20 Roku Hacks To Make Your Life Easier

Your Roku device can do more than you think

Roku Ultra, Streaming Stick, Smartphone, and TV
Roku Ultra, Streaming Stick, Smartphone, and TV. Images provided by Roku

While Roku devices cannot be jailbroken like other modern smart devices, there are a lot of features, workarounds, and "hacks" available that can extend Roku's content reach and operational flexibility.

Let's check out 20 ways you can enhance your Roku experience.

01
of 20

Watch Free Movies and TV shows

Roku Listing of Top Free Channels
Roku Listing of Top Free Channels. Roku

You can find free movies and TV shows on Roku in the following ways:

  • The Roku Channel features a selection of free movies and TV shows.
  • Roku provides a periodically updated listing of the most popular channels that offer free content. To see this list, press the Home Button on your Roku remote, go to Streaming Channels, then select Top Free. From there you can add any of the channels to your own list.
  • If you know the name of the free channel you want to add, you can go to Streaming Channels and type it into the Search option and see if it is available on Roku.
  • Another way to find free movies and TV shows is to go into the search category on the main page and type in the movie or program title and see if it is offered by a channel available on Roku, and if any viewing fees are required.
02
of 20

Find 4K Content

Roku 4K UHD Content Available
Roku 4K UHD Content Available. Image provided by Roku

If you have a 4K-enabled Roku device, you can find out what there is to watch in 4K by clicking on Streaming Channels and selecting UHD Content Available.

This provides a listing of channels that offer 4K content. However, not all content offered by those channels is in 4K. You will have to check out what they are offering. To make your 4K content search easier, you can also install the 4K Spotlight App from the Roku Channel Store and find available programs and movies offered in 4K across multiple channels.

The UHD Content Available and 4K Spotlight options are only visible on 4K Roku devices, such as the Roku 4, Premiere, Premire+, Ultra, Streaming Stick+, and 4K Ultra HD Roku TVs.

03
of 20

Watch Over-The-Air Live TV

Tablo for Roku Onscreen Menu
Tablo for Roku Onscreen Menu. Image provided by Tablo and Roku

You can't attach an antenna directly to Roku (except for Roku TVs), but you can use a Roku stick or box in combination with an OTA (Over-The-Air) DVR such as Tablo or external tuners such as AirTV and Clearstream TV.

These devices will receive TVs signals via an antenna and then stream them wirelessly to your Roku streaming stick or box, via the installation of their companion Roku Apps.

In addition, if you opt for the Tablo in combination with a USB hard drive, you can also use your Roku to schedule and play back any content that Tablo can record onto its companion hard drive.

04
of 20

Add Secret or Non-Certified Channels

ROKU - Add Channel with Code and Warning
ROKU - Add Channel with Code and Warning. Images by Roku

One of the most popular Roku hacks is adding Non-Certified, Private, or Secret channels. These channels are not displayed on the Roku Streaming Channels list. To add these channels you need to log in to your Roku account on a PC or smartphone enter a special code. Check out the details on how to find Non-Certified channels and codes and add them your Roku viewing list.

05
of 20

Eliminate Buffering or Freezing Video

Roku Secret Bit Rate Override Menu
Roku Secret Bit Rate Override Menu. Roku

Some streaming services automatically adjust the video quality of their feed based on your bandwidth speed, but some do not. This means that sometimes you may encounter buffering, skipping, or freezing on some content because your internet speed isn't fast enough.

Also, you may have a monthly data cap, which means that if you watch too much streaming content in a specific month, you may be charged overage fees.

You can go into a secret menu and change the "bitrate" at which your Roku receives the streaming signal. This may reduce problems such as buffering and freezing, as well as save on any data cap. However, you may have to settle for a lower-quality video stream.

To make this adjustment press Home five times, RW three times, FF twice on your Roku remote. You can then opt to leave the setting on Auto (default) or set it to a specific rate.

06
of 20

Check Your Wi-Fi Signal Strength

Roku Wireless Secret Screen Menu
Roku Wireless Secret Screen Menu. Roku

In addition to broadband speed issues, another reason that you may be having trouble playing streaming content on your Roku might be a weak WiFi signal.

Roku has a secret menu that allows you to check the precise strength of your Wi-Fi signal in relation to your Roku device. To see it, pick up your Roku remote and press Home five times, then Up, Down, Up, Down, Up.

This code will bring up a secret Wi-Fi menu to see things like signal strength.

You can then use this as a guide to see if you need to move your Roku device closer to your router, your router closer to your Roku device, or if you need a to get a better router that offers greater signal strength.

07
of 20

Use the Roku Mobile App

Roku Mobile App - Screen Shots
Roku Mobile App - Screen Shots. Images provided by Roku

Instead of using a Roku remote, you can control Roku using their companion Mobile App, which is available for both iOS and Android.

