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How to jailbreak an Apple TV 2

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July 29, 2013

Here's how to jailbreak Apple TV and get access to more content than you could ever watch ...

Here's how to jailbreak Apple TV and get access to more content than you could ever watch (Chain image: Shutterstock)

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Compared to other media set-top boxes, the Apple TV can appear somewhat limited. Out of the box it offers a limited number of channel apps and, unless you're invested in the Apple ecosystem, its AirPlay features are marginal at best. But the good news is you can get more content (a lot more), and additional functionality out of your Apple TV 2 with a simple jailbreak. It allows you to install popular apps like XBMC that make it easier to stream digital content throughout your home network. You're also able to find hundreds of internet channels like you'd find on a Roku.

What you'll need

Things to keep in mind

For this article I'm using an Apple TV 2 running the software version 5.3 (6105), and a PC running Windows 8. If you're on a Mac, no worries, the process is the same. Also, remember, this will not work with Apple TV 3, which is yet to succumb to jailbreaking more than a year after its release.

To check the version of software your Apple TV is running, go to Settings > General > About and there you'll see the software version. If you're running an older version, you can download the right version of Seas0npass for it.

Find out which version of software is running on your Apple TV

Jailbreak Apple TV 2

After you have everything ready, launch the Seas0nPass software on your computer and click the "Create IPSW" button.

Create IPSW starts the jailbreak process

Next you'll get a message to connect your Apple TV to your PC or Mac. Plug in the power cord and Micro USB cable then connect it to your computer. You don't need the HDMI or Ethernet cables connected – just the power and Micro USB.

Seas0nPass is waiting for you to connect you Apple TV via micro USB

After you connect your Apple TV, grab the Apple TV remote, point it at your Apple TV and hold down the Menu and Play/Pause buttons simultaneously for seven seconds. This will put the Apple TV in Device Firmware Update (DFU) mode.

After you see the blue light on the front of the box start blinking rapidly, release the buttons and the Apple TV should be recognized by your computer. You'll get a message asking if you want to save the signatures. This is up to you. I usually don't because it errors out on my system for some reason, but you might have better luck.

Apple TV 2 is recognized in DFU mode

After the signatures are saved, you'll see the following screen letting you know that the latest software is being downloaded and installed, which is 5.3 (10B809). This is exactly what you want, the jailbreak software and customized iPhone Software (IPSW). The amount of time this takes will vary depending on your internet connection. It took about 15 minutes to download and install on my DSL connection.

Seas0nPass is downloading iOS 5.3 (10B809)

During the process you'll hear the "chime" sound while it disconnects and connects to USB.

After the jailbreak software is installed, iTunes will launch into Apple TV Recovery Mode and restore your Apple TV. You don't need to do anything at this point, just wait for iTunes to do its job. This can take around 10 minutes.

iTunes is restoring your Apple TV 2 in Recovery Mode to the Jailbreak version of the softw...

Success! When it's done you should see the following message that your Apple TV has been restored to factory settings with the custom IPSW. But, you're not quite done yet. Click OK to the success message then exit out of iTunes.

Apple TV has been successfully restored to factory, um, jailbreak settings

Now you'll be back at the Seas0nPass screen and told "Custom IPSW created successfully!" Click OK.

Custom IPSW Created and you're almost done

The final step is to boot your Apple TV tethered. So make sure the power cord and Micro USB cables are still connected. Grab the remote control again, point it at the Apple TV and hold down the Menu and Play/Pause buttons again for seven seconds to enter DFU mode. Now on your computer click the Tethered Boot button in Seas0nPass. A couple of screens will come up, but don't do anything.

Apple TV found in DFU mode

After that you'll see that the tethered boot was completed, and you can now connect your HDMI cable to your HDTV. At this point remove the Micro USB cable, but not the power cord. If you remove the power cord, you'll need to connect it to your computer again and do the tethered boot.

Tether boot successful, remove Micro USB and plug HDMI in to HDTV

Now on your HDTV you'll need to go through the initial set up process, just like when you first bought it. Select your language, connect it to your home network, and when you get to the screen asking if you want to send information to Apple, select "No Thanks."

