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Apple TV problem (technical bleg)

December 19, 2011 4 Comments

A few months ago, I wrote a post contrasting my experience with setting up and using an Apple TV (v2) device vs. setting up and using a Roku 2 streaming device. The Apple TV device came out very favorably, and while I did get the Roku 2 to finally update its software and start functioning, I have continued to use the Apple TV (which I’ve had since last spring) far more heavily.

But now a problem has arisen with the Apple TV devices (I own two). Some weeks ago — I’m not sure exactly, since I have been traveling heavily since the start of November — my Apple TV(s) started dropping their wireless connection with my dual-band N router (DLink DIR-825, hardware version B1, firmware 2.06NA). Prior to that time, I could start streaming a playlist from one of our computers that have iTunes libraries, and the music would play for hours. Now it’s hard to get it to play for more than an hour the Apple TV drops, then reestablishes the wireless connection (halting the playlist in the meantime). Sometimes it will happen two or three times in the space of 5 minutes; other times, it will run for a few hours before resetting. But the problem itself and its variability makes the Apple TV fairly useless for streaming audio and video.

I did some of the usual — rebooted the entire wireless network, did a restore on the Apple TV, swapped the two Apple TV devices, made sure both had the latest software updates, and so on. Same problem. Searches on the ‘net showed that people have complained about similar or identical problems going back to 2010, but my problem didn’t start until about 6 weeks ago — my Apple TVs were pretty solid before then.

I ran a test earlier today which strongly suggests that the problem does lie with Apple TV. The living room Apple TV sits side-by-side with that Roku 2 device; both are hooked up to the same TV and are the same distance from the router (which, by the way, is only about 25-30’ away; most of that distance is open air, and there are no walls in-between). As it turns out, both the Apple TV and the Roku 2 support Netflix. So I fired up the Roku and picked a relatively short film to play (Blackadder’s A Christmas Carol). Said film played perfectly all the way through with no pauses, stutters, hiccups, or other issues. I then switched over to the Apple TV, brought up Netflix there, and selected the same film. It played fine for about the first 14 minutes — and then went into a pause mode (rotating circular arrow). Every few minutes, it would come out of that mode, play for another few seconds, then go back into pause mode again. This went on for a good half hour before I finally killed it.

I have yet another test running as I type this: I have both Apple TVs connected to the same router band (the same one the Roku is connected to), streaming audio from the same iTunes library (on this laptop) simultaneously. If one drops the wireless connection and the other doesn’t, then that increases the chances that it is in fact an Apple TV problem. So far, both are running fine (of course).

In the meantime, if others of you have encountered this problem and have known solutions, please let me know.  ..bruce..

About the Author:

Webster is Principal and Founder at at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor for the BYU Computer Science Department. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at 303.502.4141 or at

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  1. Why Apple wins : Bruce F. Webster | December 19, 2011
  1. Dave Ross says:

    Got the same router (2.02NA firmware). Try changing the “channel width” for the network your Apple TV connects to (2.4GHz or 5GHz) from “Auto 20/40 MHz” to just “20MHz”.

  2. Have had very similar issues on and off since 08 even with the airport express.
    In a nutnshell, atv just got it 6 months ago. Just started this morning to listen to the radio, love the selection, listened first time for about three songs, then the spinning wheel, got impatient after 30 seconds, unplugged, reboot back to selection, it’s now been playing awhile no hicks yet, now I am connected via Ethernet 100mb . Now often I listen to my iTunes library, have an express in the br, and the atv in the main room, my iTunes is connected to the Ethernet , I can listen on the atv for hours no problems, then there are times, it drop, cutout. Sometimes it recovers, sometimes it does not, sometimes iTunes appears everything is fine. Sometimes I can discon the atv from iTunes, then reconnect, and it’s back, sometimes, it won’t and I have to quit iTunes. But on that note, there have been times when iTunes would cut out on my iBook, and even my new MacBook. Some buggy stuff that is tough to isolate, I am an intermediate tech guy, I can talk very basic about it all. This issue and the damn ipad2 wifi issues are presenting unwanted extra work. Good luck, hope I got you thinking about it…

  3. Rick says:

    Had mine for 2 months and worked great on wireless, now only works plugged in. Went thru all the normal reset, restart, start over and still wont connect. Tried to manually set set DNS, Router, Ip etc to no avail. Only 10′ from router (Netgear 750 N) Sucks

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