If your Apple TV shows a blank or black screen, it could point to a problem with your TV, HDMI cable, or the Apple TV itself. In this article, we’ve explained the troubleshooting steps you can follow to pinpoint the cause of your problem.
These tips can help fix your Apple TV whether it always shows a black screen or only goes blank intermittently. After you pinpoint the problem, it’s usually easy to fix.
How to wake and sleep your Apple TV
Rather than powering it off and on all the time, your Apple TV works best if you put it to sleep when you’re finished using it. Sleep mode is incredibly power efficient. It also allows your Apple TV to start up quicker and install software updates while you aren’t using it.
To put your Apple TV to sleep, press and hold the Home button on the Siri Remote, which looks like a TV icon. Then select Sleep from the Control Center that appears on the right side of the screen.
If you don’t have a Siri Remote, press and hold the Play/Pause button, then select Sleep Now from the Settings.
To wake up your Apple TV, press the Menu or the Home button on your remote. Your Apple TV should only take a moment or two to start up.
If your Apple TV shows a blank or black screen when you wake it up, use the troubleshooting tips below to fix it.
1. Find out if your Apple TV is powered on
After pressing the Menu or Home button to wake up your Apple TV, you should notice a white Status light come on at the front of the unit.
If you can’t see a white light on your Apple TV then it’s still turned off. Make sure the power cable is firmly connected at the back. You should also try using a different outlet.
If you still can’t turn on your Apple TV, unplug it and wait for 30 seconds. It should turn on the next time you plug it in.
2. Charge your Apple TV remote
The battery in your Apple TV remote ought to last for several months without needing to charge it, but it still runs out of power eventually. If your Apple TV remote isn’t working, you can’t use it to wake up your Apple TV.
If you have a Siri Remote, use a Lightning-to-USB cable to charge it up. Connect the cable to a USB power adapter—rather than a computer’s USB port—to charge the remote as fast as possible.
Allow your remote to charge for 30 minutes before trying to use it again.
Older Apple TV remotes use CR2032 or BR2032 coin batteries. Remove the panel on the back of the remote to replace the dead battery.
Pair Your Apple TV Remote
If your Apple TV remote was dead, you may need to pair it with your Apple TV again. Follow these steps to do so:
- Move the remote within three inches of the Apple TV, which should be connected to power.
- Press and hold the Menu and Volume Up buttons for five seconds.
- If prompted, place your remote on top of the Apple TV to complete pairing.
3. Check the HDMI connection
When you see a white Status light appear on the front of your Apple TV, you know it is powered on. So if your Apple TV still shows a blank or black screen, it’s more likely there’s a problem with your HDMI cable or TV.
Low-quality HDMI cables are prone to causing problems. Several users have even reported issues with the Amazon Basics HDMI cable.
If you have a spare HDMI lying around the house or connected to a different device, try using it with your Apple TV instead. Make sure you connect the HDMI cable directly from the back of your Apple TV to your TV input. Don’t go through a switching box.
With the Apple TV powered on, switch on your TV and manually change the channel to match the HDMI input. If your TV has multiple inputs, connect your Apple TV to each of them, changing to the appropriate channel each time to test them all.
4. Make sure your TV is working
If none of your HDMI ports work with your Apple TV, make sure your TV is working with other devices or showing a picture on other channels. It doesn’t matter if you test your TV with a games console, a Blu-Ray player, or a cable box. Just make sure you can get a picture on the screen somehow.
If your TV doesn’t work with any other devices, speak to the manufacturer about repairing it.
However, if other devices work but your Apple TV still shows a blank or black screen, you might need to change the resolution instead.
How to change the resolution for your Apple TV
If your Apple TV is trying to display pictures in an unsupported resolution, it might show up as a blank or black screen on your TV. Follow the steps below to change your Apple TV to a different resolution:
- Press and hold the Menu and Volume Down buttons for five seconds.
- The Apple TV will begin to cycle through different resolution outputs. If a clear picture appears on your TV screen, select OK to use that resolution.
- Otherwise, select Cancel to revert to your Apple TV’s previous resolution.
5. Update or restore the operating system on your Apple TV
It’s possible there’s a software problem causing your Apple TV to show a blank or black screen. The first step in resolving these issues is to check for any new tvOS updates, which might patch your software bug.
If your Apple TV only shows a black screen intermittently, wait until it’s working and then update tvOS from the Settings:
- Open the Settings and go to System > Software Updates. On older devices, go to Settings > General > Software Updates.
- Select Update Software, then download and install any available updates.
If you can’t update tvOS—or if updating it didn’t help—you might need to restore the operating system instead. This involves completely erasing your Apple TV and installing the operating system again from scratch.
How to restore your Apple TV
If you have an Apple TV HD or earlier, you can restore it using a computer. Make sure your computer is running macOS Catalina or later. If you have a Windows PC or an earlier Mac, install the latest version of iTunes instead.
Follow these steps to restore the software on your Apple TV. This will remove all the content and data from your Apple TV:
- Disconnect the HDMI and power cables from the back of your Apple TV.
- Use a USB-C or Micro-USB cable (depending on your Apple TV model) to connect your Apple TV to the computer.
- If you have an Apple TV HD or an Apple TV (3rd generation), connect the power cable again.
- If your computer is running macOS Catalina or later, open Finder. Otherwise, open iTunes.
- Select your Apple TV from the sidebar in Finder or iTunes, then click Restore Apple TV. Wait for the restore to complete before disconnecting any of the cables.
Find free shows to watch on Apple TV
You should be able to use the tips above to stop your Apple TV from showing a blank or black screen when you turn it on. If that’s the case, you’re probably looking for something new to watch.
There is an endless supply of excellent content available to watch with your Apple TV. But there’s no need to start paying for expensive subscriptions yet. Take a look at our guide to Apple TV shows you can watch for free and find something to watch without spending a penny.
Dan is a freelance writer based in South West England.
He spent two years supervising repairs as a Genius Admin for Apple Retail and uses that knowledge to keep our troubleshooting guides up to date.
Long before that, Dan turned to Apple products from a musical background. Having owned iPods for years, he bought a MacBook to learn sound recording and production. It was using those skills that he gained a first-class Bachelor of Science in Sound Technology.