Daily Tip: How to use an old iPod touch as an "Apple TV" for old TVs

How to use an old iPod touch as an

Curious how to stream digital content to your old, standard definition TV? Since they don't have HDMI ports, Apple TV is out but if you have an old iPod touch (or even iPhone) you can McGyver together something almost as good. We'll show you how after the break!

The current Apple TV is a great, inexpensive way to stream content to your HDMI-equiped HD TV but if you have an older CRT TV with composite (RCA video/audio) plugs, you're going to have to get just a little more creative. (You can look for component to HDMI converters but they're expensive.) And if you have an old iPod touch lying around, why not put it to good use?

What you need

  1. An old iPod touch
  2. A set of Apple composite cables [$39 - Apple Store link]
  3. A copy of the Air Video (or similar) app [$2.99 - iTunes link]

You could use an old iPhone or even a current iPod touch or iPad, though you probably don't want to leave them connected to an old TV. That's the reason I recommend an old iPod touch.

What you do

  1. Setup your iPod touch as normal.
  2. Plug your iPod touch into the dock connector on Apple's component cables
  3. Plug the USB out into an AC adapter (that way you won't have to worry about charging)
  4. Install Air Video's server client on your Mac or Windows PC [download link]
  5. Launch Air Video server
  6. Go into Preferences and share the libraries that contain your media (e.g. /music/iTunes)Air Video server preferences
  7. Launch Air Video on your iPod touch
  8. Add your Windows or Mac PC as a server
  9. Navigate to what you want to watch or listen to
  10. Hit play or play with live transcode and watch away!

Unlike an Apple TV, there's no remote for this setup which is a bit of a pain. However, Air Video can transcode non-Apple supported video formats like AVI and MKV on the fly so you don't have to worry about converting your collection before hand.

I've set this up for my mother using an iPod G3 and it works great. Whenever my sister or I visit we can stream things we want to show her almost as if she had an Apple TV.

If you have any questions or other tips on streaming media or getting more use out of old devices, let us know in comments!

Tips of the day will range from beginner-level 101 to advanced-level ninjary. If you already know this tip, keep the link handy as a quick way to help a friend. If you have a tip of your own you’d like to suggest, add them to the comments or send them in to news@tipb.com. (If it’s especially awesome and previously unknown to us, we’ll even give ya a reward…)

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Daily Tip: How to use an old iPod touch as an "Apple TV" for old TVs


This is good stuff. I have an older TV my my room and this will help stream movies from the server to the TV. I have a set of cables.

This would be so nice on my original iPhone. Too bad the Composite AV cables don't work on the original iPhone. But I should check this out in a year or two when we play the phone shuffle again and end up with spare phones.

Airvideo is definately an essential app. I haven't paid for many, i use mostly free versions, but Airvideo is one i was happy to buy. With just 384kbit/s upload i can stream decent quality video over the internet. I love this app.

Unrelated, BUT I have just noticed that Orange and T-Mobile UK have reduced their current iPad subsidised pricing!
Getting rid of old stock ready for iPad2 maybe?
Who Knows, keep the rumour mill rolling.....

Installing AirView would add another key AppleTV feature to the rigged up AppleTV. While we are rigging we may as well jailbreak and install Veency on the old iPod touch would give you a way to remote control it.

Video Stream is an app similar to Air Video, but with more customization. You can set up separate libraries that are password protected. You can also use an additional "idevice" as a remote. The only downside I've found is that there is no remote access with Video Stream, which is why I hang on to Air Video too.

(You can look for component to HDMI converters but they’re expensive.)
A set of Apple composite cables [$39 - Apple Store link]
component to HDMI 5 bucks at ebay
my math tells me to go the other way

ever since I updated from 3.X to 4.2 I can no longer get video out on my 3G iPhone which is all I used it for
I updated to get Netflix on it and now neither the old cables with jailbroken apps nor the official apple cables display tv out