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How to reset Philips Illuminate Lights

Posted in holiday, Household Tips, howto, repair by commorancy on December 1, 2018

img_4242[Updated for 2019] When trying to connect to my Philips Illuminate strand of lights this year, for whatever reason the Philips Illuminate iOS app is no longer finding them. It took me a while to find these instructions to reset the control box. Here’s how I solved the problem. Let’s explore.

Philips Illuminate

This product had great beginnings, but unfortunately Philips has decided not to continue developing and improving either the app or the product. It is an expensive product which required the purchase of a control box and a strand of lights (startup kit)… the control box being the most costly item to buy. Typical strands of LED lights cost around half or less (even cheaper if you pick them up on clearance) compared to the Illuminate strands. However, the Illuminate strands of lights offered chasing lights and many colors, similar to Philips Hue. I think I may have spent $60-$75 or so to buy into the starter kit product with a small strand of lights. Pricey for the strand size. It also offers the ability to chain light strands together making the system expandable.

At the time, I invested into the Illuminate product because Philips had also created the Philips Hue system and I thought they might eventually merge the two product lines together. No such luck. Worse, the light programming options of the strand is far less programmable than one might hope. I was expecting improvements that just never materialized.

Improvements and Features

If you’re just hearing about Illuminate lights this year, then let me explain some of the gripes for this product. While the starter kit does come with the control box, the control box does not offer any kind of networking interface with IFTTT, Amazon Alexa or any other similar control systems. The control box is just a “dumb” box. Its purpose is only to allow for connectivity for the Illuminate app and to provide light effects for the connected strand(s) . The control box has no ability to turn the lights on or off. When power is applied, the lights always turn on.

You can still find the Illuminate lighting on sale at Target. However, the add-on strands themselves cost around $30-$50 per strand. If you need a starter kit, expect to spend about $75 or more.

To add the ability to control the power to the lights remotely, you’ll need to purchase a WeMo smart plug or similar networked plug sold separately. These plugs support Alexa, Apple HomeKit, IFTTT and other networking features. Adding a smart plug lets you control the lights on a schedule via their apps or by voice via a home assistant like Alexa.

Control Box

The control box itself is the heart of this system and allows for WiFi connectivity so the Illuminate app can control the light programming. It also handles the LED light sequencing. When the app was first released, they offered 17 different light patterns which include a variety of chasing options, fading options, twinkling and steady options. Today, we still have those same 17. There is a customize option, but it’s limited to Twinkle, Fade and Chasing.

Unfortunately, the one light programming option I wanted doesn’t exist. Specifically, I want the lights to each change from one color to the next individually and randomly rather than all at once. This one doesn’t exist. A small problem compared to what I faced when attempting to reprogram my strand this year.

For the last two years, I have been able to launch the iOS app and have it find and see the control box just fine on WiFi. For whatever reason, this year it no longer works. As a result, I can no longer program the lighting strand from my phone. I had also lost the instruction guide for this product long ago. Here’s what I saw when I attempted to control my light strand:


I’m all, WTF? Rescanning does nothing. As there is no physical reset button on the control box to factory reset with a paperclip or similar method, I had to resort to scouring the Internet to find a solution. Unfortunately, the search engines didn’t turn up much right at the top for how to factory reset the Illuminate lights.

If you have run into the issue where your control box can no longer be found by your iOS or Android app, it’s likely that the control box is not registering itself properly on WiFi. Because there’s no troubleshooting as to why this is happening and after finding the reset instructions, I decided to use the Direct connection approach to control my lights. At least it works for the few times I need to make changes. It’s not handy for the audio/music feature, but it works for the standard light programming.

Resetting the System

To reset a Philips Illuminate control box, you’ll need to perform the following actions:

  1. Turn off or disconnect the power to the control box… wait 3-5 seconds
  2. Apply power to the control box… wait 3-5 seconds
  3. Perform steps 1 and 2 three or four times successively until the light strand begins flashing on and off. This signals that the control box has factory reset and you can stop this process.

If you find that after performing steps 1 and 2 multiple times doesn’t cause the strand to flash on and off, keep performing it until it does. If you can’t get the lights to flash, then you may not be waiting long enough or you are waiting too long between power off and on. Try waiting longer or shorter intervals between power toggling.

Note that factory resetting the device loses its knowledge of any WiFi devices it knew about including passwords. This means you’ll need to set this up again from the Illuminate app (instructions below).

Factory Reset

At this step, you’ll want to make sure you have the Philips Illuminate app installed on whatever device you’re wanting to use to control your lights. For Android, go to Google Play and search for and install Philips Illuminate. For Apple, navigate to the App store and install it. You’ll need this app for the next steps.

