Beginners Guide3

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This guide is for Apple TV 3.x (Take 3). For 1.x see the Beginners Guide for 1.x. For 2.x see the Beginners Guide for 2.x


Before beginning, you must decide which route you wish to take. There are three primary options:

  • Keep It Standard: Doesn't modify the AppleTV at all. Describes methods by which you can sync your own content to the AppleTV through iTunes.
  • Patch The AppleTV: Installs third-party plugins allowing playback of other content, games, web surfing, and more.
  • Install Mac OS X Tiger: Turns the AppleTV into a slimmed down computer running Mac OS 10.4 (Tiger)

Select your preferred method and follow the instructions.

Keep It Standard

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.

Patch the AppleTV using an USB thumbdrive

Tip: Buy a HDMI to DVI Adaptor to plug in the ATV to a spare monitor next to your computer.

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

That is all to patching your AppleTV. Enjoy.

Make a patchstick (atvusb-creator)

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. Instructions for windows are similar:

  1. Obtain a USB disk that you can erase. A 1G or higher flash drive will do.
  2. 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.
  3. Unplug your Apple TV. Insert the patchstick into its USB port. Plug it back in.
  4. 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. Wait for it to complete and tell you to restart the ATV.
  5. Unplug your AppleTV. Disconnect the patchstick. Plug the AppleTV back in.
  6. Wait for the ATV to finish booting. You’ll notice you now have a number of new menu items.


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

Patch the AppleTV by taking out the harddisk

The AppleTV OS is a relative of Mac OS 10.4 (a.k.a. Tiger). The basic idea is to install SSH on the AppleTV. Once this is done, one can log onto the AppleTV and patch it as one wishes. Installing SSH is done by taking out the AppleTV harddisk and copying the required binaries to it.

So the first steps are to:

  • update the AppleTV to the latest version
  • set it up (e.g. network settings)
  • shut it down
  • open the case and take out the harddisk
  • connect the harddisk to your computer using an USB to ATA adapter
  • copy the required binaries for SSH (see below)
  • put the harddisk back in place and restart the AppleTV

If you have a Mac running Mac OS 10.4, you can install SSH by copying the binaries from your Mac.

Else you can get a Darwin ISO where you will find the proper binaries and install SSH by copying them onto the AppleTV harddisk.

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.