Apple TV 4: Fix Blank Screensaver

Apple TV 4 Fix Blank Screensaver

Apple TV 4 features breathtaking high-definition aerial screensavers. Unfortunately, a defect may have your Apple TV 4 displaying a blank screen instead. This article covers how to fix a blank screensaver on Apple TV 4.

The fourth generation Apple TV is a remarkable device. I replaced my aging Apple TV 2 with an Apple TV 4. Overall, I am satisfied with my new Apple TV 4, but it’s far from perfect. In fact, I feel that it doesn’t live up to Apple’s reputation for top quality products.

Apple is not a monolith. The team that created Apple TV 4 is different from the groups that work on the iPhone and Mac. Apple is not going to put their best and brightest employees to work on a TV appliance. Apple TV 4 users can see the results. For the most part, the device works well enough to enjoy TV shows, movies, music and apps. I use mine every night. Unfortunately, like many Apple TV 4 users, I find myself restarting the device at least once a day.

Restarting Apple TV will fix most problems, however, it won’t fix the issue with the blank screen saver. Let’s take a look at how to fix this problem and possible causes.

How to Fix the Blank Screen Saver on Apple TV 4

The high-definition screensavers bundled with Apple TV 4 are a popular feature. If you are suddenly presented with a blank, black screen, this is due to a defect in tvOS. Fortunately, this can be easily remedied.

For the purpose of this article, I am assuming most people prefer the aerial screensavers. If you are experiencing a problem with a different screensaver, follow the same directions, but just select a different screensaver. Basically, this problem is fixed by selecting and previewing a different screensaver, and then returning to the original screensaver.

First, launch the Settings app from the home screen or ask Siri to “launch Settings”. Click on General > Screensaver to display the Screensaver menu. Next, click on Type to display the Screensaver Type menu.

You will need to temporarily change the screensaver in order to fix this problem. Select Apple Photos and click on Animals. Next, tap the menu button twice to return to the main Screensaver menu. Scroll down and click on Preview. You should see the Animals screen saver. Press the Menu button to return to the Screensaver menu.

Now that the screensaver has been changed, you can reset it back to your preferred setting. Click on Type in the Screensaver menu and then pick Aerial. Press the menu button twice to return to the Screensaver menu. Scroll down and click on Preview. You should now see the Aerial screensaver. Your screensaver will now work properly. You will no longer be presented with a blank screen.

Why Does Apple TV 4 Show a Blank Screen?

The problem with the blank screensaver surfaced after I downloaded, installed and used an app from the App Store. I noticed that, after I had used this app, the screensaver would only display a blank screen. It is unclear if this problem is specific to installing certain apps. I haven’t experienced the problem with any other app.

I can only speculate as to what caused this problem. Unfortunately, tvOS is not open source, so I can’t look at the code. I believe that installing and using the app may have either changed an internal value setting or cleared the cache where screensavers are stored. This issue can’t be fixed by restarting Apple TV, so it seems that some persistent change was made which caused cached data to be overwritten.

This is not a severe issue. The blank screensaver will protect your TV screen from damage. Unless you have a plasma television, it is unlikely that your display will be ruined by a persistent, static image anyway. It is possible, but the image would need to be displayed for several hours. Newer LCD and LED displays are not easily damaged by persistent, static images. That said, most Apple TV 4 users like the aerial screensavers and don’t want to see a blank screen.

We can only hope a future tvOS update will fix this problem. This is not a frequent issue, and it has only happened to me once. I also haven’t installed that many apps on my Apple TV. I expect that people who install a lot of apps will experience this problem more often. Fortunately, this problem is easy to fix and you can go back to enjoying those gorgeous HD aerial screensavers.



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13 thoughts on “Apple TV 4: Fix Blank Screensaver

  1. I’m trying to get a blank screen while listening to music on my apple TV 4. Seems you stumbled on a way to do this, would love to know what app did that!

    • This article is actually about how to fix a bug where the screensaver would be blank. It’s a bug that shows up randomly. Although I’m sure some underlying condition causes the defect, I am unable to reproduce it.

      If you want to display a blank screen while playing music, there may be a workaround:

      – Use your iPhone or iOS device to capture an image of a blank screen. It’s probably easiest to do this by taking a screen shot of an iPhone screen that has a partially blank area. Press the Home button and Sleep/Wake button at the same time to create a screen shot. The screen shot will automatically be stored in the Photos app. Crop the photo so only the blank portion is displayed.

      Add the single photo to an iCloud album. There should only be this one photo in the album.

      Configure your Apple TV to use this iCloud photo album as the screensaver.

      – Set Apple Music to display the screensaver while playing music. This setting is under the Screensavers menu.

      I haven’t tried this out, but it should work.

      One word of caution — keeping the same image on a screen could damage it. It’s not as much of an issue with LCD and LED displays, but it happens easily with plasmas. According to Samsung, one should not keep the same image on an LED TV for more than 2 hours. It’s also possible for an LCD to “burn in”. That’s why we use screensavers. By alternating the images, it prevents an image from burning in to the screen.

  2. I’m having a similar issue where the main screen is showing (possibly when the remote disconnects). It is still in screensaver mode as waking the remote immediately shows the screen saver. It’s almost like there is a Z-ordering problem with the display buffer, but as you say, we don’t get to see the code. I tried your solution. We’ll see if it works. Thanks!

