Of all the products that Apple makes, the least known is probably the Apple TV (reviewed here). Until recently Apple's set-top box was hidden away on the Apple Store in the iPod section. Then just after Apple's financial results revealed that the iPod is fading into insignificance in terms of sales, the Apple TV got its own section of the store.

The lack of attention on Apple's part is probably not so surprising given that it is a product that Apple refers to as a hobby, but it's unfortunate because at £99 it's one of the best Apple products you can get for your money.

Apple's lack of attention to the Apple TV means that there is little guidance about the product and little in the way of instructions for using the device - and troubleshooting problems with the Apple TV. Apple does have an Apple TV support section on its website, but it only seems to touch on the basics.

Earlier this year a Reddit post about tips for the Apple TV got a lot of attention, which suggests that there is a great need for more information about this device.

In this article we will look at some Apple TV tips, as well as giving guidance on setting up the Apple TV and troubleshooting problems with it. 

If you are thinking of buying an Apple TV it might be worth holding off for a month or two - Apple is expected to launch a new set top box soon, read about it in our new Apple TV release date story.

What is an Apple TV?

The Apple TV is a 10cm squared box that's less than an inch high and plugs into your HDTV so that you can watch movies and TV shows from the iTunes Store. You can also play content from Netflix (for a £5.99 a month subscription); view videos on YouTube and Vimeo, and stream music and photos from iCloud. You can also view whatever is on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch screen, and push content from your Mac to your TV screen.

Apple continues to add more features to the Apple TV, recently it gained Sky's Now TV service that allows people who aren't Sky subscribers to sign up for 24 hour access to sports events for £9.99.

With an update expected soon there are rumours that BBC iPlayer might get its own Apple TV app.

How to set up an Apple TV

First things first, if you have just bought an Apple TV here’s how to set it up. If you have had one for a while we also have some tips about organising your home screen

1) Get an HDMI cable for your Apple TV

You need an HDMI cable to connect Apple TV to your TV and you won't get very far without one. Unfortunately Apple doesn't include an HDMI cable in the box, so you'll need to buy one separately.  Apple sells a 1.8m HDMI to HDMI cable for £15, but you can get HDMI cables for less, and you could even pick one up for less in your local Tesco. Once you have the cable, connect your Apple TV to your television, power it on and wait until your Apple TV displays the setup screen.

2) Use your iOS device to set up your Apple TV

If you have a an iPhone 4s or later, a third generation iPad, an iPad mini or a fifth generation iPod touch running iOS 7 you will be able to use your iOS device to set up your Apple TV wirelessly (as long as that Apple TV is running Apple TV software 6.0). You'll be able to transfer the following from your iOS 7 device to your Apple TV:

  • Wi-Fi network and password
  • iTunes Store account details
  • Language and region format preferences

You'll need to unlock your iOS 7 device and enable Bluetooth first. You will also need to make sure that you are connected to the same Wi-Fi network as the Apple TV. Then all you need to do is touch your iOS device to your Apple TV and wait for the prompts before enter your Apple ID and password on your iOS device. You can then choose whether the Apple TV should remember your Apple ID password, and if you want Apple TV to send data to Apple.

3) Set up the Apple TV without an iPhone or iPad

If you don't have an iOS device to hand, setting up the Apple TV isn't complicated; it's just much more frustrating as you will need to add passwords and other information by scrolling around an onscreen keyboard that's in alphabetical order. In no time you will be wishing there was an easier way - luckily there is, more on that below.    

4) How to remove channels from your Apple TV menu

Not a lot of people know this, but you can choose which apps appear on the Apple TV's home screen. Right now you can see the following services on the UK version of the Apple TV: movie and box set streaming service Netflix; video community Vimeo; concerts and music documentaries from Qello; music videos and concerts from Vevo; photos from Flickr; Japanese anime from Crunchyroll; live Korean TV from K&R TV (why?); business reports from Bloomberg and WSJ Live; Sky News; Sky Sports Now TV service; more sports from NHL and MLB (yawn); You Tube; and Red Bull TV.

If you want to remove any of these channels from your Apple TV home screen go to Settings > General > Restrictions. You'll see all the channels listed with the word "Show" next to them. Just scroll to the channels you wish to remove and select "Hide". It looks like you need to enable Parental Controls, but you don't.

5) How to rearrange icons on the Apple TV Home Screen

You can also rearrange icons on the Apple TV home screen. Press and hold the button in the centre of your remote and when the apps start jiggling you can move them around. It's just like iOS on your iPad or iPhone.

