The Apple TV is a great addition to any existing TV setup. With an Apple TV you can play video, music and movies from your iPhone, iPad via AirPlay or browse the myriad of apps and games available from the Apple TV's dedicated App Store - well, at least with the fourth-generation Apple TV anyway. Older variants (Apple TV 1, 2 and 3) are somewhat less impressive, only offering media playback and not much else.
But a jailbroken Apple TV is a whole different ball game. Once you have jailbreak software running on an Apple TV you can install new apps, services and systems on the Apple TV that make it far more interesting than the device Apple sells.
How to jailbreak an Apple TV: Should I jailbreak an Apple TV?
The question of whether to jailbreak an iPhone is rather controversial (there are upsides and downsides). There are considerably fewer downsides to jailbreaking an old Apple TV, and lots of upsides.
Here is some of the neat software you can install on a jailbroken Apple TV:
Kodi (formally known as XMBC) is an entertainment hub that enables you to play most music, videos and podcasts. It also enables PVR functionality so you can watch, and record, television.
aTV Flash (black) | FireCore: is user-friendly software that enables you to play new file types (such as .mkv), browse the internet and use unofficial apps such as Last.fm.
So it’s a great idea to jailbreak your old Apple TV. Especially if you have an Apple TV lying around that's not being used.
Read next: New Apple TV Remote iPhone app review
How to jailbreak an Apple TV: Can I jailbreak my Apple TV?
Fortunately it’s pretty easy to jailbreak an Apple TV as long as you have the right model of Apple TV. Apple's made four types of Apple TV. The Apple TV first-generation (the white and silver model); the Apple TV 2, Apple TV 3 and the all-new Apple TV 4, which came with a redesigned OS and a number of new features.
The Apple TV 2 is pretty easy to jailbreak using the right software (more on this in a bit). The Apple TV first generation can be jailbroken using software called Rowmote.
How to jailbreak an Apple TV: Jailbreaking the Apple TV 3 and Apple TV 4
If you have an Apple TV 3, you cannot jailbreak it at the moment, regardless of what you read on the web.
There are a number of scams that claim to be able to jailbreak a third generation Apple TV, they will attempt to take your money, so avoid them.
Even if they might be legitimate you should still be cautious. Take one tool for jailbreaking the Apple TV 3, Snow3rd. We’ve tried (and failed so far) to verify if it is a scam or not, but it is it will only work on an Apple TV that hasn’t been updated beyond iOS 5.0.2, and from what we can see it doesn’t always work.
Whatever you have read on the web, it appears that there is currently no way to jailbreak an Apple TV 3 that we can confidently confirm is not a scam.
Your best bet is to install Plexconnect and use the Plex Media Server, which doesn’t require a jailbroken device, but does allow you to play more content through your Apple TV. You can read more about installing and using Plex in this article about watching TV on the Apple TV.
It's a similar story with the fourth-generation Apple TV which launched in October 2015 - it comes running an entirely different operating system to the other Apple TV systems, tvOS, and at the time of writing, no jailbreak has been released. We doubt this will change in future, as the new Apple TV offers a range of apps via the official App Store, as well as extended functionality - with such a wide range of features, some would argue that there isn't really a point in working on a tvOS jailbreak.
The below guide is only for the Apple TV 2, although we will update this article if that situation changes.
How to jailbreak an Apple TV 2
The Apple TV 2 running iOS 5.3 software (released on 19 June 2013) can be jailbroken using software called Seas0nPass. This is available from the FireCore website. Follow these steps to jailbreak your Apple TV 2:
1. Download Seas0nPass from the FireCore website.
2. Unzip the Seas0nPass app and move it to your Applications folder.
3. Connect your Mac to the Apple TV using a USB Micro Cable.
4. Open the Seas0nPass app and click click Create IPSW.
5. Press the Menu and Play/Pause buttons on the Apple TV remote control simultaneously (when prompted).
6. Click Done when Seas0nPass has finished jailbreaking your Apple TV.
7. Remove the USB cable, and connect your Apple TV to the television using the HDMI cable and power source. Turn on the Apple TV.
As the Apple TV boots you should see the FireCore logo. That’s it, your Apple TV is now running jailbroken software. You should be able to use it as normal, but from now on you’ll be able to install other apps and services. For more information on how to get the most out of your jailbroken Apple TV take a look at the FireCore website.
Here are some basic tips for using the Apple TV
We have many more tutorials about the Apple TV, including: Expert tips for the Apple TV | How to set up and use an Apple TV | How to surf the web on an Apple TV | How to get US Netflix in the UK on Apple TV