Amazon Echo and its built-in voice assistant have been changing lives worldwide. The multi-talented Alexa can answer a wide range of common queries, change the colors of your living room lights to purple, play all manner of surprisingly compelling games with you, and even fart on command. Such smart devices are equal parts toys and practical tools, and Amazon’s has (surprising nobody) been a great sales success. Statista states 130 million of the systems will be sold by 2025.
However, as wonderful as technology can be, it’s certainly not infallible. Fans of Microsoft’s Xbox family of game consoles will probably remember the horrible scourge of the red ring of death, which plagued the Xbox 360. In August 2021, per IGN, Peter Moore (a former Microsoft executive) told Podcast Unlocked 201 of the 360’s issue, “We knew it was heat related. There were all kinds of [homebrew] ‘fixes.’ I remember people putting wet towels around the box.”
Dear old Alexa also sometimes falls victim to a dreaded technological red ring. Here’s a wet-towel-free rundown of what might be causing the issue and how to fix it.
What does the Alexa red ring mean?
There are various reasons why an Amazon Echo might be displaying a red light. The most common cause is that the device is muted. You might be familiar with the mute function if you’ve ever been startled out of your wits by the device suddenly piping up because it thought you were addressing it (as many users have). The device is essentially dormant while muted, ticking along without responding to any voice prompts it may be inadvertently given. That scarlet hue, however, can be somewhat unnerving if the user hasn’t intentionally muted their Echo.
If your Echo doesn’t respond to commands, you can try unmuting the device by pressing the microphone button on the top or side of the device. If your device can respond to you when the red light is on, you can rule out the system being muted.
When a user asks what the red light means, Alexa will state, “A red light on your device indicates the microphone or camera is turned off, or there’s a device communication error.” Further, the red light indicates that the video function isn’t active, should your Echo have video capabilities. Let’s look at the other potential communication issues that could result in the red light.
How to fix the Amazon Echo/Alexa red ring
When muted, the Echo’s red light will be regular and unchanging. In other situations, the red light will seem to pulse slowly. The culprit here may be your Internet connection, so the first step would be to check whether the same issue plagues your other devices. If so, you might try restarting your modem or router and going through all the usual steps you’d take when your Wi-Fi is down, including calling your service provider.
If Alexa isn’t in the mood for a conversation, but your broadband is otherwise functional, the device could need a restart. This can be done by unplugging the Echo from the wall and plugging it back in. If your Wi-Fi did have a momentary issue, an Echo might require this simple step to reconnect to the system.
It’s also possible that the red ring means an update or factory reset is required.
How to factory reset an Amazon Echo device
Factory resetting a device is never a decision to take lightly. As the name suggests, everything is wiped from the system during the process. It’s a powerful last-ditch option for an Echo displaying the red ring if there’s no apparent damage to the device or any other explanation for the ominous crimson light.
Generation 3 and 4 Amazon Echos are factory reset in a way familiar to the long-time tech savvy: locate the Action button, and keep it pressed until the device responds. Meanwhile, with the Echo Plus model (second generation), the volume down and microphone off buttons need to be held momentarily. The same is true of the Echo Studio and Echo Show, though the first button is the mute instead of the microphone off button in the latter case.
Depending on the model of your system, it’s possible to do so without some of your connection settings being lost too. While your Echo will need to be set up again, the important thing is that it will update itself during the process, which can also go a long way to resolve any update-related issues that may have been causing problems.