Apple TV -- USB vs. larger internal drive

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by purplesaber, Nov 15, 2008.

  1. purplesaber macrumors member

    Nov 15, 2008
    Hello, I'm newly considering an Apple TV.

    My question is about how best to upgrade the storage of the unit. I understand that there is a hack to allow using the USB port. Can you simply plug in an external USB hard drive and use it to store media? Will the native software from Apple allow the unit to sync and read files to the external drive, or do you need additional software to do this?

    I've read that it is possible to upgrade the internal drive to a bigger model. Doing it myself is not likely (I'm not hack-savvy) but I see offers on the web/eBay to have someone else install one.

    Is there anything better about replacing the internal HD compared to using an external USB drive other than keeping the unit simple and uncluttered? If you add additional software like Boxee does it make any difference whether the capacity is expanded via external or internal HD?

    Any advice on what is the simplest way to have more storage in the ATV would be greatly appreciated!
  2. tamasvarga67 macrumors regular

    Sep 29, 2007
    You can try ATVFlash then you'll be able to connect external drive to the aTV and play avi files.
    I keep my music on the aTV's hard drive syncronized with my iTunes library and the movies on the external drive I can load everything with Cyberduck which is free.
    The installation is hassle free and reversible and you don't have to open up the aTV.
  3. tom1971 macrumors 6502a

    May 15, 2007
    You can enable the USB port and then connect any USB hd to your aTV. You can also setup the external hd to be the main harddrive of the ATV, so there is no need to change the internal hd.
  4. NJuul macrumors 6502

    Mar 15, 2006
    Using a USB drive as main drive...
    This sounds like a great idea!
    Would you care to elaborate on how it is actually done?
    And if you have any experience with it, how it actually performs?
  5. Michael CM1 macrumors 603

    Feb 4, 2008
    If you have a desire for storage on/in the actual device, stop reading.

    Otherwise, set up some storage on your network. I've got 3 hard drives connected to an AirPort Extreme Base Station and shared. I store all of my non-podcast video on them and add the movies to my iTunes Library. Sync your iTunes Library with your Apple TV and you've got all the video you need.
  6. purplesaber thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 15, 2008
    Thanks for all the replies.

    I have a couple of more questions: when you stream media you have to have a computer with itunes on all the time, is that right? You can't have the ATV function as the server?

    How good is the quality of the video when you stream wirelessly? I have all my DVDs converted by handbrake via the aTV preset. I have them stored on a Time Capsule at the moment and when I stream them wirelessly to my Macbook it's iffy (often get stutters) depending on where I am in the house. If I connect the TC and MB via ethernet it work fine, but my goal is to have just an ATV connected to the TV. Storing or streaming isn't a big deal as long the video is reliable.

    Is there an advantage to having shared network disks vs. using the built-in drive of a TC as far as storing and streaming media files to the ATV?

    I suppose I can try to set up a wired network instead of wireless, but the less wires the better if I can still get the ATV to function well.

    Thanks again for the advice.
  7. Chris Rogers macrumors 6502a

    Chris Rogers

    Jul 8, 2008
    my house
    I used to have the same stutter which is why I got the ATV - But I haven't had any problems streaming to ATV since I got it on Wednesday. It's just as if it's plugged right in. I've used it quite a bit too.

    * If storage becomes an issue, here is what i do. I convert all my videos to iPhone format w/ HB for smaller storage. Quality is great.
  8. hjruiz macrumors newbie

    Nov 18, 2008
    How exactly do you use cyberduck?
  9. JonathanU macrumors member

    Jun 3, 2008
    London, UK
    Hi - if I add the movies to my iTunes library doesn't that take up huge amounts of space on my laptop? Can i then delete the films again from my laptop without removing them from the ATV the next time I sync?

    Can't the ATV play from your external hard drives without syncing by streaming?

  10. idunn macrumors 6502

    Jan 12, 2008
    That much closer

    Yes. In short order, particularly if dealing with HD movies.

    I've yet to deal directly with ATV, but still perhaps can answer some of these questions. It is probably best to have one dedicated repository (with backup, of course) from which all media, whether synced or streamed, is sourced. As in a server, basically. Out of the box the ATV apparently is not well adapted to this, with a relatively miniscule internal hard drive, and inability to add an external hard drive to it. aTV Flash seems to offer a viable solution for such a conundrum, in not only allowing more utility but also option of an external hard drive.

    HD movies, bought directly from iTunes, will play flawlessly on this MacBook via wi-fi from a Time Capsule. Most of my movies reside on this Time Capsule as the 160GB internal hard drive of this MacBook quickly reached capacity. So the usual procedure is to download a movie from iTunes to this MacBook, which automatically adds it to the iTunes library, manually transfer the movie file to Time Capsule (as I only periodically, manually, backup this MacBook, to save space on Time Capsule), then remove the same movie file from this MacBook via the trash. The first time such a movie is played iTunes will ask where it is; one then refers iTunes to its location within the Time Capsule, and thereafter it will play the same as if on the internal hard drive.

    What I have noticed, however, is that a movie will only stream flawlessly from a remote location via wi-fi if everything is working properly. Specifically, if I've used various other applications, many windows open, etc. on this MacBook that streamed movies can stutter occasionally, whereas those on its internal hard drive tend not to. If restarting, as in a clean slate, then all works perfectly again. So the moral of this story is it would be best to have a dedicated system which is used for media playback alone.

    Assuming one could add an external hard drive to ATV (which aTV Flash appears to allow), then that should suffice. One might stream from other sources, but the key would seem to be NOT to route them through your daily computer. The Mac Mini seems to be an often popular solution to this, with again it only being used for media files.

    In paying attention one will notice that more and more HDTVs are allowing network capability. But closer examination will prove that such schemes are invariably limited, and compromised in certain respects. But the trend is clear. For now it appears that no one offers the perfect solution whereby anything one might wish pops up on the big screen with but a flick of the remote control. But we are getting closer. With certain work arounds one can get fairly close, even now.
  11. dynaflash macrumors 68020

    Mar 27, 2003
    Yes they can depending on how many and how big. No the next time you sync any movie not found in iTunes will be deleted from the atv.
    Yeah, it can stream from an external hard drive that has a iTunes library connected to the iTunes' computer. Though note if that external hard drive is something like a time capsule where its wirelessly connected to the laptop, and the atv is wireless to the computer, you will effectively have double streaming.

    Time Capsule wireless to computer ... computer wireless to atv. Not a good scenario. USB or Firewire remote drives would be preferable.
  12. Bevz macrumors 6502a

    Oct 23, 2007
    I use ATVFlash.. Just patch your ATV, plug in external USB drive, set option to use external drive as internal; wait a few minutes for it to copy files and set it up, reboot and bingo... ATV pops up in iTunes as the size of the external drive (in my case 500gb), and you just sync to it as normal. I've got all my movies and tv shows synced, no more streaming. It Works brilliantly. It performs just fine, i've got a few 720p HD movies and it plays them perfectly!
    Fast forward actually works properly now (doesn't via streaming), and i'll be upgrading to a 1 or 2TB drive pretty soon...

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