How to set up Apple TV Wi-Fi when you forget your Remote

Take your Apple TV on holiday with you!  With so many vacation destinations offering free wi-fi internet access and with the Apple TV being so compact.. why not take it with you?

But if you do.. don’t forget your remote control.  I wished I had remembered mine.  My wife and I recently went on holiday and I was excited to try my Apple TV “on the road”.  But dummy here forgot the remote the control.

Initially, I thought – no problem, I can control the Apple TV from my iPhone or iPad remote app.  Except for one thing.. in order to use the remote app, your iPhone/iPad needs to be on the same wifi network as you Apple TV.  With no keyboard.. the only way you can join a wifi network on the Apple TV is with a remote… I was stuck.

But then I discovered a solution that worked brilliantly.  The Apple TV can learn how to respond to the signals from other – almost any – remote controls.  It only needs six keys – left, right, up, down, select and back.

In order to use this solution, you need to be able to connect to a wired (ethernet) network – hopefully into the same box as your wifi (pretty standard with most vacation home internet services – standard ADSL modem/router) but it may be more tricky within a hotel or condominium block.

For some reason, you can’t configure the wifi network options when the ethernet cable is connected.  So you get the “temporary” remote set up while it is connected to the fixed/wired network and then you unplug the network cable and use the new remote to configure the wifi.

Here’s the basic steps:

1. Hook the Apple TV to the tv where you want to use it and plug it into the network using an ethernet cable.

2. Make sure that your iPhone/iPad is already connected to the same network via wifi and then use the Remote App to connect to and control the Apple TV (remember that you can’t configure the wifi with the wired connection enabled and so as soon as you disable the wired network, your iPhone/iPad app will not be able to communicate with the Apple TV).

2. Find a remote control that has keys that you can use for left, right, up, down, select and back.

3. Using your iPhone/iPad Remote App, navigate to the “General” menu option.

4. Navigate to the “Remotes” menu option.

5. Select “Learn Remote” from the menu options.

6. Have your remote ready and then select “Start”

7. The Apple TV will now prompt you to press the appropriate button (holding it down) for each command until it recognised it.

8. Once it has learned each of the six commands, it will allow you to name your remote – I just kept the default (“Custom”), but do as you like.

9. You now have a remote that can work with the Apple TV.  Disconnect the ethernet cable and the navigate to the Network settings (under “General”) and configure the wifi with the appropriate security settings as supplied by your host/resort.

Once it is connected, you should be able to communicate with the Apple TV with your iPhone/iPad again if you want.. or continue to use your “temporary” remote.   Either way, you now have your Apple TV on holiday with you and connected to the wifi network.  Enjoy.



  1. WOW! – same exact situation – thought I’d be pretty slick and take my Apple TV and iPad on vacation – forgot remote – all was lost – quick google search and voila’! A BIG THANKS – bookmarking your blog!!!

  2. one problem on my end… I am using a brand new router that is not connected to the internet. so I can not enable the remote app home sharing 🙁

  3. Thanks for this, I did exactly the same thing, went away, forgot the remote. After rearranging the villa so I could get a TV, the ATV and the network access point connected, I’m in business.

    Karma++ to you.

  4. Thank you. Worked perfect.

    I connected my AppleTv via the router through another ethernet cord. If you do this, you don’t have to set up another remote. After this is done, you can use your iPhone/iPad remote app without any problem.

  5. This is wicked.. I actually lost my remote.  Was about to buy a new one.  But it looks like I can program the ATV to use my normal tv remote.  This is WAY better. I’m always losing that tiny little useless remote.  I really wish I was aware of this years ago!   Thanks much, Cheers, Ravi Shanghavi, Ottawa


  7. dude, you saved my life. First you manage to save my 7 day outside home trip which the Apple TV would be useless. Second, you just taught me how to eliminate a remote from my drawer! I can just use the TV remote now, I even prefer that now than the iPhone app… brilliant my friend.

  8. I found a solution to my problem of going on holiday with a new generation Apple TV and leaving the remote at home. In my case, my holiday router is a wireless Pocket Wifi. Ethernet cables therefore not a solution for me. As my Apple TV was happily connected to my home network before I unplugged it I new it would remember the SSID and password of that router. I therefore reconfigured my portable Router to have the same SSID and Password as for home and the Apple TV picked that up very quickly and jumped onto that network on its own.. That solved my problem of wanting to stream iPad movies using AirPlay! Hope it helps someone else too.

