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Roku remote not working? Here's how you can (probably) fix it

(Image credit: Roku)

The days of convoluted remote controls are over, thanks to Roku and similar streaming brands. These convenient clickers used to have dozens of buttons, perhaps 10 of which ever came in handy, and the devices could grow to almost a foot in length. With a small profile and just a handful of buttons, by contrast, Roku remote controls are simple, straightforward gadgets — until they inevitably break somehow.

If your Roku remote has stopped syncing and a simple battery swap hasn't solved the problem, there are a few other methods you can try before you hurl the peripheral into the nearest recycling bin. In fact, even if your remote is unsalvageable, you can always get another one — or replace it entirely with a gadget you already own. Read on to find out how to do all of those fixes.

How to pair a Roku remote

(Image credit: Roku)

Let's assume that you've already tried replacing the batteries. (Almost every troubleshooting guide has these exhaustive details on how to replace batteries, but let's be honest: If you're here, you've almost certainly tried that already.)

Instead, let's take a look at the second most common cause of Roku remote woes: pairing. When you first set up a Roku player, it should automatically pair with your remote control. In fact, newer models will even pair your remote control directly with your TV, so you can control volume and power settings, too.

The trouble is that a variety of factors can disrupt this pairing, from shaky Wi-Fi to a factory reset. And if your remote control won't interact with your Roku, then your streaming gadget is basically inoperable. Luckily, every Roku device has an easy way to reestablish the connection. Here's how you do it:

Remove the back cover from your Roku remote. Underneath the batteries, you should see a small circular button. Bring the remote as close as you can to your Roku device, then hold down that button for 3 seconds. A pairing dialogue should pop up on screen within a few more seconds.

That's really all there is to it. If the pairing screen doesn't pop up, you can try:

  • Removing and reinserting the batteries first.
  • Rebooting the Roku device (most players have physical buttons for this purpose) and holding down the pairing button while the device starts up.
  • Pairing the remote on a different wireless network. (Wi-Fi strength is a big reason why remote pairing sometimes fails, but your connection will persist, even after you bring the Roku back to the original network.)

If absolutely none of this works, you do have another option. Time to whip out your smartphone.

Roku mobile app

(Image credit: Roku)

Roku's mobile app is extremely robust. You can search for media, discover new channels and cast your own content on screen. More importantly for the purposes of this article, you can use your phone as a remote control with this app. Simply install the Roku app for iOS or Android, connect your phone to the same wireless network as your Roku player, then tap on the Remote tab. A screen with a D-pad and a handful of media controls will pop up, and voilà: You've got a bona fide Roku remote.

While you could just use your smartphone as a Roku remote forever, this probably isn't the best idea. It's a drain on the phone's battery, and you probably need your smartphone for other things. So if you think your Roku remote is gone for good, you'll have to get a new one.

Types of Roku remotes

(Image credit: Roku)

At the time of writing, Roku sells four different remotes: the Roku voice remote ($20), the Roku Enhanced voice remote ($30), the Roku gaming remote ($30) and the Roku Standard IR remote ($15).

To determine which remote works with your player, it's best to visit the Roku website, as it stays updated with the most current information. Basically, though:

  • The Roku voice remote works with the Roku Streaming Stick Plus and the Roku Premiere.
  • The Roku Enhanced voice remote works with the Roku Ultra.
  • The Roku gaming remote works with older Roku 2 and Roku 3 models.
  • The Roku Standard IR remote works with Roku Express and most older Roku models.

The exact feature set varies depending on the remote. Some offer headphone jacks for private listening; some offer programmable channel buttons; some offer power and volume controls for your TV. Whatever the case, I'd recommend ordering these directly from the Roku website, because Roku makes the compatibility of each device very clear. Third-party retailers aren't always as good at this.