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Android TV setup guide: All you need to get started with your new Android TV
If you’ve got yourself a brand new Android TV that you need to set up from scratch, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the basic setup process for Android TVs. Unlike Android on smartphones, there’s not much software segregation on Android TV devices. If you learn how to set up and use one, you’ve learned how to set up all of them.
That said, there are minor differences in setting up Android TVs that don’t have the new Google TV interface and those that do. Worry not, we’ve got you covered for both.
Besides showing you where things are on your Android TV and how to use its various features, we’ll also help you with a list of apps you might want to download to get the most out of your Android TV.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at how to set up a new Android TV.
Android TV: Pre-setup requirements
Before you start setting up your Android TV, you need to make a note of a few things that you will need. Check that you have the following:
- A Wi-Fi internet connection
- A Google account
- The Google Home app on your phone
If your TV doesn’t have Android TV built-in, you’ll need:
- An external Android TV device
- One TV or monitor that has HDMI ports and supports High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP)
- One HDMI cable (usually provided within the box)
If you have all these prerequisites in place, you are now ready to start setting up your new Android TV. There are three ways you can do that: using your phone, using your Android TV remote, or using your computer.
We’ll detail all those methods below. If you’ve already completed the initial setup of your Android TV and want to jump straight to the other sections, you can do so by choosing the appropriate option from the menu on the left.
Step 1. Turn on your Android TV and pair the remote
Every Android TV has a different process for pairing a remote, and that’s the first thing you’ll have to do when you turn on your TV. Some Android TVs and Google TV devices also have the remote pre-configured. In that case, you can skip directly to the next step.
By default, most Android TV remotes can only turn on/off your device using an IR connection. A Bluetooth connection is required for every other feature. Follow the steps below to pair your Android TV with its remote.
- Turn on your Android TV or the monitor/television attached to your Android TV device.
- Follow the on-screen instructions to pair your remote.
- When the remote connects to the TV, you’ll see a checkmark on the screen.
If you have a Chromecast with Google TV, your remote should pair automatically. However, if the TV screen shows “Start pairing,” press and hold the “Back” and “Home” buttons on the remote until the light on the remote starts to pulse.
Step 2. Android TV setup
Once you’ve paired your remote, you will get an option to quickly set up your Android TV using your Android phone or tablet. If you select this option, you can transfer account and network details from your Android device to your TV with a few simple clicks. You can skip this option to complete the setup using the remote. You can also set up your Android TV using your computer. Check out the instructions for all the three different methods below.
How to set up an Android TV using an Android phone?
- When your TV says, “Quickly set up your TV with your Android phone?” use your remote and select Yes.
- On your Android phone, open the pre-installed Google app.
- Type or say, “Set up my device.”
- Follow the instructions on your phone until you see a code. Make sure the same code shows up on your TV.
- On your phone, tap the name of your TV when it shows up.
- To finish setup, follow the instructions on your TV.
How to set up an Android TV using the remote?
- When your TV says, “Quickly set up your TV with your Android phone?” use your remote to choose Skip.
- Connect to Wi-Fi.
- You might need to wait for the system to update.
- Choose Sign in and then use your remote.
- Sign in to your Google Account (you can also skip this step and do it later).
- Follow the on-screen instructions to finish the setup.
How to set up Android TV using a computer?
- When your TV says, “Quickly set up your TV with your Android phone?” use your remote to choose Skip.
- Connect to the same Wi-Fi network as your smartphone or computer.
- On your TV, choose Sign in and then use your computer.
- Sign in to your Google Account.
- Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the setup.
How to set up your Google TV device?
- Turn on your Google TV television or box
- Choose your region and language
- Choose “Set up Google TV”
- Open the Google Home app on your phone
- At the top left, tap Add account > Set up device > Set up new devices in your home.
- Choose or add a home.
- Tap “Scan code” and allow the app to use your phone’s camera.
- Scan the QR code on your TV screen. It may take a few minutes for your phone and TV to connect.
- Follow the instructions in the Home app and on your TV screen.
Check for software and app updates
If you’ve completed the steps above, you should be all set to start using your Android TV. The first thing you want to do is check for software updates. To do this head to Settings (gear icon) > Device Preferences > About > System Update.
The latest Android TV version is Android 12. However, most Android TVs should be running Android 10 or Android 11 right now. Some older TVs are still stuck on Android 9 and Android 8. If that’s the case for you, there’s no option but to wait for your Android TV OEM to roll out the latest software version or buy a new Android TV device.
Also read: The best media streaming devices you can buy
App updates are also something you should check for when you first start using your Android TV. You will find several major streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and others, pre-installed on your Android TV. Before you start using them, you can check for app updates by heading to the Google Play Store on your Android TV.
