Thursday, April 17, 2014

AppleTV 5 Volt USB Conversion

The first question you may be asking is why in the heck would I want to convert my AppleTV to USB power.  Well, for me, I wanted to use it where I did not have AC power so the DC conversion was necessary and fairly simple. 

A couple of blog posts ago I shared my design for a Mobile Marine WiFi Entertainment System. The back bone of the system involved an AppleTV (ATV) for mirroring iPad video and apps to a TV or monitor.  Apple AirPlay would be used for streaming music to AirPlay speakers and devices.  The problem with the ATV is that is does not work well on smaller boats that don't have the 115 volts needed to power the device. In this post I will show you how I converted my AppleTV to 5 volt USB power.

The ATV has a micro USB on the back of the device but this cannot be use to power the device. This is only used to tether it to a computer to restore and update the software.

After a little research I found a post on IFIXIT that showed a conversion to DC of an ATV. This IFIXIT teardown article showed that the ATV has a power supply that converts 115V AC to 3.4 volts DC with a current of only 1.75 amps.

Warning! Please unplug your AppleTV before attempting to open the case or make any modifications. These modifications will void your ATV warranty so do not proceed if you want to keep it intact.

Tools Needed:

The conversion only cost me about $5 bucks to do. I had all the needed tools and a spare USB cable.

Soldering Iron
Rosin Core solder
Side cutters
volt meter
20 gauge wire
heat shrink tubing
plastic spudge or knife
Small Torx , regular and Philips screw drivers
USB cable
New 5 V DC power supply (Amazon $4.85)
Glue gun

The new DC power supply was found on Amazon.com. I picked up two of these for about $9.00. It has a DC input voltage range from 4 to 30 volts and an adjustable output voltage of 1.23-30 volts. So I could power the ATV with either 5 volts or 12 volts on the input side. In my conversion I chose the 5 volts input.

The size was just right and it fit perfectly in place of the old ATV AC power supply.

The current output of 3 amps was large enough to replace the 1.75 amps of the old power supply.

* Size:Approx48*23*14mm (Length*Width*Height)
* Type: LM2596 Adjustable Power Supply Module
* Input Voltage: DC 4V-35V
* Output Voltage: DC 1.23V-30V
* Output Current:3A(Maximum)
* Conversion Efficiency:92%(Highest)
* Output Ripple:30mv(Maximum)
* Switching Frequency:150KHz
* Load regulation:0.5%
* Voltage regulation:2.5%
* Work temperature:-40?- +85?
* Quantity:2pcs as A Set

Opening the Case:

The ATV case is made of hard black plastic.  Removing the lid is actually the hardest part of the project. The lid can be removed by taking a sharp plastic spudger, screw driver or knife and inserting in the joint between the cover and the case.  There are seven plastic tabs that hold the cover on.

It is easiest to start at the back of the device between the HDMI, USB and network connections. The tab in this area is a small one that is easily popped out.  Once you release this first tab move around the box popping the other out as you go.

I took a small side cutters and cut the tabs off of the cover so I could easily open the case again if needed.

Removing the Old Power Supply:

There are only two screws and a little sticky tape holding down the old power supply. First remove the two small Torx screws at the base of the power plug. I did not have a Torx driver so I used my small Philips screw driver and it worked just fine.

The old power supply minus the black cover is shown at right.

Next note the orientation of the 8 pin connector on the old power supply.  This will be important to make sure you connect the proper wires to the new power supply.  Remove the 8 pin connector from the socket where it connects to the chassis.

Next pry the old power supply out of the case. I started from the back of the case at the base near the plug and the sticky tape came loose easily.

Installing the New Power Supply:
The 8 pin connector provides power and an over temp sensor on the power supply.  We will only be using 6 of the wires in our installation since the new power supply will not have a temperature sensor.

With the back of the ATV towards you(the side with the HDMI, USB and network connectors) note the 8 pin connector, from left to right the two left most wires 1 and 2 will not be used.  These were for the old temperature sensor.



Wires 1 and 2 not used
Wires 3,4 and 5 are the - negative ground wires (twist these together)
Wires 6,7 and 8 are the + positive power wires. (twist these together

Cut the 8 pin connector wires off as close as you can to the old power supply.  This will give you enough wire to work with.  Twist the 3 negative wires together and solder a small section of 20 gauge wire to it.  Do the same for the 3 positive wires.  I used a small section of heat shrink tubing to seal the connections once they were soldered together.

