This story is part of Tips for the homeCNET’s collection of practical tips for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

Your Google Home smart speaker is only as useful as you make it, and the settings you enable can really make or break your experience. While some settings are selected by default when you purchase your device, others you must intentionally enable or disable. It can be overwhelming to know which setting or feature is your best bet — and there are so many pure tricks you probably didn’t know your smart speaker could.

For example, Google Home speakers try to get you to sign up for a Google Duo phone number when you add a device, but did you know you can turn your Google Home into a speaker using your primary phone number — even if you’re using an iPhone?

This is just one of the many great features you can set up on your Google Home device. We’ll show you how to set this up, plus four other settings you should update today.

1. Get notified when someone joins your Google Home group

“I’m the only person in my household,” you say. “Why would I want to be notified if someone joins my Google Home group?” Right because you are the only one who should be authorized to use it, that’s why.

This setting is not only to inform you about changes, but also for security. If your Google Account is hacked or otherwise compromised, an early warning sign could be an unauthorized user or device added to your Google home group.

To receive these notifications:

1. Open it Google Home app and touch Settingsthen under General touch Notices.

2. If your phone isn’t set to allow notifications from Google Home, follow the instructions where it says Tap here to turn them on in Settings.

3. Tap on General Notifications and turn on the first option, People and devices. If you want to receive push notification ads, turn on Product updates as well.

mic switch on google home mini 2

Google Home and Nest Mini have a physical microphone switch, so you can make them stop listening if you want extra privacy.

Chris Monroe/CNET

2. Adjust your Google Home privacy settings

If it’s been a while since you’ve adjusted the privacy settings in your Google Home app, we’ve got a thorough guide to Google Home security features here. If you’re pretty familiar with these security settings but just want to brush things up a bit, here’s how to get to the privacy portal:

1. Open it Google Home app and tap your personal icon (can be your photo or silhouette) in the upper right corner.

2. Choose You from the menu bar at the top and tap Your data in the Assistant.

privacy settings web page on the google home page

Linking your primary phone number to Google Home allows you to make calls from your smart speaker and recipients will see that it’s you.

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

3. Make a call using your Google Home device

Hands-free calling is one of Google Home’s best features, but it won’t work the way you want it to unless you’ve set it up right. To make sure Google Home shows your primary phone number when you use it to make a call, follow these steps:

1. Open it Google Home app and touch Settings.

2. Scroll down until you see Then Google Assistant services touch Voice and video calls.

3. Touch Mobile call. If you haven’t set it up yet, tap Your own number then tap Add or change a phone number.

4. Google will send a verification code to your phone, which you will need to enter on the next screen.

5. Once your phone number is connected, make sure Your own number has been dialed under Your related services.

6. Under Contactstouch Upload now to sync contacts from your phone.

Now all you have to do to make a call with Google Home is call Google Assistant (“OK, Google” or “Hey, Google”) and say “Call [contact name].”

4. Change your Google Home nickname

My Google Home is currently set to call me Sergeant Pepper for no other reason than I get a kick out of my digital assistant calling me a Beatles album. You can make yours call you whatever you want. Note, however, that you may need to spell it phonetically. To teach Google Home your nickname:

1. Open it Google Home app and touch Settingsthen scroll down and tap More settings.

2. Under Youtouch Nickname then under What should the Assistant call you? enter the nickname you want it to use.

3. Touch Play to hear Google Assistant say your name. If he doesn’t pronounce it correctly, change the spelling until he does.

And yes, you can make it a curse word.

google home mini mickey mouse

You can customize your Google Home in many ways, including teaching it to call you by a nickname, such as Mickey Mouse?

James Martin/CNET

5. Create a group of speakers to maximize your musical enjoyment

Not only do Google Home speakers sound great on their own, they get even better when you double, triple, or even quadruple them. In fact, you can add as many speakers as you have in your house to a speaker group. We have detailed instructions on how to use Google Home for build a whole house audio system herebut here’s the simplified version:

1. Open it Google Home app and touch + (plus sign) in the upper left corner.

2. Tap Create speaker group, select the speakers you want to include, then tap The next one.

3. Under Give this speaker group a nameenter a name (“Whole House” or “Living Room” etc.) and tap Save.

Another way to improve the sound of your speakers is to use one as the left channel and one as the right channel. Here’s how to create a pair of speakers from two (same) Google Home speakers. You’ll want to make sure you have yours music services set up the right way, too. And while you’re at it, consider mounting your Google Home or Nest Mini on the wall for better sound.

google home wifi audio testing lab

Google engineers put Google Home smart speakers through a series of tests to get the best possible sound from the tiny devices.

James Martin/CNET

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