This article originally appeared in TidBITS on 2013-11-04 at 11:59 a.m.
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Take Control of Apple TV, Chapter 2: Set Up Your Apple TV

by Josh Centers

This article is a pre-release chapter in the upcoming “Take Control of Apple TV,” by Josh Centers, scheduled for public release in January 2014. Apart from “Chapter 1: Introducing Apple TV [1],” these chapters are available only to TidBITS members [2]; see “‘Take Control of Apple TV’ Streaming in TidBITS [3]” for details.


Set Up Your Apple TV

The Apple TV is simple to set up; just connect the proper cables to your home entertainment center and follow the onscreen instructions. But I’ll show you how to make that initial setup even easier. If you own a compatible iOS 7 device, all you have to do is turn on your Apple TV and touch your iPhone, iPod, or iPad to it!

In this chapter, I’ll offer advice on what to do if you own an older television without HDMI inputs, the best places to buy an HDMI cable, whether to use a wired or wireless Internet connection, and the settings you’ll want to look at right away.

Make the Connections

Before you can do anything with the Apple TV, you have to connect it to your television and network. Let’s look at the ports on the back of your Apple TV (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The ports on the back of your Apple TV, from left to right: Power, HDMI, Micro USB, Optical Audio, and Ethernet." />

Figure 1: The ports on the back of your Apple TV, from left to right: Power, HDMI, Micro USB, Optical Audio, and Ethernet.

~ (Power)

Without electricity, the Apple TV is only an attractive paperweight. Insert one end of the included power cable into this port and connect the other end to a power outlet.

HDMI

Without a display, the Apple TV is again merely a pretty paperweight. HDMI transmits both audio and video from your Apple TV to your television. Unfortunately, an HDMI cable is not included, but the upside of that fact is that you can pick the length (and color) that will work best with your setup. After you track down an HDMI cable, connect one end of it to the Apple TV and the other end to your television set or receiver.

Where to Buy an HDMI or Optical Audio Cable

To be blunt, HDMI and optical audio cables sold by brick-and-mortar stores are a rip-off. You could end up paying $150 for something that a $5 cable can do just as well. In the analog days, cable quality mattered, but when it comes to digital connections like HDMI and optical audio, the cable either works or it doesn’t.

Here are the three best places to purchase a cable online:

  • Monoprice: The king of cheap cables, Monoprice [4] will sell you an HDMI cable for under $2, not including shipping. I’ve ordered many HDMI and TOSLINK cables from Monoprice, and all have been high quality.
  • Amazon: It’s hard to beat Amazon [5] if you subscribe to Amazon Prime and need an inexpensive cable quickly. While there are many cables to choose from, I suggest sticking to the AmazonBasics brand, which starts around $5. The quality isn’t quite as good as Monoprice, but it’ll get the job done.
  • Blue Jeans Cable: The priciest of the bunch, an HDMI cable from Blue Jeans Cable [6] will run about $11 to $20. However, they deserve special mention for standing up to the 50-foot gorilla of overpriced cables: Monster Cable. When Monster’s legal firm sent a bogus patent complaint to Blue Jeans Cable in March 2008, they didn’t count on the owner of Blue Jeans Cable being a former lawyer—who responded with a hilarious and publicly published rebuttal [7], with lines like, “the less my customers think my products resemble Monster’s, in form or function, the better.”

What to Do If Your TV Doesn’t Have an HDMI Port

If you still have an older TV, you’ll need an adapter that accepts HDMI output from the Apple TV and converts it to analog component, composite, and/or S-video input. This Sabrent HDMI to Composite/S-Video Converter [8] from Amazon is reported to do the trick.

Micro USB

You will probably never have to touch this port. It’s needed only if you have to restore your Apple TV from iTunes or install developer betas.

Optical Audio

Also known as S/PDIF or TOSLINK, the optical audio output allows you to connect the Apple TV to home theater receivers that do not feature an HDMI port, or don’t support audio over HDMI. If you don’t own a receiver, you can ignore this port.

Optical Audio vs. HDMI Audio

If you plan to connect the Apple TV to a home theater receiver, you might want to take advantage of the optical audio port, even if your receiver supports HDMI. Why?

  • HDMI audio support can be spotty, and some HDMI-capable receivers won’t accept audio from HDMI sources, for whatever reason.
  • It’s a good idea to keep the Apple TV’s video and audio signals separate. Even with the TV screen turned off, you can AirPlay audio from another device to the Apple TV and have it play over your receiver. Your Apple TV turns on automatically when it receives an AirPlay signal!

