Beginners Guide for 2.x

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This guide is for Apple TV 2.x (Take 2), for 1.x see the Beginners Guide for 1.x

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Keep it standard (but use some useful free software)

You can do more than you think with a standard ATV and a few free utilities and spare yourself plenty of time, effort and expense.

Check out The Alternative to Hacking page for instructions on getting more content on your AppleTV.

Make a patchstick (installing SSH)

Creating a patchstick on a USB thumbdrive can install SSH on your AppleTV without opening the box. Once SSH is installed other plugins, codecs and other hacks can be installed.

The easiest way to do this is through ATVUSB-Creator. Their site includes instructions. Below are (hopefully) clearer step-by-step instructions for Mac:

  1. Make the patchstick
    1. Download atvusb-creator
    2. Extract the zip file and run atvusb-creator from the folder it creates
    3. Insert your USB drive. If it doesn’t show up after a moment in the area at the bottom of the window labeled “USB Target Device”, click the double-arrow button to refresh. Select it from the dropdown menu. (I recommend detaching all other USB drives so you don’t accidentally choose the wrong one!).
    4. Click “Create Using”. The process will download a large file and then take several minutes to create your “patchstick” which is what your USB drive is now called.
  2. Turn off your Apple TV. Insert the patchstick into its USB port. Turn it back on.
  3. The patching process will occur automatically; you’ll see a different logo as the ATV boots, and a lot of text will scroll down the screen. When it’s complete, it will tell you to restart the ATV. Do so.
  4. Wait for the ATV to finish booting. You’ll notice you now have a number of new menu items.


Create a patchstick in Leopard (with Tiger CD) or Tiger

Create a patchstick with additional functions using PatchStickBuilder under Windows, Vista or Mac OS X.

Note: You can also install SSH by removing the harddrive, see Leopard instructions here

Hack the operating system

Hacking the AppleTV operating system allows you to add services to the machine while staying to the remote controlled single application system.

This comes in 2 flavors:

  • Patch and modify the existing sytem
  • Add components to the existing system

Patch and modify the existing sytem

We are talking here of a Take 2 Full Update. Alternatively (and seemingly more successful) use the safe updater from NitoTV. This does it for you. You should be able to use an external drive once this is done AND if you use the code at the bottom of this page, be able to use it for external storage (not tested personally).

Note that not all plugins work. See here for list of Take 2 working plugins: ATV2-Compatible Plugins.

So, you'll gain HD rentals, AirTunes, the new menu system, etc. Although let's be honest, the new menu system is not nearly as good as the old one, but the features contained therein are a great step forward.

Add components to the existing sytem

The very first thing you will want to do is to install SSH and give yourself remote console and file copy access to the AppleTV.

From here, you can add:

And check for other interesting plugins.

Install Mac OS X Tiger

Installing Mac OS X Tiger makes out of you the owner of a trimmed-down version of the Mac Mini.

Certainly the most silent Mac since the Cube.

The only drawbacks are:

  • no sound output,
  • no screen resolution change: you'll stick to the last one set before installing the new system.