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Although the Apple TV was first released back in 2007, it wasn’t until the fourth-generation model was released in 2015 that you could actually install your own apps. While this change largely left the older models behind, the good news is that if you still have one or more of these second- or third-generation set-top boxes around, you may still be able to put them to good use.
The Apple TV lineup has actually gone through some pretty significant changes over the years. The first-generation model was a very different device, with an internal 40GB or 160GB hard drive that basically synced content from your iTunes library. It was basically an iPod for your TV. To be fair, however, when it debuted back in 2007, DVD-by-mail company Netflix had just entered the streaming business, and nobody had even heard of Roku yet.
By 2010, however, Apple had dropped the hard drive and embraced the world of streaming media, with a smaller second-generation version of the Apple TV that resembles the design we know today. However, back then Apple hadn’t yet opened up the set-top box to any third-party apps — whatever “channels” you had on your Apple TV had to be built directly into Apple TV software updates.
After the fourth-generation Apple TV arrived in 2015 with tvOS, the early models were mostly forgotten, although Apple did surprise us with a 2019 software update that added the Apple TV app — and Apple TV+ — to the third-generation set-top box.
Unfortunately, this remains the only streaming service that’s still guaranteed to work at least somewhat reliably. For a long time, you could use an old third-gen Apple TV to stream content from services like Netflix and YouTube, as those apps were still built in. However, many of these streaming services like YouTube have made changes over the years that have broken compatibility with the ancient Apple TV Software, and Apple isn’t likely to be releasing any updates to fix them.
To be fair, of course, we’re talking about hardware that was originally released between 2010 and 2013, so it’s not fair to expect it to keep pace with what streaming services are doing today, but if you still have one of these kicking around your house, there’s a new way to make good use of it.
According to iDownloadBlog, the folks in the jailbreak community have just come up with a solution to crack open the software on older second- and third-generation Apple TV devices so that you can run the open-source media player Kodi on it.
While we don’t normally recommend jailbreaking your devices, in this case the risk is relatively low. For one thing, these legacy Apple TV models are well out of their warranty period, and for another, they’re probably not particularly useful for anything else.
Further, unlike an iPhone or iPad, you’re not going to be using them to handle much sensitive personal information, so you’re at minimal risk for security breaches.
Further, the purpose of this jailbreak is specifically to run Kodi on your set-top box. Kodi is a reputable and well-established open-source entertainment centre that offers a wealth of add-ons for just about any streaming service you can think of — and more.
According to the project’s GitHub page, the Blackb0x jailbreak tool runs on modern versions of macOS and supports the following Apple TV models:
- Apple TV 3,2 (A1469)
- Apple TV 3,1 (A1427)
- Apple TV 2,1 (A1378)
The A1469 and A1427 are slightly different variations of the third-generation Apple TV, as Apple released a revised “Rev A” model in early 2013 with some minor component changes and support for peer-to-peer AirPlay. However, the two devices were otherwise identical.
It appears that Blackb0x installs a modified older version of iOS onto the Apple TV, replacing the standard Apple TV Software. The third-generation Apple TV models get iOS 8.4, while the second-generation model gets iOS 7.1.2. It’s worth mentioning that tvOS began at version 9.0, while Apple’s last “Apple TV Software Update” was version 7.3, which was released in 2019 to add Apple TV+ support.
How to Install Blackb0x on Your Old Apple TV
The Blackb0x page on GitHub provides more details on the jailbreak process, and we’d suggest reading it carefully before proceeding, but to summarize, you’ll basically need to follow the steps below:
- Connect your Apple TV to your Mac using a micro-USB cable.
- Download and open the Blackb0x software.
- Click the Install Jailbreak button.
- Follow the on-screen instructions to put your Apple TV into DFU mode to receive the update.
- Wait 5–10 minutes until Kodi appears.
You’ll also need to make sure that your Mac is connected to the internet, and remains connected until the jailbroken Apple TV reboots and Kodi appears.
Note that if you have an Apple TV 3,1 (model A1427), there’s an extra step you’ll need to follow, for whatever reason, which involves running the Arduino-synackuk checkm8-A5 jailbreak tool. This is likely due to that model of Apple TV running the same A5 chip found in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S. The “Rev A” Apple TV used a modified single-core A5 instead, which doesn’t seem to require this additional jailbreaking step, as the necessary code is built into Blackb0x.