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How to solve common Amazon Alexa problems

If your Echo or other Amazon Alexa speaker is giving you grief, look here for solutions to some common woes.
December 1, 2021
Fourth-gen Echo Dot in hand
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

As wonderful as smart speakers can be, they’re like any other piece of technology — sometimes they break or refuse to work the way you expect. Here’s how to solve common Amazon Alexa problems. We should note that most of these steps will apply to any speaker based on Alexa, not just devices like the Echo or Echo Show.

Read more: How to use Amazon Alexa

Alexa is triggering at the wrong times

Amazon Echo 4th gen desk
Adam Molina / Android Authority

Unless you mute them, Alexa speakers are continually listening for a wake word to accept your voice commands. By default, naturally, this word is “Alexa.” It was chosen by Amazon partly because the X’s hard consonant sound is easy for Echo speakers to recognize.

Occasionally, however, Alexa can be triggered accidentally. There are a few possible reasons, such as someone saying “Alexa” in a TV ad or a YouTube video. It can also misinterpret similar-sounding words, erring on the side of activating so your speaker never feels unresponsive. If there’s someone actually named Alexa among your family or friends, you’ll need to make changes in a hurry.

If you don’t want to mute your speaker on a regular basis, the best workaround is altering the wake word. You can do this via the Alexa app for Android, iPhone, or iPad.

  • Open the Alexa app, and select the More tab.
  • Tap Settings, then Device Settings.
  • Pick the speaker/display you want to change the wake word for.
  • Tap the gear icon in the upper-right.
  • Scroll down and select Wake Word.

Aside from Alexa, there are currently four options: “Echo,” “Amazon,” “Ziggy,” or “Computer.” We’d suggest “Ziggy” if you’re dealing with a lot of accidental triggers, since the other wake words can come up in regular conversation. “Computer” can be fun to use if you’re a Star Trek fan.

Related: Guide to Amazon Alexa commands

Alexa skills aren’t working

Amazon Echo Show 10 menu
Adamya Sharma / Android Authority

Skills are third-party creations that expand Alexa’s feature set. These can enable everything from ambient sleep sounds to music services and smart home controls.

If a skill isn’t working, first be sure you know how to trigger it by locating its page in Amazon’s Skills directory. You need specific phrases to make a skill run, which will be listed on its page. In fact, you may need to “open” some skills before most or any commands can be used.

When commands aren’t the issue, you may need to disable then re-enable a skill. You can do this via Amazon’s Skills directory so long as you’re signed into the same Amazon account you use for Alexa. Alternately, you can use the Alexa app:

  • Open the More tab.
  • Tap Skills & Games.
  • Find the skill you’re looking for under Your Skills.
  • Tap Settings, then Disable Skill.
  • Once the option appears, re-enable the skill.

If that doesn’t work immediately, you may need to restart an Alexa speaker by unplugging it, waiting a few moments, then plugging it back in.

Alexa can’t stay connected to Wi-Fi

Echo Studio front profile shot

When an Alexa speaker can’t reach the internet, it tends to complain loudly and immediately, since it depends on Amazon servers to interpret voice commands. In some cases, this will be out of your hands — if there’s an internet outage in your area, you’ll have to wait for your internet service provider (ISP) to fix things. You do, however, have some options if it’s just your own modem, speaker, or local Wi-Fi network that’s behind your Amazon Alexa problems.

On a basic level, you need to make sure both your Wi-Fi router and Alexa speaker are out in the open, separated by as few walls and objects as possible. Some people make the mistake of stuffing their router in a closet, drawer, or behind furniture, which reduces signal strength and range.

Drops could mean your Wi-Fi router is just oversaturated with connections.

Closer proximity can improve reliability as well. If you live in a large house, or your router is on a different floor from the affected speaker, it could be that you’ll need to upgrade to a mesh router, add a Wi-Fi extender, or use two conventional routers.

Before you try new hardware, however, we suggest power cycling (unplugging, waiting, then plugging back in) devices in the following order: your speaker, your router, then your modem. Between each step, check to see how Wi-Fi is doing, and stop if a speaker’s internet access becomes solid. Going methodically will narrow down causes.

Drops could mean your Wi-Fi router is just oversaturated with connections. Even the best routers can only handle so many devices simultaneously, and at their limit, they’ll temporarily drop one or more connections to handle others. If devices are regularly dropping from your network, try disconnecting whatever you’re not using and/or upgrading to a more capable router.

See also: Here are some possible Wi-Fi fixes

Alexa can’t understand you consistently

amazon echo show 15 4
John Callaham / Android Authority

Most Alexa speakers are equipped with multiple microphones, and thanks to clever algorithms can often pick out your voice despite background audio. If you find yourself having to repeat commands too often, here’s what to do.

First, set up a Voice ID. This not only accommodates Alexa to your accent and mannerisms but personalizes things like calendars and reminders if you’re using it with multiple profiles. To create a Voice ID, you can tell a speaker “Alexa, get to know me,” or use the Alexa app:

  • Select the More tab, then Settings.
  • Tap Your Profile and Family.
  • Tap Your Profile (your name).
  • Select Add Your Voice.

You should also position speakers as ideally as possible. Keep them reasonably far from TVs, and make sure they’re sitting unobstructed near the places you expect to use them. A hallway bookshelf might be a convenient place to put an Echo, but if you’re talking to Alexa from a nearby room, it’s going to have trouble hearing you.

Echo alarms, timers, and notifications are too loud

This Amazon Alexa problem is Echo-specific, since other Alexa speakers may operate differently, but often you’ll find alarms, timers, and other alerts louder than a speaker’s general volume. It’s not even a problem, necessarily, since you might consider some alerts so important that you need to hear them if you’re sleeping or in another room.

If you do want to reduce Echo sounds, the solution is in the Alexa app:

  • Select the Devices tab, then Echo & Alexa.
  • Choose the Echo you want to fix.
  • Tap the gear icon in the upper-right.
  • Tap Sounds.
  • Adjust the slider under Alarms, Timers, and Notifications.
  • Optionally, you can have alarms gradually increase in volume until canceled, or pick less abrasive Alarm and Notification tones.

What if I have other Amazon Alexa problems?

Echo Show 5 profile shot

As a starting point, you might try our general guide to using Amazon Alexa, and related articles on setting up an Amazon Echo or connecting Alexa to Wi-Fi. You can also search Amazon’s support pages, though we’ve tried to simplify topics and touch on aspects Amazon doesn’t necessarily cover.

A common last-ditch measure is to do a factory reset of your Alexa speaker. You’ll have to go through the setup process again, and possibly update your routines as well, but there’s nothing to lose if your device wasn’t working anyway.

Read more: The best smart speakers you can buy