Apple TV Hardware Mods

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by chrysrobyn, Sep 23, 2008.

  1. chrysrobyn macrumors member

    May 9, 2003
    Austin, TX
    I've had an Apple TV for over a year now. I love it, but I worry about its robustness. It gets bloody hot in the cabinet when the stereo is on, and I generally don't trust hard drives.
    1) Is there a good cooling method? Even if ambient air is warm, air flow would cool the device below what it's at now -- ideally a thermostatically controlled fan version of the NewerTech MiniStack just for cooling. Of course, I could take it out of the pretty case and build something more robust, but free time is nil these days.
    2) I've read on the web about people replacing the hard drive with high speed SSDs, but has anybody replaced the hard drive with a CompactFlash and a bridge? I've got a 40GB drive now, so 32GB (<$100 for the card + $10 for the bridge) wouldn't be too bad, but I suppose 64GB ($100*2 + $30 for a dual slot bridge) is an option if I get the itch. I'd just prefer not to be the first one. I think it's as simple as getting an image of the original drive, resizing it, then blowing it out over dd (or maybe even writing the image, if Disk Utility does that, but I'm a Unix-head) to the compactflash drive.

    Anybody else modify their AppleTV and do anything other than the same old same old software hack or increase the storage space?
  2. mrgreen4242 macrumors 601


    Feb 10, 2004
    I'm not able to answer any of your questions, but have one for you re: the flash drive replacement. Why? I mean, for what the ATV does, I can't imagine the drive being a bottleneck. Maybe it's a problem if you are trying to write to it via gigabit ethernet, but the write speeds of flash are usually worse than a HDD. Additionally, the ATV is mostly reading large files, so they should be (mostly) sequential data operations, which again, HDDs are typically faster at than flash. In my experience/understanding is that flash is really only faster in random read operations, which is great for general computing, but not particularly helpful with a media playback device.

    Maybe it would run cooler, but I suspect that the CPU/GPU generate most of the heat anyway. Just curious...
  3. chrysrobyn thread starter macrumors member

    May 9, 2003
    Austin, TX
    You're spot on, with the one caveat: going the cheap way to CompactFlash means you sacrifice more speed. Speed is no problem for the AppleTV, I never use any media over 1MB/s, so I'm above the minimum there. Flash has no moving parts, so for anything that's infrequently used, especially infrequently written, Flash will likely last longer -- and that's my main goal. Consumer hard drives wear out after 1-3 years on average, and my personal experiences are actually at 3.5 years, +/- 6 months. Power consumption in a laptop is supposedly 1/3 screen, 1/3 hard drive, 1/3 CPU. Any CompactFlash solution is likely to be less than that, and a cooler chassis will last longer.
  4. dynaflash macrumors 68020

    Mar 27, 2003
    You could always go with the eSata mod. Moves the hdd outside of the chassis so there is no heat from the drive whatsoever. Plus hdd size is about as much as you want.
  5. angrysnake macrumors newbie

    Jul 10, 2008
    My compact flash TV

    I have done this mod. My original ATV hard drive lost a battle with Mother Nature do to an open window. Since I needed to replace it and start from scratch. I thought why not something different. My library is at 4.25 TB (yes terabytes) so size is not an issue. I picked up an IDE to CF adaptor and a 16GB card. I was not sure at the time what size would be needed. I found the latest OS dmg and used the simple disk utility method. The Transcend 16 GB 133x speed card was slow compared to the new stock one I picked up also. I started playing around with smaller Media partition sizes to determine what size CF card would work. A 4 GB card can work, but it disturbs me to see the "free space" in the minus. So I choose a 8GB card. I went for the SanDisk Ducati... Big mistake...Huge... It will not show up as a hard drive unless you hack it. After a week of tinkering with it I gave up. Last I choose a Transcend 8 GB 300x. Again the simple method and success! My mini hard drive out performs a stock ATV. When I get some free time I will post temps, boot time sync time etc.

