How to pair (or re-pair) an Apple remote with an Apple TV

The Apple TV is easily one of the most versatile media-streaming boxes you can buy. You can stream your favorite content, mirror a FaceTime call, play games, and more without tethering a phone, tablet, or PC to your TV. It’s like an iPhone interface for your TV, actually — only you need that pesky bundled remote to work correctly.

Apple set out to make its remotes easy to use, but you may still run into issues. Thankfully, this guide will show you how to pair an Apple remote with an Apple TV, as well as how to use alternatives to the bundled device.

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A note about remotes

The remote packed with the Apple TV 4K unit goes by two names: Siri Remote in regions that support Siri and Apple TV Remote in regions that do not.

The remote packaged with the Apple TV 4K model has a white ring around the Menu button, signifying that it’s the latest iteration of Apple’s remote design. This ring is supposed to help you find the Menu button with just a glance.

Meanwhile, the model bundled with the Apple TV HD is a previous-gen model. Its overall looks and functions are identical, but it does not have the same white ring.

The third- and second-generation Apple TV units shipped with the same silver Apple Remote (notice the name change). The first-gen Apple TV bundle shipped with a bulky, white remote also called the Apple Remote.

Apple TV 4K

The Apple TV Remote (or Siri Remote) is designed to automatically pair with your Apple TV 4K without any action on your part. It’s as plug-and-play as you can get. However, nothing’s perfect, not even Apple’s gadgets.

Check the charge

If the Apple TV unit won’t turn on when you press down on the remote’s Menu or Home button, be sure the remote doesn’t need to be recharged. The remote itself doesn’t have a battery-level indicator, so you may have missed the low-battery pop-up on the Apple TV screen.

Apple’s remote uses that pesky Lightning to USB-A cable — hopefully, you didn’t accidentally toss it if you upgraded to an iPhone with USB-C. Plug it in using a USB-A wall charger for at least 30 minutes, and try using the remote to turn on the Apple TV unit again.

Remember, you can always check the remote’s battery level in the Apple TV settings using the steps below:

Step 1: Select and press down on the Touch Surface to open the Settings app.

Step 2: Select Remotes and Devices.

Step 3: Select Remote, which will allow you to see the actual battery percentage.

Pair the remote again

If the problem isn’t just a dead remote, pair it again manually using the steps below:

Step 1: Check that your Apple TV has power.

You should see a small, white LED illuminated on the front. If not, unplug the power cable, wait 6 seconds, and then plug it back in. You should now see a shining, white LED.

Step 2: Make sure your TV is turned on, set to the correct HDMI port, and displaying the Apple TV home screen.

Step 3: Stand at least 3 inches away from the Apple TV unit, point the remote toward the TV, and then press and hold the Menu and Volume Up (+) buttons for 5 seconds.

Step 4: If prompted, place the remote on top of the Apple TV device.

You should see a message confirming that your Apple TV remote was successfully paired. If you don’t, and if the Apple TV still doesn’t respond to button presses, continue to the next step.

Step 5: Unplug the Apple TV unit, wait 6 seconds, and then plug it back in (this is a hard reboot).

Step 6: Repeat steps 2 to 4.

If, after trying all of these steps, your Apple TV remote still won’t control your Apple TV, it could be defective. Unfortunately, this means you’ll need to call Apple support and/or head to the nearest Apple Store.

Apple TV HD (fourth generation)

The previous-gen remote for the Apple TV HD is nearly identical to the one that ships with the fourth-gen Apple 4K TV unit. Again, the only obvious differentiator is that it doesn’t have a white ring around the Menu button. However, the instructions for pairing the remote are exactly the same.

Apple TV (third generation)

The third-generation Apple TV packs an aluminum Apple Remote with a non-rechargeable coin-cell battery.

Replace the battery

Try this before doing anything else. You’ll need a CR2032 or BR2032 lithium 3V battery, depending on what was originally installed in the remote.

Step 1: Flip the remote over.

Step 2: Use a coin to turn the battery compartment’s lid counterclockwise until it opens.

Step 3: Remove the old battery.

Step 4: Place the new battery within the compartment, printed side (positive) facing up.

Step 5: Replace the compartment lid.

If this didn’t work, continue to the next section.

Pair the remote again

Step 1: Check to see if your Apple TV has power.

You should see a small, white LED illuminated on the front. If not, unplug the power cable, wait 6 seconds, and then plug it back in. You should now see a shining, white LED.

Step 2: Make sure your TV is turned on, set to the correct HDMI port, and displaying the Apple TV home screen.

Step 3: Point the remote toward the Apple TV unit and press and hold the Menu and Left buttons for 6 seconds. You should see an on-screen confirmation that the remote has been unlinked.

Step 4: To link the Apple Remote, press and hold the Menu and Right buttons for 6 seconds.

You should see an on-screen confirmation that the remote has been linked. If you don’t, and if the Apple TV still doesn’t respond to button presses on the remote, continue to the next step.

Step 5: Unplug the Apple TV, wait 6 seconds, and plug it back in.

Step 6: Repeat steps 2 to 4.

Again, if none of these steps help, your Apple remote might be defective. A new one can be ordered online or purchased at an Apple Store.

Apple TV (second generation)

The second-gen Apple TV uses the same silver Apple Remote as the third-gen Apple TV unit. Follow the same instructions as above.

Apple TV (first generation)

The original Apple TV shipped with a wide, white plastic Apple Remote. As shown above, the Play/Pause button resides within the directional pad, while the Menu button sits below them both. The process for removing and adding this remote is the same as the second- and third-gen aluminum remotes.

Use an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch

If you lost the remote or it’s deader than dead, you can always default to the Apple TV Remote controls in the Control Center (this way you don’t have to get a new remote). The company added this functionality in iOS 11 but didn’t discontinue Apple’s Remote app until late 2020. To access these controls, do the following:

Step 1: Swipe Down from the upper-right corner where the LTE, Wi-Fi, and Battery icons reside.

Step 2: Tap the Remote icon displayed in the Control Center.

Step 3: When the Apple TV Remote controls open on the screen, be sure your Apple TV device is listed at the top. If you have more than one, tap the currently listed model and select the target device in the drop-down menu. Keep in mind that all devices must be connected to the same local network.

Step 4: If this is your first time using the Apple remote control, follow the instructions and enter the provided four-digit passcode to pair the Apple TV device with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch.

Add Apple TV Remote to the Control Center

If you don’t see these controls on your device, try the following:

Step 1: Tap to open the Settings app.

Step 2: Tap Control Center.

Step 3: Tap Customize Controls (if shown).

Step 4: Tap the green Plus button next to Apple TV Remote under More Controls.

Configure a universal remote

Not interested in buying a replacement Apple Remote? You can control your Apple TV with almost any existing infrared remote control. The only catch is that you’ll need a working Apple Remote, iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch to get you into the Apple TV settings.

Here’s where to add a third-party remote:

Step 1: Select and press down on the Touch Surface to open the Settings app.

Step 2: Select Remotes and Devices.

Step 3: Select Learn Remote.

Step 4: Select Start to begin and follow the on-screen instructions.

If you own a Logitech Harmony universal remote, you can even download the remote codes for your Apple TV without needing to use the Learn Remote function.

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