Send usage info to Apple? No Thanks

You'll know the jailbreak was completely successful because you'll see a new FireCore logo where Settings used to be.

Welcome to your jailbroken Apple TV, the FC logo will appear on the Settings button

Summing up

Jailbreaking your Apple TV 2 offers a plethora of new options and actually turns it into a completely new device. It allows you to install free media center software like XBMC or NitoTV. Or if you want to spend US$29.95, FireCore sells a media center product for it called aFlash TV (black). Those apps don't automatically install, and doing so gets pretty geeky. You need to use an SSH client (Putty is a good option for Windows users, while Mac users can use the Terminal.app included with OS X) and use a command line interface to tunnel in to the Apple TV.

For more, check out this XBMC Wiki page. The amount of channels and streaming content you can get is insane compared to what the Apple TV offers by default. You can also pull audio and video from network locations on your home network. Here's just a sample of what you can find after installing XBMC.

This is just a sample of the enormous list of channels that can be added to Apple TV with ...

Once you have it jailbroken, I recommend not installing an update when Apple comes out with one. You'll just have to jailbreak your device again, and it might take a while for one to come out. Apple TV doesn't come with a Micro USB cable, but they are cheap and can be found on Amazon. Or if you have a lot of gadgets, you probably have one lying around somewhere.

This is a tethered jailbreak. Which means, you cannot simply just carry your Apple TV into another room and use it. If you do want to bring it into another room, you'll need to take along a laptop, connect it, and tether boot it again for it to work. While having it tethered is somewhat annoying, it works great if you keep your Apple TV in one room. Also, the jailbreak community is always hard at work creating untethered jailbreaks.

While jailbreaking an Apple TV 2 is pretty simple, it may not be quite as easy to get a hold of a second-gen Apple TV unit. This is because Apple no longer sells this model and there's still no jailbreak for the current Apple TV 3. As a result, second hand Apple TV 2's are in high demand and sell for around $200 on eBay and Amazon. If you already have an Apple TV 2 then there's little reason not to jailbreak, but you don't have one, you may be able to find a cheaper alternative that will offer many of the same capabilities.

A word of warning, some people use the a jailbreak to download and install repositories that contain live streaming content that may not be legal, which is something we obviously don't condone.

Also, know that all of your regular apps on the Apple TV should work as they always have. But media center apps like XBMC and the additional repositories you can add might be buggy or simply not work. Which should be expected since the XBMC project is an open source consortium of developers who work on it in their spare time.

Since the Apple TV 2 is a 2010 device, you shouldn't need to worry about breaking any warranty. Check out Apple's support page about jailbreaking for more information.

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About the Author
Brian Burgess Brian Burgess resides in Minnesota. A technology enthusiast his entire life, he worked in IT for 10 years before pursuing his passion for writing. In addition to contributing to Gizmag, he’s the Editor in Chief at groovyPost.com and has written for other notable tech sites Byte, InformationWeek, and How-To Geek. Away from the keyboard, you're likely to find him listening to heavy metal, playing guitar, or watching Star Trek.   All articles by Brian Burgess
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11 Comments

Isn't this a bit out of date? One can't even buy ATV 2 anymore...

Daniel Chong
29th July, 2013 @ 03:04 am PDT

This article is severely out of date and quite common knowledge by now. Now if they can come up with an ATV3 jailbreak that would be awesome.

Nick Aspinwall
29th July, 2013 @ 10:11 am PDT

This is a great article! Not everyone except supernerds know about this, and it unleashes a vast, vast amount of free TV access. I got a Gen I Apple TV (who gives a sh%t if it's used?) jailbroken for $200 on ebay and love it!!! I never suspected such a wonderful device existed.

I came upon an entire station (Green Seed Company) with multiple videos entirely dedicated to cultivating pot. Who knew? sports, cars, sports cars, Gizmos, silent moves, porn, science, ecology, complete video lectures on any subject, and 20 cooking channels I have found so far. Spanish soccer, Al Jazeera, local Polish channels, hot corvettes - things you haven't imagined.

