Nuke your Alexa smart home to eliminate ‘ghost’ devices


Alexa will lose track of devices if you rename them, but you can set your smart home right in one fell swoop.

Ry Crist/HDOT

If you have an expansive menagerie of smart home devices like me, you’ve probably renamed a few, moved some to a different room or otherwise changed the configuration you started with. And if you’re anything like me, I bet you forgot to update Alexa when you made all those changes. Unfortunately, you’ll get a stark reminder when you attempt to control such “ghost” devices with a voice command — try telling Alexa to turn a smart light on with a name it doesn’t recognize and you’ll see what I mean. 

“Sorry,” Alexa will say, “I didn’t find a device named [its new name].”

Do this often enough and your smart home will become virtually unusable. But worse, untangling such a mess can be a tall order and before long you find yourself ignoring Alexa and controlling your smart home with the myriad apps on your phone. How 2012.


Smart home control only works when Alexa knows what your devices are all named.

Chris Monroe/HDOT

Thankfully, there’s a quick and easy solution. It may sound risky at first, and, well, it is. You’ll have to delete your entire smart home and start over, and you’ll lose any rooms or routines you’ve set up. But otherwise the process is simple and should only take a couple of minutes. When it’s finished (and you’ve rebuilt your rooms and routines in the app) you can go back to ordering Alexa around. 

Here’s how to do it.

You’ll have to use Alexa’s interface on the desktop site

First, put down your phone and pick up your laptop — this has to be done on the desktop version of the Alexa website. Next, head over to Alexa’s web interface (yes, this is a thing), then follow these steps:

1. On the menu on the left, click Smart Home.

2. In the primary pane, click Devices.

3. Scroll all the way to the bottom and click the box labeled Remove All.

4. In the popup window, click Remove to confirm.

5. On the next page, click the box labeled Discover.

Now, rejoice: Alexa has pinged all the various services you’ve linked (Philips Hue, Smart Life, etc.) and updated them all with the current names of all your devices.

There is, unfortunately, one downside. Doing this will obliterate any groups — including rooms and speaker groups — as well as routines you’ve created. That said, chances are, if you’re having the kinds of problems that require a nuclear option such as this, they both needed to be revamped anyway.

Mine sure did.

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