How To Update to the Latest the Apple TV Operating System

4th Gen. Apple TV
image credit Apple Inc.

Every update to the Apple TV operating system brings valuable new features with it. Because of that, it's almost always a good idea to update to the new OS as soon as it's available. When OS updates are released, your Apple TV usually displays a message that prompts you to upgrade. 

The steps for installing that update, or how you go about checking for updates, depends on what model Apple TV you have. You can even set your Apple TV to automatically update itself so you never have to do it again.

​Updating 4th Generation Apple TV

The 4th Generation Apple TV runs software called tvOS, which is a version of the iOS (the operating system for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad) customized for use on a TV and with a remote control. Because of that, the update process feels familiar to iOS users:

  1. Launch the Settings app
  2. Select System
  3. Select Software Updates 
  4. Select Update Software
  5. The Apple TV checks with Apple to see if there's a new version available. If so, it displays a message prompting you to upgrade
  6. Select Download and Install
  7. The size of the update and the speed of your Internet connection determine how long the process takes, but assume it will be a few minutes. When the installation is complete, your Apple TV restarts.

Set 4th Generation Apple TV to Automatically Update tvOS

Updating tvOS may be easy, but why bother going through all those steps every time? You can set the 4th gen. Apple TV to automatically update itself whenever a new version is released so you never have to worry about it again. Here's how:

  1. Follow the first 3 steps from the last tutorial
  2. Select Automatically Update so that it toggles to On.

And that's it. From now on, all tvOS updates will happen in the background when you're not using the device.

Updating 3rd and 2nd Generation Apple TV

The earlier models of the Apple TV run a different operating system than the 4th gen., but they can still auto-update. While the 3rd and 2nd gen. models look like they might run a version of the iOS, they don't. As a result, the process of updating them is a bit different:

  1. Select the Settings app at the far right
  2. Select General
  3. Scroll down to Software Updates and select it
  4. The Software Updates screen offers two options: Update Software or Update Automatically. If you select Update Software, the OS upgrade process begins. Toggle Update Automatically to On or Off by clicking it. If you set it to On, new updates will be installed as soon as they're released
  5. If you selected Update Software, your Apple TV checks for the latest update and, if there is one available, displays an upgrade prompt
  6. Choose Download and Install. A progress bar for the download displays, along with the expected time to complete the installation
  7. When the download has finished and the installation is complete your Apple TV restarts. When it has booted up again, you'll be able to enjoy all the new features of the latest version of the Apple TV OS.

Apple may continue to update the software for these models for a little while, but don't expect that to continue for too much longer. The 4th gen. model is where Apple's investing all of its resources, so expect to see major new upgrades offered there only in the near future.