Solder the ends of the 20 gauge wire to the new power supply +positive and -negative output terminals.




The input to the power supply will be fed with two wires from a USB cable. I had plenty of these laying around so I clipped the end off and exposed the wires. 

The black wire is the ground and was connected to the - Negative terminal of the input side of the new power supply.  The red wire is the + Positive supply and was connected to the + terminal on the input of the new power supply. Cut off the green and white wires, these will not be used.

I reused the grommet from the end of the USB cable and used the glue gun to secure it to the case through the old power plug opening.

Adjusting the power supply:

Do not re-connect the 8 pin connector to the unit until you have adjusted the output voltage of the power supply.  Plug in the USB cable into a 2.1 amps USB source to provide power to the new power supply.  I used my iPad charger to test it during the installation.

Set your volt meter to DC volts and measure the output terminals voltage. Adjust the gold colored screw on the blue component on the power supply until you have 3.4 volts measured on the volt-meter on the output terminals.  

With the output voltage correctly set unplug the USB cable from the power supply.  Now re-connect the 8 pin connector and plug the UBS cable back in to power up your AppleTV. Congrats your done and you can now enjoy using your ATV in your car, motor home or boat.




On my boat I use a USB insert in my 12 volt power outlet. It provides either 1 amp or 2.1 amps of USB current. The 2.1 amp connection should be used to power the ATV.

These can be picked up at any auto parts store for about $10 bucks


12 Volt DC Supply Option:

The ATV could also be powered from a boat or car's 12 volt power source. The same DC power supply used above has a large enough voltage range so it could be powered on the input side by 12 volts instead of 5 volts.

A barrel adapter like the one to the left would be mounted on the back of the ATV and connected to the input side of the power supply. Solder the + positive input to the center post and the - negative input onto the outer connector on the barrel adapter.

Make sure to remove the 8 pin connector before you connect the 12 volts on the input and while you adjust the output voltage on the power supply to 3.4 volts.

A 12 volt power plug could then be easily connected to the ATV with the barrel connector jack. Most of the 12 volt car adapters are 5.5mm x 2.1mm.

To use your ATV at home with this set up you would need a switching power supply that plugs into 115 volts with an output of 12 volts and at least 2 amps and a compatible 5.5mm x 2.1 mm barrel adapter.

Enjoy your new mobile AppleTV.

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)
Mark


34 comments:

  1. Thank you! This was exactly what I was looking for. Thank you for your time putting this together to help people like me.

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  2. Thank you for your time and for sharing, you have saved my ATV!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great! glad to help. Become a follower of the blog and check out some of the Google adds to help support the site.

      Happy Holidays!
      Mark

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  3. Absolutely love this can i mail you my ATV3 and get the USB installed?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, Sorry I am not in the business of doing the USB conversion. It is simple to do and I have laid out al the steps. Shoot me a message if you have any questions.

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  4. Hi! I just used your tutorial to fix mine. Since I didn't have a soldering iron I bought a board where I can screw the cables in. However, the board is too large. Just a warning for others. I used sandpaper to make it fit :).

    Thanks for fingering everything out. By the way. Are you sure we need 2 amp? Isn't 1 amp enough?

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    Replies
    1. Max,
      Watts=VoltsxAmps
      1.75x3.4=5.96 Watts load
      5.95Watts/5Volts=1.19 Amps supply

      Looks like 1 amps power supply might work. I used the two so it would not over heat. Glad to hear it worked for you!

      Mark

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    2. How do you know the load? I used 3.4V and 1 amps so 3.4 watts load and the apple tv turned on.

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    3. The old power supply was was rated at 3.4 volts and 1.75

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  5. can i do this and plug it into my tv usb and have it power the atv?

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    Replies
    1. Brett

      Max in the post above reports that it works with a 1 amp supply. As long as your TVs usb puts out 1 amp you should be good. I tried it on my 32 inch Samsung and it did not work.
      I use an iPhone AC charger adapter to power mine
      Mark

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  6. Thank you so much :-) This helped me to install apple TV in my car. Fantastic explaination. So helpfull :-)
    Søren

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  7. Soren,

    Great to hear from you! Glad I was able to help. Please become a follower and spread the word about i-Marine Apps. I have done two conversions which are both working great. My boat is wired for sound and video now.

