HOWTO: Play any movie file on your Apple TV

Since the Apple TV is running MacOS X, it is possible to install arbitrary codecs and have it play. To my knowledge however, it will only identify .mov, .mp4, and .m4v as playable (and you can’t load .avi or .wmv into iTunes anyway, so no sync of those files to it).

The first portion of this is for advanced people only, but I imagine a cottage industry will arise for Apple TV box mods. The following information on hard drive removal was derived from the somethingawful forums.

  • Open it up (4 screws on the bottom, small Torx bit)
  • Put the 2.5″ drive into a USB enclosure or whatever you want
  • Mount the HFS filesystem
  • Install Perian in /Library/Quicktime (as you normally would)

On your desktop Mac (sorry, no PC instructions yet, I’ll think of something – or someone else will):

Install 3ivx from, even if you have an Intel Mac. Also install DiVX Doctor II from the same site.

Use DiVX Doctor II to convert your .avi source files into self-contained .mov’s. Make sure ‘Make Stand-Alone Movies’ is checked, and deselect ‘Auto-Run First Movie’ to get rid of that annoyance. This process will take about 2 minutes per movie file, depending on the speed of your Mac. This is _NOT_ a multi-hour transcode as other utilities do.

Convert as many movies as you want. I converted my entire movie library using this method, all of which were DiVX and XViD. The resulting .mov’s can be imported into your iTunes library and the original .avi’s can be archived or deleted. You can think sync these movies from iTunes into Apple TV on demand.

Have fun!

Important note

Other HOWTO’s floating around are suggesting removal of the firewall from the AppleTV. This is ill-advised and may open your AppleTV up to unauthorized use by others. By converting your movies from .avi to .mov with DiVX Doctor II, you do NOT need to make modifications to your AppleTV that are not stated here.

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