Help! Alexa Won’t Do What She’s Supposed to Do

How to fix the most common problems Alexa users experience

A young woman is yelling and holding her head in frustration.

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Like all technology, the Alexa voice-activated assistant is prone to problems every now and then. Try the following troubleshooting tips to resolve them.

Cause of Alexa Problems

Difficulties with Alexa can arise from a number of issues. Because she needs internet connectivity to operate correctly, any glitches with Wi-Fi can become problematic.

Since Alexa is also software that runs other software, there may be compatibility issues at times. And, because she’s associated with certain devices (mainly in the Amazon Echo line), device malfunctions or the connection between the two can be troublesome. Add in smart home equipment, and that creates another layer of potential problems.

Even the seemingly simple matter of where in a building an Alexa-based device is placed can become a challenge if done incorrectly. Finally, there’s the matter of the human-machine interaction, which can fail as well.

How to Fix Problems With Alexa

  1. Alexa won’t connect to the internet. If you’re having problems with your Echo device connecting to the internet, check the connectivity status light near the bottom on the back of the unit. White means you’re connected, and orange means no connection.

    Check other devices on the network, such as laptop computers and phones. If they’re okay, try turning off the Echo device, and turning it back on again. If other devices aren’t connecting either, try rebooting your router.

    If you encounter this problem consistently, try repositioning the Echo device closer to the router, or moving it up higher (such as on a bookshelf) to avoid Wi-Fi interference.  

  2. Alexa won’t operate certain skills. If Alexa has trouble running certain skills, such as Spotify or Pandora, it could be because of a bad Wi-Fi connection (see above).

    It could also be that your internet speed is below the 0.5Mbps needed to run these skills.

    Or maybe a particular skill wasn’t installed correctly. Try disabling and enabling the skills you’re having trouble with, and also turning your Echo device off and back on again. 

  3. Alexa won’t connect to smart devices. With all the smart home technology currently on the market, it can be a challenge to make sure one device goes with another. Before you do anything else, check to make sure the device you’re trying to connect is actually compatible with Alexa, and with the specific Alexa-enabled device you’re using.

    Next, follow installation instructions closely, and set up the device on the same Wi-Fi network as your Alexa-enabled device. Finally, ask Alexa to discover the new device, add it to the right group, and, if needed, enable the appropriate skill to use it.

    If all else fails, you might be able to create an “if this then that” (IFTTT) command as a workaround. 

  4. Alexa doesn’t understand me. Are you giving Alexa seemingly simple commands, only to hear back, “Sorry, I don’t know that one”? If you and Alexa are having a communication breakdown, first try just repeating the command, speaking more slowly or moving away from other sources of noise, such as the TV, stereo, or dishwasher.

    You can also try checking what Alexa actually heard. On your Alexa app (installed on your phone or tablet), select menu > Settings > Alexa Account > History to review commands you’ve given Alexa. For example, maybe you said, “Alexa, play music,” but she heard, “Alexa, play mushroom.” If you see this type of error, just enunciate a little better next time.

    Alexa should get better at recognizing you over time, but you can also do voice training through the app. To start, select menu > Settings > Alexa Account > Recognize Voices. Tap the arrow next to Your Voice, then tap Begin

  5. Alexa won’t respond to me. The same strategies that work for “Alexa doesn’t understand me” (see above) may also work for this problem. The issue could also have to do with the microphone. If you’re using an Echo, Echo Plus, or Echo Dot, make sure the microphone button on the top of the device is turned on.

    Alexa not updating could also be a source of this problem. Ask Alexa to “download and install the latest software updates.”

    Additionally, keep in mind that Alexa is programmed to respond to commands from the nearest Alexa-enabled device. So, she may not actually be ignoring you, but responding to you from elsewhere. 

  6. If all else fails. If you’re having multiple problems with Alexa, or the same problem repeatedly, and nothing seems to be helping, you can try restoring factory settings.

    This operation will wipe out all of the settings you’ve established with Alexa. Only do it if you’re convinced nothing else will help.

    To reset an Echo device, use a pin or paperclip to push in the button next to the power adapter. Hold it in until the light ring turns orange and then blue. It’s now like a completely new device. 

  7. It can't hurt to tell Alexa how much you appreciate her. Next time you talk to her, be sure to thank her for all her hard work!