Bugs & Fixes: Apple TV troubleshooting tool needs improvement

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On several occasions since purchasing my Apple TV, I have had a problem that is so infuriating that I have come close to demolishing the device with a hammer. OK, I’m exaggerating a bit. But it’s an annoying problem. What makes it especially annoying is that Apple should be able to easily remedy it.

Here’s the deal. I turn on my Apple TV and all seems fine. I can play movie trailers and otherwise access the iTunes Store. I clearly have an Internet connection. All of the content that I have synced from my Mac Pro to the Apple TV is there and remains accessible. When I go to the Computers setting, it correctly shows that the Apple TV is linked to my Mac Pro.

When I next launch iTunes on my Mac, the Apple TV is similarly correctly listed in the iTunes -> Preferences -> Apple TV window. So far, so good.

The problem is that the Apple TV does not show up in iTunes’ Devices list. This means that I cannot make any changes to the synced data or other settings accessed via iTunes.

I have tried numerous potential fixes for this. I have unplugged the Apple TV to reset it. I have checked and rechecked my wireless network via AirPort Utility. I have completely uninstalled and reinstalled iTunes. And more. None of these things succeed with any reliability.

The only sure-fire solution (at least until the next time this symptom pops up) is to break the connection between my Mac Pro and Apple TV. You can do this either from the Apple TV window in iTunes’ Preferences or from the Apple TV itself. You then re-establish a new link and enter the passcode in iTunes when asked.

While this almost always works (and here comes the infuriating part), doing so requires that all the synced data on the Apple TV be erased. This means that, after re-establishing the link, I need to recopy all my music, video, movies, and photos back to the Apple TV. Actually, as there is no Apple TV backup file (unlike what iTunes maintains for iPhones and iPads), I have to do my best to recall exactly what I had previously synced to the Apple TV. The restore can take hours to complete and I still won’t wind up with an exact duplicate of what I had before.

I am not alone. After posting a query about this matter to Apple’s Discussion Boards, I received several confirmations from other users. Given that this unlink-relink technique is a required tool for Apple TV’s troubleshooting, Apple should find a way to accomplish the fix without having to erase the Apple TV’s data each time.

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At a Glance
  • Pros

    • HD movie rentals
    • 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound support
    • Improved interface
    • Can be used without a computer
    • Four times the storage of 40GB model for just $100 more
    • AirTunes support
    • Ability to stream .Mac Web Galleries and Flickr albums


    • No music video shuffle
    • 24-hour rental period too short
    • No music search feature
    • Playback of HD movies and trailers can be interrupted during download by rebuffering
    • Not as stable as previous software
    • Can't directly subscribe to TV shows or podcasts
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