How to set up an Apple TV and Apple TV 4K

Learn to set up an Apple TV and become a master of streaming media

Apple TV Review
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Apple’s 4th-generation Apple TV and Apple TV 4K are superb media streamers. Though expensive, their ease of use, access to thousands of compatible TV apps, and voice support via Siri all make for a fantastic addition to any TV. As with any Apple product, the setup process is mercifully easy, but we’re here to cover the key steps so you can be up and running in as little time as possible. These steps work for both the Apple TV 4th generation and Apple TV 4K.

Before you begin, a few things you’ll need:

  • A decent internet connection (at least 5Mbps for HD, 20-25Mbps for 4K)
  • HDMI cable
    • Only one if you’re connecting directly to your TV, or two if you want to connect to an A/V receiver or soundbar first
    • If you’re connecting an Apple TV 4K, an HDMI 2.0 cable is recommended
  • An Ethernet cable if you don’t have (or don’t want to use) Wi-Fi
  • An iOS device, like an iPhone or iPad is recommended if you own one (but don’t worry, it’s not a prerequisite)

How to do it

Step 1: Unbox your Apple TV and make sure everything’s there. You should have the Apple TV itself, a power cable, a USB-to-Lightning cable, and the Siri remote control.

how to set up apple tv 4k what is in the box
Image courtesy of Apple

Step 2: Plug the small end of the power cable into the appropriate spot on the back of the Apple TV, and the other end into a wall socket or power bar. If connecting directly to a TV, connect the Apple TV to your TV with the HDMI cable, or if you’re connecting to a soundbar or A/V receiver, connect the Apple TV to an open HDMI input on your A/V receiver, then use a second HDMI cable to connect the receiver to your TV. If you’re connecting an Apple TV 4K, your A/V receiver or soundbar should support HDMI 2.0 or later. If you want to use a direct connection to your router, plug one end of the Ethernet cable into the Ethernet port on the Apple TV, and the other end into your router. If you want to use Wi-Fi instead, we’ll set that up later in the process.

how to set up apple tv 4k setup tech spec diagram
Image courtesy of Apple

Step 3: If it isn’t already on, turn on your TV and change its input selection to the same HDMI port that your Apple TV is connected to. If you’re using a receiver, make sure the receiver and TV are both set to their correct respective inputs. You should now see the Apple TV setup screen. Pick up the Siri remote control and click the touch surface on the remote once to get it to pair with your Apple TV. If the remote doesn’t connect, press and hold the Menu and Volume Up buttons for five seconds. If a message says that you aren’t close enough, you may need to place your remote on top of your Apple TV.

how to set up apple tv 4k siri remote touch surface tech spec
Image courtesy of Apple

Step 4: Using the touch surface of the remote, swipe up or down with your thumb or finger to choose your language and country (or region). To make your choice, click the touch surface. If you make a mistake, press the menu button to go back to the previous screen and try again. If it asks, choose whether you want to use Siri or not (you can change your mind after the setup).

Step 5: If you have an iOS device, like an iPhone or iPad,  you can transfer its settings to your Apple TV. It will transfer things like login information for iTunes, iCloud, and Wi-Fi. To do this, choose Set Up with Device, then follow the on-screen steps that show up on your iOS device and the Apple TV. If you don’t have an iOS device, or you don’t want to transfer settings, press the Menu button on your remote to go back to the previous screen and choose Set Up Manually. The next series of screens will ask you to select your Wi-Fi network, enter the password, etc.

how to set up apple tv appletvsetup screen 3

Step 6: If you have a subscription with a cable provider, you can sign in to that account to watch TV shows and movies from apps included in your cable subscription on Apple TV. If your cable provider gave you the Apple TV, it should already be authorized. If you don’t have a cable subscription you can skip this step.

Step 7: One Home Screen is a handy feature if you own more than one Apple TV. It keeps your apps and Home screens the same across every Apple TV device by signing into iCloud. If you see a message that asks if you want to use One Home Screen, choose Match Home Screens. If you don’t want to use it immediately, you can always turn it on later by visiting Settings > Accounts > iCloud > One Home Screen.

how to set up apple tv appletvsetup screen 4

Step 8: Choose a room that best describes where your Apple TV is located and it will be automatically added to the Home app on your iOS devices and any Mac computers you might have. This lets AirPlay 2 show you your Apple TV in a list of available devices from your iOS device or Mac. It makes playing music throughout your home much easier.

Step 9: If you’re setting up an Apple TV 4K, it may ask you to run through a few quick tests to make sure things like HDR and Dolby Vision are working correctly. Then you’re all done!

Now that you’ve got your new Apple TV set up, take a cruise through the App Store — there are tons of handy video apps like Netflix, Hulu, or HBO, apps for sports fans, and lots of games — yes, you can play some great casual games on the Apple TV. Here are our current picks for the best Apple TV apps.

Home Theater

You can now watch four PlayStation Vue streams at once on a single Apple TV

PlayStation Vue subscribers can now watch March Madness in style via Apple TV, which can now stream up for four separate games to your TV at once, making it easy to catch all the on-court action.
Movies & TV

Apple bet big on TV and movie projects. Here’s what we know about them so far

Apple has an ambitious slate of original programming it has been developing in recent years, so will the March 25 event finally reveal when — and where — we will be able to see some of these TV shows and movies?
Home Theater

The best TVs you can buy right now, from budget to big screen

Looking for a new television? In an oversaturated market, buying power is at an all-time high, but you'll need to cut through the rough to find a diamond. We're here to help with our picks for the best TVs of 2019.
Home Theater

Apple Music completes its Amazon migration, is now available on Fire TV

Amazon's popular Fire TV devices are now compatible with the most popular on-demand music streaming service in the United States, thanks to a new integration with Apple Music that has finally hit Fire TV devices.
Home Theater

2019 LG OLED TVs with AirPlay 2, HomeKit support coming in April

LG has revealed the prices and release dates of the first batch of 2019 OLED TVs with A.I. ThinQ. The new W9 wallpaper OLED TVs will arrive in June, while the E9 and C9 OLED TVs will start rolling out in April.
Movies & TV

These are the best movies on Hulu right now (March 2019)

From dramas to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Movies & TV

Stay inside this winter with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Legion'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

11 Hollywood heavyweights who jumped from the big screen to the small screen

From Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep to James Franco and Mahershala Ali, lots of Hollywood A-list actors with successful film careers are flocking to television projects during the second Golden Age of Television.
Movies & TV

The best new movie trailers: Aliens, Avengers: Endgame, Charlie Says, and more

Everyone loves a good trailer, but keeping up with what's new isn't easy. That's why we round up the best ones for you. This week, it's new trailers for Avengers: Endgame, Aladdin, Charlie Says, Doom: Annihilation, and more.
Movies & TV

Best new shows and movies to stream: Free Solo, Catastrophe season 4, and more

Need something to watch this weekend? Check out our list of the best new shows and movies to stream right now. On the list this week: Free Solo documents an awe-inspiring climb, Catastrophe unveils its final season, and more.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (March 2019)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

How Laika blends 3D printing and CGI to make mesmerizing stop-motion movies

With each film, Laika Studios pushes the bar higher for stop-motion animation. We explore Laika's latest techniques for its new adventure, Missing Link, which the studio it calls a Kaleidoscopic travelogue that ranks as its most ambitious…