How to Set Up and Configure Your Apple TV

By Jason Fitzpatrick on November 2nd, 2015

The setup process for the Apple TV is pretty user friendly but that doesn’t mean a walk through and some helpful configuration tips aren’t in order. Whether you’re setting yours up right now or considering purchasing one, follow along to see how the process works.

Note: This tutorial applies to the 2015 4th-generation Apple TV hardware update and the subsequent updates running tvOS.

The Initial Setup Process

The basic setup process for the Apple TV, assuming you don’t have any hiccups along the way like you have no idea what your Wi-FI password is or you find you’re running out of HDMI ports on your TV, is pretty straight forward and has that classic Apple simplicity going on.

Hooking Up to Your HDTV and Home Network

The first order of business is simply hooking the device up. Let’s take a look at the back and highlight what the (very few) ports are used for.

Behind the monolithic black Apple TV box you’ll fine four ports. One power port, one HDMI port, one Ethernet port, and one USB-C port.

The power port is for the included power cable (which we have to say is a really nice cable with an eye catching retro plug), the HDMI port is for linking your Apple TV to your HDTV or AV receiver, and the USB-C port is of little concern to consumers. No, really, we promise. The reason your Apple TV doesn’t ship with a USB-C cable is because the port exists solely for diagnostic purposes and unless you return your Apple TV for service it likely will go unused for the duration of the device’s life.

The final port is the Ethernet port intended to link your Apple TV to your home network via hardline. Don’t have a nearby Ethernet port? Don’t worry, while having a hardwired media center device is ideal the Apple TV is equipped with speedy 802.11ac Wi-Fi (with backwards 802.11a/b/g/n  compatibility) so the Ethernet vs. Wi-Fi debate isn’t quite as one-sided as it used to be. If you have one nearby, use it. If you don’t have one we’ll be setting up the Wi-Fi connection in just a moment.

One port notably absent (and sorely missed by some fans of previous incarnations of the Apple TV) is the digital optical audio output; fans of using their Apple TV units as music media centers have definitely made their opinion about the missing digital audio jack known.

With all the ports squared away, plug the Apple TV power cord in and grab the remote control.

Pair the Remote

The initial setup (as well as day-to-day operations) are conducted using the included Apple TV remote. The very first step of the setup process is to pair the remote with the Apple TV unit. To do so simply peel the protective film off the remote, if you have not yet done so, and check to see that your Apple TV is displaying the following screen (which it should immediately after the first boot).

The upper area of the remote with the matte finish is a trackpad you navigate with your finger tip; you can swipe up, down, around, and then click the pad in to confirm selections you’ve made. Press the pad now to pair the remote to the Apple TV.

The setup process doesn’t exactly walk you through all the functionality of the Apple TV remote, but don’t worry, as soon as we’re done with the setup process we’ll walk you through what all the buttons do.

Configuring Your Connection and Apple ID

In the next two steps you’ll select your language and the country or region in which the Apple TV is located. After the first steps of pairing the remote and selecting language/country, you’ll be prompted to select whether you wish to set up your device with an iOS device or manually.

What’s the difference between the two set up choices? Your patience, friend, and tolerance for using a tiny trackpad to hunt and peck for your logins and passwords. If you set up with your iOS device you can automatically transfer your Apple ID and Wi-Fi credentials right from your phone to the Apple TV. If you do it manually, you have to use the onscreen keyboard via the touchpad to enter it all. If at all possible we recommend doing it via device instead of manually (because using a tiny track pad and a tiny on screen keyboard to enter your Apple ID and Wi-Fi credentials is not fun).

When you select “Set Up with Device” you simply need to follow the instructions found on the prompt screen seen above: unlock your iOS device, enable Bluetooth if it isn’t already on, and hold the device in the general vicinity of your Apple TV.

On your iOS device you’ll be guided through a series of prompts. First you’ll be asked if you want to set up your Apple TV, as seen above, then you’ll be prompted to enter your iCloud password, and finally you’ll be asked if you wish to send diagnostic data from your Apple TV back to Apple. While this process is happening your Apple TV will reflect the changes (indicating that it is connecting to your Wi-Fi network, that you should input your Apple ID and password, etc).

Final Selections

With the network connected and the Apple TV logged into the iCloud system it’s just a matter of making a few small selections. If you used the iOS-device-set-up option this is the first time you’ll be using the trackpad (if you manually entered all your Wi-Fi and user data, well congratulations, you’re already a veteran trackpad user).

Please note that any of the selections you make here can be immediately undone in the Apple TV settings if you change your mind (be it in ten minutes or next year).

