How to pair (or re-pair) an Apple remote with an Apple TV

Need to get your Apple remote working with your Apple TV? Here's how to do it

Apple TV Review
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

The Apple TV is easily one of the most versatile media streaming boxes you can buy.  But one problem you may encounter while using an Apple TV is a remote that won’t talk to the set-top box. Sometimes, an Apple remote can become unpaired by accident, or if you damage or lose your Apple remote, you’ll have to buy a new one. Either way, you’ll need to pair your remote to your Apple TV to get it working. Here’s how you do that.

Apple TV ReviewApple TV 4K

The Apple TV remote (or Siri remote as it’s known in countries that support Siri), is designed to automatically pair with your Apple TV 4K without any further user action. So if your Apple TV isn’t responding to your Apple TV remote, first try recharging it. Because there’s no battery life indicator on the remote itself, and you may have missed the on-screen warnings from the Apple TV 4K that your battery was running low, this could be the source of the problem. Using a lightning cable, plug the remote in for at least 30 minutes and see if that brings it back to life.

If it’s just the volume buttons that aren’t responding, make sure there are no objects blocking the infrared receiver on your TV, soundbar, or A/V receiver: The Apple TV remote uses line-of-sight infrared to control the volume on these devices.

If that does not fix the problem, try manually re-pairing the Apple TV remote:

  1. Check that your Apple TV is powered up. You should see a small white LED on the front. If you don’t, unplug the Apple TV, wait six seconds, then plug it back it in. You should now see the white LED lit up.
  2. Make sure your TV is turned on and the input is set to the correct HDMI port, and that the Apple TV home screen is visible.
  3. With the Apple TV remote facing forward (the touch surface should be in the front, with the word Menu right-side up) place the remote about three inches away from the front of the Apple TV.
  4. Press and hold the remote’s Menu and Volume Up buttons for five seconds. Keep an eye on your TV screen — if you see a message that asks you to bring your remote closer to the Apple TV, try placing the remote on top of the Apple TV itself.
  5. You should soon see a message confirming that your Apple TV remote has been successfully paired.
  6. If you don’t, and if the Apple TV still doesn’t respond to button presses on the remote, unplug the Apple TV, wait six seconds, and re-plug it in. Then try steps 2-4 again.

If after trying all of these steps, your Apple TV remote still won’t control your Apple TV, it could be defective. Unfortunately, this means calling Apple support, and/or heading over to your nearest Apple Store.

Apple TV HD

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The Apple TV remote for the Apple TV HD (formerly known as the Apple TV 4th generation), lacks the white ring around the menu button on the remote that ships with the Apple TV 4K, but the procedures for pairing these remotes are exactly the same.

Apple TV 3rd generation

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The Apple TV 3rd gen uses an aluminum Apple remote, with a non-rechargeable coin-cell battery. Before trying anything else, replace this battery with the exact same type (a CR2032 or BR2032 lithium 3V battery), and see if this fixes your problem.

If not, try manually unpairing and re-pairing the Apple remote:

  1. Check that your Apple TV is powered up. You should see a small white LED on the front. If you don’t, unplug the Apple TV, wait six seconds, then plug it back it in. You should now see the white LED lit up.
  2. Make sure your TV is turned on and the input is set to the correct HDMI port, and that the Apple TV home screen is visible.
  3. With the Apple remote facing forward, unpair (or unlink as Apple prefers to say it) your Apple Remote with your Apple TV. On your Apple Remote, hold down the Menu and Left directional buttons for six seconds. You should see an on-screen confirmation that the remote has been unlinked.
  4. To re-pair the Apple remote, hold down Menu and Right directional buttons for six seconds. You should see an on-screen confirmation that the remote has been linked.
  5. If you don’t, and if the Apple TV still doesn’t respond to button presses on the remote, unplug the Apple TV, wait six seconds, and re-plug it in. Then try steps 2-4 again.

Again, if none of these steps help, your Apple remote might be beyond help. A new one can be ordered online or purchased at an Apple Store.

Apple TV 2nd generation

The 2nd gen Apple TV uses the same silver Apple remote as the 3rd gen Apple TV. Follow the same instructions as above.

Apple TV

The original Apple TV shipped with a white plastic version of the Apple remote. Though the play/pause button is located in the middle of the directional pad, instead of on its own below the d-pad, the process for un-pairing and re-pairing this remote is the same as the Apple TV 2nd and 3rd generation aluminum remotes.

Try the app

If you’ve lost your Apple remote or Apple TV remote, or you can bring them back to life using the methods above, you should still be able to install the Apple remote app as long as you own an iOS device — even an older iPod Touch would work. Once opened, the app lets you add any Apple TV that is on the same Wi-Fi network. It then gives you a virtual remote control that should give you back full control of your Apple TV until you can replace your Apple remote.

Configure a universal remote

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Not interested in buying a replacement remote control from Apple? You can control your Apple TV from almost any existing infrared remote control. The only catch is that you’ll need a working Apple remote, or the remote app on an iOS device to get you into the Apple TV’s settings. It’s in Settings > Remotes and Devices > Learn Remote. Just follow the instructions.

If you own one of Logitech’s Harmony line of universal remotes, you can download the remote codes for Apple TV without needing to use the Apple TV’s Learn Remote function.

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