volume control options. “Night” mode keeps the volume down during loud scenes, while “Leveling” compresses the overall volume range so you can hear quiet scenes without getting jolted from something loud a minute later. Roku speakers and soundbars have a dialog boost option in this menu as well.

Jared Newman / IDG

Use voice shortcuts: Roku’s voice remote comes in handy during playback as well. Try saying things like “fast forward five minutes,” “next episode,” or “turn on closed captions” to avoid fumbling through menus.

Hands-free voice control: To take voice control a step further, try connecting an Alexa or Google Assistant speaker for hands-free playback controls. In the Alexa app, head to the Devices tab, hit the + button, then search for “Roku.” In the Google Home app, hit the + button, tap “set up device,” select “Works with Google,” then search for Roku. Follow the on-screen prompts to connect your speaker. (If that sounds like too much hassle, Roku’s Voice Remote Pro adds hands-free voice control with practically no setup.)

Roku settings to tweak

Jared Newman / IDG

Roku tips and tricks: The ultimate guide

Auto refresh rate and HDR options: Head to Settings > System > Advanced System Settings > Advanced Display Settings, and you’ll find an option called “Auto-adjust display refresh rate.” If enabled, this will ensure that your TV matches the refresh rate of content, reducing screen tearing at the expense of having your screen flash black any time it changes the refresh rate. In this same menu, you’ll also find an option to turn off SDR to HDR conversion under “HDR always on.”

Conserve your data: Dealing with data caps from your internet service provider? Head to Settings > Network > Bandwidth saver and make sure it’s turned on. This will automatically stop Roku from streaming after four hours of inactivity.

Change the theme: If you’re getting tired of purple, head to Settings > Theme to change your wallpaper, screensaver, and sound effects. You can also choose from a handful of themepacks to completely change your Roku’s look and feel.

Limit targeted ads: By default, Roku players use all kinds of tracking methods to serve personalized ads. Minimize this by heading to Settings > Privacy > Advertising > Limit ad tracking, and then checking the box. This won’t stop third-party apps from sending data to measurement firms, but it will stop Roku from doing so, and from serving ads based on your viewing habits.

Jared Newman / IDG

More privacy protection: To further limit Roku’s data sharing with third parties under the California Consumer Privacy Act, use the “Do Not Sell My Personal Information” toggle. You’ll find this inside the Roku mobile app by tapping the profile icon, or on Roku’s website. Make sure the “opt out” toggle is switched to the on position. (You can also exercise similar rights for other streaming services while you’re at it.)

Turn off TV snooping: Roku TVs also use another kind of tracking called “automatic content recognition,” or ACR, to determine what you’re watching through other inputs (such as your cable box or an antenna) and personalize ads that way. You can disable this by heading to Settings > Privacy > Smart TV Experience, and unchecking “Use Information for TV Inputs.”

Roku app tips

Jared Newman / IDG

If you’re a Roku user, don’t sleep on the companion app for iPhone and Android. In addition to providing an on-screen remote to back up your physical one, it unlocks even more capabilities for your streaming player and smart TV.

Make a “Save List:” While the My Feed feature on Roku players falls into disrepair, Roku has started building a replacement called the “Save List” into its mobile app. Add items by selecting them from your home screen or the search bar, then hitting “Add to save list.” You’ll then find these saved items in the app’s Remote tab by hitting the “Save List” icon at the bottom.

Removing an item from the Save List is a little trickier: Tap on it in the Remote tab, then hit “See details.” On the listing page, you can counterintuitively hit “Added to save list” to remove it.

Browse by genre: Tap the search button at the top of the app for a list of genres to browse through. Each page has new releases, content that’s included with your subscriptions, and ad-supported movies and shows you can watch for free.

Launch shows directly: Once you’ve found a show through the search bar, genre pages, or Save List, hit “View Options” to see where it’s available to stream. Selecting one of those options will begin playback in the corresponding app on your television. (Note that this doesn’t work with Netflix programs, unfortunately.)

Jared Newman / IDG

Listen privately: Even if your Roku remote doesn’t have a built-in headphone jack, you can still listen through headphones using Roku’s mobile app. In the Devices tab, tap on your Roku, then tap the headphone icon in the on-screen remote. If you notice any audio lag, tap the gear icon, select “Adjust audio delay,” then follow the on-screen prompts, or choose “Advanced adjustments” to manually sync the audio.

Enter text with ease: When you’re trying to enter text on the TV, tap the keyboard icon inside the Roku app’s Remote tab. This brings up an on-screen keyboard that’s much faster than thumbing through letters with your TV remote.

Find your lost remote: If you have a Roku Ultra or the Roku Voice Remote Pro, you can activate the remote-finder function through the mobile app. Under the Devices tab, hit the “…” menu button next to your Roku and select “Ping Remote.” Then, listen for the sound coming from your remote.

Switch soundbar volume modes: With a Roku Smart Soundbar, Streambar, or Streambar Pro, you can now adjust equalization and volume modes through the mobile app by heading to the Remote tab, hitting the gear icon, and selecting “Sound Settings.” This is especially useful if you have cable boxes, game consoles, or other inputs hooked up to the TV, as you can tweak the sound without switching inputs.

Use your photos for a screensaver: Roku’s default screensaver feeling a bit stale? Load your own photos instead. In the Roku app, head to the Devices tab, then tap “Media” and select “Screensaver.” Give Roku access to your photo library, then select the photos you want to appear on the big screen. (To switch back to a different screen saver, head to Settings > Theme > Screensavers on your Roku player.)

Screen mirroring and more

Jared Newman / IDG

With the recent arrival of Apple AirPlay and HomeKit support on most modern Roku devices, you can easily send music or video from an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, and you can mirror the display of those devices as well.

Mirror your screen with AirPlay: Open Control Center on iOS, tap the two overlapping boxes, then choose your Roku from the device list. Anything that appears on your iPhone or iPad display will then be reflected on the TV. (For Macs running MacOS Mojave 10.14.5, you can also mirror the screen using the AirPlay button in the menu bar.)

Send music and video with AirPlay: To send media to Roku with AirPlay, start playing something on your iOS device, then then hit the AirPlay button at the top of the video screen and select your Roku from the device list. Alternatively, open Control Center on your iOS device, tap the AirPlay icon in the top-right corner, then select your Roku from the list. Anything you play will then appear on the big screen.

Jared Newman / IDG

Send video from Netflix and YouTube: Even without AirPlay, you can still send video to Roku through the Netflix or YouTube apps on your phone, including Android phones. Hit the Cast button and select your Roku player from the device list. Any video you select will then appear on the TV instead of your mobile device. (This also works from a computer using Google’s Chrome browser.)

Set-up multi-room music: As an AirPlay device, Roku players can be part of a whole-home music setup alongside other AirPlay speakers or soundbars. Just open up Control Center on your iPhone or iPad, then select the AirPlay speakers you want to play on.

(Fair warning: I did notice a delay between the Roku connected to my office TV and the Sonos Beam soundbar in my living room, and unfortunately Apple doesn’t provide a latency correction feature for AirPlay speakers.)

Use Siri for voice control: By connecting your Roku with Apple HomeKit, you can enable voice controls directly through your iPhone or iPad. Here’s how to set that up:

Now, try saying things like “Watch [show name] in [room name]” or “Listen to [artist] in [room name].” Your Roku should load the appropriate content with no further input. I’ve found this to be more reliable with music than with video, but it feels pretty magical when it works.

Enjoyed these tips? Check out my Cord Cutter Weekly newsletter, or reach out via Twitter or email if you have any questions.