Once the control box is factory reset, it no longer attempts to connect to whatever previous WiFi network it once knew. The control box now goes back into initial setup mode and it creates an access point of its own. The new access point SSID will look like PhilipsACCF235B6838 or similar. For this article, I will assume the access point ID to be named PhilipsACCF235B6838. When you are performing this on yours, it will obviously be named something different. You can rename this SSID if you want, but I left it as it is because it doesn’t identify what the product is. It also doesn’t broadcast this SSID very far anyway, which is why you need to be close to it.

If you have installed multiple control boxes all handling different strands of lights around your property, then it would make sense to rename each SSID to a name that identifies which strand it is and where it is located. Renaming in this instance makes sense. For a single control box handling a single strand like mine, renaming is not important.

At this point, you’ll want to open your iOS or Android phone and navigate to the Android or iOS settings area where you can connect to a WiFi access point. Once in settings, wait for your device to scan looking for new access points. Once it finds PhilipsACCF235B6838 (or however yours is numbered), click on it to connect. Note that you may need to be within a few feet of the control box for this to work. Don’t try to do this from a different room in the house.

Once connected, it will prompt you for a password. The default password is 12345678. Depending on which method you choose to try next will determine if you need to change that password.

WiFi Network Setup vs Direct Setup

There are two ways to go at this point. You can have your Illuminate control box connect to your local WiFi lan network or you can use a direct connection. I couldn’t get mine to connect to my local WiFi network for whatever reason. I think someone has set something up in my complex causing massive interference. I fill in the correct WiFi network details, but the app is never able to find the control box on my local WiFi network. So, I reset it again and this time I chose the Direct connection method to manage the lights. Slightly more of a hassle, but it at least works.

Network Setup

After connecting your phone to the WiFi access point PhilipsACCF235B6838 from your device settings, launch the Illuminate app. Once the app loads, it should find control box, the app may show you the control box screen (below) or it may jump into the setup screen. This screen below is what you should see each time you start the Illuminate app regardless of whether you choose Direct WiFi or connect the control box to your local lan via WiFi.


If not in the setup screen already, select the menu icon in the upper left of the screen and choose ‘Setup Wizard’. From here you can either setup the device for Direct connection or WiFi lan connection like so:


If you want to use a WiFi lan connection, then click CONNECT CONTROL BOX TO LOCAL WI-FI. On the next screen, scroll the screen to find the access point you want to connect to and click it.


Next, enter the password for the SSID you’ve chosen.


Make sure the password you enter is correct. The Illuminate App should verify the correctness of the password you enter in this field, but if the password changes on the access point, it will no longer work. I can’t guarantee that the app will verify the password you enter here, so make sure it’s correct.

If you want to use the direct connect method to manage your light strands, then click USE A DIRECT CONNECTION and then follow the screen prompt that comes next:


From here, you’ll need to change the password you want to use on your control box going forward. This is the password change screen. It changes the password on the WiFi password you will use to connect to the SSID WiFi access point in the control box. You can also change your SSID for your control box on this screen, but I left mine as it is. After you CONFIRM the password, as the screen states, the control box will restart. Once the control box restarts, you’ll need to reconnect to your Philips SSID via WiFi settings on iOS or Android. You may need to forget the old network as it may have remembered the older 12345678 password. Then, reconnect and enter the new password you just entered in the screen above.

Security Tip: you should always change default passwords included with devices because anyone can easily find the default password on the Internet.

Once your WiFi has connected to the access point, relaunch the Illuminate app and it should take you to the screen that looks like so which should immediately find your control box:


Click the check box like above and press Enter to manage your light strands like normal.

Failure is not an option

If after going through the above steps to reconnect the control box to your local WiFi network, you find that your Illuminate app still cannot locate the control box on your local WiFi network on startup (what happened to mine), you’ll need to use the direct connection to control your lights. If you cannot connect to the control box after a factory reset, your control box may be damaged.

[Updated for 2019] Support for Illuminate

It looks like Philips has dropped the Illuminate brand entirely from its website. This includes no more support for this product line directly from Philips. However, it seems that a company named Seasonal Specialties has picked up and continues to support the Illuminate product. Perhaps they were the original creators? I don’t know the history of this product.

If your strands aren’t working correctly or your strings are stuck on a single color (i.e., blue) or are not responding to the control box, you’ll need to contact Seasonal Specialites who may be able to assist you to get your strings and/or control box replaced. You can call them at 1-800-763-6177. You can also visit them at www.seasonalspecialties.com. For further troubleshooting help, try this Seasonal Specialties page for Illuminate Lights.

