tvOS features a secret advanced settings menu. This article shows you how to access the menu and describes each setting.
Apple products are known to be simple to use. They are designed to offer straightforward, easy-to-use settings. This also provides a clean and simple user interface. Users don’t need to drill down through pages of settings to make a change. Siri can even adjust some settings for you. This is the result of decades of usability research.
A lot of people love to fiddle with gadgets, and the Apple user experience leaves much to be desired. If you are one of these MacGyver types, you may wish to access Apple TV 4’s hidden advanced settings menu. Let’s take a look at how to open this secret screen.
Accessing Apple TV 4’s Hidden Advanced Settings Menu
Although the advanced settings menu is hidden, it’s not difficult to access. You won’t need any special code. Connecting your Apple TV to a Mac is not required.
First, open the Settings app and click on System > Software Updates. Next, tap the Play/Pause button on your Siri remote 4 times. The Advanced Settings menu item will appear. From here you can click on Advanced Settings to view the screen.
Before you do anything, make sure to take photos of this screen. If you accidentally change an advanced setting, the screenshot can help you restore it. Make sure to scroll down and take another photo of the bottom of the screen. Just in case you forget to do this, or lose the photo, I have transcribed the settings for you:
Use AppleConnect: Off
Asset Server URL: http://mesu.apple.com/assets/tv
Brain Server URL: http://mesu.apple.com/assets/tv
Periodic Check Interval (s): 518400
Sleep Delay (s): 7200
Slow Update Timeout (s): 3600
MobileAsset Logging: Off
These are not all of the settings, as Build Train, Build Number and a few others have no defaults. Also, Verify AppleConnect Credentials invokes an action, and is not a setting.
Although the settings are transcribed, some of them may be specific to my locale or device. I still recommend taking screenshots before you alter any settings. If you accidentally change a setting, most of them can be restored to defaults by pressing the Play/Pause button while the field is highlighted.
The Advanced Settings menu option will disappear as soon as you exit the screen. You can display the menu item again by pressing the Play/Pause button 4 times on the Software Updates screen.
What Do The Apple TV 4 Advanced Settings Mean?
The Advanced Settings menu is not intended for use by consumers. This menu is designed for Apple Store employees and other technical support professionals. This doesn’t mean that you can’t alter these settings. I recommend sticking with the defaults, however, altering these settings will not permanently damage your Apple TV. In the worst case, you can just reset your Apple TV to factory settings. If you took screenshots of the settings, you can restore them to their defaults. You can also restore most of these settings to their defaults by pressing the Play/Pause button while the field is highlighted. Let’s take a look at what these settings mean.
AppleConnect is a system used to access internal Apple apps. These apps are intended for use by Apple employees. The apps are used to troubleshoot products and provide access to support. AppleConnect apps include Concierge and Switchboard, which are used to access Apple Store employee-specific apps.
I was able to verify AppleConnect credentials using my personal Apple ID. Unfortunately, it didn’t do much. I tried looking for AppleConnect apps in the App Store, to no avail. I even tried pressing the Play/Pause button four times on the home screen. Even though my Apple ID was validated, it appears that I don’t have access to AppleConnect apps. I really don’t have any use for them anyway. I tried this merely for editorial purposes.
The Build Train and Build Number settings refer to tvOS operating system versions. These settings can be altered in order to provide beta testers with pre-release versions of tvOS. If you are able to finagle the build name and release number, you could probably try a future version of tvOS. Given that the current version is a little buggy, I wouldn’t recommend it. It may be possible to downgrade your Apple TV to a previous version using these settings, but I am not certain.
Asset Server and Brain Server URLs refer to Apple’s update servers. These URLs point to servers that provide updates to assets (images, screensavers) and core functionality for your Apple TV. These would most likely be altered in order to provide builds and updates for beta testers.
Personalization is a method to offer specific content to a user. It’s unclear what the Personalization Server URL setting does on Apple TV 4. It may be a placeholder for upcoming functionality. As it stands, the default value is empty, which means it isn’t being used. Apart from your user experience being linked to your Apple ID, the overall tvOS experience isn’t personalized. This setting may be used for beta testers, developers or Apple Store employees.