Tips for navigating the Apple TV interface

1) Get straight to the home screen

Fed up with clicking back through sub menus to get to the home screen? Rather than go back through every sub menu you opened you can get straight back to the home screen by pressing and holding down the menu button for a few seconds.

2) Read about what you are watching

When you are watching content on the Apple TV just press up on the remote control to view information about what you are watching.

3) Put Apple TV to sleep/stand by mode

Put the Apple TV to sleep by holding the select button for a few seconds when on the main menu. Alternatively, go to Settings > Sleep Now on Apple TV.

4) Reset Apple TV

Press and hold the Menu and Down buttons for six seconds.

5) Fast forward on Apple TV

Hold down the Right button to fast-forward; press the button again to increase the fast-forward speed (there are three speeds) – same applies for rewind.

6) Slow Motion on Apple TV

To move forward or back in slow motion, press the Play/Pause button to pause the video, then press the Right or Left button. To skip forward or back in 10-second increments, press the Play/Pause button to pause the video, then hold down the Right or Left button.

7) Skip ahead on Apple TV

To skip to the next or previous chapter (if no chapter markers are present, this will skip 1/20th of the video length, or 30 second intervals whichever is longer) press the Down button, then Right or Left to skip chapters.

Remote control your Apple TV

1) Control your Apple TV from your iPhone or iPad

The metal remote that comes with the Apple TV isn’t the only way to control Apple’s set-top box. If you have an iPhone or iPad you can download the Remote app from the App Store. Before the app can work you will need to enable Home Sharing on your iPad or iPhone.

Once connected you can tap the Apple TV image to control the device. Click the back arrow and at the bottom of the screen you’ll find various controls for the Apple TV.

Tap Menu until you go back to the menu screen on your Apple TV. Controlling the Apple TV is a case of swiping up and down and left and right to navigate the menus. Just tap to select anywhere on your TV screen.

The best thing about using the iPhone app is, without a doubt, being able to use the keyboard to enter search terms and passwords. Tap in your search term, and then when you no longer need the keyboard you can tap hide and then navigate to the item you have located.

2) Use a bluetooth keyboard with your Apple TV

Apple’s documentation states that only recent Apple Wireless Keyboards (where “recent” means “all but the original 2003 model”) are officially supported by the Apple TV (running software version 5.2 or higher). However, the company also points out that “third-party Bluetooth keyboards that use the Apple keyboard layout may also be compatible.” In our tests we found that various third-party Bluetooth keyboards and iPad keyboards worked perfectly well.

To pair your keyboard with the Apple TV, you need to do the following:

  • Put the keyboard in pairing mode. Many Bluetooth keyboards have a dedicated Pairing button that you press (or hold) until a light flashes to indicate pairing mode. Others (including Apple’s Wireless Keyboard) require you to press and hold the keyboard’s power button until the pairing-mode light flashes.
  • Use your Apple TV’s remote to navigate to Settings > General > Bluetooth. The Apple TV will automatically begin searching for nearby Bluetooth devices that are in pairing mode.
  • Once your keyboard appears in the list, select it and press the Select key on the Apple TV remote.
  • After a few seconds, you’ll be prompted to type, on the keyboard, a four-digit code that appears on your TV’s screen. Type that code and press Return or Enter, and you’ll receive a confirmation message that the keyboard is now paired with the Apple TV.

From now on, whenever you turn your Bluetooth keyboard on, it will automatically reconnect to the Apple TV - you’ll see an on-screen indicator that looks like Apple’s Wireless Keyboard with a link symbol above it.

3) Navigating the Apple TV via a wireless keyboard

You can use the arrow keys on your keyboard function just like the Up, Down, Back, and Forward buttons on the Apple TV’s remote. The Return and Enter keys on your keyboard act as the remote’s Select button, as you’d expect, and you emulate the remote’s Menu button by pressing Escape on the keyboard.

The best thing: when you’re scrolling through menus on the Apple TV, you can type the first few letters of any menu item to jump directly to it. if you have an Apple Wireless Keyboard, or any Mac- or iPad-focused keyboard with media-playback keys (Play/Pause, Previous, and Next), you can use them to control media playback.

4) Use any remote with the Apple TV

You can also set up a universal remote to control the Apple TV (it has to be a universal remote - chances are your existing remote won't suffice). Connect a universal remote to your Apple TV in Settings > General  > Remotes.

Read all our news, features, how tos and more about the Apple TV here.