    Attached Files:

  6. BobC macrumors newbie


    Apr 15, 2007
    Providence, RI
    Re: Cooling

    In regard to the OP's #1 question on cooling, I was also concerned with the extremely high operating temperature of my :apple:TV. So, soon after I got it, I removed the entire rubber bottom cushion, which exposed the (thankfully) perforated metal plate to which the hard drive is attached. Then I glued on 4 small rubber feet to raise the unit up a bit (slightly higher at the back), and mounted a small, quiet 12v fan (powered independently) at the rear of my entertainment unit's enclosure to blow air around and under the :apple:TV. Voila! The :apple:TV now runs significantly cooler, only slightly warm to the touch.

    I also power-down the :apple:TV when I'm not using it. The boot-up time isn't very long, and it gives me peace of mind knowing it's not just sitting there generating heat for no reason. :)
  7. spacepower7 macrumors 68000

    May 6, 2004

    BobC wins an award.

    I just had a Duhh!!!! Homer Simpson moment.

    I doubt that removing the rubber cushion voids the warranty and can always be replaced. Re-glued.
  8. dynaflash macrumors 68020

    Mar 27, 2003
  9. Skeistrup macrumors newbie

    Jul 31, 2009
    Detailed instructions for doing a CF mod ?

    I'm considering doing this mod to my ATV - would appreciate a detailed desription of the modification and how you formatted and created a disk image that you got working.
    What tools are required - Intel Mac, Utilities etc.

  10. Sykotic macrumors member

    Aug 25, 2009
    I'd like to get more info too. What did you temps end up being?
  11. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    Feb 12, 2007
    Neander Valley, Germany; just outside Duesseldorf
    This might work, but someone's going to have to give it a try. Looks like you still need to provide it with 5V though, and probably a right-angle plus gender changer.
  12. imickey503 macrumors newbie

    Jun 3, 2011
    in a box
    If you want cheap this is it.


    You just need a fan for this thing to blow air over it in most homes.

    For more,

    If you are going to use it like most people, You might need to just do this mod to your apple tv.

    The Fan mod is not that hard to do...for the PC crowd. But I have to admit, the demographic is going to have to take it to a pro modder to get the work done. OR just get a new one. Sad. But oh well. At least apple did the right thing and made it affordable this time. You have to give them props for that. But I still would be worried about it. Apple's after the wind tunnel thing seems to just have given up on common sense and just said, Ok, you want quiet, here you go. It sucks that a few peoples gripes about computers having fan noise has become so much of a issue that they now have to take short cuts like this in order to apease a few people. Sucks big time man. Oh well.

    Also, if you just cant swing it. Just stack 2 old hard drives on the top of the case, the nest thing you can do is keep it vertical.

    If you have ZERO money, Zero skills, The other option is to peel of the rubber backing (it has perforated holes) and then keep it on its side on hot days.
    You can keep the look of the rubber on the sides to maintain looks as long as you just cut out only the rubber portion that covers the underside of the unit, then elevate it so that that it can do its job. Its still not IDEAL, but your chances of running into cooling problems should be less of a problem.

    If you want to maintain the looks, well you have no other choice but to do the internal fan mod. (like the time capsule guys)

    In apples defense, You house should be at about 70'F and the unit should be on place where it gets plenty of cool air flow.

    No matter how you stack it, if you want to use the apple TV for a long time, you are going to have to do something about the temps inside the case.

    If you run XBMC use the Broadcom HD card, well, your going to have to do some cooling mods.
  13. OmegaRed1723 macrumors 6502


    Jun 19, 2009
    The Waste
    I did the Boadcom Crystal HD, replacing the :apple:TV OS with Crystalbuntu so the device boots straight into XBMC. It runs hotter than hell, but the unit has been on 24/7 for well over a year with nary a hiccup. I have to restart it when idle memory usage creeps up into the 60% range (normal is in the low 40s), but aside from that, she's always running. It's stored in an open wood cabinet with no other devices near it. So far, so good!
  14. dynaflash macrumors 68020

    Mar 27, 2003
    I run both a stock drive and an esata modded atv 1 both with the chd card. At least here I would submit that the chd card creates less heat than the wifi card it replaces.

    All atv's have the rubber pad removed and allow ariflow via the perforated plate as described above. Fwiw, the eSata modded atv has had no fan in it (started to make weird noises so I yanked it) for over a year and is used daily, no heat issues so far. Both atv's are out in the open so get decent ventilation.

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