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 is a pain to get a new Apple TV looking exactly like your previous setup.

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.
  3. Click on iTunes and App Store.
  4. Click on Add new Apple ID.
  5. Enter the Apple ID username.
  6. Click on Continue.
  7. Enter the Apple ID password.
  8. Click on Sign In.

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

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.

Home screen syncing across multiple Apple TVs

One of the last remaining irritations with not having the ability to fully backup Apple TV was the Home screen. Though you could sign in to iCloud and your cable provider fairly easily, all of your apps would need to be redownloaded and organized again. As of tvOS 11, however, One Home Screen makes it possible for you to sync your Home screen across multiple Apple TV boxes. If you have more than one Apple TV and have One Home Screen enabled, when you restart your Apple TV, you can get back all of those apps (and in the same layout) that you had before.

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

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 September 2018: Updated for tvOS 12.

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