The Virtual Wall is a very handy accessory for the Roomba—when it works correctly. It can be very frustrating when the Roomba Virtual Wall is not working, especially if you’re using it to block off a staircase or thick carpeting that can damage the vacuum.
Every model of the Virtual Wall does the same basic thing: it puts up an invisible barrier for the Roomba to prevent the vacuum from going into a designated space. While some versions of the device also boast additional features, they all include that basic functionality.
Problems with the Virtual Wall can be tricky to diagnose, and the iRobot help page isn’t especially helpful. The good news is, we’ve got some tips for anyone struggling with their virtual wall. Read on below to find the solution to your particular problem.
Dual Mode Virtual Wall Barrier
As we mentioned above, there are a few different models of the Virtual Wall, and unfortunately, not all of them are compatible with all generations of the Roomba. There is the Auto-On Virtual Wall, which turns itself on only when the Roomba is cleaning to save battery life; the Dual-Mode Virtual Wall, which can act as either a wall or a halo; and the Virtual Wall Lighthouse, which can either stop a Roomba or just trap it in one room until it’s done cleaning, making it perfect for multi-room layouts.
Not all of these will work with all the Roombas, though. The chart below shows their full compatibility:
|500 series||600 series||700 series||800 series||900 series|
|Auto-On Virtual Wall||X||X||X|
|Dual-Mode Virtual Wall||X||X||X||X||X|
|Virtual Wall Lighthouse||581, 585||780, 782, 785||880, 886|
As you can see, the Dual-Mode Virtual Wall is the only one that is universally compatible across Roomba models. If you have one of the other Virtual Walls, though, double-check and make sure it’s compatible with your version of the robot vacuum.
Whichever model of the Virtual Wall you have, there is a light on the device that will turn on when it’s receiving power. If this light blinks when you turn it on or change modes, that means the batteries are running low and need to be replaced.
If this light isn’t coming on at all, put some new batteries into the Virtual Wall. The light should pulse when the device is turned on. If it doesn’t, there may be a problem with the device itself and you should contact iRobot’s customer care.
This is specifically a tip if you have the Dual-Mode Virtual Wall or Virtual Wall Lighthouse. When the Dual-Mode model is in Halo Mode, it will prevent the Roomba from entering an area in a circle around the Virtual Wall, rather than extending a barrier in a straight line.
The Virtual Wall Lighthouse also has two modes. In Lighthouse Mode, it will block off an area long enough for the Roomba to thoroughly clean it, then will let the Roomba through into the rest of the home. If you want to permanently block off an area, you want it in Virtual Wall Mode.
For both models, the switch to toggle between the modes is on the side of the Virtual Wall. For the Dual-Mode Virtual Wall, the Virtual Wall mode is the up toggle; for the Virtual Wall Lighthouse, the Virtual Wall mode is the down toggle.
In addition to the mode toggle, the Virtual Wall Lighthouse also has a range slider to set the width of the barrier. Make sure that’s turned up high enough to block off the entire doorway.
The arrow on top of the Virtual Wall tells you which direction it will project the barrier in. Make sure you have it facing across the doorway, staircase, or other area you want to block off.
Here you can see that Virtual Wall is backwards:
Where you place the Virtual Wall in relation to other Roomba accessories can also make a difference. If there is a Home Base charger or another Virtual Wall within about eight feet, these devices can interfere with the beam and how the Roomba responds to it.
Other devices that use infrared beams to communicate can also interfere with the Virtual Wall’s operation. Remote controls are the most common household device to use infra-red. If you’re trying to use a Virtual Wall in a room with a TV, make sure there’s enough distance between the Virtual Wall and where you’ll be using the remote.
If the Virtual Wall itself seems to be functioning properly, the problem might be with your Roomba’s ability to read its signal. Sometimes the vacuum might need its memory jogged to connect to a new accessory or to re-connect to one that’s recently been given new batteries.
To re-start the Roomba, press and hold both the “Spot” and the “Dock” buttons—you’ll find both in the same area as the “Clean” button, though the exact placement will vary depending on what model of Roomba you have. Hold both these buttons down for about ten seconds then let them go. The Roomba should then go through its usual start-up procedure.
As you can see, there are a lot of different reasons why your Virtual Wall isn’t stopping your Roomba, and each one has its own unique but simple solution. You can test whether your attempted fix has solved the problem by returning the Roomba to its Home Base then starting it off again in the direction of the Virtual Wall.
If the Roomba still doesn’t acknowledge the Virtual Wall after you’ve tried all of the fixes here, it’s time to contact iRobot’s customer support. The sensors and projectors in Virtual Walls can go bad. In some cases, these can be repaired, but sometimes your best option is to get a new Virtual Wall.
When they’re working right, Virtual Walls can be a great way to customize your Roomba’s cleaning path. We hope the tips above are helpful in getting your device into working order!