How to fix a bricked or failed-to-update Apple TV by restoring with iTunes

How to restore a 2nd or 3rd generation Apple TV back to factory settings with iTunes

If you own a 2nd or 3rd generation Apple TV and you've been experiencing problems with it or it just doesn't seem to do anything at all, you can restore it in iTunes in pretty much the same way you can any other iPhone, iPad, or iPod. Recently, Apple pulled the Apple TV 6.0 software update after reports of it bricking user's Apple TV's started trickling in. If that's something you went through, the only way to get it back in working order is to restore it using iTunes.

Here's how:

What you need

  1. A sad 2nd or 3rd generation Apple TV
  2. A micro-USB cable. These are sold separately but are pretty common and can be picked up pretty inexpensively at most electronics stores.
  3. A Mac or PC running the latest version of iTunes.

How to restore your Apple TV using iTunes

  1. Plug your Apple TV into a Mac or PC using a micro-USB cable. You do not need the power cable for a 2nd gen Apple TV but will for a 3rd.
  2. Launch iTunes on your Mac or PC.
  3. Select Apple TV in the top right of the navigation bar if it doesn't pop up on its own.
  4. There is only one option when it comes to managing the Apple TV in iTunes and that's to restore it. Click on the button labeled Restore Apple TV...
  5. iTune will advise you that it will be restored to factory settings and updated to the latest software version. Click on Restore and Update to confirm you're okay with that.
  6. The next window gives you more information on the restore. Click Next to continue on.
  7. Click Agree on the next pop-up in order to agree to Apple's terms and conditions.
  8. The software update will now begin downloading, which you can confirm by clicking on the downloads button in the very top right hand corner of iTunes. This brings up the Downloads Window. Just make sure the download started and then you can close it out.
  9. Let iTunes do what it needs to do. Just make sure you do not unplug your Apple TV from the computer while it's restoring.
  10. Once it's done, you'll get a pop-up message telling you it's okay to unplug it from your computer and re-connect it to your TV.

That's all there is to it. Go ahead and set up your Apple TV with your television again and make sure it's functioning properly again.

Still having issues?

If you're still having problems after a restore to factory settings, our iMore forums are a great place to ask questions and get lots of help from other users. Be sure you check them out or drop a comment below.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Allyson Kazmucha

Senior editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

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Reader comments

How to fix a bricked or failed-to-update Apple TV by restoring with iTunes


I could never get it to work without the power cable plugged into the AppleTV...

Edit to add: Apple has released the update once again... no issues when I updated.

When I had to do it a few days ago, I did so sans-power adapter.

On what in sure is an unrelated note, once I was done with the entire expletive deleting process and had signed back into Netflix, etc, the Apple TV told me that there was an update available.

I wasn't about to risk it so I left it as-is.

Apple says that you don't need the power cable for the Apple TV 2 (I didn't for mine), but you do need power for the Apple TV 3. I can't confirm, but that's what Apple's support doc says.

I will confirm, 3rd gen requires power cable, 2nd gen does not.

Have both here, and procedure is different for both.

Just what does it mean when it says all media on the device will be erased? I thought there isn't really anything stored in the Apple TV itself on the 2nd and 3rd gen versions, other than settings to connect to other things. (I just use mine to stream movies from an iMac in our home on the same local network.)

That's pretty much it....just the settings. I had to re-authorize my HBO GO app, WIFI settings, etc. after restoring my 3rd Gen Apple TV. I'm glad that I found the post about this because I thought I broke my Apple TV when I updated it!

I read with interest this post.
Unfortunately trying to update my apple tv 3 to 6.0 it bricked and does not appear in itunes when I connect it with the mice usb and power cable. Just blinking rapidly all the time.
Clicking the remote buttons - trying to put it in DFU mode did not help either .
Any advice ?? Please Help !!!

This is so messed up on so many levels. I have had all of the ATV's and most recently with the 3rd gen I have seen nothing but problems. YouTube sync issues, wireless vs ethernet issues after updates and most recently this bricked nonsense. I am disheartened by Apples Tech Quality Assurance team. Just really angry, this last update I just installed equated in a bricked ATV3. I get the black screen but can hear the clicking sounds.

Knowing that Apple expects me to run this through my PC via AIT just to restore it back to new, then reset my accounts...again...I'd rather put XMB on my ATV2 or take my Roku out of storage.

Really disappointed in Apple. They wont be able to ride on the success of their name for long if they keep putting out junk updates. Grrrr.