Learning how to use the Fire TV Stick isn't exactly easy, as its menus are a bit laborious and features can seem a bit hidden. But you're going to want to smarten up about how to use your brand new Fire stick to stream live TV or binge-rewatch The Boys again (when is season 3 getting here?). Amazon's affordable family of streaming devices (which are still heavily discounted at the moment) pack most of their neatest features deep in its menus.
Plus, the Fire TV Stick has tons of Alexa integrations built in, and depending on the remote you have, some are accessible with the touch of a button. So, we've got everything you need to setup your new Fire TV device (getting it ready can be a chore), so you can master it today. The Fire TV OS interface also just got a fresh coat of paint, and we've updated this guide for the new look.
The one thing we don't love about the Fire TV is how much of the home screen is not under your control. One of our below tips shows you how to rearrange the row of apps on the home screen.
And once you master the Fire TV Stick (and the Fire TV Stick 4K Max is one of the best streaming devices) you'll use it for everything from streaming shows and movies to controlling your smart home. You can even get the weather without turning on a channel.
This story applies to both the Fire TV Stick, Fire TV Stick Lite and the Fire TV Stick 4K compatriot. These streaming devices are largely similar, with streaming quality and remote control buttons being the major differentiating features.
The Fire TV Stick 4K Max (our Amazon-made pick on the best streaming devices list) and the Fire TV Cube operate in a similar way because they has the same OS. The Cube, though, is physically different, while the 4K Max is a mirror image for the normal 4K Fire Stick.
There's also the plethora of Fire TV sets, including the new Amazon Fire TV Omni, which have the same operating system, but lack the stick or cube you need to connect. So, here's our guide for how to use the Fire TV Stick, which is one of the company's most popular and affordable streaming devices.
How to update the Fire TV Stick
In late 2020 and early 2021, Amazon began rolling out a new interface for the Fire TV Sticks and Cube. If your device hasn't updated yet, it's easy to get it there in 5 easy steps, listed below. The new interface is a bit slicker, but is still full of ways to maximize your Prime membership, if you have one.
- Open Settings at the top of the home screen.
- Scroll right to select Device.
- Select About.
- Select Check for System Update.
- Follow the prompts to update your Fire TV Stick.
How to clear the Fire TV Stick's cache to make it run faster
If you have a Fire TV Stick app that is just not working right? You can try clearing out its digital cobwebs by erasing the cache and (then) data.
Cache clearing is the safer of the two steps, as erasing data will require you to re-log in.
- Click the Settings gear on the home screen.
- Select Applications.
- Select Manage Installed Applications.
- Select the application that's moving too slow.
- Select Clear Cache and/or Clear Data.
How to set up the Fire TV Stick
Yes, that USB Micro cord and power adapter that came with the Fire TV Stick might not be necessary for getting the Fire Stick up and running, but you'll want it to ensure faster performance.
Here's everything you need to get the Fire TV Stick up and running and streaming all of your favorite content.
1. Plug the USB Micro cable into the power adapter.
2. Plug the other end into into the Fire TV Stick.
3. Plug the Fire TV Stick into an HDMI port in your TV.
4. Press Home on your remote.
If you have trouble with this step, try using the remote control closer to the Fire TV Stick, holding Home for 10 seconds and changing out to fresh batteries.
If those steps don't work (they didn't for us), just unplug the power supply from the Fire TV Stick, wait a minute and plug that back in.
5. Press Play/Pause on your remote.
6. Select Your Language.
7. Select your Wi-Fi network.
8. Enter your password and select Connect.
9. Select Sign In or Create an Account. Let's assume that you have an Amazon account, and the below steps follow selecting Sign In.
10. On a phone, tablet or computer, open amazon.com/code, sign in and enter the unique activation code you get in step 2.
11. Select Continue, because selecting Change account would imply you just signed in with the wrong ID.
12. Select Yes or No to opt in or out of storing connected network passwords with Amazon. I personally opt for No.
13. Opt in or out of parental controls.
14. If you selected yes, enter your parental control PIN number, and make a note of it somewhere your kid won't find.
15. Select OK after noting where Parental Controls are managed.
16. If your Fire TV Stick's remote is TV controls compatible, you'll now hit Next to make sure it works right
17. Adjust volume and then click Yes to confirm.
18. Click OK.
19. Sign up for Amazon Kids+ (it may show you a message for Prime if you don't have Prime) or opt-out. Wondering why you'd want Prime? Check out our guide to the best Prime Video movies and shows to learn more.