<···> (Ethernet)

If you wish to connect the Apple TV to your network with a wired network connection instead of using Wi-Fi, then you do that here.

Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet

You might think a wired connection is the ideal way to connect the Apple TV to a network, due to its faster speed, lower latency, and greater overall reliability. And for the most part, you’d be right. But some of Apple’s updates have been known to fail over wired Ethernet connections. For an example, see the TidBITS article Apple TV Update 5.1.1 May Fail over Ethernet [9]. If you decide to go wired, be sure to set up a Wi-Fi connection as a backup.

Pick an Input Device for Setup

The Apple Remote works well enough for clicking around in the Apple TV interface, but typing login credentials for your Apple ID and wireless network, or for services like Hulu or Netflix, is like mowing the lawn with nail clippers. I’ll look carefully at each of these options in Chapter 3, Control Your Apple TV, but here’s a quick overview to get you through setup:

  • Recent iOS device, running iOS 7: With iOS 7 installed on a iPhone 5 or later, 3rd-generation iPad or later (including an iPad mini), or 5th-generation iPod touch, your initial setup is drastically simplified. However, all the initial setup does is to speed you through inputting your Apple ID credentials and (possibly) your wireless network login. If you’ll be signing in to additional services or searching within your Apple TV content, install Apple’s free Remote [10] app on your iOS device to make it possible to type using your device’s onscreen keyboard instead of the Apple Remote.
  • An iOS device running at least iOS 5: After the first few minutes of setup, the Remote app is a good option for entering logins and for searching.
  • Bluetooth keyboard: A Bluetooth keyboard makes it easy to enter your credentials. You (or a friend) may have a Bluetooth keyboard connected to a computer or iOS device that you can borrow temporarily to simplify set up. Or, if you have an extra keyboard, keep it connected to the Apple TV permanently to make it easier to navigate in the interface.
  • Apple Remote: The interface for typing with the Apple Remote leaves a lot to be desired, but it can be done.

No Remote App For You!

You might think, “Hey, I’ll set up the Apple TV with Ethernet, pair the iOS Remote app (which runs on older iOS devices), and enter my Wi-Fi password that way! That would be a clever solution, but Apple inexplicably prevents it. If you plug in an Ethernet cable, you lose the option to connect to a Wi-Fi network, even if you’re in the middle of typing your Wi-Fi password! However, you can use the Remote app to log into Netflix, Hulu, and other services. See Chapter 3, Control Your Apple TV.

VoiceOver for the Vision Impaired

If you’re visually impaired, and need assistance with the setup menus, press the Play/Pause button on the Apple Remote (the button to the lower-right) three times. VoiceOver reads the menu options to you.

Set Up the Easy Way (Automatic Setup)

With your Apple TV plugged into your TV and/or receiver, and all your gear, except the Apple TV, turned on, it’s time to fire it up and finish setup. Press the Select button on the Apple Remote (the big silver button in the middle of the directional ring).

After a few loading screens, you’re presented with a welcome screen (Figure 2).

Tip: If you want to set up Wi-Fi automatically, be sure to unplug the Ethernet cable from the Apple TV before running Automatic Setup. If a cable is connected, the Apple TV skips Wi-Fi setup.

Figure 2: With the welcome screen showing, you can use a compatible iOS 7 device like a wizard’s wand to automate setup." />

Figure 2: With the welcome screen showing, you can use a compatible iOS 7 device like a wizard’s wand to automate setup.

Pick up your iOS 7 device, unlock it, and turn on Bluetooth. If Bluetooth isn’t already enabled, display Control Center by swiping up from the bottom of the screen, then tap the Bluetooth icon [image link] in the top row to turn it on.

Note: Make sure your iOS device is connected to the same Wi-Fi network that you want your Apple TV to connect to, since the Apple TV will pull the credentials from your device.

After enabling Bluetooth, touch your iOS device to the Apple TV until the setup prompt appears on the iOS device’s screen. Enter your Apple ID password (Figure 3). You’ll then be asked if you want the Apple TV to remember your password. Go ahead and tap Yes. Next, you’ll be asked if you’d like to automatically send data to Apple. If you value your privacy, tap No Thanks.

Tip: If Automatic Setup doesn’t seem to be working, try opening the Settings app on your iOS device. That usually causes the Automatic Setup prompt to pop up.

Figure 3: With the new Automatic Setup option in iOS 7 and Apple TV 6.0, you’re only a touch away from setting up your Apple TV." />

Figure 3: With the new Automatic Setup option in iOS 7 and Apple TV 6.0, you’re only a touch away from setting up your Apple TV.

