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I'm looking into buying an AppleTV and I can't tell from the documentation on Apple's site if it supports storing/reading movies from an attached USB Drive. A part of me thinks that they wouldn't support this functionality if they are trying to have a tiered product with varying HD sizes.

So, my question is, what can I do with the USB port? Read images? Read Movies purchased from the iTunes Store? Or is just for "looks"?

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

You can play media located on any iTunes library on your network. I'm sure you attach a usb there.

As far as the AppleTV, the USB has long been identified purely for service, and disabled by the default software.

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I can only assume by your last comment that you can install non-default software (MythTV or XBMC maybe?) that will allow for full functional use of the USB port? – Jordan S. Jones Jul 16 '09 at 8:54
Proceed with caution. – Charlls Jul 16 '09 at 9:25
I use xbmc/boxee on my appletv, using a USB to install software. I'm at work and don't have the link on me, but it is possible. Works great. I can use XBMC along side of my normal AppleTV interface. only problem is having to reflash after new apple versions are rolled out. – Roy Rico Sep 23 '09 at 20:25

The (accepted) answer is only partially correct.

The USB drive of the Apple TV has no official use at the moment of this writing.

To be able to use it, you will have to hack your Apple TV. This required you to make a bootable USB stick (called a "patchstick", there are programs to automate the process, it's easy) and power cycle the Apple TV with the USB stick plugged in. More info here:

Then, you can enable the USB port in a variety of ways, the easiest of which is to install nitoTV. Advanced stuff includes installing boxee or XBMC on your device.

The Awkward TV wiki holds much more information.

I'm a happy Apple TV user myself, it's much more useful when "patched". That does require you to do some tinkering every now and then. If you're somewhat comfortable with a Terminal window and/or able to follow instructions, you'll be fine.

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Thank you for the follow up. My question is, with a "patched" Apple TV, will it play iTunes purchased movies, etc.? I would imagine it wouldn't, but right now, I don't know. – Jordan S. Jones Jul 24 '09 at 7:04
Patching does not break it. The only really important thing a patchstick does, is enable SSH on the Apple TV. Some patchsticks install Perian and other stuff, but nothing that breaks iTunes. I have played rented movies on a patched Apple TV. – dyve Jul 24 '09 at 10:57

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