The Play Store is located in the top row of your Android TV homepage. Alternatively, you can find it in the Apps channel on the left side of your home screen. This is for all Android TVs that don’t have the new Google TV interface.
To update all apps, select Google Play Store, then navigate to the My Apps section on top and click on Update All.
To set apps on auto-update, head to the Settings (gear icon) within Google Play Store > Auto-update apps > Auto-update apps at any time.
Checking for software updates on Google TV devices
If you have a Chromecast with Google TV or any other Google TV device, the update process is a bit different. You’ll usually find the update available on the Google Home app and it will download on your device automatically. If that doesn’t happen for you, head to Settings > System > About > System update.
Some Google TV devices, like recent Sony TVs, have a Quick Settings button on the remote. You can reach the Settings page by pressing it and then follow the same path mentioned above to check for updates.
Where things are on your Android TV
The Android TV UI is pretty simple to navigate. You’ll find all the default channels on the left side of your home screen, such as apps, Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Music, Amazon Prime Video, and more.
On the row beside each channel, you’ll see suggestions for that category. For instance, the apps channel will display suggestions for downloaded apps on your Android TV, the Netflix channel will show streaming suggestions, and so on. We’ll tell you more about customizing these channels below.
If you’re looking for your TV settings to personalize and adjust things like the picture quality, sound, app permissions, Bluetooth connections, etc, you need to head to the main settings menu. You’ll find the familiar gear icon for your Android TV’s settings on the top right corner of your home screen. Here, you can navigate to all the hardware settings and device preferences for your Android TV device.
One thing to note about the Android TV interface is that it’s being replaced by the new Google TV for Android interface in more recent devices. Google launched the new UI in 2020. You can read more about Google TV for Android and the new Chromecast UI here.
Google announced another UI overhaul for Android TV devices in February 2021. It gives users a taste of the Google TV interface with a tabbed design and also compiles personalized suggestions for movies, TV shows, and live TV based on what you watch and what’s trending on Google.
It’s unclear if the new Android TV interface will come to all older and existing versions of the platform. If you have a 4-5 year old Android TV, you may never see the new interface.
Home-screen customizations for devices without Google TV
If you don’t like the way your Android TV’s home screen is arranged, you can change the channels you see by default and rearrange the home screen apps.
To add or remove existing channels — the icons on the left of your home screen — scroll right to the bottom of the home screen. Here, you’ll see an option called Customize Your Channels. Tap on it to rearrange your preferences.
To re-order apps and adjust autoplay settings for previews that you see on your home screen, navigate to Settings > Device Preferences. Here, you’ll find options to enable/disable video and audio previews as well as rearrange apps for your Android TV’s home screen.
Home-screen customizations for devices with Google TV
You can also customize your Google TV home screen. You can rearrange apps and games to bring the ones you use the most right up front, tweak recommendations, and completely turn off content suggestions.
You can see 12 apps in the “Your apps” section within the “For You” or the “Apps” tab. To see all the apps, you need to press “See all” and expand the list. If you don’t want to do that every time you want to reach your favorite apps faster, you can rearrange this row. Follow the steps below to do this.
- Highlight the app you want to move. Go to “See all” if you don’t see it.
- Long-press the enter or select button on your remote
- A pop-up will appear with a “Move” option
- Move the app shortcut to the left with the D-pad on your remote
- Click the “Select” or “Enter” button when the app is at your desired spot
- Press the back button to exit the app rearrangement mode.
If you don’t like the content recommendations Google throws up, you can tweak them by heading to the “For You” section. Scroll right to the bottom and select the “Get better recommendations” section. You can now toggle suggestions from your subscribed streaming services.
You can also turn off recommendations if you don’t want to see them at all. Head to your Profile icon > Settings >Accounts & Sign-in > Apps only mode. This mode will hide Google’s recommendations from your home screen. It will also take away the ability to add things to your watchlist.
Google Assistant and voice search
Most Android TV remotes these days come with a dedicated Google Assistant button for voice search and navigation. Google Assistant is built into your Android TV, and you can activate it by pressing the Assistant or microphone button on your remote. To make sure the Assistant can hear you, speak into the microphone on your remote. Some premium Android TVs also let you summon Google Assistant with the “Ok, Google” or “Hey, Google” wake words that you’d use on a smart speaker.
You can ask Google Assistant to quickly find and play your favorite shows, get answers from the internet, and control your smart home devices. It can even control playback and volume as well as switch off your Android TV with voice commands. You will find a full list of what you can ask Google Assistant here.
If you have an Android TV, you can cast content such as photos and videos from your phone, tablet, or laptop to your TV screen. In this way, your phone acts as a remote control for the content that you are watching on your TV. To do this, your phone or any other casting device should be on the same Wi-Fi network as your TV. Once you’ve ensured that, you can follow the steps below to use Chromecast on your Android TV.
