How to back up your Apple TV

We all know the importance of backing up our devices so that, if something terrible happens and we have to restore it, the process can be less daunting. Unfortunately, Apple still hasn't made a way for us to back up our Apple TV in the traditional sense.

But just because you can't fully back up (and restore) your Apple TV doesn't mean you can't save important data. Thanks to iCloud and Home Sharing, your apps, music, movies, TV shows, and photos are totally secure — even if it can be a pain to get a new Apple TV looking exactly like your previous setup.

Here's how you can back up your Apple TV.

How to sync your music, movies, and apps on Apple TV

Apple TV

When you sign into iTunes and the App Store on Apple TV, all of your purchased movies, TV shows, music, and apps are automatically displayed for you to install or stream. You can also make use of your podcast activities. If you subscribe to Apple Music, you can take advantage of streaming audio. Your content will be listed under the Purchased section of each app, so you can easily find and access it.

When it comes to apps, it's kind of a pain in the butt since you have to go through and install each app you want on your Apple TV and if you've been playing a game that doesn't support cloud syncing, you might lose all of your progress.

Getting your content back on your Apple TV is otherwise fairly easy. All of your iTunes and App Store content is available for you to install or stream on Apple TV. All you have to do is sign in with your Apple ID. If your Apple TV crashes, all you have to do to see your purchases and downloads is to sign in again.

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Click on Accounts.

    Open Settings, click Accounts

  3. Click on iTunes and App Store.
  4. Click on Add new Apple ID.

    Click iTunes and App Store, click Add new Apple ID

  5. Click on Enter New... if prompted to do so.
  6. Enter the additional Apple ID username.

    Click Enter New... if prompted, enter new Apple ID username

  7. Click on Continue.
  8. Enter the additional Apple ID password.

    Click Continue, enter Apple ID password

  9. Click on Sign In.

    Click Sign In

You can also add multiple accounts so everyone in your household with an Apple ID can add their content to Apple TV

On tvOS 13, the process looks slightly different, but is more or less the same.

  1. Open Settings on your Apple TV.
  2. Click Users and Accounts.

    Open Settings, click Users and Accounts

  3. Click Add New User…
  4. Click Add User to This Apple TV.

    Click Add New User..., click Add User to this Apple TV

  5. Click Enter New…
  6. Enter your Apple ID email address and password as instructed.

    Click Enter New..., enter your Apple ID

  7. Click Sign In.

    Click Sign In

Home screen syncing across multiple Apple TVs

This is the closest we've actually come to having an honest-to-goodness backup system for the Apple TV. One Home Screen is a feature introduced in tvOS 11, and it syncs your tvOS app layouts across any Apple TV that's signed in to your iCloud account. Adding a new Apple TV to your home? One Home Screen will make sure that all of the apps and games that you love from your existing Apple TV are downloaded and arranged correctly on your new one.

How to sync your Apple TV Home screen across all Apple TVs

How to share your computer's content on Apple TV

Apple TV

Even if you don't use Apple Music or purchase movies and TV shows through iTunes, you can still take advantage of your personal entertainment collection thanks to Home Sharing. You can share the content of your computer to Apple TV. It doesn't matter if your Apple TV completely goes kaput, all of the movies, music, and TV shows you have stored on your Mac will still be there (but don't forget to have a solid backup plan for your Mac, too). Once you've added your computer to Home Sharing, you can find its content in the Computers app on your Apple TV.

How to sync your Photos on Apple TV

Photos on Apple TV

You won't be able to download pictures directly onto your Apple TV, but you can access them from iCloud. You don't even have to enable iCloud Photo Library if you don't want to access all of your pics. You can simply view your shared albums, or only reach back to the past 1,000 photos. If your Apple TV crashes, all you have to do is re-enable your preferred photo streaming feature for the Photos app when you get it back up and running.

TV everywhere

Single Sign-on on Apple TV

Whenever tvOS would crash in the past, it was always such a pain to sign back into every cable subscription you use on Apple TV. With single sign-on and the upcoming zero sign-on, many people will only have to sign in once (or not at all) to have direct access to their cable subscriptions as soon as they reinstall their channel apps and open them on Apple TV.

If you use the TV app on Apple TV, you won't even lose your TV watching activities with channel apps that are supported. Content from the TV app is synced in the cloud, so you can use it across multiple devices. The unintended benefit is it also acts as a sort of back up for your TV and movie viewing activities.

Any questions?

You may not be able to back up your Apple TV in the traditional sense, but thanks to iCloud, you aren't totally lost. Do you have any questions about connecting your Apple ID to access your content on Apple TV? Put them in the comments and I'll help you out.

Updated May 2019: Updated through tvOS 12.3.

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