20. Select Get Started to walk through Amazon's app downloads on-boarding, or click No Thanks to skip past. It's always very weird to see what apps get suggested and which don't.
21. Select the popular services you want, and click right to TV channels. The selected apps below are the ones I'd actually use.
22. Select the TV channel apps you want, and click right to sports apps.
23. Select the sports apps you want, and click right to the featured apps. If you can't watch the apps you want in your country, you may want to check out our Do you need a VPN on Fire Stick? explainer.
24. Select the featured services you want, and click Play to proceed.
25. Click Finish to download apps.
26. Click Got It to proceed.
27. Enter Parental Controls PIN (obviously, skip this step if you didn't set up a Parental Controls PIN).
28. Select a user profile (check out our guide for how to add Fire TV profiles if you need this feature).
You've set up your Fire TV Stick!
And if you're curious about how the other big streaming device platform is, check out our Roku vs. Amazon Fire TV Stick face-off.
How to set up the Fire TV Stick's apps on home screen
Here's an annoying part of the Fire TV: it's home screen is primarily out of your control. You get a little sliver, and it defaults to a bunch of Amazon apps of varying value (sure, IMDb TV, right).
Fortunately, we've got a guide to how to customize the Fire TV's home screen app row. This way, you can immediately rearrange the applications that appear in those six blocks at the top of your home screen. In short, click that grey button with the square and the + symbol, and then tinker on the next screen.
How to set up the Fire TV Stick's text banner feature
Those with vision impairments will be happy to hear that Amazon's rolling out a new feature called Text Banner. Once enabled, the Fire TV interface will make it much easier to tell what section of your screen is highlighted or selected.
To enable it, open Settings and Accessibility and select Text Banner. It may not be on your device yet, so look out for upcoming system updates.
How to use the Fire TV Stick with Alexa
The Fire TV Stick comes with an Alexa Remote that allows you to perform voice-commands. Not only does it let you pause, rewind and fast-forward content with just your voice, but it also provides bonus features, including the Jeopardy game and help with Weather forecasts.
Below is a master list of the Alexa commands that work with the Fire TV Stick, which we'll be updating as more skills become available.
"Alexa, watch The Handmaid's Tale."
"Alexa, open Netflix."
"Alexa, open PlayStation Vue."
“Alexa, forward 5 minutes”
“Alexa, skip 30 seconds”
“Alexa, play next”
"Alexa, next episode"
"Alexa, show me nearby restaurants"
“Alexa, show me [show or movie title]”
“Alexa, show me [insert genre]”
“Alexa, show me Bruce Willis movies”
“Alexa, search for Westworld”
"Alexa, add this to my watchlist"
"Alexa, show my watchlist"
"Alexa, search for the NPR app"
"Alexa, watch HGTV [or any show] on PlayStation Vue [or Hulu]"
"Alexa, watch [insert Prime Video Channel name]"
"Alexa, play my flash briefing" [if enabled in Alexa app] or "Alexa, what's the news?"
"Alexa, what's the weather?"
"Alexa, what's the forecast?"
"Alexa, what's the weather in [insert city]?"
"Alexa, what's the weather like on [insert day]?"
"Alexa, play Jeopardy" [enable in the Alexa app]
"Alexa, play Beyoncé"
"Alexa, play All Star by Smash Mouth"
"Alexa, play [insert genre] music"
How to Install Apps on Fire TV Stick
Installing apps on the Fire TV Stick is pretty easy, thanks to Alexa. Sure, you could spend your time clicking around the interface, selecting the magnifying glass and typing in an app's name, but you don't have to.
Instead of clicking around the on-screen keyboard (found by selecting the magnifying glass at the far left end of the menu), you can just talk to Alexa, by holding down the Alexa/microphone button, and saying the name of an app.
Alternatively, you can do this the old fashioned way:
1. Select Find on the Fire TV home screen.
2. Select search (yes, skip the AppStore button, it's cluttered and doesn't have a search option.
3. Here you could use Alexa, by pressing and holding the mic button and talking for voice search, or you could type out an app's name and select the connected results.
4. Select that app from the results screen.
5. Select Get.
6. Select Open.
You've downloaded and opened an app!