Also note that I didn’t personally see any Illuminate starter kits or strands available for purchase at my local Target store in 2019. It seems these lights are now only available for purchase online at Target.com. Note that the stock that Target has may, in fact, be new old-stock. What that means is that it could be Target’s remaining 2 or 3 year old stock being sold online. This could also mean that once Target sells out of what they have, there may be no more available. If you’re wanting to add onto your Illuminate lights or get a new control box, I might suggest buying any strands you need this year (in 2019) as they may not be available in future seasons. When Target removes items from stores and sells it online only, it’s usually one step away from being discontinued.

As always, if this article was helpful to you, please consider leaving a comment and following my blog for future helpful advice. If you could please share this article on Twitter and other social media, it would help me out 👍.



17 Responses

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  1. Shane and Krystal Arnold said, on December 7, 2020 at 2:18 pm

    Thank you so much for this info. Like many others that have commented, this was our 3rd year with these lights and the control box stopped working and wouldn’t find the app/wifi. All the resets did not work. We are forced to let the lights run through the 17 settings but at least we aren’t stuck with just one setting.
    We will NEVER purchase another Philips product again as I am sure others that commented would agree.


    • commorancy said, on December 7, 2020 at 7:46 pm

      Hi Shane and Krystal,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Unfortunately, these control boxes were not terribly well made. It’s unfortunate that yours won’t reset properly. The earlier control boxes when the system first introduced, may have been better manufactured than the more recently made boxes. It’s unfortunate too because this system is a great idea, if not a bit overpriced. I believe the high cost to buy into this system is ultimately what did it in. Justifying a 25 strand of lights priced at $75 (or higher) is exceedingly difficult when you can buy longer strands for around $10. I was personally hoping the system would drop in price each year after introduction. That didn’t happen.

      It was only when you bought multiple strands and linked them together that you might see the value in this lighting system. Unfortunately, Philips always treated the Illuminate system like a red-headed step child. After Philips’s initial investment, they only mildly attempted to sell these during the Holidays (and primarily at Target), but it wasn’t well supported or received. Over time, that support only got worse and updates to the boxes and app became non-existent. Honestly, Philips would have done better to attach a programmable Raspberry Pi as the controller. At least that would be easily replaceable, easily expandable and easily programmable by third parties after Philips discontinued the product.

      Thanks again for your comment.


  2. Albert said, on December 1, 2020 at 2:20 am

    This helped, thanks to your instructions I was able to get my lights working. My app won’t find the control box. Don’t think I will ever buy another philips product after such a bad experience. Before this I was ready to throw the lights away and buy a different brand. This is the 3rd year I have had them. The second time I used them, a light went out in on strand and that was it with that strand.


  3. Jana said, on November 10, 2020 at 6:25 am

    Thank you SO much! I was so frustrated and the reset completely fixed the issue. Excited to use these for the first time!


  4. Tilong said, on December 23, 2019 at 6:58 pm

    Spent all day before I read your topic with failures, was able to accomplish what I needed to do within minutes thanks to your article


  5. Mark said, on November 25, 2019 at 5:32 pm

    Your article was great help but still running into problems. Any suggestions on what to do if only 18 lights out of the 25 are responding to the app color chnages?


    • commorancy said, on December 2, 2019 at 10:58 am

      Hi Mark,

      It could be either the control box or the string. You’ll need to call Luminate support to discuss your options. It looks like this support is now handled by Seasonal Specialties.

      Their phone number is 1-800-763-6177. Their website is http://www.seasonalspecialties.com. I do not know why Phillips is not handling support for these lights directly. Good luck!


  6. Kurt M. said, on November 9, 2019 at 2:48 pm

    Any further thoughts or recommendations for issues with the Philips Illuminate app connecting to the control box(es)? I’ve had issues for the past two years and have had to replace multiple light sets. Trying to get them up and running again for this season.

    I reset the control box(es) and was able to connect with my phones wifi directly to the control box, however when I open the Philips Illuminate app I get a message that reads, “CANNOT CONNECT TO WI-FI…Turn on Wi-Fi Services from your device SETTINGS menu. Illuminate requires Wi-Fi services to be ON.”

    My Wi-Fi is turned ON. I’ve tried multiple times to turn wifi ON/OFF and even tried removing and reinstalling the app, but keep getting the same issue. The app will not recognize the control box even though my phones wifi will find it and connect to it????


    • commorancy said, on November 9, 2019 at 3:24 pm

      Hi Kurt,

      Thanks for your comment. I don’t have any further recommendations on how to fix this problem. I believe the problem stems from the security protocols in use on the control box itself and being used on the app. It’s also possible the app is now officially outdated and won’t operate properly on the latest iOS and/or Android version. Because Philips has more-or-less abandoned this product’s development, the security protocols it is using between the app and the control box are likely outdated. What that means is that because Apple and Google continually update security protocols on their devices, Philips has not correspondingly updated its security protocols to match these updates.