    Mark

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  8. Hi Mark,

    Great article! Thinking about doing the same. Not for my a boat but I wanne use it to loop the power through my beamer instead of using a second power outlet in the ceiling. However the beamer output is only 1.5a instead of the mentioned 2.1a. Would this be a prolem for the Apple TV?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Harro,
      Thanks for your question and welcome to the site. The Apple TV power supply is 1.75 amps at 3.4 volts, this converts to 1.19amps at 5 volts. Power supplies are usually sized a little larger than needed. I have used my 5Volt 1 amp USB iPhone charger to power the Apple TV after my conversion and it seems to work just fine. Other commenters above have had success with a 1 amps supply.

      These comments are just that. Do your own calculations and confirm. The conversion should not be done if you don't want to void your warranty.

      Good luck.
      Mark

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    2. Hi Mark,

      Thanks for your reply. I noticed that the product in your e-bay link changed. Output and input specs have changed, but more important, the size is different (66x35). Can you confirm whether this module will still fit? Before I order this module and a new Apple TV.

      Delete
    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. What about the new Apple TV 4 and its 12v at 0.917a

    Power? Can you do a video or a tutorial? I want to be able to plug the new AppleTV into my 12 V DC cigarette lighter

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  10. I got info about the new power supply from ifixit

    https://de.ifixit.com/Teardown/Apple+TV+4th+Generation+Teardown/49046

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    Replies
    1. David,
      The power supply seems to be integrated into the board under the heat sink. This would be tricky to bypass. I suggest buying a small inverter for your car and plug into the 115volt outlet.

      I do not own one yet. I will see if it is possible to bypass the power supply when I get my hands on one.

      Mark

      Delete
  11. Thanks. Post your how to here with a link when u do

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  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  14. Mark, well done on the detailed explanation for this conversion, excellent! Have you tried a higher voltage on the ATV? I don't require a 12V conversion, just need to replace the tranformer, so I thought of using the iPhone charger which is 5V / 2 A, without adding the DC power supply you have used...Thanks

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    1. Garvin,
      You cannot use 5 volts input to the ATV directly. The ATV needs 3.4 volts to operate properly. Any voltage higher than that will damage the unit.

      I did a 5V USB conversion in my post. The high side voltage is 5 volts just what is output by any USB charger like your iPhone charger. The DC-DC transformer has an adjustable input voltage of 4-30 Volts and an output voltage 1.2-30 volts output to the ATV. It has a wide range of settings on the input side so select whatever you want.

      Mark

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  15. How do you power the monitor that the ATV displays on?

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    Replies
    1. There are several 12 volt led TVs and monitors available on the market. You can also use a small inverter to convert DC to AC for a regular TV.

      Mark

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  16. Completed my conversion today. Very easy and came out great! I can now save Apple movies on my iPad and stream them to my TV in my camper. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Great to hear from you and glad the conversion went well. It is so handy having the 12 volt option. Thanks for sharing happy viewing. Share the site with your friends and click Join the Site to become a follower.

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  17. https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Apple+TV+4th+Generation+Teardown/49046

    "The redesigned power supply is rated at 12V at 0.917A. Compare that to the 3rd-gen Apple TV's main reactor, which pumped out 3.4V at 1.75A."

    Looks like a large part of the unit is the power supply. Should be easier to hack for car/RV since input is 12V. Going to take a stab at it and will post if successful.

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  18. Nik, Great to hear from you! Thanks for commenting. If you do a successful conversion of the ATV4 please share a link here! I have not had time to dig into it myself.

    Mark

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  19. According to this post: https://www.ifixit.com/Answers/View/74359/DC-DC+replacement+switching+power+supply

    You can infact bypass the internal power supply of 3.4V regulated and run it on 5V without any problems

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unknown, that tear down article was for the AppleTV second generation. The ATV 4th generation(newest) has a different power supply. See Nik's post above showing the new ATV4 tear down article and power supply specs.
      Mark

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