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 offers.
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, live 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
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, anyway.
Apple has released four generations of Apple TV over the 10 years it has been available. 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, including Siri and an App Store.
The Apple TV 2 and Apple TV 4 are 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.
Jailbreaking the Apple TV 3
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 and generally 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 beyond being able to install Kodi on Apple TV - which is already available.
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 Micro-USB 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.
How to jailbreak an Apple TV 4
It's a slightly different process to jailbreak the fourth-generation TV, and also comes with a limitation. While you'll be able to enjoy many of the jailbroken Apple TV apps available online, the jailbreak is tethered and as such, users will have to re-jailbreak the Apple TV each time it is turned off and turned back on again.
While this is a pain for iOS devices, it shouldn't be much of an issue for Apple TV users as it's always plugged into a power supply and goes to 'sleep' rather than completely shutting down on a regular basis.
Oh, and like the Apple TV 2, the Apple TV 4 jailbreak will only work if you're running tvOS 10.0 - 10.1. Those that have installed tvOS 10.1.1 or later are sadly out of luck, as the jailbreak technique used was patched by Apple in later OS updates.
Anyway, follow these steps to jailbreak your Apple TV 4:
On a Mac or PC, download Cydia Impactor and the liberTV jailbreak file.
Connect your Apple TV to your Mac or PC using a USB-C to USB-A cable. If you don't have one handy, you can pick one up on Amazon for £6.99.
3. Open Cydia Impactor and drag and drop the liberTV file onto the app to load it, then click Start to commence the installation process.
4. The app should then ask for your Apple ID and password. Your credentials are used to 'sign' the app and allow it to be installed on your Apple TV. It should be fine to use your personal Apple ID, but those that want to be extra sure can create an alternative Apple ID for use with Cydia Impactor.
5. Cydia Impactor should then install the liberTV app onto your Apple TV, ready for jailbreaking. Once completed, disconnect your Apple TV from your Mac or PC and plug it back into your TV.
6. On your Apple TV, you should see the LiberTV app. Tap it to open it.
7. Select your options for the jailbreak (see below screenshot for guidance) and press Do it!
8. The jailbreak process should then begin, and will take a few minutes to complete. Upon completion, a 'Success! Your TV has been liberated!' message should appear on-screen. If it fails and reboots, simply retry the process - it can take more than one attempt to successfully jailbreak the Apple TV.
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