      As a result, because the control box’s security system is so far behind Apple’s and Google’s current standards, the Application is simply no longer able to communicate properly and securely to the device. It’s most likely the operating systems behind this, actually. Eventually, when security protocols get too old, they stop working. For example, browsers have deprecated the use of TLS 1.0 because of its lack of security. If the control box is using TLS 1.0 to secure its connection, the phone operating systems are likely to reject access to this device due to the use of TLS 1.0.

      There’s really no workaround for this eventuality except to contact Philips and ask them to produce an updated control box using current and supported security protocols. That’s about all I can offer for this. The only possible solution is as the article suggests… don’t attempt to have the control box connect to your WiFi network. Instead, use the Direct connection option which may continue to work properly for a while longer. With each new iOS and Android update, though, eventually even that may stop working. Good luck.


  7. Wendy Wilson said, on June 29, 2019 at 2:10 pm

    thanks! Trying to make my lights (still on Christmas colors) go red white and blue for the 4th. ALWAYS a challenge. Glad to have found you though. My latest error message is that it will try again when the signal is stronger. Going to try again at night, seem to have better luck then.


  8. John said, on December 24, 2018 at 7:32 am

    Definitely thanks for you information: my newer 5G 802.11ac wi-fi setup doesn’t work anymore with older tree controller (2.4G only maybe?). I had use the “Use a Direct Connection” approach. The password reset is also useful. does anyone know how the control scheme works in the 3 wire cables? My tree has 3 sections, and only the first section from controller responds to the light color controls, the other two (daisy chained) sections are stuck on blue only, so they’re getting power, but no control ??


    • commorancy said, on December 24, 2018 at 9:32 pm

      Hi John,

      Thanks for your comment. I’d assume two of the wires are for power positive (+) and negative (-). The third wire is likely for the data to tell the strand what to do. Why the strand isn’t receiving the data signal, I’m not sure unless the controller isn’t, for some reason, passing the data along the wire or the strand isn’t receiving it properly.

      There could be a number of reasons for this… it could be the second strand isn’t working properly and, thus, not passing the data signal along to the third strand. You might try reversing the order of the strands and see if that gets one of the strands working. If that doesn’t work, then it’s likely the controller that’s at fault and you’d probably need to call Philips support to see if they can help you with it. If you find that the strand is the problem, then you might need to replace it. You should still call Philips to see if they can help you.

      Good Luck!


    • Ron Taylor said, on December 1, 2019 at 9:07 am

      Could only talk to a weak customer support person at Seasonal Specialties in Minnesota that still tries to help with Illuminate. Was told the first extender string after the Starter string that only shows blue is bad. This causes all strings after that 1st blue string to also go blue. Bulbs are not replaceable. Seasonal Specialties may send you a replacement string when you describe the problem at 800-763-6177. In your case replace the “middle” string. Post if it helps. I am waiting to do the same thing after they send a new control box.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. cmpgelen said, on December 21, 2018 at 7:50 pm

    Thank you for posting this. My lights worked fine this morning and then chaos this evening. I have spent much time with these lights already this season due to a faulty set. Thankfully the company replaced them. This reset worked amazing. I was hung up on the password part- having the 12345678 worked perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Robert Garza said, on December 4, 2018 at 8:28 pm

    I had my lights with one control box working exactly how I wanted them to work. I have 150 lights on one control box now it only see 125 of the 150 the other 25 are blue and I can to control them. Any ideas as to what the problem could be?


    • commorancy said, on December 10, 2018 at 10:34 pm

      Hi Robert,

      Thanks for your comment. Sorry for the delayed response as WordPress has been a bit lax in sending me immediate notifications. I only check for new comments manually every few days.

      Anyway, here’s some troubleshooting ideas. What I would suggest is to unplug and replug all of the strands to freshen their connections with one another. This might get it working. It’s possible that one of the plug connectors has become crusty and doesn’t engage with all of the pins.

      If that doesn’t work, I might also suggest to plug the strand that doesn’t register into the control box without all of the other strands and see if the control box finds that single strand. If it doesn’t find that single strand, it could be a problem with the logic board in the strand that identifies how many lights are in the strand. This would likely mean the strand may have gone bad. It has not been unheard of for strands to go bad. If it finds the strand alone, but it doesn’t see it when all of the strands are chained, it could be a problem with the strand just before it. You might try reordering the strands to see if you can get them working again.

      If you find the strand has gone bad, I’d suggest contacting Philips support and see if they can do anything to help you replace it. Please let me know what you find.


    • Ron Taylor said, on December 1, 2019 at 9:15 am

      You have to replace the blue string. At least one bulb (nonreplaceable) is bad in it. Hopefully your blue one is the last one in the ‘Daisy Chain’ or else more than 25 would be blue.

      Liked by 1 person

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