Having your Alexa randomly light up while no one is talking can be a frustrating experience. It can get on people’s nerves so badly that some even resort to unplugging their Alexa to avoid the hassle, but that’d just leave you with an overpriced paperweight on your hands!
Alexa false activations can be caused by several different reasons such as outdated software, damaged hardware, problematic (third-party) applications, power supply issues, background noises, or Wi-fi interference.
Alternatively, your Alexa lighting up randomly might not be so random at all – it could just be your device trying to keep you updated on notifications or exciting sales on Amazon. In very rare cases, it could also be a sign that your device is being hacked!
Alexa lighting up when no one is talking can get bothersome. Thankfully, you can identify and address the reasons behind the issue very quickly. We’ll be going over the most common culprits along with some effective ways to handle them down below.
Why Alexa Lights Up Randomly (And How to Deal with It)
Accidental Wake Word Activations
The most common reason for this issue is that your Alexa is overhearing ambient noises or background conversations, mistaking certain sounds for its wake word.
If Alexa mistakenly activates from this (“False wakes”), it lights up and stays on standby for about eight seconds to process any requests to follow. Alexa’s default wake word is “Alexa”, but that may also be changed to the following options: “Echo”, “Amazon”, or “Computer”.
To reduce instances of false wakes, we’d advise that you change your Alexa’s wake word. You’ll only have a limited pool of four to choose from (unless you purchase celebrity wake words), so pick whatever option has the least potential for conflicts or overlap in your household.
For example, if you’ve got a buddy named Alexa that comes up in conversation quite often, you don’t want to stick with the default wake word for long!
On the other hand, if you’re binging Star Trek or other sci-fi programs the word “Computer” will come up pretty regularly, making it a less ideal choice for your new wake word.
Your Alexa may be lighting up randomly due to defective or damaged parts. While any sort of hardware problem could cause this, the most common reason is often a malfunctioning mic.
A defective microphone will affect your Alexa’s listening sensitivity, often leading to false wakes and overall poor responsiveness. If your Alexa lights up erratically – especially when there was no sound remotely close to the wake word – you may want to have your unit’s mic checked out.
The problem could also stem from faulty cables, resulting in insufficient power for your Alexa to function. Damaged power cables could provide your device with only intermittent charge, making your device continuously go on and off. Imagine a broken phone charger, flickering between “charging” and “not charging” at a rapid pace.
When an Alexa device is booting up, it displays a blue light on top which resembles the standby light seen when the unit detects a perceived wake word.
If your hardware problem is due to malfunctioning components, contact Amazon support and try to make use of their device warranty. In most cases, you’ll have a serviceable one year’s worth of coverage, starting from the date of purchase. Don’t try to fix the issue on your own, as opening the device – even just to check – will void your warranty.
In case your device is already past the warranty coverage cutoff, you can have your Alexa unit mailed to Amazon’s approved service provider, Communications Test Design, Inc. (CTDI), for any necessary repairs. Sadly, you’ll have to shoulder both repair expenses and shipping for this.
For faulty power cables, you’ll have to bite the bullet and order another one on Amazon. Shipping and delivery could take several days, with the power cords themselves getting pretty pricey, but it’s worth the cost if you want to keep using your Alexa device.
You could also buy power cables from sites like eBay or Etsy. While these places offer better prices, there’ll be a lot less regulation and quality assurance for your order.
Your Alexa lighting up for no reason could be due to software bugs or missed updates. While Alexa can handle routines and other tasks with local Wi-fi, the majority of its features require reliable internet access. Using outdated software to access their cloud-processing database could lead to odd interactions or weird noises, potentially resulting in your Alexa device lighting up randomly.
Check your Amazon application to see if your current device’s software is up to date. If not, download the necessary update immediately.
You can also have Alexa check directly with this prompt, “Alexa, can you check for updates?”
This change won’t always reflect once the download completes, so be sure to restart your device afterward. If the problem persists, you may want to consider a factory reset.
There’s a small chance that your Alexa is lighting up randomly due to electronic interference from other devices in close proximity to it. Anything that generates electromagnetic signals – speakers, routers, or even microwave ovens – could inadvertently trigger your Alexa unit when used.
If you feel that any of these devices could be the reason your Alexa is acting oddly, move them a fair distance away then check for any changes.
Remember that electromagnetic interference can pass through solid objects, so placing your device behind physical obstructions or on different floors may not be enough to handle the problem – try separating them by a couple of rooms’ worth of distance.
Doing this would help you isolate the specific cause of the issue, making it much easier to avoid moving forward – not only for your Alexa device but for other electronics in your home.
Notifications (Amazon Sales or 3rd Party Apps)
Sometimes, your Alexa randomly lighting up is an attempt to notify you about new things. It could be trying to notify you about new things, such as a new sale or an app causing issues.
Amazon users can sign up for “Availability Alerts” to be informed when certain products become available, with these notifications popping up on the user’s Alexa device.
It can take quite a while before the product becomes available for purchase, so when the update comes (sometimes several months later!) it’s very easy to have forgotten about it.
Amazon also released a feature that made online shopping more accessible, letting Alexa tell people about Amazon deals up to a day before they take effect – so long as the item was already in a user’s wishlist or cart. It even lets you seal the deal using Alexa! (“Alexa, buy it for me”).
While this could be the source of your erratic Alexa behavior, it’s still a feature you have to opt into. Your Alexa unit won’t automatically decide on this – in fact, this feature is only available for later Alexa models! It’ll also be pretty obvious if this is the culprit, as your Alexa will randomly light up the color yellow instead of the normal blue it defaults to.
There’s also a chance that it’s a third-party app tripping up your Alexa unit, often doing so by sending notifications or commands without your input.
If you want to make sure notifications won’t be an issue, you can turn them off quite easily.
- Navigate to the “Settings” tab in your Alexa app
- Search for “Notifications” or “Notification Settings” (software-dependent).
- Manage and disable your notifications for each app as needed.
- If you want to disable sales, look for the “Amazon Shopping” tab
Some third-party apps aren’t well-integrated into Alexa units, and may send unprompted notifications on your device – even when you completely disable notifications entirely!
If you have a hunch that it’s a third-party app causing your Alexa unit to light up randomly, don’t be afraid to uninstall it to see if the problem goes away. Third-party apps can cause even greater problems than this, which we’ll go over in the next segment.
Alexa devices have very robust security systems, but if they’re behaving erratically even after all of these attempted fixes, you can’t discount the possibility that your unit has been hacked or otherwise compromised by malware.
Unfortunately, Alexa units don’t have built-in virus scanners, nor do they have vetted, Amazon-approved applications that can do it for them. Be especially wary of the following signs: random credit card charges, unsolicited emails, and surprise app installations.
If you suspect that your device has been infected with malware, unplug it immediately. Change your Amazon password and security settings, then get in touch with Amazon customer support to have them walk you through handling the security breach.
You’ll probably have to factory reset your Alexa device to deal with this potential malware issue, deleting every bit of personalization on your unit. For this reason, we’d strongly urge you to play it safe and back your data up at least once a month.
It’s not normal for your Alexa device to light up randomly, and the reasons behind it can be split into two broad categories: false wakes and surprise notifications. Each set of issues needs to be resolved in different ways, but thankfully both should be relatively easy to manage at home.