The Load VPN Profile action is completely disabled. It may be a placeholder for future functionality. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It is a technology that creates a secure tunnel over the Internet. This allows users to access the Internet as if they were somewhere else — at a corporate office or in another country. People often use VPN to watch Hulu or other steaming services in countries that are blocked. It’s possible that this feature is intended for use by Apple employees. VPNs are commonly used by corporations to securely access internal servers.
Periodic Check Interval specifies the amount of time, in seconds, that Apple TV will check for updates. Given that the default time is 6 days, it seems that this is for tvOS updates. Although you can manually check for tvOS updates (Settings > System > Software Updates > Update Software), Apple’s update servers are polled every 6 days to check for new updates. At this point, users are reminded only if there is a new update.
It’s unclear exactly what Sleep Delay does. The default setting is for two hours, so it is not related to the sleep feature on Apple TV. Since it is grouped with update settings, it may provide a way to download updates in the background while the device is idle, similar to the Power Nap feature on Macs.
Slow Update Timeout appears to be a mechanism for stopping stalled tvOS update downloads. Setting this to a smaller value may improve performance on your Apple TV if you have automatic downloads turned on. I have noticed, on my last Apple TV, operating system updates would download in the background. There was no way of disabling it. I would experience poor streaming performance for a few hours and then Apple TV would prompt me to update the system software. I noticed that the update was already downloaded. I turned off automatic updates for both apps and tvOS updates. If you experience poor performance while tvOS updates are downloading in the background, altering this setting may help.
I think it’s better to turn off automatic updates. This will ensure that network bandwidth is only used for streaming. It will also give you a chance to confirm that a tvOS update is stable and reliable before upgrading.
MobileAsset Logging will track OTA (over-the-air) installation of tvOS system updates. The average user can’t read these logs on Apple TV. This setting, if activated, will create a log of all the different components installed with a tvOS update. Although your Apple TV is not a mobile device, this name originates from iOS OTA updates.
Other Apple TV 4 Secret Menus
The Advanced Settings menu isn’t the only hidden functionality on Apple TV. I found a few more hidden features, and there’s probably even more. It seems that pressing the Play/Pause button four times is the key to displaying these hidden items.
Apple TV 4 offers a retail demo mode. This feature is intended to provide an in-store demonstration for customers. There are two settings for demo mode — Apple Store and Channel. You can enable the retail demo mode by launching the Settings app and clicking on General. Next, tap the Play/Pause button 4 times. A screen will appear, prompting you to select Apple Store or Channel as the demo mode. Both demo modes will disable many of the menu options and disable app installation, ensuring that customers can’t fiddle with the in-store display model. This might actually be useful if you have guests that fiddle with your home electronics.
Demo mode allows configuration of a custom screensaver URL. Retail outlets could use this feature to brand or promote Apple TV or other products while the device is idle. The default screensaver for Demo Mode will display Apple’s marketing video in a loop. It may take a few minutes for this screensaver to replace your existing one, as the content needs to be downloaded.
It’s also possible to restrict video playback duration, ensuring that customers can’t “hog” the display model. This feature could also be used to limit viewing time for children. Make sure to click on Apply Changes to launch demo mode or to turn it off.
Home screen layout and installed apps are not affected by Demo Mode. This configuration simply prevents app installation and changes to settings, while providing a mechanism for custom screensavers.
Diagnostics mode is for use by Apple employees only. It requires a support ticket number in order to be activated. You must enter a valid number, which is verified before diagnostics can be run. It’s possible that an Apple customer service representative could guide you through this process over the phone. You can launch Diagnostics mode by going to Settings > General > About and tapping the Play/Pause button four times. You won’t be able to do much with this screen unless you have a valid support ticket number.
Even More Secret Menus?
As you can see, Apple products aren’t as simple as some may claim. They can work in many different ways. Although they shield the average user from complexity, hidden menus provide advanced settings and capabilities. There may be more hidden features in Apple TV. I will keep looking for these hidden screens. If you happen to find any, please mention them in the comments below.