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Got a new Roku? Here are five tips to get the most out of your gift

New Roku owners: Get the best picture quality possible, watch YouTube videos, stream photos straight from your mobile phone and access lots of unofficial content sources (naughty and nice) with our five essential Roku tips:

Optimize your home network

Got a Roku 2 XS? Then make use of that Ethernet port, and plug it in.
Got a Roku 2 XS? Then make use of that Ethernet port, and connect the device directly to your router

Here’s one way to mess with anyone’s holiday spirit: Imagine you’re streaming a movie with your new Roku – and suddenly, it starts to buffer. Again and again. Even though your Internet connection should be fast enough. In many cases, issues like these are caused by problems in your home network. Maybe your baby monitor is interfering with your wireless router. Or maybe that wall between your living room and your home office is just a bit too solid for a good Wifi signal.

The easiest remedy is to use a wired Ethernet connection instead, if at all possible. An Ethernet cable connecting your router directly to your Roku will always get you the best signal possible. Unfortunately, that’s only possible with the Roku2 XS. The XD, HD and LT models as well as the new Roku streaming stick don’t have any Ethernet port, and have to rely on Wifi instead. You could always try to move your router closer to your living room TV, or upgrade to a newer router if nothing else helps.

Watch YouTube

Roku has plenty of channels to keep you busy over the holidays and beyond, but there’s one big one missing: you won’t find any YouTube (s GOOG) channel in the Roku channel store. But no worries: You can still watch all your favorite YouTube clips with your Roku, as long as you also have an iPad, Android (S GOOG) tablet, iPhone or Android mobile phone. Just install Twonky Beam on your mobile device, use it to navigate YouTube’s catalog, and beam the clips of your choice to the Roku, AirPlay-style. Take a look at our demo video below:

Get Plex

Plex is great to access personal media stored on your home PC - including your music collection.
Plex is great to access personal media stored on your home PC – including your music collection.

Want to watch home movies and downloaded content on your Roku? Then get the Plex channel, and install the Plex Media Server on your Windows PC or OS X computer. Not only does Plex do a great job at organizing and displaying all your local media, it also offers access to a number of additional content channels. And with MyPlex, you can even share media with other Plex users and access their shared content libraries on your Roku.

Get the official mobile app

The Roku app for Android and iOS doesn't just have handy shortcuts for your Roku channels, it also lets you beam content from your mobile phone.
The Roku app for Android and iOS doesn’t just have handy shortcuts for your Roku channels, it also lets you beam content from your mobile phone.

It’s bound to happen: sooner or later, you’re gonna lose the Roku remote between your couch cushions. That’s when the official Roku remote app for iOS and Android comes in handy. The app not only lets you navigate through Roku’s menus, you can also quickly fire up your channels through dedicated shortcuts. And you’ll even be able to beam any music and videos saved on your mobile phone straight to the Roku.

Install third-party channels

Roku has more than 600 channels available through its channel store, which should keep you busy for some time. But there’s more: A few hundred private channels, including adult content and offerings that aren’t quite ready yet for prime time, can be accessed through special channel codes. Check this description to learn how to add private channels, and then browse the catalog on Roku-channels.com to find more channels for your new Roku box.

Want to use your Roku to get rid of cable? Then check out my ebook Cut the Cord: All You Need to Know to Drop Cable.

57 Responses to “Got a new Roku? Here are five tips to get the most out of your gift”

    • Narnia,

      private doesn’t equate illegal. Many services run private beta tests of their channels on Roku before applying to be added to the channel store. Also, Roku doesn’t allow some kinds of content in its store (e.g. adult movies), but that doesn’t mean that those channels are illegal. And Roku has taken down private channels in the past if they violated copyrights or terms of use…

  1. jojoandmike

    Just got a roku tonight and got it installed with no problem, seems okay so far but only have a handful of channels. My question is what do I do and where do I go to get some really good free channels? We haven’t had cable or any tv in forever due to limited funds (ems college student) so anything really would be nice! Thanks! And if this is really better than cable may get a box for our bedroom as well and tell our neighbors about it.

  2. Estrella215, check your tv’s menu to see if it has a digital setting. If it does, try tuning them in. Usually you can pick up all your local channels and many more that way. We get almsot 30 channels like that with a better picture than my satellite service provides. if you dont recieve many channels digitally,you may only need a digital antenna which can be picked up for under $20 at any discount store. Between that and your Roku, you should be set!

  3. David Haley

    I am thinking about getting one of these but I am not sure what they are actually. Do they allow me to get live tv or only prerecorded things like movies or old documentaries?

  4. bigbadjohn321

    castastrophegirl….yeah i just found out about the deal yesterday. i’m going to grab it while they still have it going. i was just talking about their normal price.

