The Lifewire Apple TV User Guide

Get the Most from Your New Streaming Box

Apple TV is a streaming media box that delivers movies, TV shows, music, and live events to you through your television. If you're new to Apple TV, then you need this Apple TV user guide to help you master all the ins and outs and get the most out of your new streaming box.

This guide supports tvOS versions 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, and 6 - 4th, 3rd, and 2nd generation Apple TVs. This guide also covers iTunes and Apple TV app on macOS versions Catalina (10.15) – Mountain Lion (10.8). 

The Apple TV box 4K Version with Remote. 

How Do I Set up Apple TV?

If you have just purchased an Apple TV, then zip on over to the Lifewire Apple TV setup guide. Be sure to sign into your iCloud account on the device and connect to your Wi-Fi. Now you're ready to begin using it.

How to Operate Apple TV?

Apple excels at creating beautiful interfaces, and Apple TV is no exception. The home screen displays a sampling of content, and below it are several menus using large rounded icons for each channel or function. The simple remote allows you to breeze left and right, up and down between each icon, and select with the center button or touch area. 

Apple TV Interface with folder. 

The first row of icons contains category icons for Movies, TV Shows, and Music. There is also an icon that shows your connected Computers and then one for Settings. On Apple TV 4th generations, you will also see an App Store icon. 

Just below that, you will see all your favorite channels like Netflix, Hulu and even one for playing Apple live events. 

To rearrange the apps on your home screen, use the Siri remote to select an app, then press until it starts to shake. Then, using the touchpad, move it to the new location and press the touchpad again to save it.

The Apple TV Remote

Let’s touch on a few Apple TV basics. Depending on the Apple TV box version you have, your Apple TV remote may have directional buttons (silver remote for 2nd and 3rd generations). If you have a newer Apple TV (4th generation), then you will have a touchpad to navigate.

On the newer remote, swipe up and down or left and right to navigate through the menus and icons and tap the touchpad to select. On the older remote, use the directional buttons to move between icons and the center button to select. 

All remotes have a menu button and a pause/play button. The newer remotes have a home button, along with controls to turn the volume up and down. On the older (silver) remote, the menu button works as a “back” button that takes you one level back throughout the system. 

The newer versions (HD and 4K) have Siri built-in so you can use voice commands to search for TV shows and movies, play content, open apps, and more. You can even use your iPhone as an Apple TV remote by downloading the corresponding app to your phone. 

Apple TV Remote.

Some voice commands to try are:

  • "Open Netflix."
  • "Play the latest episode of South Park."
  • "What football games are on?"
  • "Play some jazz music."

To use the Siri function, hold down the microphone button for a couple of seconds, then say your command when you hear a beep. 

Searching on an Apple TV

Searching on an older Apple TV is different than using an Apple TV with Siri. With the older generations (2nd and 3rd), you must first select the category of Movies, TV, or Music, then scroll over on the top menu to select Search. You will see a keyboard and can select letters, numbers, and symbols to type in the name of the movie or show you're looking for, then select from the results.

As soon as you begin typing, results will display for you to choose from. You won’t have to put in the entire name for you to find a favorite movie or TV show. 

To search on a Siri-enabled remote, press the Siri button and hold until you hear a beep. Speak your request into the remote to search and Siri will deliver. Siri also searches within apps like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO to find exactly what you need. 

Apple TV Apps and Content

The best thing about a streaming device is access to hundreds of channels and apps. One of the most popular uses for an Apple TV is to play games. With a newer version of Apple TV, you have access to thousands of apps through the App Store. Follow the instructions below to find and install games and apps on your Apple TV.

According to Apple, the Siri remote for HD and 4K versions include an “accelerometer, gyroscope, and built-in compass for playing a variety of games. Depending on the game, you can hold and move the remote in three dimensions (pitch, roll, and yaw). Some games respond to movements you make in the air with the remote.”

  1. From the home screen, select the App Store icon. 

  2. Use either the Featured selection or Siri to search for the game or app you want.

  3. Select the app icon to install it. Some apps require purchase, and some are free.

  4. The app will now appear on your home screen ready to use.

Stream Movies to Apple TV from Your Mac

Although you can download the official Apple TV manual online and find out how to watch movies from your Mac, this is a quicker and easier method. If you like to rent DVDs, then rip them to your computer, you can create your own home library of movies and watch them through your Apple TV device. Using this same method, you can also share photos, music, and TV shows. 

Add Movies on Your Mac

Once you rip the DVDs to your computer, you can store them in any folder. Then follow the steps below to get the TV App or iTunes (for older operating systems) to recognize your movies. 

Using iTunes

To get iTunes to recognize your movies, follow these steps:

  1. Open iTunes.

  2. Navigate to Movies.

  3. Go to File > Add to Library.

  4. Browse for the folder or file you want to add.

  5. Press the Open button, and iTunes will add them to your library.

  6. The movies are now shared and ready to view on Apple TV. 

Using the Apple TV App on the Mac (macOS Catalina):

To get the Apple TV app on the Mac to recognize your movies, follow these steps:

  1. Open TV on the Mac.

  2. Click Library at the top.

  3. Click File > Import.

  4. Choose a folder of movies or a file.

  5. Your videos are now shared and ready to watch on your Apple TV.

Turn on Home Sharing

You will need to turn on Home Sharing for everything to work together nicely. The process is slightly different for older versions of macOS before Catalina. 

  • For iTunes (macOS Mountain Lion – Mojave): Open iTunes and go to File > Home Sharing, then enter your Apple ID and password when prompted.

On iTunes version 10.7 or earlier, click Advanced > Turn on Home Sharing.

  • For Apple TV on Mac (macOS Catalina): Open Systems Preferences and click the Sharing icon. Then, in the left-hand pane, click Media Sharing and check off Home Sharing. You can also give your library a name in the box above.

Log into Your Apple TV to Watch the Movies

After setting up your Apple TV and logging in with your Apple ID and password, you will now have access to those movies, photos, and music. On the home screen of Apple TV, select the Computers icon. You will see categories of your shared music, TV shows, movies, and photos. Scroll through to find the movie you want and hit select to start playing it. 

Another useful feature is AirPlay, which you can use for screen mirroring from your Mac, iPhone, or iPad to your Apple TV. 

Apple TV App vs. Apple TV Box

Now that Apple has released its Apple TV app on other devices, the media box may someday face extinction. For now, however, Apple TV is alive and well and offers one of the best interfaces, high-quality content streaming, and seamless integration with HomeKit and iCloud services. 

The Apple TV app, which can be used on any iOS device and other streaming media devices, offers some of the same content and features of the box. However, it does not come with a remote or the ability to share screens via AirPlay or stream your own personal libraries. Along with the Apple TV app, Apple has rolled out its own set of proprietary content, and TV shows that you cannot view anywhere else. 

For additional settings and features like turning closed captions on and off, pairing accessories, or using VLC on Apple TV, consult the official Apple TV manual