  9. 3. Using your iPhone/iPad Remote App, navigate to the “General” menu option?Maybe i’m stupid but where are the controls on the remote app? If they were there, their wouldn’t be any problem using the apple TV without the hardware remote? I must admit I always thought that the remote app would do as it says on the tin ie replace the hardware remote but all it does for me is allow me to view  my music and from my iphone/ipad and  play music on my macbook air! I have my ATV2 hooked up to our vacation TV and it shows my very lovely personal screensaver but I can’t find anything on the remote app to help me………any chance you could bend your mind to this?

  10. There are no controls on the remote app, you use gestures (tap, swipe,
    etc) to navigate.  If you can see the
    Apple TV on your remote app, select it. 
    At the bottom right of the app, you’ll see a “Control” option.  Select that, and then tap in the main section
    of the app to navigate – select the menu option to go back.

  11. i don’t have an iphone or ipad, i have an ipod touch. can i download the remote app for the ipod touch and use it to program a new remote? i lost the remote for ATV

  12. Really useful! I’ve lost my remote and following these instructions allowed me to connect my iPod to my Apple TV.

  13. Unfortunately, these directions do not work. A friend lent me their ATV (sans remote, they can’t find it) to see if I’d like it and it has been very frustrating. I plugged it into my home network via an ethernet cable and the main screen came up. I am able to mirror my ipad on the tv screen but there is no direction as to how to navigate the ATV. The directions simply say to use the Remote app to control the Apple TV. How is this accomplished? When I open Remote Remote on my iPad and the only thing that shows up there is my iTunes library from my Macbook and the option to add another iTunes library. There is no mention anywhere in the app of Apple TV. I am using the most updated version of everything.

    Any ideas? Thanks.

  14. You are awesome. We were so excited to show my parents in law the ATV2 but stood there like idiots without our remote. Took awhile, didn’t work with all remotes but now we’re showing our holiday photos off and they are impressed! Thanks!

  15. Took me a while to get it.. You just need to turn home sharing on, on your iPhone and apple tv. So glad I found this!! 🙂

  16. no it doesn’t work for touch. tried it and no way to make it connect as no option for apple tv

  17. But how do you turn on home sharing on your Apple TV if you don’t have the remote?

  18. This was extremely helpful! I already was able to control the Apple TV with my phone, but not when at a new wifi spot. I lost my remote recently and had not yet put my password for home in it, so I was stuck. This info was a gem. Thanks for the post. I can see that losing the remote without having any other form of control would be very frustrating, but this is great if you are already utilizing a phone as a secondary control. Great!

  19. THANK YOU!!!!!!! you are genius. I didn’t know AppleTV can learn from remote controller. One thing I realize is it doesn’t work with my old VCR remote. Only the newer one like my DVD player remote works.

  20. Curses…I thought I’d found the answer to my prayers but for some reason the remote app on my iPhone AND ipad won’t see the apple tv. Can’t airplay either…however the ethernet connections are working fine for other devices…

  21. thank you so much. your instructions were 100% spot on and saved the day for me. I recently moved and for the life of me cannot locate that little b@$tard! I managed to follow ur perfect instructions to program another old cable box remote (while in wired connection) and then used it to set it up over wifi. now my boy’s addiction to youtube’s nursery rhymes before falling asleep is achieved (and the parent’s netflix habit). than you so much sir!

  22. This is awesome. Thanks for sharing… Worked without a hitch…I didnt even need ipad or iphone.. i configured my sony remote..

  23. I thought my situation was hopeless but I found out that when you restore the ATV in iTunes, when you reconnect to your tv in the initial setup it allows paring of a bluetooth keyboard, in my case it was an apple one so not sure if it’ll work with others.

  24. This works perfectly! I came to the same idea as wired was not an option for me neither. Once I got the control again using a temporary wireless solution I have reconfigured the appleTV to connect to the hotel wifi using my IPhone reconnected to the same network.

  25. Dude, I lost my remote and thanks to your guide, I was able to set up my normal tv remote. You’re a lifesaver and appreciate you taking the time to document all this for other peeps like me. You rock!

