How to control your Apple TV with any third-party remote control

by umOuch on April 24, 2012

The default remote control for your Apple TV is small, slick, and smooth. To many users, of Apple‘s “hobby” device, it is also thought to be too small and somewhat limited in features. For those of you have found the Apple TV to be limited only by its remote… you have likely found the iOS remote to be a decent alternative to Apples’ hardware offering. Though this iOS remote can help fill the void, eventually you will want to control your Apple TV while using your iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod) device for something else.

For years now Apple TV’s have had a simple, yet amazing, ability to use a remote that came with your TV, cable box, or DVD player to also control Apple TV (both 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation). Here is how to do this (official instructions from Apple):

Note: If you have an Apple TV (1st generation), update to Apple TV software 2.3 or later.

  1. Using the Apple Remote included with Apple TV, choose Settings > General > Remotes.
  2. Choose Learn Remote.
  3. Set your remote to a device setting that doesn’t control any other devices in the area or identify other buttons that do not already control a function on your TV or other device. Many third-party remotes have an option to control different devices such as a VCR or DVD player, or have an auxiliary (AUX) option for an unspecified device.
  4. Start.
  5. Apple TV will display icons that represent the six buttons on the Apple Remote with the “Up” or “+” button highlighted first.
  6. Using your third-party remote, press and hold the button you would like to use to control the “up” function until the blue progress bar is full, as shown below.
  1. Apple TV will then select the next button function. Repeat step 6 and 7 using a different button
  2. After you have programmed all six button functions, you can now use your third-party remote to control Apple TV.

Optionally, you can set up specific playback buttons for fast-forward, rewind, next chapter, and more.

You can program additional remotes to control Apple TV by repeating steps 1 through 8. At anytime you can rename, delete or revise your button choices for a selected third-party remote by choosing Settings > General > Remotes and selecting a third-party remote that Apple TV has already learned.

I, personally, encourage you to take the time and give it a go… and post your results below. This little trick can help breathe new life into your little magic box!

umOuch (Andrew Brasher)

You may also want to read:
FireCore: Work is underway on Apple TV 3 jailbreak and Apple TV 2 5.0 untethered jailbreak
aTV Flash (black) 1.5 for Apple TV 2 is live
How to install IceFilms on your jailbroken Apple TV

  • Anonymous

    Just gave it a go with my tv remote, works pretty well. No issues at all

  • Alykhan Mawji

    works great on my comcast remote for the basic controls, won’t learn the advanced controls

  • N326mo

    Super, Tx.

  • Cndian

    works fine

  • Sarah1975

    The Harmony 1100 will do this automatically for you if you add Apple TV as a device.

  • Robbe

    I have used my TV remote for the original AppleTV since the update to 2.3 came out. Always worked perfectly. It’s the little things with make the difference. It is so handy to only have one remote!

  • Anonymous

    doesn’t seem to work with directv remote. Oh well i use the remote application anyways

  • Dparr

    Great works with my Humax Freesat Remote

  • JonBOY26

    Anybody know of a remote that incorporates a qwerty keyboard (like the Boxee remote) that the ATV is able to learn? 

  • Fixerman

    Did it! Brilliant. I used the remote for my ONKYO amp.

  • Dscarty

    Thanks so much for this. I knew about Apple remotes cuz I have an iPhone but didn’t realize this little option was hiding in the ATV menu. Using the tvs remote will make Saturday night at the movies easier for my Wife & her Aunt.

  • Mkv Xstream

    Have had really good luck with the URC line of remotes. Easy learn function and does everything the ATV remote did plus the added backlit makes it sweet!

  • heda_p

    great tip

  • Essruu


    I’ll have to try again – once I’ve selected the ‘UP’ function, no matter what button Imselect for ‘Down’, I always get an error message saying the button has previously been learned.

    I have tried using the DVD input selector. Which do you use and what buttons do you use for the controls?

  • Vlad

    Thank you very much, i saved $22 for new apple remote )

  • erm

    iPhone / iPad / iPod Touch?

  • elum

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! I was going to buy a new remote and happened to stumble across this post first! You saved me money! Thanks again!

  • Scott

    Doesn’t appear to work with LG Magic Remote. Anyone have luck with pairing applet TV with one of those?

  • Jason

    Many thanks! What a great and easily overlooked feature. I’ve had an ATV for years, use it more than any other tv media device, I had no idea. I set mine up to receive my Tivo remote, worked like charm, no trouble at all.

    Thanks again

  • LinuxHombre

    I was able to pair my LG iNet TV magic remote and even my standard crappy DirecTV remote. Looks like there’s a loophole in proprietary-land for now 🙂

  • Linuxhombre

    The Harmony series remotes are wonderful. Hands-down, it could probably control your toaster too.

  • mr pi

    Using the comcast xr2 v3-p remote and applying the same procedure for Apple TV I was able to program the comcast xfinity remote. Keep in mind to “press and hold” especially for the power buttons. It will not turn off – only program.

    Up arrow = volume up
    Down arrow = volume down
    Left arrow = mute button
    Right arrow = TV input button
    Select button = TV power button
    Menu button = all power button
    Press xfinity “all power” button and apple tv “menu” button simultaneously to complete programming.

    Enter remote control name for Apple TV use of “xfinity remote”

    1-2-3 You Rock!!!

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