Getting Boxee and XBMC Back after the Apple TV 3.0.1 Update
The Apple TV has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, it has some “features” that limit its usefulness out of the box. Thankfully, some really smart people have stepped in to leverage third-party components, extending its capabilities that bring it one step closer to being a fantastic HTPC.
Please Note: These instructions will wipe your Apple TV completely clean. Anything you have stored previously on it will be erased. Be sure to backup before playing. You have been warned.
Be sure to read everything (including the disclaimer at the bottom) before doing anything with your Apple TV.
Chapter One. Patchstick Your Apple TV
To start… you need a 1GB USB flash drive that doesn’t have any files on it. Some work, some don’t. Its a bit of a crap-shoot.
- 1. Factory Reset your Apple TV. (Go to: General > Reset Settings > Factory Restore).
- 2. Update Software to 3.0.1 on Apple TV (Go to: General > Update Software).
- 3. Go to http://patchstick.wikispaces.com/PatchStickBuilder and click “download location”.
- 4. You will now be on a “Data File Host” page to download a file called “PSB3.0.zip” click on “Click Here” to download.
- 5. It will download the ATV&More application in a zip file to your desktop. Unzip it.
- 6. Plug in your blank USB flash drive. If you have any other USB storage devices plugged in to your computer, UNPLUG THEM NOW to avoid accidentally erasing something important. This includes any external hard drives.
UPDATE (from @patchstick) – They tell me that you don’t have to do this because the software won’t write to any device over 16GB as a safety precaution – so there’s little chance in losing data on existing drives. Personally, I’m paranoid, so I’d still unmount/disconnect any other drives to avoid even a 0.0000001% chance.
- 7. Go into the PSB3.0 folder and double click on “PatchStick Builder” — this will launch the application.
- 8. Once the application is running, click on “Download Firmware Image” – this will get a required file from Apple’s update site. This could take some time, depending on the speed of your internet connection. When it is done, you should see a file name in bright green at the top left of the window, and it should say, “…ok” at the end.
- 9. Your USB drive should be listed in the drop-down box. Make sure it is selected and then click on the “Create Patchstick” button at the bottom. The program will spend some time organizing files and writing everything to the patchstick. Once it is done, it will let you know.
- 10. Quit the program and eject your new USB patchstick.
- 11. Unplug your Apple TV. Plug USB patchstick into the back of the Apple TV. Plug in your Apple TV. (NOTE: With some USB hardware, it sometimes works better if you plug in the Apple TV, and then within 2 seconds plug in the USB patchstick.)
- 12. You should see a hand holding a green apple come up on the screen, and then a bunch of little text scrolling down. When the process is done, you’ll see a note (in the small text) to unplug the USB patchstick.
- 13. In 30 seconds, the Apple TV will reboot – this will take a few moments. A big hand holding a green apple will animate, and then you’ll be taken to the 3.0.1 home screen.
- 14. Scroll to the right to “Launch More,” and then select Scripts > Load Free Base Configuration.
- 15. You will see a screen that says “Running Script “Load Free Base Configuration” and it will be doing some work. When it is done, it will take you back to the home screen.
- 16. Go to “Launch More” > “Scripts” > “Hide TV Shows Menu Entry” (provided you never use this option — if you do rent/purchase TV Shows from iTunes, then don’t do this.
Your Apple TV has been unlocked and is now ready to run third-party software.
Chapter Two. Install Launcher 3.2 Beta 3
This chapter downloads the program that will let you install Boxee and XBMC. Using your favorite SSH client (Terminal on a Mac, or PuTTY on Windows), you need to get your hands dirty for a few minutes…
- 1. On the Mac, open Terminal and type: “ssh email@example.com” and press enter. If you get an error saying that the “remote host identification has changed!” then you need to delete your known_hosts file. If you’ve never ssh’d into your ATV before, this probably won’t happen. Otherwise, you may be prompted to confirm you want to connect, even though “the authenticity of host can’t be established.” This is ok. Just type Yes. If you are on a Windows PC, run PuTTY, and create a connection to “appletv.local” over SSH with the username “frontrow”.
- 2. You are now prompted for a password. This is “frontrow”. Type it, and press enter.
- 3. You are now at the command prompt (you’ll see a prompt that says “-bash-2.05b$” most likely. Type the following commands, pressing enter after each line, and waiting for the command to finish. After you type the first command, you will probably be prompted for a password. Again, the password is “frontrow”.
sudo mount -uw /
(This will take a few moments — it is downloading software from the internet.)
chmod +x Launcher-3.2.beta3-debug.run
(You will be asked whether you’d like to restart the Finder. Type the letter ‘Y’. Your ATV will flash and it will go back to the 3.0.1 home screen.)
sudo mount -ur /
- 4. You can now close out your Terminal or PuTTY window on your computer.
Chapter Three. Install Boxee & XBMC
- 1. On your Apple TV, go to the new “Launcher” menu. Choose “Downloads.”
- 2. Click on “Boxee alpha 0.9.14.6992”. Your ATV will download Boxee and run the installation script. This will take a few moments. When it’s done, it will say, “Update finished successfully! Hit menu to return.” Do so, and you’re back to the download screen.
- 3. Click on “XBMC 9.11 (beta1)”. Your Apple TV will download XBMC and run the installation script. This will take a few moments. When it’s done, it will say, “Update finished successfully!! Hit menu to return.” Do so, and you’re back to the download screen.
- 4. Hit the “menu” to get back to the Apple TV home screen.
You should now have both Boxee and XBMC available!
Credits & Disclaimer
These steps are an assemblage of instructions from many different sources on the net, including from various forums and third-party Web sites. I’ve tried to put them together in a way that is easy to follow, even for the “newbie.” I do not condone breaking any warranty or law, or hacking of any technologies here — I’m just presenting instructions as found throughout the Web in an organized manner.
Patchstick.ca is a great resource for extending the AppleTV. They offer additional services through a paid subscription model. Check them out.
Software versions and files. These instructions should work as of the date of this post. Like any evolving software, they may not work tomorrow. New software versions come out; incompatibilities happen. No warranty is made or suggested by being listed here. I cannot be held responsible if you manage to blow up (or otherwise damage) your property or the property of others.