  • The app provides voice search capability in addition to other Roku functions.
  • For Roku TVs, the mobile app controls both streaming and TV functions, such as input selection, OTA channel scanning, and both picture and audio settings.
  • The mobile app also provides the ability to listen privately to your Roku channels using the smartphone's speaker or earphones.
08
of 20

Mirror Your Smartphone

Roku Screen Mirroring
Roku Screen Mirroring. Image provided by Roku

If you have a compatible Android smartphone (iOS not included), you can use the Screen Mirroring option. This displays everything you can see on your smartphone screen (including streaming services, platforms such as KODI, photos, videos, web pages, and more) on your TV using a Roku device (or Roku TV). On some phones, this option may be referred to as Miracast (not to be confused with Screen Casting - which is discussed in the next section).

Screen Mirroring does not require a network connection, the signal is sent directly from your smartphone to the Roku device or Roku TV. However, you cannot perform any other tasks on your phone while your content is being mirrored. If you tap on another icon, the content will cease playing.

To enable screen mirroring on Roku, activate the Screen Mirroring/Miracast feature on your Android Phone first via your specific phone's settings. Then, on your Roku remote, press the Home Button, click on Settings, System, Screen Mirroring, and then choose from one of several Screen Mirroring Modes.

  • Prompt: Your Roku device will display an on-screen prompt confirming a screen mirroring request.
  • Always Allow: Screen Mirroring is enabled any time it is detected. There is no on-screen prompt.
  • Never Allow: All screen mirroring is blocked without an on-screen prompt appearing. This option disables Screen Mirroring features when selected.
  • Screen Mirroring Devices: You can choose "Allowed Devices" or "Blocked Devices". If the "Always Allow" or "Never Allow" options have already been chosen you will not be able to use this selection.
09
of 20

Use Screen Casting

Roku Screen Casting
Roku Screen Casting. Image provided by Roku

Another way to view content from your smartphone on your TV using Roku is via the Cast feature. This works for select apps, as well as photos and self-made videos. With casting, as the selected content is playing on your TV, you can still perform other tasks on your phone at the same time. Also, Casting is supported on both Android and iOS devices.

To Cast, both your mobile device and your Roku do need to be connected to the same WiFi network.

Unlike Screen Mirroring, not all apps support Casting. If a smartphone app is compatible with Casting (YouTube and Netflix are two examples), the Cast Logo (see the photo above) will appear near the top of your smartphone screen. Click on the logo and casting will be initiated.

Your smartphone may require pre-setup, or the installation of an additional app before the Casting feature can be used.

10
of 20

Play Content Stored on a PC or other Storage Devices

Roku Media Player Menu Example
Roku Media Player Menu Example. Image provided by Roku

In addition to streaming channels, the Roku Media Player app allows you to access and play music, photos, and videos that from PCs and media servers connected to the same home network. The app is also compatible with media servers software platforms such as PlayOn, Plex, Serviio, Tversity, Twonky, and Windows Meda Player.

In addition, if your Roku device or Roku TV has a USB port you can play back content from USB flash drives.

For more details on setup and use (including compatible digital media file formats), refer to the Roku Media Player Support Page

11
of 20

Play Games

Jeopardy for Roku
Jeopardy for Roku. Image provided by Roku

In addition to watching movies and TV shows, you can also play games using your Roku. We are not talking the sophistication of an Xbox or PS4, but there are some fun games that you can play. It is best to use the Roku Enhanced Voice Remote or Gaming Remote (depending on which Roku model you have) which is offered as an optional accessory purchase.

12
of 20

Take Command of Your Roku with Alexa or Google Home

Quick Remote For Roku - Alexa and Google Home
Quick Remote For Roku - Alexa and Google Home. Images provided by Appestry

Roku has its own voice control system, which requires the use of a handheld voice-enabled remote control. However, you can also control some Roku functions hands-free by voice with Alexa or Google Home.

To do this you have to use a third-party app from Appestry called Quick Remote. For Alexa, the app is available for Android and iOS, but for Google Home, the app is only available for Android.

For details on what to do after you download the Quick Remote App, just follow the instructions for Alexa and Google Home (also includes examples of voice commands that you can use).

The Quick Remote app limits you to 50 free commands per month, which runs out fast. For access to more than 50 commands a month, the subscription fee is $.99 per month or $9.99 per year.

13
of 20

Turn On Instant Replay with Closed Captions

Roku Captions Settings Menu
Roku Captions Settings Menu. Roku

Just as your TV offers closed captioning for the hearing impaired, Roku offers this as well, but with an added twist. In addition to traditional closed captioning for entire programs or movies, you can set it up to only work for "instant replay".

If you missed or didn't quite understand the last few seconds of a show or movie you are watching due to an interruption or background noise, or the lines were not spoken clearly, you can use the Roku replay button to go back and repeat it with the addition of not only hearing the voice but displaying the text of what was said (if available).

To set this up on your Roku, go to the onscreen menu, click on Settings, then Captions (on some models you may be prompted to click on Accessibility, then Captions), followed by Instant Replay.

