7 tips and tricks to master your Roku
From PIN protection to instant replay when you miss a line of dialogue.
You know what you’re getting with a Roku streaming device: quick and easy access to as much audio and video content as you can take, from all of the big names in the streaming business. You owe it to yourself to make sure you know everything your Roku stick or box can do—otherwise you might miss out on some of its best features.
1. Set up PIN protection
Open up your Roku account page on the web and you can add PIN protection to various aspects of the Roku experience—handy if you have young children in the house or just careless housemates.
Once you’ve set up a PIN, you’ll always need it make Roku-related purchases and to add new channels. On top of those two restrictions, you can add more parental controls inside the individual apps on your device to keep unsuitable content away from the kids.
You can find those settings for the Roku Channel app through your account page online. Click Update under PIN preference, and you can choose to enforce the Little kids, Young kids, or Teens restrictions (there’s a description next to each one to help you decide).
2. Customize your Roku
There’s no need to settle for the default Roku look. Head to Settings, then Themes, and you can change how the interface looks. You may choose a different wallpaper (the main Roku backdrop) and a new screensaver (which appears when your Roku device has been inactive for a certain period of time).
Beyond Roku’s own cosmetic options, you’ll also find submissions from the Roku community. If you want to go back to the way that your Roku software looked when you originally installed it, pick Restore default theme.
Another way to customize your Roku is to change the order that channels appear on the Home screen. Select any of the channel buttons, hit the star button on the remote, and pick Move channel. Then use the navigation pad on the remote to put the channel wherever you want it.
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3. Enable guest mode
If you’ve got guests using your Roku, you don’t necessarily want them trampling all over your watching history and recommendations. There is a solution: the built-in guest mode. Activate this and visitors will be able to temporarily sign into their own accounts for the channels you’ve installed.
From the front screen, choose Settings, System, Guest Mode, and Enter Guest Mode. This basically resets your Roku and forces users to sign into each channel again, so it’s best-suited for when friends or family are visiting for a few days or more, or you’re renting out your place.
When you’re back, you can return to your own channels with a couple of taps, and guests can also sign themselves out for their own peace of mind. If you’ve activated your My Roku PIN, it will protect this feature.
4. Get your computer screen up on your Roku
You can display what’s on your Windows or Mac computer screen to your Roku device—the wireless connection isn’t quite fast enough to stream video, but it’s useful for showing presentations and photo slideshows, for example.
Roku devices have built-in support for the Miracast mirroring technology that’s also available on Windows. As long as your computer is on the same Wi-Fi network, you can click the Action Center button (on the far right of the taskbar), then Connect to choose your Roku and mirror the screen.
For macOS, you’ll need to set up AirPlay on the Roku first: Choose Settings, System, and Apple AirPlay and HomeKit to do this. You’ll then see your Roku device appear when you click the AirPlay button on the macOS menu bar.
5. Get an instant replay
Roku devices include an instant replay feature that will rewind the last 10 seconds of whatever you’re watching and even turn on captions too—perfect for those occasions when you didn’t quite catch what was said. The Instant Replay button on the Roku remote looks like an arrow with a circular line.
If you open Settings, then choose Captions, you can use the Captions mode option to decide whether or not you see subtitles. If not, you’ll just see the last 10 seconds of video repeated as normal.
Every app we’ve tried on Roku devices supports the 10-second rewind, though not every channel supports captions at the same time. Google Movies & TV and Apple TV Plus are two of the channels that do.
6. Install the mobile app
Roku makes a mobile app for Android and iOS that is a helpful companion to your Roku streaming device. You can use it to browse for content on the streaming channels you’ve set up, but it also works really well as a touchscreen remote.
Besides all the usual play, pause, forward, rewind, and other navigational controls, the app lets you use your phone’s keyboard to enter text such as search queries and passwords—much easier than using the on-screen keyboard. You can use one phone to operate multiple Roku devices, too.
You can also turn on a feature called “private listening” in the app’s settings, which routes audio from the Roku through your phone. Connect a pair of headphones and you can listen privately and quietly to whatever you’re watching—when the rest of the household are trying to sleep, perhaps.
7. Search smarter with My Feed
Don’t neglect the My Feed tab of the Roku interface—it can alert you to shows and movies you’ve expressed interest in and help you find them faster, even if the content you seek is spread out across multiple channels.
To start using your feed, first go to Search. There, look for movies or TV shows that you’re interested in, select them, and choose Follow on Roku. They’ll appear on your My Feed screen, so you’ll be able to see which channels they’re available on and when new episodes are released.
You can even follow actors and directors through My Feed and get alerts whenever something new appears from them. Updates will also show when something is available for the first time or for a cheaper price.