  5. bigbadjohn

    waldo… playon is a program you install on your computer. i pay 39$ a year but you can purchase a lifetime subscription. down side is if you want to watch anything on playon you need to keep your computer on and dont have a screen saver .i leave mine on 24/7. i just turn the monitor off to cut power usage somewhat. nick… your not streaming them from your computer . you are streaming them from the internet. but you can stream them from your computer, with playon . i have about ten movies i stream from my computer from playon

  6. bigbadjohn

    cimoses…..and anyone else interested . if you have playon go to playonscripts. there is a channel there that has the walking dead the next day after it airs. i will let you find the channel on your own because i’m affraid if i tell it here some goon from the network might pull it. but believe me its there. after finding that i had no need for direct tv any more.

    • catastrophegirl

      i use playon to stream movies off my pc’s hard drive to any of 4 rokus in the house or my ps3. i haven’t yet figured out if i can get it to stream from the network attached storage though.
      plex is available for mac users to stream from the internet and home computers to the roku also. there’s a pc version now too but it’s been very buggy for me so i stick with playon. playon also streams internet content and music and photos from your home pc as well. the computer must be running while the content is streaming.

  7. bigbadjohn

    jeff martens …..if you mean plug it in, then plug the hdmi into your tv, then follow the onscreen setup yes there is an install. took me all of five minutes. but i was replacing an older roku with a newer one, so all my info transfered over. if your starting from scratch you need a computer or laptop handy because some channels will require you to go to their web sight and enter a code. still doing that only took about 10 minutes longer.

    • catastrophegirl

      what do you mean by install? it does need to be attached to the tv and plugged in. then it takes a few minutes to start up [maybe 3-5] and requests that you link it to an online account that you make for free at roku.com. you do need to enter payment information on the account, like a credit card or paypal and it does a hold for about 3 business days of $1 to make sure it’s an active payment method. if you aren’t willing to supply a payment method you need to have your account created by roku customer service over the phone.

      but you can always supply a payment method and then remove it. or apply a PIN to your account so the kids/roommates/goldfish don’t buy a bunch of the paid channels when you aren’t looking.
      you enter a code from the roku into the online account so it syncs up and then you just pick what channels you want from the channel store on the roku home screen [you can change/add/delete at any time in the future] and start watching.
      paid subscription services like hulu plus and netflix require linking your roku to your account which can be done in a few minutes. once you have logged into your netflix/hulu plus/amazon on your roku you will likely not have to ever do it again, aside from the rare instance of needing to reset a box to factory settings.

      anyway, it took longer to type this explanation than it does to set up the average roku. i got my roommate one for her birthday last year and she texted me to say it had arrived. ten minutes later i asked if she needed help setting it up and she told me she was already watching a movie on netflix.

  8. bigbadjohn321

    catastrophegirl your list is good. i check it alot. but i think the list for playon is much better. i know you are talking only for roku but there is much more out there. if you should happen to try playon go to playonscripts.com . i think you’ll be surprised at what you can get.

    • catastrophegirl

      oh i have playon for myself. you are correct- there’s a ton of great stuff on it.
      i just cannot keep up with the ever changing scripts and plugins for playon. i have a day job too. so i just stick to the roku channels. that’s why i recommended streamfree.tv, he keeps up with the playon subchannels/scripts too

  9. catastrophegirl

    the link you provide for private channels is out of date and not moderated well. anyone can go put an entry on there so it’s mostly become a list of channels people wish existed and prank entries. it’s so out of date that it’s still got the old unofficial youtube channel listed.
    i won’t directly link to the list of channels i maintain because that wouldn’t be fair. but i will tell you the best private roku channel list i know of (aside from my own) is streamfree.tv – it’s up to date, well maintained and easy to understand

  10. bigbadjohn

    i forgot to mention i’m not talking last season’s shows i mean the entire series. netflix leaves you one or two seasons behind. as for seinfeld i have the entire series. believe me there are more shows and movies than you can imagine. including youtube.

  11. bigbadjohn

    theres alot more than what they are telling. i have playon for the roku and the amount of movies and tv shows is more than i could watch in two lifetimes. including movies that are still playing at the theater. of course they are not hi def but hey…playon is cheap. all you have to do is find the right web sight for the private channels. i get my favorite show ” the walking dead ” the day after it airs, and its dvd quality. ahhhh i even have seinfeld 24/7. try to find those shows on netflix.

  12. Gracie Lake

    Very helpful! I got a Roku a while back, but I haven’t spent the time to REALLY get to know it. There’s some great offbeat foreign stuff available on Crackle and Hulu. Cool.