The Apple TV is easily one of the most versatile streaming media boxes you can buy. You can stream your favorite content, duplicate a FaceTime call, play games, and more without having to connect a phone, tablet, or PC to your TV. It’s like an iPhone interface to your TV, really, only you need that annoying included remote control for it to work properly.
Apple set out to make its remotes easy to use, but it can still run into problems. Fortunately, this guide will show you how to pair an Apple remote with an Apple TV, as well as how to use alternatives to the included device.
A note about remote controls
The remote control included with the Apple TV 4K unit has two names: Siri Remote in regions that support Siri and Apple TV Remote in regions that do not.
The original remote control packaged with the Apple TV 4K model has a white ring around the Menu button. When Apple updated the Apple TV 4K in 2021, it replaced the remote with a new silver version with improved Siri capabilities, so Apple TV 4K can have any of the remotes depending on your model.
Meanwhile, the model included with the Apple TV HD is a previous generation model. Its appearance and general functions are identical, but it does not have the same white ring.
Third and second generation Apple TV units ship with the same silver Apple Remote (note the name change). The first-generation Apple TV bundle ships with a bulky white remote, also called the Apple Remote.
Apple TV 4K
If the Apple TV does not turn on when you press the Menu or Home button on the remote, make sure the remote does not need to be recharged. The remote itself doesn’t have a battery level indicator, so you may have missed the low battery popup on the Apple TV screen.
Apple’s remote uses that pesky Lightning to USB-A cable; hopefully you didn’t accidentally throw it away if you upgraded to an iPhone with USB-C. Connect it with a USB-A wall charger for at least 30 minutes and try using the remote control to turn on the Apple TV unit again.
Remember, you can always check the remote’s battery level in the Apple TV settings by following the steps below:
Step 1: Select and press down on the Touch surface to open the Settings app.
Step 2: Please select Remote controls Y Devices.
Step 3: Please select Remote, which will allow you to see the actual battery percentage. Make sure it has enough battery to work.
Stage 4: Pair the remote again: Check that your Apple TV has power. You should see a small white LED illuminated on the front. If not, unplug the power cord, wait 6 seconds, and then plug it back in. You should now see a bright white LED.
Step 5: Make sure your TV is turned on, set to the correct HDMI port, and showing the Apple TV home screen.
Step 6: Stand at least 3 inches from the Apple TV unit, point the remote control at the TV, and then press and hold the Menu Y Turn up the volume (+) buttons for 5 seconds.
Step 7: If prompted, place the remote control on top of the Apple TV device.
You should see a message confirming that your Apple TV remote has been successfully paired. If it doesn’t, and the Apple TV still doesn’t respond to button presses, continue to the next step.
Step 8: Unplug the Apple TV, wait 6 seconds, and then plug it back in (this is a hard reset).
Step 9: Repeat steps 2 through 4.
If, after trying all these steps, your Apple TV remote still doesn’t control your Apple TV, it could be faulty. Unfortunately, this means that you will need to call Apple technical support and / or head to the nearest Apple Store.
Apple TV HD (4th generation)
The previous generation remote control for the Apple TV HD is nearly identical to the one shipped with the 4th generation Apple 4K TV unit. Again, the only obvious differentiator is that it doesn’t have a white ring around the Menu button. However, the instructions for pairing the remote control are exactly the same.
Apple TV (3rd generation)
The third-generation Apple TV includes an aluminum Apple Remote with a non-rechargeable coin cell battery. Try replacing this battery if your pairing steps failed and the battery information constantly shows a dead battery.
Step 1: Flip the remote over. Use a coin to turn the battery compartment cover counterclockwise until it pops open. Remove the old battery.
Step 2: Place the new battery into the compartment, printed (positive) side up. Replace the compartment cover.
Step 3: Now you can try to pair the remote again. Check if your Apple TV has power.
You should see a small white LED illuminated on the front. If not, unplug the power cord, wait 6 seconds, and then plug it back in. You should now see a bright white LED.
Make sure your TV is turned on, set to the correct HDMI port, and showing the Apple TV home screen.
Stage 4: Point the remote control at the Apple TV unit and press and hold the Menu Y Left buttons for 6 seconds. You should see an on-screen confirmation that the remote has been unpaired.
Step 5: To pair the Apple Remote, press and hold Menu Y Correct buttons for 6 seconds.
You should see an on-screen confirmation that the remote has been paired. If it doesn’t, and the Apple TV still doesn’t respond to button presses on the remote, continue to the next step.
Step 6: Unplug the Apple TV, wait 6 seconds, and plug it back in.
Repeat steps 2 through 4.
Again, if none of these steps help, your Apple remote could be faulty. You can order a new one online or buy it from an Apple Store.
Apple TV (2nd generation)
The second-generation Apple TV uses the same silver Apple Remote as the third-generation Apple TV. Follow the same instructions as above.
Apple TV (1st generation)
The original Apple TV shipped with a wide white plastic Apple Remote. As shown above, the Play / Pause button is inside the directional pad, while the Menu button is below both. The process for removing and adding this remote is the same as for 2nd and 3rd generation aluminum remotes.
Use an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch
If you’ve lost the remote or are more dead than dead, you can always use the Apple TV remotes in the Control Center of your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch (this way you don’t need to get a new remote). The company added this functionality in iOS 11, but didn’t discontinue Apple’s Remote app until late 2020. To access these controls, do the following:
Step 1: Swipe down from the top right corner where the LTE, Wi-Fi and Battery icons reside. Tap on the Remote icon displayed on the Control center.
Step 2: When the controls for the Apple TV Remote open on the screen, make sure your Apple TV device appears at the top. If you have more than one, tap on the currently listed model and select the target device from the drop-down menu. Please note that all devices must be connected to the same local network.
Step 3: If this is your first time using the Apple remote, follow the instructions and enter the four-digit passcode provided to pair the Apple TV device with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch.
Stage 4: If you don’t see these controls on your device, try the following: Touch to open the Settings app. Tap Control center. Tap Customize controls (if shown). Touch the green Plus button next to Apple TV remote control low More controls.
Set up a universal remote
Not interested in purchasing a replacement Apple Remote? You can control your Apple TV with almost any existing infrared remote control. The only downside is that you’ll need a working Apple Remote, iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch to access Apple TV settings.
This is where to add a third-party remote:
Step 1: Select and press down on the touch pad to open the Settings app.
Step 2: Please select Remote Controls and Devices.
Step 3: Please select Learn at a distance.
Stage 4: Please select Start to get started and follow the instructions on the screen.
If you own a Logitech Harmony universal remote, you can even download remote control codes for your Apple TV without using the Learn Remote feature.
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