The first choice is whether or not you’ll turn on Location Services. Unless you have a pressing reason to disable it, we’d suggest enabling it. It’s useful for weather apps, screensavers, and the like to know where you are, geographically speaking. Use your finger to swipe left or right and make your selection by clicking it.

Next you’ll be prompted to turn Siri on or off. Unlike the always-on Amazon Echo or iOS devices with the “Hey, Siri” feature turn on, the Apple TV does not actively listen to your living room in order to react to your demands. Just like the voice control found on the Amazon Fire TV, Siri is only available if you press the dedicated button on the remote and speak into the microphone located on said remote.

It’s up to you whether your use it or not, but it is the 21st century and you are being afforded the opportunity to drunkenly yell at your TV and demand to see every episode of Cheers. But hey if you don’t want to live in the future that’s none of our business.

In the next selection “See the World” you’ll be prompted to enable or disable the beautiful Ariel screensaver. If bandwidth isn’t a concern of yours, we highly recommend enabling it as it looks really stunning. If bandwidth is a concern of yours, you may wish to select “Not Now” as Apple estimates the HD video-based screensavers will suck up about 600MB a month worth of bandwidth.

Finally you’ll be prompted to enable diagnostic and usage data, participate in the App Analytics program (which is just like the diagnostic program except it allows the developers of the apps you use to see how you use their apps and study the crash data), and to accept the warranty and user agreement for your country.

With the last selection made, you’ll be dumped right into the home screen of the Apple TV.

Navigating Your Apple TV

Now that we’ve finished the initial setup let’s take a closer look at the Apple TV remote and how we use it to navigate around the Apple TV.

Your primary method of interaction with the Apple TV is the slender remote, seen above. The top of the remote is, as we learned earlier in this guide, a little trackpad you can move your finger around to make selections and then click to confirm those selections. If you want to move around the home screen to select, say, your iCloud photos, you just swipe right and then click when the iCloud photos are highlighted.

The Menu button pulls up the menu within the application you’re using or, if you are currently in a menu, it takes you back to the previous level. So if you’re in the Settings, for example, and you need to go back a level or two from where you currently are to make a new selection, you can click the Menu button the number of times you wish to back out of the menu structure.

The Home buttom returns you to the Apple TV home screen. The microphone button activates Siri in exactly the same fashion as you’re used to on your iPhone or other iOS devices: press, speak, and hope Siri understands what you’re asking her to do. The remaining buttons are traditional and self explanatory: the play/pause buttons starts and pauses video and music content and the volume up/down button regulates the volume output of the Apple TV.

A final note on the remote: unlike previous versions of the Apple TV wherein the remote used a little CR2032 coin cell battery the user had to occasional replace, the new Apple TV remote has a rechargeable battery. At the very bottom of the remote you’ll find a little Lightning port (which is why the Apple TV ships with a Lightning cable). There isn’t a lot of data yet on how long the remote will last under real-world conditions but when Apple announced it they projected up to 3 months per charge. (Probably more if you barely use it other than to start and stop media and probably a lot less if you use it to play games using the built-in sensors).

Settings and Configuration

While we’re sure you’ll find plenty to do checking out movies, shows, apps, and music on your Apple TV before you dive into playing around with your media let’s take a very quick look at some of the more settings you may wish to tweak early on in your Apple TV user experience.

To access the settings menu navigate to the home screen and then use the trackpad to swipe down and select the gear icon. Here are some of the settings you may be interested in, grouped by their general sub menus.

In the “General” settings menu you’ll find the screensaver options, the restrictions options (for setting locks and parental controls on your Apple TV), as well as the settings for Siri and the local storage. If you find, for example, that you really like the Aerial screen saver playing in the background you can increase the frequency with which it downloads new content or, conversely, if you find that it’s using too much data you can dial it down or turn it off.

While most of the stuff under the “Audio and Video” category is pretty technical (if everything is working and you’re not sure how many channels your system has or what kind of audio you want or need to use then we’d recommend just leaving it all alone) there is one setting many people will find useful: “Reduce Loud Sounds”. If you don’t have an AV receiver or HDTV that does a good job dynamically adjusting for changes in volume this setting will help cut down on the drastic changes between, say, spies whispering and the car behind them exploding.

Finally if your Apple TV is acting up or you wish to reset it to the factory settings and start fresh, you can do so in the “System” menu where you’ll find options to update your Apple TV, restart it, or outright reset it.

Enough about tinkering with the audio or restarting your Apple TV; we’ve got everything set up now so hit the Home key and start playing around with the fun stuff.


Have a pressing question about your Apple TV or iOS device? Shoot us an email at ask@howtogeek.com and we’ll do our best to answer your question.

 

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 11/2/15
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