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How To Restore or Update Your Apple TV Software Over USB

The latest Apple TV (s aapl) has a built-in update function that downloads and installs new software, accessible via the device’s Settings menu. But if you’d rather not update over-the-air, you can always do it via USB through iTunes, and restore your device from there, too, if you’re having problems.

Connecting Apple TV to Your Computer

  1. First unplug your Apple TV. Unplug both the HDMI capable attaching it to your home theatre setup, and the power cord. If you’re using an optical audio cable to connect to an A/V receiver, disconnect that, too.
  2. Now plug your Apple TV into your Mac, using a Micro USB cable. These ship with a lot of accessories with internal batteries these days, but if you don’t have one, you can grab one very cheap at Monoprice.
  3. Open iTunes if it isn’t open already. The Apple TV should appear in your source menu.

Now that you’ve got your Apple TV connected to your Mac, there are two options depending on what you’re trying to do.

Update Your Apple TV

  1. Get the latest firmware using a direct download link. These are usually pretty easy to find using a Google search. Here’s the link for the latest software (4.2) for Apple TV as of this writing. It should be a “.ipsw” file.
  2. Option+Click the “Restore” button on the Apple TV screen in iTunes. A dialog box will open asking you to specify the location of the Apple TV software file you downloaded in Step 1. Once you select the file, click “Choose” to continue.

Restore Your Apple TV

  1. Simply click the “Restore” button in iTunes on the Apple TV screen.
  2. iTunes will ask you to confirm, so click “Restore and Update” to continue.

I appreciate that Apple wants to keep things as simple as possible, but in some cases I’d rather have options other than just either using the built-in update tool or having to call Apple Support.

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