I have a number of Amazon Echo devices installed around my home that enable me to voice control my various smart home devices. Unfortunately, every now and then when I ask Alexa to do something, all I hear is silence!
Fed up with Alexa not responding to my voice commands, I created the below troubleshooting process to figure out what was going wrong and how to solve it. While I still encounter this problem a bit, it's a lot less of an issue than it used to be.
The below process is graduated, starting with very simple solutions and progressing to more serious remedies.
Note: This article is for solving the issue of Alexa or your Echo device not responding to questions you ask it. If Alexa is telling you that “the connected device is not responding!” then check out our other troubleshooting guide here.
While the below instructions are geared towards Echo speaker and display devices, they also apply to other devices that come loaded with Alexa (Such as the Ecobee thermostat, Smart TVs, Firestick etc.)
I also assume that your Alexa device has been set up correctly and was working previously.
1. Ask Alexa your question again and this time speak louder!
While it sounds ridiculous, it’s possible that Alexa simply didn’t catch your question!
Echo devices have integrated omnidirectional microphones so in theory they can catch voice commands from 360 degrees and a decent distance.
My experience is somewhat different! I have an Echo speaker installed above a kitchen wall cabinet which regularly misses questions I ask and I typically need to shout the question at her!
I really should just move the device, so it’s in a more direct “earshot!”
If you have a Smart TV or Firestick, you may need to press the microphone button on your remote for Alexa to hear your command.
If you are using Alexa on your phone, you may need to be in the Alexa App for the voice command to register.
Test the microphone by saying “Alexa, can you hear me?”
Alexa activates when she hears her “wake word” which is typically “Alexa”, “Echo” or “Computer”. However, there are plenty of times when she thinks she hears her wake word and listens in. After analyzing the audio, if she determines that there isn’t actually a question for her, she simply ignores it.
If you ask Alexa a very long-winded question, she can sometimes think the audio isn’t relevant to her and ignore it.
So instead when testing, I recommend simply asking “Alexa, can you hear me?”
Rephrase the Question
If Alexa responds to “Can you hear me” but not your original question, then it's worth rephrasing the question to something she will respond to.
2. Leave a slight gap between saying “Alexa” and asking your question
I have a tendency to speak quite fast, which can result in Alexa missing the question.
To ensure your voice commands are properly relayed, leave a slight gap when you say the word “Alexa” followed by your question.
As you relay the commands, make sure you speak naturally and clearly. To get a better understanding of how Alexa picks up your commands, you may access the Alexa history and see what the device interprets during your voice commands. (Alexa App > More > Settings > Alexa Privacy > Voice History).
When I did this I was surprised how many times Alexa recorded audio which was then classified as “Audio was not intended for this device”.
3. Is your Alexa / Echo device powered on and responsive?
If Alexa is still giving you the silent treatment, then it’s time to check if she’s actually plugged in!
Echo devices need a constant reliable power supply and I recommend using the power adapter that came with the device when you purchased it.
If the Echo device is securely plugged into a wall outlet, then press a button on the device. There should be some feedback to your button press, such as the light ring illuminating or some message on the screen.
4. Is Alexa muted?
If your device has power then to check whether or not your device is muted, look at its light indicator. If the light indicator is red, your device is muted.
The mute feature prevents the device from picking up your commands and responding to them. To unmute the device, press the microphone button for at least two seconds and the device will send an indication that it has been unmuted.
5. Check the selected “Wake Word” in the Alexa App
As mentioned earlier, Alexa can be configured to respond to other “wake words” such as Amazon, Echo or Computer . There are also optional “celebrity wake words” such as Samuel L Jackson, Melissa McCarty, Shaquille O’Neill or even Santa Claus!
If your Echo device is configured to respond to one of those other words, then it won’t respond to the “Alexa” prompt.
To double check which is set …
- Go to your Alexa App > More > Settings > Device Settings
- Select the device you are trying to communicate with
- Hit the cog at the top right of the screen
- Hit “Wake Word” under General
- This loads the various wake words and “Alexa” should have a blue tick beside it. If it doesn’t either select it, or instead just use the other wake word configured.
