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Apple TV won't update: How to troubleshoot common problems

Apple TV aerial
Apple TV aerial (Image credit: iMore)

You can officially install the latest Apple TV update, and if you don't know everything you need to know about tvOS 14 you're in for a real treat. If your Apple TV won't update to tvOS 14 automatically, you can do so manually, but there may be some complications. If the install times out, fails to verify, won't download, won't complete, or won't reboot, here's what you can try.

How to force quit the Settings app

If the Settings app won't find tvOS and your Apple TV won't update even start the update, you can try force-quitting it. Just press and hold the Menu button on your Siri remote. Easy as pie.

How to restart the Apple TV

If you're still having trouble, you can force restart the Apple TV itself:

  1. Launch Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click on Restart.

Or simply hold down the Menu and Home button until the Apple TV resets.

How to fix a bricked Apple TV

Apple TV Siri Remote

Apple TV Siri Remote (Image credit: iMore)

If your Apple TV is completely unresponsive, you can try restarting your Apple TV using your Siri Remote. Press and hold the Home Button (the one that looks like a TV) and the Menu Button at the same time for about 6 seconds. Let go when the status light on your Apple TV starts flashing.

How to restore your Apple TV HD

If your Apple TV HD won't update, you can plug it into your Mac using a USB-C cable and restore it from Finder.

Note: On macOS Mojave and older, your device appears in iTunes. All of the steps are the same.

  1. Plug your Apple TV into your computer using a USB-C cable (opens in new tab).
  2. Open Finder.
  3. Select the Apple TV from the Devices menu, then click Restore Apple TV.

How to reset your Apple TV back to factory settings

The Apple TV 4K does not have a USB-C port, and so doesn't easily connect to your computer for a Finder Restore. If you call Apple support for help, it's likely that you'll be asked to send in your Apple TV. However, some users have had success by power cycling their Apple TV five or six times in a row by unplugging the Apple TV, waiting a minute, and then plugging back in the Apple TV.

This should send the Apple TV 4K into factory reset mode, which will erase all of your settings but should unfreeze your Apple TV.

Still can't get your Apple TV to work?

It may be time to book a Genius appointment (opens in new tab) at a nearby Apple Store. You may be asked for your Apple TV's serial number; you can find it by checking one of three sources:

  • If your Apple TV boots, you can go to Settings > General > About (or Settings > Remotes and Devices > Bluetooth > Remote for your Siri Remote's serial number).
  • Can't get any signal from your Apple TV? Turn it over; the serial number is located on the bottom of the device, below the FCC symbols and information.

If you're on the developer beta, and the Apple Store knows it, they may redirect you to developer support. If you failed to install the public beta, though, or they just take pity on you, they may help you anyway.

Of course, it may just be time to invest in something new so you have the best Apple TV for today's advanced technology.

Any questions or troubleshooting worries?

Run into a problem with the new Apple TV beta you can't fix? Let us know in the comments!

Updated Sept 2020: Updated for tvOS 14.

Rene Ritchie
Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.