Here is a list of 20 things you should do, or at least consider doing, when you first set up a new Amazon Fire TV device. This list covers a wide range of things from configurations to improve picture quality, settings that reduce internal storage usage, options that protect your privacy, methods to make setup quicker, and much more.
1. Check for Fire OS and Remote Software Updates
When setting up a new Fire TV device, something you should go at the very beginning and at the very end is check for software updates for both the operating system and for the remote control. I say to also do it at the end because, at times, an update might not be available to install right when you first turn your device on, but after you’ve spent some time setting it up, an update might have had a chance to download in the background. To check if there’s an operating system update waiting, go to Settings > My Fire TV >About > Check for System Updates. To check if there’s a remote update waiting, go to Settings > Controllers & Bluetooth Devices > Amazon Fire TV Remotes.
2. Install and Use the Fire TV Remote App
Amazon has an official Fire TV Remote app available in the Google Play Store, Apple App Store, and Amazon Appstore. Even if you have no intention on using your phone or tablet in lieu of your Fire TV’s physical remote control, it’s a good idea to install and use the remote app while you’re initially setting up a new Fire TV. That’s because the remote app has a keyboard that will save you a lot of time logging into all of your apps and performing searches. It’s much faster to use the keyboard in the app than the onscreen keyboard on your Fire TV.
Once you have all of your Fire TV apps configured and installed, you should then use the Fire TV remote app to rearrange your app icons. Like with the keyboard, using your phone to rearrange your apps is much quicker than using the Fire TV interface. On the Fire TV, you have to highlight each app icon, press the home button, select move, and then move it to the right location using the up/down/left/right buttons. On the remote app, you just open your app list by tapping the app icon in the upper right, then press and hold on any app to move it around. The app arrangement you set up in the remote app will then automatically be copied to your Fire TV’s app screen.
3. Install Apps More Efficiently
Once your Fire TV is powered up and registered, you’re probably going to want to immediately start searching for and installing apps. Before doing so, know that there are several ways to speed up the process. For starters, you can remotely install apps directly from Amazon.com. If you have a lot of apps to install, it’s probably quicker to use a computer to search for them and have them remotely sent to your Fire TV. Just select your Fire TV device from the “Deliver to” menu on the product page of an app.
Another way to quickly install several apps is to use Amazon’s app suggestions. When you first set up a new Fire TV device, there will be 2 notifications waiting that you can view from the Settings > Notifications screen. These two notifications are offering to help you quickly install popular apps. You’ll be shown a list of apps that you can select from and all the apps you select will be installed at once for you.
4. Install Silk Browser for YouTube and Casting
If you care about YouTube, one of the first apps you’ll want to install is the Silk Browser. This is the best way to access YouTube, but it also makes it possible to cast YouTube from your phone to your Fire TV. With Silk installed on your Fire TV, you’ll see your Fire TV listed as a casting destination within the official YouTube app on Android or iOS devices. Of course, you can also access YouTube directly, by either loading it through the Silk Browser by pressing the menu button on your remote and selecting YouTube from the bookmarks or by using the YouTube bookmark app. On a related note, in order to cast from the Netflix app on a mobile device to a Fire TV, you need to have the Netflix app installed on your Fire TV.
5. Configure Live TV
One of the newest Fire TV features that is probably going to start gaining a lot of support is the Live TV interface and channel guide. This is where apps and services are able to list their channels and live content in a traditional program guide interface for quick channel flipping. As of the writing of this article, the only services that have this integration are: Pluto TV, PlayStation Vue, Fire TV Recast channels, and Prime Video Channels with live content.
Of those options, only Pluto TV is free, so if you don’t have access to the other options, give Pluto TV a try to get a look at the live TV interface that future apps are liekly to adopt. You can configure live channels on the Settings > Live TV menu. From there, you can select to hide channels you’re not interested in or mark channels as favorites so that they appear at the top of the channel guide. Once you have at least one source for live channels configured, you’ll see a new “On Now” row appear on the Fire TV home screen and you can view your channel guide by saying “open guide” into the voice remote.
6. Hide Cloud Apps
If you’re like me and have tried dozens or even hundreds of Fire TV apps that you’ll probably never use again, you’ll want to turn “ON” the “Hide Cloud Apps” option located in the Settings > Applications > Appstore menu. With this setting off, which is how it’s set by default, every app you’ve ever purchased or installed will be listed on your Fire TV’s app grid, even if it is not installed on the device. If you’ve ever only installed a handful of apps, this makes it easy to quickly find and install your apps on a new device, but if your app history is massive, this severely clutters up the interface and makes it difficult to find your installed apps. Turning on this settings makes it so only apps that are actually installed will appear in your app grid, which you can quickly access by holding the Home button on your remote and selecting the “Apps” option.