The Apple TV imports your Apple ID and Wi-Fi credentials automatically. When you see the Apple TV’s main menu, with its grid of icons, you’re done! However, you still must manually enter passwords for Netflix, Hulu, and other third-party services. For now, skip ahead to Finishing Touches [11].

Set Up the Hard Way (Manual Setup)

To set up your Apple TV manually, if you’ll be using a Bluetooth keyboard, keep reading just below this paragraph. Otherwise, press the Select button on the Apple Remote (the big silver button in the middle of the directional ring) and skip ahead to Answer a Few Questions [12].

Pair a Bluetooth Keyboard

Note: While any Bluetooth keyboard should work, Apple officially supports only its own Wireless Keyboard, so that’s what I use here. If you use another make of keyboard, refer to its instructions.

If you own a Bluetooth keyboard, I’m guessing you didn’t buy it to use exclusively with your Apple TV. If your keyboard is paired with a Mac or iOS device, you must first unpair it to be able to use it to set up your Apple TV.

Note: Unpair your keyboard before turning on the Apple TV for the first time, to make sure that the Apple TV recognizes it! If you’ve already turned the Apple TV on, disconnect and reconnect its power cable to restart the setup process.

Unpair a Bluetooth Keyboard from the Mac

To unpair your keyboard from a Mac, open System Preferences, then open the Bluetooth preference pane. Mouse over the keyboard listing, then click the “x” [image link] that pops up (Figure 4). When asked if you want to remove the device, click Remove. (If you’re using OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, the process is similar, except you need to click the minus button [image link] in the lower left to remove the keyboard.)

Figure 4: From the Bluetooth preference pane, move your mouse pointer over the listing for your keyboard, then click the “x” that pops up." />

Figure 4: From the Bluetooth preference pane, move your mouse pointer over the listing for your keyboard, then click the “x” that pops up.

Unpair a Bluetooth Keyboard from an iOS Device

To unpair your keyboard from an iOS device, open Settings, tap Bluetooth, identify your device, then tap the button to the far right of the keyboard’s name. In iOS 6, this button is a blue arrow [image link], while in iOS 7, it’s an “i” surrounded by a circle [image link]. Tap Forget This Device, then tap OK (Figure 5).

Figure 5: From Bluetooth settings, tap the button adjacent to your keyboard’s name, tap “Forget this Device,” and then tap OK." />

Figure 5: From Bluetooth settings, tap the button adjacent to your keyboard’s name, tap “Forget this Device,” and then tap OK.

Connect Your Keyboard to Apple TV

Once your keyboard is unpaired (an Apple Wireless Keyboard should have a blinking green light in the upper-right corner), turn it off (on the Apple Wireless Keyboard, hold the power button on the upper-right edge of the keyboard). Then turn on your Apple TV by pressing the Select button on the Apple Remote (of course, turn on your TV, too).

When the welcome screen appears, turn on your keyboard (on the Apple Wireless Keyboard, press the power button again). You’ll then be prompted to enter a four-digit code on the keyboard. Do so, then press Return on the keyboard. If pairing is successful, you’ll see a picture of a keyboard in the upper-left of the welcome screen (Figure 6).

Figure 6: If keyboard pairing succeeded, you should see a picture of a keyboard in the upper left." />

Figure 6: If keyboard pairing succeeded, you should see a picture of a keyboard in the upper left.

With the keyboard paired, you can navigate the Apple TV’s menus with the arrow keys, select items with the Return key, and exit out of menus with the Esc key. Select your language with the arrow keys on the keyboard, then press Return to continue, as I describe next.

Tip: When you’re finished using the Apple Wireless Keyboard to set up your Apple TV and want to re-pair it to its original owner, see Chapter 3, Control Your Apple TV, to learn how to unpair your keyboard from the Apple TV. Be sure to look over the apps included with the Apple TV and sign in to any that you plan to use before you return the keyboard.

Answer a Few Questions

If you don’t have an Ethernet cable plugged into your Apple TV, you’ll be prompted to select a Wi-Fi network. Select the network from the list, or select Other to manually enter a network name, and then enter your Wi-Fi password.

Finally, you’ll be prompted to automatically send user information to Apple. Select No Thanks to continue.

Finishing Touches

There are a few settings you may want to configure before continuing, or be aware of so you can come back to them later, once you are more familiar with your Apple TV. To access these settings, open the Settings app—the gray tile with a gear in the middle of it (Figure 7)—from the main menu by using the Apple Remote’s directional ring to move the selection to the Settings app, then press the center Select button.

