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Can You Plug an External Hard Drive into an Apple TV?

As an Apple TV user, I’ve often wondered if I could use an external hard drive to store my media files on my Apple TV. After doing some research and testing, I’m here to share my experience and provide some helpful tips about how to solve this common problem. In this blog post, I will discuss the benefits of using an external hard drive with your Apple TV, how to set it up, and what to consider before making the purchase.

You can plug an external hard drive into an Apple TV. The long answer is that you may need to make a few changes to your hard drive before you can actually use your external hard drive on your Apple TV.


  • You can plug an external hard drive into an Apple TV, but it must be formatted as FAT32.
  • Formatting a drive will erase all of its existing data, so always back up your data before reformatting.
  • You may not need to physically plug your hard drive into your Apple TV; you can access the media files through your home network.
  • Apple hard drives are designed to work seamlessly with Apple devices, but you don’t need to purchase an Apple hard drive to use an external hard drive with your Apple TV.

Can You Plug an External Hard Drive into an Apple TV?

Technically, an Apple TV can recognize an external hard drive as long as you format it correctly. Hard drives commonly feature one of two formatting types. One type is NTFS, and the other is FAT32.

Your Apple TV will only recognize a hard drive formatted as FAT32. Therefore, you’ll need to figure out how to reformat your hard drive, which requires a MacBook or Windows computer.

Note that there are other format types beyond FAT32 and NTFS, but many of the hard drives you can purchase from any retailer are preformatted in one of those types.

Apple does use the APFS format for some of its products, but Apple TVs don’t yet recognize that format. You’ll need the FAT32 formatting on your hard drive.

The biggest problem with connecting a hard drive to an Apple TV with FAT32 formatting is that FAT32 only allows you to format drives that are four gigabytes or less in size.

Today, many movies feature sizes that approach or even breach that size, which means you might only have enough room for one high-quality film or a few low-quality files.

Read more: Why do my AirPods squeak?


Formatting Drives Erases All Data

When reformatting your hard drive, one thing to remember is that switching from NTFS to FAT32 – or even reformatting to the same formatting type – will erase all the data on your drive.

Therefore, it’s best to format your drive correctly before putting any data on it. 

Don’t risk losing all your movies on your NTFS formatted hard drive when you reformat it to FAT32. Consider backing up your data on another drive or in a cloud program before changing the formatting.

Read more: Can 4k Apple TV work on a 1080p TV?

You Might Not Need to Plug Your Hard Drive into Your Apple TV

Although you can probably physically plug your hard drive into your Apple TV, that might not actually be the best option.

Indeed, doing so might not work anyway, especially if you have a large drive that you can’t format with FAT32. 

Instead, you may want to have your Apple TV access your media on your external hard drive through your wi-fi network while your hard drive is hooked up to an Apple computer like a MacBook.

One popular method for accessing files with your Apple TV that aren’t saved on the television’s hard drive is with the Infuse app.

The app allows you to play all sorts of file types on your Apple devices. You’ll need to connect your external hard drive to your network and then add the device within the Infuse app to access its content.

Do I Really Need an Apple Hard Drive for My Apple TV?

One of the most notable features of Apple products is that they play exceptionally well together but mixing Apple devices with non-Apple devices isn’t always the most straightforward task.

While it’s theoretically possible to use a pair of Samsung headphones with an iPhone, it’s often just easier to stick with Apple products and use some AirPods with your iPhone.

In the case of an Apple TV and an external hard drive, the company does sell external hard drives designed to work seamlessly with Apple devices.

Apple offers hard drives in many capacities, from 1 terabyte drives meant for “rugged” use to 5 terabyte drives where you can store hundreds of movies or tens of thousands of songs.

These hard drives are already formatted in such a way that they will play easily with Apple devices like a MacBook, so you don’t need to go through any extra processes before connecting them to an Apple device.

However, it’s not absolutely necessary to use an Apple hard drive with your Apple TV. 

Since you’ll probably access the hard drive through your home network rather than through a direct connection to your Apple TV, the hard drive doesn’t need to come from Apple to work.

Ditch the Cord for Using Your External Hard Drive with Your Apple TV

Even though your Apple TV might not recognize your external drive, that doesn’t mean you can’t watch your movies and access those files through the TV.

The best solution for accessing your external drive on your Apple TV is to access it through your home network rather than through a cord that connects the drive to the television.

Pros and Cons of External Hard Drive with Apple TV
PortabilityAn external hard drive gives you the convenience of being able to take your media with you wherever you go.
Increased StorageExternal hard drives provide more storage capacity than the internal drive of an Apple TV.
AccessibilityAccess your external hard drive through your home network instead of needing a physical connection.
Data LossReformatting an external hard drive can cause data loss, so always back up your data before reformatting.
Formatting LimitationsApple TV recognizes only FAT32 formatting type on external hard drives, which may be too small for some media files.
CostApple hard drives are more expensive than non-Apple hard drives, but you don’t necessarily need to purchase an Apple hard drive to use with your Apple TV.