One of the great things about cable TV is that it comes ready to go. But when you cut the cord and decide to switch to an Android TV box, you are on your own in terms of getting set up. That is why you need my easy Android TV setup guide.
While every Android TV box is different, and will have slightly different hardware and setup instructions, if your new TV box runs off the Android operating system, there are a few simple principles for setting it up. I go through all of these in the article below.
I’ll take you through plugging it in, getting online, setting up an account, and downloading essential apps including antivirus, VPN, and the best streaming apps.
These instructions should tell you everything you need to know, from setting up your remote to watching your favorite shows, whether you are using an OTT TV box, MXQ box, or anything else running the Android operating system.
If you are looking for an Android TV box, you can find our list of the best available options here.
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Consider this your Android TV Box setup instruction manual. 🙂
Step 1: How To Hook It Up
This is the fun part. Ripping open the box and hooking everything up.
Really, I love this part. This is where you’re still excited about getting cutting the cord and getting a new toy.
So let’s go over really briefly how to hook up your new Android box or streaming device.
It’s only two connections really – three in some cases.
First is the HDMI cable. There’s usually one in the box. If not, you can find one on Amazon here. Don’t get fooled into buying some super expensive, shielded HDMI cable with gold plated connectors for $50 or $100. Just stop.
Find the Amazon Basics cable for however long you need it and you’re done. You shouldn’t pay more than $1 per foot for the cable. If you have a lot of corners that you have to squeeze around or an angry cat that likes to chew wires, then and only then opt for a braided cable. Otherwise, cheap is good.
Second is the Ethernet cable. This one is optional. You can go wireless and that’s OK. Ethernet is faster and if you’re going to be streaming 4K, then you need all the speed (bandwidth) you can get. If you have the option, go wired Ethernet. If that’s not an option, you can still go wireless.
Personally, I like to get a flat ribbon Ethernet cable. They take up less space and you can hide them easier. There’s no difference in performance. As long as you go with at least Cat 5e, then you’ve essentially future-proofed your wiring.
The final connection is the easy one. Power. Find an outlet and plug it in. Just don’t overload your power strip and set the house on fire.
Step 2: Synchronize Your Remote
Before you can do much else from here, you are going to need to sync your remote control with your box. The following steps will require entering data and making selections, for all of which you will need a remote.
These days, most TV boxes come with remote control as standard; although sometimes they are very basic, and you might prefer to upgrade to a more sophisticated remote that you can link to your TV box via Bluetooth.
The first onscreen instructions you see when you start up your box will probably relate to syncing your remote. If you need to plug anything extra into one of your USB slots, these instructions will appear.
But most likely, you’ll be asked to press certain buttons on your remote to allow your TV box to sense it and sync up with it automatically.
Step 3: Choose Your Network
Before you can do anything else, you need to connect to the Internet.
Some manufacturers make you choose how you’re connecting the device before you even get to the home screen. If I’m being honest, I think that’s the way to go and that more manufacturers should do it that way.
If yours doesn’t, then you’re going to need to do it manually.
Head on over to the Settings screen and click on Network. From there, you’ll be able to turn on ethernet or Wi-Fi and select your network.
Step 4: Add Your Google Account
Once you’ve hit the power button for the first time, the first thing you should do is enter in your Google account.
This starts the process of updating any preinstalled apps and syncing any data you want to have follow you from device to device.
For those of you that are super-protective of your privacy and don’t want any of your data on your Android box, that’s OK too.
Just create a different Google account specifically for this box. You’re going to need to do this to download any apps from the Google Play Store and get updates.
If you’re really dead-set against including any personal information on your device, you can skip this step and go straight to…
Step 5: Install The Aptoide App Store
Aptoide TV is an alternative Android app store that has a ton of different apps to choose from.
Even if you mostly use the Google Play Store, Aptoide gives you access to a bunch of different apps that Google may not like. For example, if Google and Amazon are fighting (like they normally are), you might only be able to find some Amazon apps on Aptoide.
Either way, it gives you more options to choose from. Options are good, right?
Step 6: Get Any Updates
This is one of the most important steps and its one of the most overlooked.