6. Reduce background noise or move the Alexa device
I’ve found the Echo microphones to be quite good at picking up questions, even when the Echo speaker is blaring out music.
However, if another device is playing music, or there’s simply a lot of active noise in the room, it can struggle. Also, Amazon recommends moving your device away from walls!
So, to ensure Alexa clearly hears your commands and is able to respond, you’ll want to reduce or eliminate the background noise. These include anything from TV or music speakers, to sounds from kitchen appliances, or conversations.
7. Is “Brief Mode” enabled?
If “Brief Mode” is set, it can reduce the duration of Alexa’s responses. It can also replace responses with a short beep instead of answering.
If you think this might be the problem, you can check it in the Alexa App under More > Settings > Voice Responses under Alexa Preferences.
8. Does Alexa have an active internet connection?
Sometimes you may experience issues with your Echo Speaker or Display not responding to voice commands due to poor internet or no internet connection at all.
While generally she’ll inform you if she’s having trouble connecting to the internet, on occasion she might not.
Test Wi-Fi on your phone while standing beside your router
To check if your Wi-Fi network has internet, I typically connect my phone to the network and disable mobile data. From there I try to access the internet through Google Chrome or another web browser. As web browsers can serve cached content, I usually try to run a speed test to ensure there is data flowing back and forth (Simply Google the words “speed test” to find the resource).
Test Wi-Fi on your phone while standing beside your Echo device
While you may have a decent internet connection while standing beside your router, that signal might not be as powerful where your Echo device is located.
So carry out the test again, but this time go to the location of the smart speaker.
If you suspect your Wi-Fi signal is the issue, it might be worth investing in a Wi-Fi repeater/extender or upgrading to mesh Wi-Fi. Alternatively, you could move the Echo device closer to the Wi-Fi router.
Double Check Wi-Fi settings for the device in the Alexa App
If your Wi-Fi network is operating normally, then I recommend checking to make sure the Echo device is configured to work with that Wi-Fi network.
For this go the Alexa App > More > Settings > Device Settings > Choose the Echo device. Press the cog at the top of the screen and under Wireless, you should see the name of the Wi-Fi network. This should be the same as the one you just tested with.
9. Out-of-Date Firmware
If you’ve plugged in your device for the first time in a while, it’s possible the device's firmware is out of date.
Typically, Echo devices download firmware automatically when connected to the internet.
You can usually ask “Alexa, check for a software update” however that’s clearly no help if she’s not answering you! Instead, restarting the device as discussed next may help force a software update.
Note: You can also see the current Device Software Version under the About section of the device in the app. While this doesn’t tell you if this is the latest version, it may be useful if you end up speaking to someone in Amazon support.
10. Restart your Alexa device
If making changes to the device settings doesn’t work or the device is unresponsive to button presses, you may have to simply restart your Alexa device.
This generally involves unplugging it from the outlet, waiting a minute and then plugging it back in. (This is called “power cycling”)
Once it reconnects to the network, try the voice command again to see if it works.
11. Reset your Alexa device
If the above methods don’t work, then you may have to resort to the last option – reset your Alexa device.
For this press the action button (The solid circle) on the device for 20 seconds. Once the light ring comes back on, you’re back in setup mode.
From here go to the device in the Alexa App and follow the setup instructions.
If none of the above work, it’s possible that you either have received a faulty device or damage has occurred to the device over time.
This happened to me when I had an Echo Dot on my kitchen window and eventually, water splashed on it from the sink. It never really recovered from the water damage.
If you think the device is faulty, then it’s definitely worth seeing if it's still under warranty and contacting the retailer or Amazon themselves.
So there you have it! 11 tips and tricks to fix the issue of Alexa not responding to your voice commands.
Let us know in the comments below if any of these worked for you or if you have any other tips or tricks I should include!