Roku Internet TV streaming devices offer a great option for cutting the cable or satellite cord to save $50, $100 or more on your monthly bills. You can also use Roku along with your pay TV service, either with your current subscription or with a pared-back, cheaper service level.
For setting up a Roku on an older, non-HDMI television, you’ll need a Roku 1, not a Roku 2 or 3 or Roku Streaming Stick, which only work with HDMI televisions. When ordering your Roku, check to see if it comes with the cable you need – HDMI or composite. If not, you’ll need to buy the right cable, too.
What You Need to Get Started
Set up a Roku account on their Web site and have the login credentials handy for the device setup.
You need a credit card during the Roku setup process, for ordering pay per view movie rentals. I recommend using a temporary number for any situation like this where recurring charges could happen.
If you have a Bank of America credit card, you can use their Shop Safe service. Otherwise, a Visa gift card from your bank or credit union should work.
Toward the end of Roku setup, you’ll need to go to a computer and enter a Web site address and activation code from the Roku device. Therefore, you’ll want to have a pen and paper handy to write down this information and take it to your computer.
Write down your login credentials for any streaming service you subscribe to, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, as well as the password to your Wi-Fi network. You’ll probably need the original remote control that came with your television, too.
Get Ready to Hook Up Your New Roku Player
With all of your ducks in a row, you’re ready to hook up your new Roku. First, remove it from the box and insert the included AA batteries into the remote control.
Plug in the power cable and either the component cables or your HDMI cable – one end to the Roku and the other to your television. Most HD TVs have more than one HDMI port, but if yours doesn’t, you won’t be able to use both a pay TV box and your Roku with HD. On an older TV, you’ll probably have component ports (red, yellow, white) free even if you still connect to cable or satellite TV.
Turn on the Roku, and use your TV remote (the original one that came with the television) to switch to the appropriate input. Make sure the remote is in TV mode. Be sure the volume and channel up/down buttons work. You may have to press a TV button near the top of the remote to make this happen.
On an older TV, you may need to hit TV/Video. On HDTV, you’ll likely see an HDMI button to press one or more timesfor switching among the HDMI ports.
Hooking up the Roku device is a breeze, but making the Roku interface come up on the screen can take some trial and error, especially with an older TV set. If the above suggestions don’t work, try turning off your DVD player if you have one hooked up to the TV. If you know the model number of your old TV, you could search online for the owner’s manual, unless you can still put your hands on the one that came with your TV.
Using Your New Roku Player
Once you get Roku up on the screen, Roku’s setup routine walks you through the process of connecting to your Wi-Fi network, logging into the Roku with your account credentials and adding channels.
Once you finish the initial setup, login to Roku’s website again on your computer and pick your channels. This is faster than selecting channels through the Roku player, though you could do it either way.
Be aware that some Roku channels are pretty worthless without a pay TV subscription – they make you login with your cable or satellite TV credentials. Some others make you create a free account to get the most out of them, such as the Roku PBS channel.
If you don’t subscribe to cable or satellite, you can pick up free local channels using an antenna. Another option is the Tablo TV, which lets you watch and record free over-the-air broadcast TV on multiple TVs using one antenna.
Be sure to check out some of my other Roku articles here.