Update. Your. Device.
This goes for every device you own. Not just the streaming kind.
Manufacturers come out with security updates and feature updates constantly. If you’re not updating your devices, you’re missing out.
Worse still, you’re putting your system at risk.
So I’ll warn you now, getting updates is different for every device. It’s usually found in an app, but it could be buried deep in the settings screen. It just depends on how the manufacturer sets up the device.
Here are some of the more popular places that they’ll make you go to update the device:
- In the Settings menu under About there is usually an option for System Upgrade. On the NVIDIA Shield TV you can also set system upgrades to auto-download when available from this screen.
- In the All Apps tab you’ll probably find apps called something like System Update or Update & Backup or simply Updater.
Step 7: Google Play Apps
Now that the system updates are done, here comes the fun part.
Let’s get some apps.
You can install apps in both the Google Play Store or the Aptoide TV app store in much the same way.
No matter which one you decide to use, you should double check that your existing apps have all been updated. Hopefully we started the process earlier when you entered your Google account information, but let’s double check.
For The Google Play Store
Open the Google Play Store and click on the three horizontal bars in the upper left hand corner. This will open the side menu. You’re going to want to click on My Apps & Games.
This pulls up a list of all of your installed apps and will tell you right away if there’s any updates available. If so, go ahead and click on Update All. This will probably take a few minutes do download and install everything, depending on how many apps came pre-installed.
Personally, I don’t want to be bothered doing this ever again, so I set the apps to update automatically whenever there’s a new version.
Back on the side menu (click the three horizontal bars again) you’ll see a Settings section near the bottom. Click on that.
Under the General tab, you’ll see Auto-Update Apps. Inside there you’ll get a couple of different options to turn auto-update off completely, only update via Wi-Fi or to update at any time. I enable Auto-update apps at any time. Now you never have to worry about if you’ve got the latest version of an app or not.
For The Aptoide TV App Store
If using Aptoide TV is more your thing, then it’s easy to keep things updated as well. Aptoide TV has a cool feature that lets you see how many updates are available as soon as you open the app.
On the side menu, scroll down to My Apps and you may see a little red circle with a number in it. In my case, it says ‘5+’. That means I’ve been slacking and I have more than five apps that need to be updated.
A quick swipe to the right and I can see exactly which apps they are and also have the option to update them all at the same time.
Step 8: Setup A VPN
If you want to keep your streaming private…
If you want to get access to content anywhere in the world…
Seriously. It’s not something you should play around with any more – especially if you’re streaming from a source that you’d prefer authorities not know about.
There are a LOT of different options if you’re looking for a VPN for streaming. Personally, I use IPVanish.
No VPN is perfect – and Ill argue with anyone who tries to tell you differently.
But, what I like about IPVanish is that it lets me (in the US) stream content from other countries (like Canada) and lets my fiancée who is overseas stream content from the US.
This is what I believe: No company should limit what I can watch just because of where I live.
A VPN lets me get around their limitations. For me, that’s well worth a couple of dollars a month.
Step 9: Start Streaming
Now that all of that is done, you are ready for the best part” streaming your favorite content!
Using your TV box is going to be a lot like using your smartphone. Just use the remote to navigate to the content you are interested in, enter the app, and follow the intuitively designed steps to get watching.
The process will be a bit different depending on whether you are using an on-demand streaming service such as Netflix, a live TV application such as Sling TV, or something that draws on your own media library, such as Plex.
But whatever you are doing, these apps are designed to do exactly this, so it shouldn’t be too challenging to figure out from this point.
Android TV Box Setup Next Steps
So where do you go from here?
I deliberately didn’t mention anything about Kodi or Plex in this new version of my Android box Setup Guide. That’s a whole other setup guide.
Here’s a couple of suggestions for what to do next:
- How to setup Kodi…the right way
- Kodi VPN crash course: Do I need a VPN for Kodi?
- Cord cutting guide: What’s the best streaming service?
- How to do 4K streaming the right way
Kodi can significantly improve your streaming experience by allowing you to search and access all of your streaming content in one place, so I do recommend checking out these guides.
But you certainly don’t need Kodi to start watching today.
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