How-To: Set-up an American Roku Box Outside the US
Got yourself one of those great new Roku boxes to watch US on-demand television, but not living in the US? No need to turn it into a paper weight just yet. Follow these easy steps and you can be watching Netflix, Hulu, or one of the many other US Channels on this fantastic little puck!
Although accessing US television services through a Roku box is easy enough in principle to set up, there are a few hurdles that should be discussed before the process begins.
What do you need:
- A Roku box bought from the US. This is an important point as Roku has different firmware installed on each country’s device. So, if you bought one in the UK, that will not work for US channels and vice versa.
- A compatible DNS service. It is important that your DNS service not only works with the Channels used by the Roku box, but also works during the set-up stage – not all do! This guide has been tested with Overplay’s SmartDNS service which works at both stages.
- A Router which you can configure the DNS settings. Normally this can be done on the device itself, but the Roku box is one of the few streaming platforms that do not allow any network configurations.
You should also keep in mind that access to Roku’s US channels does not automatically gain access to all the channel’s services. Many channels such as Netflix and Hulu require monthly subscription payments, whilst others like Vudu have a pay-per-view model. These fees, charged directly to the service provider, are on top of any DNS service fees.
Step 1: Sign-up to a fully compatible DNS service.
A DNS service to access Roku’s US Channels is only required when outside of the United States. If you have already completed this step you can of course skip to the next one, but it is worth pointing out that your choice of a DNS service is vital to ensure this process works successfully. Only DNS services that also function at the set-up stage for Roku devices will work.
Step 2: Configure your router for the DNS Service.
There are just far too many different routers out in the wild for me to give detailed instructions for each one here, so I can only provide a basic guide.
- First, check your router’s manual. This will explain how to log into your router to make the required configurations. It may be worth doing this before you purchase a Roku box from the US to ensure you can access it from outside America.
- Log into your router as administrator.
- Look for a setting that allows manual DNS addresses to be added. This may be hidden behind an advanced tab or setting. Some routers have this under their DHCP settings, others under INTERNET or even an obvious DNS tab or page. Some very basic routers don’t even allow this sort of configuration, which is why it is important to check this first.
- If you use Overplay’s service, use the DNS addresses they provide from here.
- After you have changed the DNS configuration to match your new DNS addresses, test the service. Effectively any device on your home Network will now work with your new DNS service. Test this through a known service that is otherwise blocked on a computer browser. (i.e. Hulu if you are outside of the US) If it works and you can play the videos, then the test should have been successful.
Step 3: Create your Roku Account.
Yes, create the account at Roku.com NOW. It is important to do this after you have the DNS service set up. This is a point where many people get stuck, as they often have an account previously set up at Roku and yet they cannot access the US channels.
If you already have an account with Roku set up prior to configuring the DNS servers in your router or the computer where you created the account, close/cancel the Roku account and create a new one from scratch.
When you are at the second stage of the Roku account set-up, you must enter a valid US Zip code and the country must be set to the United States.
Step 4: Powering up the Roku box.
Ideally, you have not rushed into powering up the Roku box. If this is the case, now is the time to remove the Roku box from it’s packaging, and connect it up according to their instructions.
Step 5: Follow the Roku Setup Procedure.
Now, just follow the set-up instructions on your television screen that are prompted by your Roku device. This will include pairing your remote and connecting to a network. It goes without saying that you must connect to the same network which you have configured your DNS service.
Step 6: Join the Roku box to your Roku account.
In the last stage of the setup, you will be asked to join the Roku box with your Roku account.
- Make sure you have your computer on, and connected to the same router with the DNS addresses configured.
- The Roku box will assign you a short code.
- Select “Link a Device” from the main Roku account page on your computer.
- Enter the code.
And that’s it. If you are successful, the US channels should now become available. You know things are working correctly when you can see US channels such as Netflix and Hulu.
Opps… Houston, we have a problem.
Unfortunately, many people still experience problems when attempting this procedure when outside of the US. If this is the case, here are a few tips.
Problem: I followed the procedure, and my Roku links to my account, but I do not see US channels like Netflix or Hulu!
Reply: It appears the linking failed. Make sure you are with a DNS service that also includes the set-up stage – not all do! This process was tested with Overplay’s SmartDNS although there are other services out there as well. Try un-linking your Roku box with your account, closing your account and starting again from scratch, including a full Factory Reset of your Roku box.
Problem: I can link my Roku Box, but when I try to add US channels, I get the error message I am not in the right country or region.
Reply: See solution above.
Problem: I have paired everything and I have Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu, but no other US channels… what is going wrong?
Reply: If you cancelled all links or your Roku account, and you still tried to access one of the “advertised” services in My Channels on the Roku box, it will oddly enough install Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu, and they will (for the most part) function correctly, although with a few bugs. This however is not a correct pairing and you will not have access to other channels or updates for these services. See above for the best solution.
Problem: It is not working and I am panicking and/or getting rather cross.
Reply: Relax. Roku may change firmware from time to time, and it is possible the set-up configuration with your DNS provider will need to be updated. Contact your DNS provider and ask them to look into the issue. Do this quickly though, as if there are serious problems and the Roku box can no longer be configured outside the US, you will want to know in enough time to warrant a refund from where you bought it! However, at this point in time at least, there is no suggestion this will be a problem.
Problem: After disconnecting power and Ethernet from the Roku device, no channels are accessible after power-up.
Reply: There seems to be an issue with the Roku box (at least when outside the US) that if a properly set up box is powered down, then up again with the Ethernet cable connected after power-up, it may adjust the time significantly and neither may there be any channels accessible nor possibly an Internet connection. The solution to this is to ignore the indication that “Wired (Ethernet)” is still being displayed under settings and select Wired (Ethernet) again as the preferred connection. Alternatively, if you need to unplug the Roku box for any reason, make sure the Ethernet cable is connected before reconnecting the Power cable.
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