    • Very strange behavior. I’ve never seen that one. If all else fails, and the problem is annoying, you can alway try restoring to factory settings. Yeah, Apple TV 4 is good, but not iPhone good. They simply don’t invest enough resources in Apple TV.

    • Today, I hit the Home button and it showed the Home screen, but then quickly flashed the last app I was using. Yeah, I think there’s a problem and it may be related to what you’re experiencing. This is all new to me. It started happening after the tvOS 10.1 update. I notice that my Apple TV is less responsive too. Two steps forward, one step back…

  3. I don’t have a blank screen – it’s my default ‘desktop screen’ for my apple TV that shows on my TV monitor. I can’t get the screen saver to work. My screen saver will not work when iTunes is playing – but does when it’s not. Just downloaded an app called ROOM that I love. Probably not a coincidence? So frustrated 🙁

    • Go to Settings > General > Screensaver and set it to display when music is playing. You can also invoke the Screensaver manually from the Home screen. Simply press the Menu button once or twice on the Home screen until the Screensaver displays.

  4. Hello, I have about 10 Apple TVs in the conference rooms in my workplace. They are set to appear after 2 minutes. Everyday on average, I will spot 1 or 2 Apple TVs not showing the aerial screensaver even though they are idle. It appears to me that the occurrence is completely random among the Apple TVs. I get irritated when the screensaver doesn’t work.

    I suspect that the Apple TV is trying to establish connection to Siri Remote in the background, which prevented the aerial screensaver from happening. I’m not sure. Can I get your opinion please?

    Anyways, I’m going to try your method of previewing another screensaver trick and see if it works.

    • There could be multiple causes for this. Another commenter on this article has experienced the same issue and suspects the Siri Remote.

      It’s happened to me a few times. I’ve seen it twice in the past month, so not only did they not fix it, but it is worse. In my experience, I didn’t have any problems with the remote. I didn’t see any message that the remote was connecting. I believe, in my case, Apple’s servers were trying to update the screensavers right when the problem happened. I’ve noticed it correlates more with network issues. It happened a few times when my ISP was having problems, but it can also happen if there are problems in Apple’s data center.

      It bugs me too. It makes the device seem hacky and unpolished. Also, people will wonder if the TV is off or something. You’re probably doing it to make your conference rooms look nicer. It’s not the only flaw that makes Apple TV seem like it’s not even an Apple product. I have to keep in mind, for an Apple product, it’s relatively inexpensive. They also don’t put as much effort into Apple TV as they do with the iPhone and Mac. They don’t have the best and brightest engineers working on it, and it shows.

      The only thing that makes me doubt the Siri Remote theory is that it connects over Bluetooth, and the screensavers are updated over WiFi. But it doesn’t mean that it can’t be the cause. So far, I have two people who have noticed that it seems to be a problem with Siri Remote connectivity. It could very well be that it disrupts the screensaver. In my experience, I haven’t been able to correlate the two.

      Try this — set the screensaver to update monthly and see if it stops happening. If it happens every day, you’ll notice it. If not, you can switch it back to daily updates. Really, they update those screensavers so rarely, I don’t think the daily update really happens anyway. I was looking at the same SF, clouds, and NYC ones for 18 months until they finally updated it with the new ones (which are amazing — especially Dubai). Perhaps some over-caffeinated product manager thought they would actually push daily updates to the aerial screensavers! But I guess, if you don’t have it set like that, you may have to wait a month for the update. They should have an option to download them as they are added, because they are really updated every 18 months.

      You can also test the Siri Remote theory by disconnecting the remote and seeing if it still occurs. Probably not convenient, but it would be the only way to confirm it.

  5. This also fixed a problem where in addition to random blank screensavers, my Apple TV stopped displaying many of the screensavers.

  6. Apple just released tvOS 10.2. I installed it this morning. So far, I already notice that scrolling is buggy. They added a new quick scrolling feature, where users can scroll rapidly through long lists by swiping on the right side of the Touch surface. I didn’t notice that working. Instead, scrolling in Netflix seems to be really glitchy.

    I’m not sure if tvOS 10.2 fixes these screensaver defects. It may be worth waiting for 10.2.1. The major releases often introduce new bugs.

    On a positive note, movie rentals are now sharable across all of your Apple devices. They also added support for many more apps in the TV app.

    • I upgraded my Apple TV to tvOS 10.2. I don’t see any screensaver problems and I saw a few new screensavers (which can probably be seen on older versions of tvOS). They may have fixed it, but I can’t say for sure. One thing I do notice is that tvOS 10.2 has introduced some regressive bugs. The Touch surface can be a bit glitchy and their new fast scrolling feature doesn’t work very well. They also seem to have messed up Siri. When I tell it to “turn on full dynamic range” it says it is already on. I go to Settings > Audio & Video to confirm, and Reduce Loud Sounds is on. It seems like someone thinks Full Dynamic Range and Reduce Lound Sounds are the same thing, but they’re the opposite.

      Two steps forward, one step back… Seems par for the course with Apple TV. tvOS 10.2.1 can’t come soon enough!

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