Spend $200 on ebay for a jailbroken Apple TV and tell the Dish guys to go away forever. Never get another cable/satellite bill. The end of pay TV is nigh. This is not a commercial.

Burt D Ensley
29th July, 2013 @ 04:26 pm PDT

Well, I followed the directions to a "T", but no joy. When I get to the "Waiting For Device" (it's the third screen down in the article), I get a message that my Avast! needs to be turned off before proceeding. I turned it off, but it won't go past the "Waiting For Device" screen. I turned off my firewall (and anything else remotely connected to anti-ANYTHING), but still nothing. Am I doing something wrong?

BTW, I have an ATV2 running the same firmware version as the author.

Any help out there??

Thanx!!! I'd REALLY love to get that useless little box jailbroken...

Steve Montgomery
5th August, 2013 @ 10:47 am PDT

@Steve Montgomery:

Avast can be a beast on your system. It embeds deep into the OS. Even if you turn it off in the user interface it usually still has processes running in the background.

I would make sure everything is completely off by going in to Task manager and disabling every trace of Avast.

Also, make sure you have the most recent version of iTunes.

Another thing you might want to try, although I've never done this, is start Windows in Safe Mode and try the jailbreak. That way you'll just have the minimum services and programs running, so nothing should conflict at that point.

Brain
5th August, 2013 @ 09:36 pm PDT

You cannot have the ATV2 plugged into power AND USB at the same time: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/3086924?start=15&tstart=0

At least in mine I can't.

@Steve Montgomery, this is how i manage to jailbreak it:

Plug ONLY the micro-usb until the step where is says "Tethered boot completed!". At this point CONNECT THE POWER CORD before removing the Micro USB cable. Then connect it to the HDMI.... and violà!

Enjoy :)

Guille Jaja Jaj
9th August, 2013 @ 06:10 am PDT

Completed up to step "Apple TV recovery mode" from iTunes. Instead of the "Custom IPSW created successfully!" I got a "Apple TV has been restored to the original settings successfully"

Wishing I Was Tech Savvy
4th September, 2013 @ 10:54 pm PDT

1. I updated/restored Apple TV 2 to latest version using iTunes.

2. Ran Seas0nPass

3. Click "Create IPSW"

4. Seas0nPass checks saved signatures, detects device, then says:

Seas0nPass is unable to establish a connection with Cydia/iFaith servers. Please check your internet connection and firewall settings.

My internet connection is fine, and I have disabled all firewall and security settings. Is anyone else having this issue, or knows how to resolve this issue?

Many thanks.

Nori Fumi
10th September, 2013 @ 01:06 pm PDT

I'd love to follow these steps but with SPass launched I get a 'Apple TV not detected, please plug it in' which I've done 15 times. It's not showing up in iTunes either and it won't go into DFU. I've restored it (via HDMI) and updated but still nothing. What? Why? How?

Marc Murray
29th October, 2013 @ 10:19 pm PDT

I'm selling my 2nd gen Apple TV. It's running 6.0.1. I've been told that you can't hack it with that software in place. Is that true or is someone just pulling my leg?

RonWilliam
13th November, 2013 @ 11:36 am PST

you can still install SP on aTV gen2 running v6.0.1. The instructions are a little different from what they show in the article. When it tells you to Create ISPW and won't detect unit, it will tell you every time. To resolve, connect power and usb and place in DFU and open itunes. Click create ISPW and it will start the process and nothing else is needed after that, as it will do it all automatically. The only thing you will need to do is click done when it pops up and that's all. No need to click on Boot Tethered, as it's not needed. After connecting back to tv, you will go through setup process and software will be v5.3. Just make sure that someone doesn't accidentally update the software, as you'll get the popups to do so and click UPDATE LATER.

How do I know this will work: I just ran it on my unit and completed the setup process just before replying.

enjoy having a new unit.

egecko
16th March, 2014 @ 03:12 pm PDT
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