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

If you’re into streaming movies in 4K, then you’ve probably heard of or even own 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, as well as 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?

2021 Apple TV HD (32GB, 5th Generation)
Click this image for more information

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 HDApple TV

(3rd gen)

Apple TV

(2nd Gen)

Apple TV

(1st Gen)

Storage32 GB to 64 GB32 GB to 64 GB32 GB to 64 GBN/AN/A40 GB to 160 GB
App StoreYesYesYesNoNoNo
Universal Voice SearchYesYesYesNoNoNo
Bluetooth5.0 wireless technology5.0 wireless technology4.0 wireless technologySelected devicesSelected devicesNo
Max. HDTV Format4K4K1080p1080p720p720p
InterfacesGigabit Ethernet, HDMI 2.1, IR receiverGigabit Ethernet, HDMI 2.0a, IR receiver10/100BASE-T Ethernet, HDMI 1.4, IR receiver10/100BASE-T Ethernet, HDMI, IR receiver10/100BASE-T Ethernet, HDMI, IR receiver10/100BASE-T Ethernet, HDMI,

Component video, IR receiver

Remote ControlSiri 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)
Click this image for more information

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. 

Although 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 box, remote and speaker

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 wanted 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 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.

Why Was There a Hidden Lightning Connector on the Apple TV 4K 1st Gen? 

In 2018, talks about the hidden lightning connector on the Apple TV 4K 1st gen were instigated by Kevin Bradley.

He discovered that inside the Ethernet port on the Apple TV 4K, Apple manufacturers included a lightning port that — up to this day — no one seems to know the purpose for. 

Other users say it was placed there for debugging purposes. Some say it was there in case of possible upgrades that developers wanted to put into the Apple TV 4K 1st gen. 

Final Thoughts

Apple Streaming TV 4K HD Media Player
Click this image for more information

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 into 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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