14
of 20

Select Screen Savers

Roku Aquatic Life 4K Screensver
Roku Aquatic Life 4K Screensver. Image provided by Roku

If you have your Roku selected, but are finished watching content for awhile and leave your TV on, Roku will default to its own screensaver after a period of time. However, you also have the option of changing or selecting your own screensaver, including a fireplace (great for winter), a selection of Art, or NASA and fantasy space images.

15
of 20

Listen Through Headphones on Select Roku Devices

Roku Ultra with Headphone Remote
Roku Ultra with Headphone Remote. Image provided by Roku

Select Roku models provide a remote control that comes with a headphone jack and a pair of earphones.

When activated, your Roku device sends audio wirelessly to the remote so you can listen with the earphones. This is great for late-night private listening and for listening to music. You can even move about the room (just put the remote in your pocket).

If you want your Roku device to send sound to both your earphones and your TV audio system at the same time, you can access a special menu by pressing the following buttons located on the right side of the remote: Volume Up (twice), Volume Down (twice), Volume Up (three times), Volume Down (three times) and activate Audience Audio.

16
of 20

Use Roku with a Home Theater Receiver for Better Sound

Pioneer Elite VSX-LX303 AV Receiver - HDMI and Speaker Connections
Get Better Audio For Roku vis HDMI and Speakers on a Home Theater Receiver. Image provided by Pioneer Electronics

If you have a home theater receiver in your setup, you can connect a Roku streaming stick or box to the receiver (via HDMI) instead of your TV. The receiver will pass the video streams through to the TV (or video projector) and also provide:

  • Access to more surround sound formats, such as Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby Atmos offered on select content from services, such as Netflix, Vudu, and Amazon.
  • Better sound for music streaming. Roku offers a lot of music-only streaming channels, such as Pandora, iHeart Radio, Sirius/XM, Amazon Music, and more.
17
of 20

Personalize Your Roku Screen

Roku Theme Examples
Roku Theme Examples. Images provided by Roku

Changing the theme is one of the ways you can personalize your Roku experience. From the color and styles of the menus to the image that appears in the background, a theme defines the overall look of the Roku interface.

To select or change a theme, press Home on your Roku Remote, go to Settings, go to Themes, select My Themes. Here you will be able to select from some pre-installed theme options, but if you select Get More Themes, you can select from additional options that you can add to your selection list. Some Themes may require a modest payment to use.

18
of 20

Cutomize Your Channel Order

Customizing Roku Home Menu Channel Order
Customizing Roku Home Menu Channel Order. Roku

Every time you add a channel to your home screen, it is automatically placed at the bottom of your listings. If you add a lot of channels, you may end up having to scroll through your entire list to find one, or more, of your favorites.

However, you can organize your list to better reflect your channel viewing preferences, by moving your favorite channels to the top of your list.

To do this:

  1. Press the Home button on your Roku Remote.
  2. Press the right button on the directional pad to access the channel list. The directional pad is plus-shaped and is in the center of your Roku remote.
  3. Using the directional pad, highlight the channel you wish to move.
  4. Press the Star button to open the Options menu.
  5. Select Move channel.
  6. Move the channel to its new location using the directional pad and press the OK button on your remote.
19
of 20

Web Browse with Roku

Web Browser X Search Page Example
Web Browser X Search Page Example. Web Browser X via Roku

Roku doesn't have a built-in web browser, but there are a couple of workarounds.

One workaround is to screen mirror your smartphone and use any web browsers you have installed there, or you can install the Web Browser X app from the Roku Channel Store which does provide access to Google Web Browsing.

However, since Roku doesn't provide the ability to connect a wired or wireless keyboard, using the buttons and scrolling capabilities available on the Roku remote is kind of cumbersome. However, there is a virtual keyboard available via the Roku mobile app.

The Web Browser X app requires a subscription payment of $4.99 per month.

It must be also pointed out that while Roku does provide a Firefox app, that is only for streaming videos, Firefox for Roku does not support actual browsing.

20
of 20

Travel with Roku

Roku Dorm and Hotel Connect Setup Screens
Roku Dorm and Hotel Connect Setup Screens. Images provided by Roku

Going off to college or just taking a vacation? Roku has a feature called Hotel and Dorm Connect.

To prepare, make sure your Roku has the latest firmware update and you have packed all needed accessories: HDMI cable if you are using the box version (streaming sticks have a built-in HDMI connection), power adapter and remote – and also don't forget your smartphone.

In addition, find out if the Hotel or Dorm you will be staying in provides WiFi and that the TV you will be using has an accessible HDMI input that you can select from the TV's controls or remote.

Plug in your Roku stick or box, press the Home on the Roku remote, go to Settings, Network, then Set Up Connection, and then select Wireless.

Once you establish the Network connection, then select I am at a Hotel or College Dorm, after which several additional prompts will appear on the TV screen for authentication, such as entering a WiFi password to use the specific network and the Roku server (which may require a smartphone, tablet, or laptop).

The Roku 1 is not compatible with Hotel and Dorm Connect. Roku TV compatibility varies by brand and model.