Fix Your Apple TV: Troubleshooting Streaming Issues

You’re sitting comfortably, watching something streamed through your Apple TV, when all of a sudden, the picture cuts out, to be replaced with a gray screen. Perhaps the interruption – a sort of digital “snow” static – fixes itself, and you soon forget about it.

But what if it doesn’t? What if you can’t watch streamed movies and TV on Netflix, Now TV, or stream movies from your computer via Plex or a similar service?

Here’s how to troubleshoot Apple’s digital box.

Check the Hardware

As with any hardware-related issue, the first thing you should do is ensure that the device is working properly. Both lights should be on, and not blinking; the Status Light on the right (as you look at the Apple TV) can, however, give you some idea as to what the problem might be on second and third generation Apple TVs.

If the light is fully on or off, you can assume that the device is in the corresponding state. A flashing status light, however, delivers more information. While flashing slowly, the Apple TV is starting up. Single flashes that correspond with remote control use indicate that the signal is being received. Three flashes following remote control use means that the Apple TV is rejecting the command.


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Quick flashes of the Status Light inform you that there is a problem. The first thing you should do is attempt to use the remote to Restore the device in Settings > General > Reset.

If this isn’t possible, remove the power cable and leave the device disconnected for a while. Apple TVs are prone to overheating if they’re not stored in a sensible, well-ventilated space, so this cold start can resolve a huge number of issues.

Resetting Apple TV Without a Menu

If the Apple TV isn’t responding to commands from the remote control and “cold starting” doesn’t have the desired effect, you will need to reset the device to factory settings and install the latest software. You can do this by connecting the Apple TV to your computer (Mac OS X or Windows) and running iTunes. A micro-USB cable is required for this, you can pick these up at your local Apple Store or online at Amazon.

With the HDMI and power cables disconnected from your Apple TV, open iTunes on your computer and connect the micro-USB cable from the Apple TV to your computer. If you’re using a third-generation Apple TV, you’ll also need to reconnect the power cable. Use Apple’s help page to establish which model of Apple TV you’re using.

On the Apple TV page in iTunes, click Restore Apple TV, and wait while the device is reset and updated. Do not disconnect any cables. Eventually you should see a message informing you that the Apple TV has been restored.

Confirm Apple TV Connectivity

While checking the hardware, you should also confirm that your Apple TV is connected to your local network. Open Settings > General > Network to check the settings, confirming that your router IP address is displayed. Use the Test Network option to find out if the Apple TV is successfully connecting to the Internet.

If your Apple TV menu cannot be viewed or interacted with – perhaps due to a problem with the remote – then you will need to check your router’s administration screen to find out if the device is connected. How you do this differs according to router manufacturer, so check the appropriate documentation, but in almost all cases such checks can be made from the web browser of any other device connected to the router.

For the best network connectivity on your Apple TV, you should connect an Ethernet cable where convenient. This is a particularly good idea if you’re finding the WiFi connection disconnects regularly or the signal strength fluctuates, particularly if you like to stream large files over the network.


After checking your Apple TV’s connectivity, confirm that the HDMI cable is connected properly. You might also double check, testing it on another device. Some HDMI cables (not necessarily the cheaper ones) are prone to deterioration, resulting in the Apple TV unable to send pictures to your TV set.

Also, ensure any HDMI splitters or extensions that you might be using are securely connected.

Problems Streaming a DVD to Your Apple TV?

Where you stream from can impact how Apple TV handles the data, and whether it is successfully reproduced on your TV. For instance, streaming from Netflix or Now TV (in the UK) should give you great results, as long as your Apple TV has a reliable network connection and Internet speed is fast.

Streaming from another device within your network is another matter, however.


Your MacBook Pro’s DVD player probably won’t stream many commercial DVDs due to DRM limitations. However, you can circumvent this by using VLC, the popular media player from VideoLAN. All you need to do is load up the DVD and stream it to the Apple TV by opening the AirPlay menu and choosing the Apple TV option.

Alternatively, you might prefer to rip the DVD using Handbrake, which should result in a media file that plays back with less reliance on your computer’s resources.

We’ve looked at several ways to resolve streaming issues on the Apple TV, from checking connectivity to overcoming DRM issues on DVDs. But what problems have you faced?

Do you experience Apple TV streaming issues? Perhaps you’ve found a fix that works every time?

Image credits: endermasali /, ymgerman /

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