- Open the app that has the content you want to cast.
- In the app, find the cast icon that looks like a rectangle with a Wi-Fi symbol in one corner.
- Once you find the cast icon, tap on it, and choose the name of your TV.
- When the cast icon changes color, it means you are successfully connected to your TV.
- You should now be able to see your media on it.
If you have trouble casting, follow the steps below to make sure it’s enabled on your Android TV.
- On your remote, press the home button.
- On your TV, at the top right, select Settings.
- Select Apps.
- Under System apps, select Google Cast Receiver.
- Check that it’s turned on.
Google also introduced a new Android TV feature called Cast Connect in August 2020. Cast Connect goes beyond the traditional Chromecast capabilities and also allows you to control casted content on your TV using the remote. Currently, Cast Connect isn’t available widely. Google is working with app developers to add the feature to their respective apps. For now, only CBS and Australian streaming service Stan have launched Cast Connect.
Android TV setup: Apps to get started
Your Android TV comes pre-loaded with various popular streaming apps, so you won’t need to install things like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video. You also get Google Play Movies & TV and Google Play Games pre-installed. Having all these apps already in there is great, but you might want to consider installing the below-mentioned apps to get started with your Android TV.
VLC for Android
VLC is a great video and audio player, which supports a wide range of formats. It’s an excellent app to have on your Android TV if you want to play media files from an external source like a USB pen drive or hard disk.
Plex is one of the best Android TV apps you can get. It organizes all your personal media, including photos, music, movies, shows, and more, and presents it in a simple, easy-to-navigate UI. Of course, you can also stream all that media from within the app. But that’s not all that Plex is all about. The app also gives you free access to dozens of HD over-the-air broadcast channels for free. In the US, these free channels include networks like CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, PBS plus, and many more. Plex also features ad-supported video-on-demand content, which it has now expanded with a partnership with Crackle. This means you can stream the entire Crackle library using the app.
Do you have media content sitting on a hard disk or USB drive? Then Kodi is the app to get for your Android TV. It is an open-source, cross-platform Home theater PC (HTPC) software that works for both local and network storage services. It supports a vast variety of formats across both audio and video files, so you can use it to play just about anything. Kodi can also automatically add posters, trailers, fan covers, and more to items in your media library. If you’re looking to stream your photos, you can import them to Kodi, and it will set up an image library for you. Additionally, Kodi allows you to install third-party plugins that may provide access to content, which is not always legal.
With the Steam Link app on Android TV and a good internet connection, you can easily stream your Steam games directly to your TV at up to a 4K resolution at 60fps. You can check out all the games optimized for remote play on your Android TV here.
Google Drive via Send files to TV
If you have media such as photos or videos stored on your Google Drive and want to access it on a big screen, you can just download the Google Drive app on your Android TV. Sadly, the Google Drive app is not available through the Google Play store for Android TVs. However, you can always sideload the APK file by installing the Send files to TV app on your smartphone and television. This way, you can transfer the Google Drive APK file from your phone to your TV in a jiffy.
There are various other apps you can download to enhance your Android TV experience besides the starter apps mentioned above. Check out our list of the best Android TV apps to get the most out of your TV.
Frequently asked questions about Android TV setup
If you have a pre-owned Android TV and want to set it up from scratch, you can do this by resetting it. On an Android TV with Android 8, head to the Home screen > Settings (gear icon) > Storage & reset > Factory data reset. Once you press this, you can follow the on-screen instructions to reset your Android TV.
If you have an Android TV with Android 9 Pie, head to Home screen > Settings (gear icon) > Device preferences > Reset.
You can set up a PIN lock on your Android TV with granular restrictions based on content ratings, timings, and more. To do this, head to Home screen > Settings (gear icon) > Parental control.
You can add more than one Google account to your Android TV. To do this head to Home screen > Settings (gear icon) > Accounts and Sign-in > Add account.
You can tweak screen saver settings on your Android TV to show Chromecast wallpapers or colors when your TV is idle. To do this, head to Home screen > Settings (gear icon) > Device preferences > Screen saver.
You can also make your own photos from the Google Photos app appear as screen savers on your Android TV. To do this, head to the My Apps section on your Android TV and look for an app called Backdrop Daydream. Make sure this app is updated.
Now, head to the Google Home app and tap on the name of your TV. You’ll see an interface that lets you control your Android TV’s volume. On the top right corner, tap on the Settings button (gear icon). Tap Ambient Mode. Here’ you should see three options to choose from — Art Gallery, Experimental, and Google Photos. Tap on the Google Photos option to set your photos as screensavers.
That’s everything you need to know about Android TV setup! To know more about Android TVs and related devices, head here to our comprehensive Android TV buyer’s guide.