7. Pair with an Echo Device
If you own any Amazon Echo device, you should pair it with your Fire TV device. This allows you to issue hands-free voice commands to Alexa, through your Echo device, to control your Fire TV. To pair your two devices, open the Alexa app and go to Settings > TV & Video > Fire TV. See this page for a list of voice commands that you can use to control your Fire TV.
8. Set your Address and Device Name in the Alexa app
While you’re in the Alexa app, there are a couple of additional thigns to do. Fire TVs have a place to enter your ZIP code under Settings > Preferences > Location, but it’s a good idea to enter your full street address in the Alexa app. Doing so will allow Alexa to give you more precise responses to questions that have to do with your location. If, for example, you ask when a specific local business opens or closes, without your exact address entered, you might get the results for that business that is across town, instead of the one you actually want. While you’re in the Alexa app, it’s a good idea to edit your Fire TV’s name to something that is more identifiable. This helps you differentiate different devices, like within the Fire TV remote app and Amazon’s website.
9. Disable and/or Protect Amazon Prime Photos
Odds are you fall into one of two extremes when it comes to Amazon Photos on the Fire TV. Either you’ll absolutely never use it on your Fire TV or you store all of your photos there and enjoy seeing them on the biggest screen in your house. Whichever category you fall into, you’ll probably want to change some settings related to Amazon Photos. If you have no interest in seeing your photos on your Fire TV, you’ll probably want to disabled Prime Photos by going to Settings > Applications > Prime Photos > Access Prime Photos. Doing so will prevent your Fire TV from downloading photos to your device in the background, which can eat up nearly 1 GB of your internal storage. The app will still use a few hundred megabytes of storage for the default screensaver images, but it’ll use much more if you leave it enabled and have photos in your Amazon Drive.
For those of you who do have photos on your Amazon Drive, you’ll probably want to PIN protect the Amazon Photos app. This prevents someone without your PIN from opening the app. Even if you’ve disabled the Photos app to save internal storage, it’s trivial for anyone to re-enable it and access all of your photos. If you want to prevent a nosey guest from looking through your photos, add a PIN under Settings > Preferences > Parental Controls > PIN Protect Amazon Photos App.
10. Enable Parental Controls even if you don’t have kids
Speaking of parental controls, you should probably enable them, even if you don’t have kids. That’s because the Fire TV’s parental control settings allow you to limit a lot more than viewing naughty content. For starters, enabling parental controls allows you to turn on the “PIN Protect Purchases” setting, which helps prevent you, your family, or your guests from accidentally buying something they didn’t mean to buy. As mentioned above, it also lets you PIN protect your photos from nosey guests. Parental control options can be enabled and adjusted from Settings > Preferences > Parental Controls. Just remember to remove any viewing restrictions that get turned on by default if you’re only enabling parental controls to protect purchases and/or photos.
11. Disable Auto-playing Banners
Fire TVs have large banners near the top that display things like new releases. If you pause the cursor on these banners, they begin to auto-play a video for the content being highlighted. If you don’t like this behavior, you can disable it in the Settings > Preferences > Featured Content menu. You have the option to disable just the audio or both the audio and video.
12. Change Privacy Settings
If you’re concerned about the data that your Fire TV tracks and shares with Amazon, take a look at the various privacy settings under the Settings > Preferences > Privacy Settings menu. There you’ll be able to turn off things like targeted interest-based ads and device usage tracking.
13. Enable Data Monitoring & Adjust Video Quality
If you are using your Fire TV with a metered internet connection, meaning your data usage is not unlimited, you should absolutely enable data monitoring and consider decreasing the device’s video quality settings. To enable data monitoring, go to the Settings > Preferences > Data Monitoring menu. When you enable data monitoring, you’ll be able to set a data limit that will cause a message to be displayed when your Fire TV has used that amount of data. You can also set which day of the month your data resets, so that the data alert limit you set automatically resets on that day each month.
If you’re worried about using too much data, you should really consider lowering your video quality settings. You can learn more about each quality option here, but dropping it down one step from “Best” to “Better” can reduce your data usage by about 40% without changing the image quality much.