Figure 7: To make adjustments to the Apple TV after initial setup, explore the Settings app in the main menu. In the above image, Settings is in the right column, second item down, with a faint blue selection outline." />

Figure 7: To make adjustments to the Apple TV after initial setup, explore the Settings app in the main menu. In the above image, Settings is in the right column, second item down, with a faint blue selection outline.

Set Up Wi-Fi

If you set up your Apple TV with Ethernet, you can connect to Wi-Fi later by going to General > Network > Wi-Fi and following the onscreen instructions.

Set Time Zone Automatically

Navigate to General > Time Zone, and choose Set Automatically. This way, your Apple TV will always have the correct time, without further intervention on your part. The Apple TV determines your time zone based on your network location. If it doesn’t correctly detect your time zone, you can turn this feature off and set it manually.

Turn VoiceOver On or Off

If you require VoiceOver, but didn’t turn it on during setup (or accidentally turned it on), go to General > Accessibility and choose VoiceOver.

Give Your Apple TV a Nickname

If you have multiple Apple TVs, it’s a good idea to name them so that you can easily tell them apart in AirPlay menus. To name your Apple TV, select General > Name, and either choose one of the predefined names, like Living Room, or choose Custom to make up your own.

Sign In to the iTunes Store and iCloud

To sign in to each service, access the iTunes Store and iCloud menu options. You’ll need to log in to these services to make and access iTunes purchases, listen to iTunes Match music, listen to iTunes Radio, and view iCloud Photos. You can use a different Apple ID for each service.

Enable Restrictions (Parental Controls)

If you have young children, you may want to enable restrictions under General > Restrictions. Select Turn On Restrictions and you’ll be prompted for a four-digit passcode. Be sure it’s one you’ll remember, as you’ll need it to disable or bypass restrictions later! Don’t worry, you’ll have to enter the passcode twice. If you ever forget your passcode, you’ll have to select General > Reset > Reset All Settings, which returns your Apple TV to factory condition.

There are a number of restrictions you can set, not all of which have to do with censoring content:

  • Set Purchase & Rental to Ask to prevent unauthorized purchases.
  • Limit iTunes movies and TV shows to certain ratings. For instance, you can limit iTunes to display only G- or PG-rated movies. If someone in the family wants to watch an R-rated movie, they’ll have to enter the passcode. You can do the same for music and podcasts labeled as explicit. Unfortunately, the Apple TV’s restrictions don’t apply to content within third-party apps, such as Netflix. For those, you’ll have to refer to each app’s parental controls. However, you can limit access to those apps entirely.
  • In the Restrictions menu, scroll down to find a listing for almost every app on the Apple TV. You can set each one to Show, Hide, or Ask, the latter of which prompts you for the passcode to open the app. The default settings are pretty intelligent. For example, Trailers, MLB.TV, and Disney Channel are set to Show by default, while HBO GO and Netflix are set to Ask.
  • You can also restrict AirPlay. Scroll to the bottom of the menu and you’ll see options to restrict AirPlay Settings. For more information on AirPlay, see Chapter 4, Learn AirPlay Basics.

Read More: About [13] | Chapter 1 [14] | Chapter 2 [15] | Chapter 3 [16] | Chapter 4 [17] | Chapter 5 [18] | Chapter 6 [19] | Chapter 7 [20] | Chapter 8 [21] | Chapter 9 [22] | Chapter 10 [23] | Chapter 11 [24]

[1]: http://tidbits.com/article/14269
[2]: http://tidbits.com/member_benefits.html
[3]: http://tidbits.com/article/14266
[4]: http://www.monoprice.com
[5]: http://www.amazon.com
[6]: http://www.bluejeanscable.com
[7]: http://www.bluejeanscable.com/legal/mcp/
[8]: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009TC9T7K/?tag=tidbitselectro00
[9]: http://tidbits.com/article/13423
[10]:
[11]: chap03.xhtml#FinishingTouches
[12]: chap03.xhtml#AnsweraFewQuestions
[13]: http://tidbits.com/article/14266
[14]: http://tidbits.com/article/14269
[15]: http://tidbits.com/article/14270
[16]: http://tidbits.com/article/14291
[17]: http://tidbits.com/article/14303
[18]: http://tidbits.com/article/14328
[19]: http://tidbits.com/article/14361
[20]: http://tidbits.com/article/14383
[21]: http://tidbits.com/article/14407
[22]: http://tidbits.com/article/14430
[23]: http://tidbits.com/article/14449
[24]: http://tidbits.com/article/14473