Apple TV’s USB Port Secret: Why It’s There and Why It’s Gone!

Apple TV charging

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What to Know

  • Apple TVs previously had USB ports primarily for diagnostic and resetting purposes.
  • The latest Apple TV models don’t include USB ports, as maintenance and diagnostics can be done wirelessly.
  • Older Apple TV models with USB ports are less recommended due to potential compatibility issues with current content.

If you’re into streaming movies in 4K, then you’ve probably heard of or even owned an Apple TV. First released in 2007, an Apple TV is a palm-sized plastic box that connects your TV to your home wireless network.

Using this device, you can access dozens of online content and applications for a much more enjoyable (and convenient) watching experience. 

Over the years, Apple has released several versions of the Apple TV. While the older versions come with USB, Micro-USB, and USB-C ports, the latest 4K models don’t come with the same connections.

This leads many users to wonder: What is the purpose of the USB port on the Apple TV?

In this article, we will take a look at each of the Apple TV models, their specifications, and their capabilities to help you uncover the hidden purpose of the USB ports on the Apple TV. 

Which Apple TV Models Have a USB Port?

There are currently six (6) existing versions of the Apple TV.

Out of these six, only four have a USB port. Take a look at this comparison chart to see the features and specifications of each Apple TV model:

  Apple TV 4K (2nd Gen) Apple TV 4K (1st Gen) Apple TV HD Apple TV

(3rd gen)

Apple TV

(2nd Gen)

Apple TV

(1st Gen)

Storage 32 GB to 64 GB 32 GB to 64 GB 32 GB to 64 GB N/A N/A 40 GB to 160 GB
App Store Yes Yes Yes No No No
Games Yes Yes Yes No No No
Siri Yes Yes Yes No No No
Universal Voice Search Yes Yes Yes No No No
Bluetooth 5.0 wireless technology 5.0 wireless technology 4.0 wireless technology Selected devices Selected devices No
Max. HDTV Format 4K 4K 1080p 1080p 720p 720p
Interfaces Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 2.1, IR receiver Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 2.0a, IR receiver 10/100BASE-T Ethernet, HDMI 1.4, IR receiver 10/100BASE-T Ethernet, HDMI, IR receiver 10/100BASE-T Ethernet, HDMI, IR receiver 10/100BASE-T Ethernet, HDMI,

Component video, IR receiver

USB No No USB-C Micro-USB Micro-USB USB 2.0
Remote Control Siri Remote (2nd generation) or Apple TV Remote (2nd generation) Siri Remote (1st generation) or Apple TV Remote (1st generation) Siri Remote (1st generation) or Apple TV Remote (1st generation) Apple Remote (aluminum) Apple Remote (aluminum) Apple Remote (white)

What Is the Purpose of the USB Port on the Apple TV?

2021 Apple TV HD (32GB, 5th Generation)

USB ports are the standard cable connection interfaces for consumer electronic devices like PCs and TVs.

They allow users to connect USB devices to other technology, making electronic data transfers much easier. They can also power several appliances such as lamps, speakers, and printers. 

While all that is true, in terms of the USB ports on the Apple TVs, they have an entirely different purpose. 

The USB ports on the Apple TVs are there for diagnostic purposes.

If your Apple TV were to crash, you only need to plug it into your computer, go to iTunes, and start the factory resetting process to revive your Apple TV unit. 

Can I Use the USB Ports for Anything Else Aside From Maintenance?

How to Restart an Apple TV

Many users have tried increasing storage capacity, connecting TV tuners, and plugging in keyboards using the Apple TVs USB ports. Unfortunately, the Apple TV USB ports don’t support any of those functions. 

However, there are some individuals who perform unauthorized improvements on the Apple TV software, such as customizing modifications and adding unlicensed services to the Apple TV, e.g., XMBC and Boxee.

Why Don’t the Latest Apple TVs Have a USB Port?

apple tv with hdmi and power cables plugged in

Apple has been continuously ridding itself and its clients of wires. From wireless chargers to Bluetooth earphones — Apple is consistently trying to make the user experience much more convenient for everyone. 

The reason why the latest Apple TVs don’t have a USB port is that everything that used to be addressed by the USB port (e.g., maintenance, diagnostics, and programming) can now be achieved via a wireless network.

You can install applications, take screen recordings, reconfigure your Apple TV, and diagnose it without the need for a USB cable or port. 

If you want to reset the latest models of the Apple TV, here’s what you need to do:

  • Go to “Settings” on your Apple TV menu.
  • Select “System.”
  • Select “Restart.”

Once you press restart, it will show you two other options: Reset and Reset & Update.

  • If you wish everything to go back to the default factory settings, then press “Reset.” This process doesn’t require an internet connection, so that you can do it even without Wi-Fi. 
  • If you want to reset your device and update the software to the latest version, then choose “Reset & Update

Note: Keep the device on until the process is complete. 

Is It Better to Have a USB Port on the Apple TV?

Apple TV box and remote

USB ports come with their own advantages and disadvantages. Thus, deciding whether or not having them on the Apple TV makes the unit much better is not a decision that can be easily determined. 

Considering the latest Apple TVs can be easily accessed and reprogrammed via a wireless network, there is no more reason to add a USB port to the unit anymore.

Final Thoughts

You won’t find USB ports on the newest versions of the Apple TV. These USB ports were originally built into the Apple TV device to allow programmers and users to reset the device in case of any technical issues. 

They also made it easier for programmers to upgrade features and services within the Apple TV as needed. (A lot of users also took it as an opportunity to add their own upgrades to the Apple TV system.)

However, since the latest Apple TV can now easily be reset and reconfigured using Wi-Fi or other wireless networks, there’s no need for a USB port anymore. 

There are still a few older models being sold online (secondhand) that do have USB ports. But we don’t recommend getting those, as they may not be able to support the current configuration of content circulating the internet today.

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