14. Set Up Addition Equipment
If you are setting up an Amazon Fire TV Cube, Fire TV Stick 4K, or have purchased the new Alexa Voice Remote to use with a Fire TV 3 (pendant) or regular Fire TV Stick, one of the things you should absolutely do is set up all of your additional home theater equipment. During the Fire TV’s initial setup process, it likely had you tell it which TV you are using, but you should also configure your soundbar or AV receiver if you are using one. This will allow you to power both your TV and sound equipment on simultaneously with a single press of the power button on the remote. It will also let you control volume and mute.
In addition to setting up your TV and sound equipment, you should tell the Fire TV about the other gear you have connected to your TV by going to Settings > Equipment Control > Manage Equipment > Add Equipment. Doing so will allow you to switch to that equipment by name. For example, if you have an Xbox on your TV’s HDMI 2 input, you can add it to the Fire TV’s equipment list and say “Switch to Xbox” into the voice remote to have your TV switch. If you have a cable or satellite box, adding that to the Fire TV will also let you say things like “Tune to ESPN” to switch inputs and change the channel with that single voice command.
15. Enable Volume Leveler and Dialogue Enhancer
If your Fire TV model offers these newer options, you might want to enable Volume Leveler and/or Dialogue Enhancer. These options can be found under the Settings > Display & Sounds > Audio > Advanced Audio menu. The Volume Leveler option will make it so you’re not surprised by excessively loud parts fo a video, such as an explosion or loud music, while the Dialogue Enhancer option tries to increase the volume of quiet speech in videos, so that you’re not constantly raising and lowering the volume. Both of these are handy to have turned on if you regularly watch content while someone else in the house is sleeping.
16. Understand and Enable Frame Rate Matching
Newer Fire TV models have an option to enable frame rate matching, under Settings > Display & Sounds > Display > Match Original Frame Rate, that is off by default. If the option is available on your Fire TV model, you should probably turn it on because it improves video playback, but it’s important to understand the potential negative side effects. Read my explanation of exactly what this setting does and why you would or wouldn’t want it turned on.
17. Calibrate the Display Overscan
Fire TVs have overscan options under Settings > Display & Sounds > Display > Calibrate Display. This allows you to adjust the screen size if the edges are cut off or if the content doesn’t go all the way to the edge of your TV. Unfortunately, the 2nd-gen Fire TV Stick is the only model that does not have these settings. Instead, your only option to fix overscan issues with that model is to adjust your TV’s internal settings.
18. Set HDR to Adaptive
If you have an HDR capable television and one of the newer Fire TV models, you probably want to change the Fire TV’s Dynamic Range setting from “Always HDR” to “Adaptive.” This option can be found under the Settings > Display & Sounds > Display menu. Changing this option to adaptive will make it so the Fire TV only switches to HDR when HDR content is played. It seems a bit strange that Amazon has decided to set this setting to “Always HDR” by default, because some TVs will display incorrect colors if you play non-HDR content while the TV thinks it’s receiving HDR video.
19. Customize the Screensaver and Sleep Timer
Fire TVs have screensaver options under Settings > Display & Sound > Screensaver. There you’ll find several things you might want to change. If you upload photos to Amazon Photos, you can set your own photos to be used as the screensaver. This can also be done within the Amazon Photos app that is already on your Fire TV. Doing so will essentially turn your TV into a giant digital photo frame. Prime members get free unlimited photo storage and non-Prime members get 5 GB of storage for free with an Amazon Drive account. Even if you don’t use your own photos for the screensaver, you might want to enable the “Display Info” option. This will list the location of the photo for the default photos, which is something a lot of people seem to want to know.
Lastly, you might want to customize the screensaver timer and/or the sleep timer. Unfortunately, Amazon only gives you 4 options for the screensaver timer, which are 5/10/15 minutes or never, and no easy way to adjust the sleep timer, which is locked at 20 minutes. Fortunately, there is a way to change these settings, but the process is a bit advanced and requires a computer. If you’re up for it, see my guide for setting a custom screensaver and/or sleep timer.
20. Disable ADB Debugging and Apps from Unknown Sources
If you have not sideloaded any apps onto your Fire TV or don’t even know what that means, then you don’t need to worry about this suggestion because these two settings are off by default. However, if you did turn on either or both of the developer options under Settings > My Fire TV > Developer options, then be sure to turn them back off after you’re done sideloading apps or modifying your device. Leaving these settings turned on all the time leaves your Fire TV vulnerable to malicious apps or viruses. The more important one of the two to turn off is ADB debugging. Note that you never need to turn this option on in order to sideload apps using my Downloader app. You only need to turn on “Apps from Unknown Sources” to sideload with Downloader.