  26. So I’m out of state and without the atv remote. I have wifi but no wired access anywhere near the tv. Is there a way to make this happen or do I need to get the remote? Thanks

  27. For some reason, you need a wired connection to configure the wireless settings using your iPhone on the ATV.

  28. Does this only work if you previously downloaded and were using the Remote app? And if this is the case- couldn’t you just use the Remote app as your remote rather than configuring a generic remote? Thanks for posting this! Hope someone can help answer this

  29. Hi – in order to use the remote app, your iPhone/iPad needs to be on the same wifi network as you Apple TV – the only way you can join a wifi network on the Apple TV is with a remote… so this allows you to configure the wifi (using a generic remote) and once you’re on the same wifi network, sure – you can use your Remote App. Hope this Helps.

  30. Saved me £££ buying a apple remote. Brill
    Thank you saved my life today. Wasted 3 hours before this trying all sorts of thins! Thanks again

  31. This has got to be the stupidest post I’ve ever read. IF you have the Apple Remote app installed and Home Sharing is configured on both the AppleTV and the iPhone/iPad, why in God’s name would you need to connect a physical remote?

    This really useful posting would be one that details how to connect to your AppleTV if you don’t have a remote and home sharing is not configured.


  32. What if you don’t have a wired connection to connect into (I live in an apt complex that provides community wifi) and my apple tv doesn’t have home sharing turned on but I have a macbook pro and iPad that do have it turned on. Any help appreciated

  33. None of this worked. Thankfully my LG G3 Android Phone is remote control capable and comes with a remote app that has a selectable Apple profile. That did it, and I was then able to navigate to configure the home share to get my Iphone’s Remote App working. It took an Android phone to get the Apple TV working.. Awesome!

    Why didn’t I just continue using the LG G3 remote control to control the Apple TV? It’s a little bit buggy, especially when typing in stuff, it seems to keep doubling the letter selections on the Apple TV

  34. Update :
    It doesn’t work with this way. All you need now is a bluetooth kb or an android device with an app to connect to apple tv. Your iPhone is useless without home sharing active on apple tv.

  35. Wait, if you have the apple remote connected to you’re phone wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of connecting another remote, considering you can use/control Apple TV from you’re phone?

  36. Thank You!! We’re on vacation with no remote, but we found an Ethernet cable!
    Worked perfectly!

  37. Thanks. I had a similar problem but in addition, my original Apple remote was paired with the Apple TV. I used your Ethernet trick to allow the iPhone Remote app to unlink the original remote. This let the cable box remote (which had correct codes to set up for ATV) work! Thanks for saving our planned vacation binge watching.

  38. Huge thanks from us too … made the same mistake re leaving our remote control at home, but got an ethernet cable and it all worked brilliantly. Many many thanks

  39. We took our break and had our packed Apple TV, MacBook Pro and a micro USB led but no remote to set up the Apple TV to wifi. Resolved this by purchasing 1keyboard from mac store, resetting the Apple TV via iTunes. Connected the Apple TV up with 1keyboard running, the Apple TV saw my virtual bluetooth keyboard and connected to it so could navigate to wifi settings and set it all up. Was then able to program TV remote and my iPhone to control the AppleTV. 1keyboard cost me £7 but cheaper and quicker than sourcing new remote. Now I can also setup and use any device with my macbook pro as a virtual keyboard, great for setting up playstation etc!..

  40. this doesn’t even work, since you have to enable HOMESHARING your Apple TV before losing your remote. Now how the hell do we do that we’ve lost our remote didn’t we? That’s why we are looking for another way not extra headache. Expensive piece of shit..

  41. Years later this post saved me! No Ethernet available but reading this and associated posts gave me the idea to rename my phone the same name as my home internet and apply the same password as well. I then turned on my hotspot although that wasn’t quite enough as it still needed an Internet connection. I then logged into my phones hotspot with iPad and ran the “Remote” app and was able to get in and set up my hotels DVD players remote control to be used with my Apple TV. A real life saver as I am on day one of a seven night stay. I am up and running and very happy about that! I bet I won’t leave my Apple TV remote at home again!!! Good luck to the rest of you. This method worked for me in a round about way. Main thing, is that it did work!!!

  42. What about using the apple tv if your wireless router is not closer to your tv? So I am not able to use the ethernet cord from the router to the apple tv.

  43. === BEST ADVICE EVER ===

    I had a similar problem and just figured out a solution which I hope helps others. After losing two Apple remotes, I had been using Apple Remote app successfully for a couple years. Unfortunately, a few days ago, I was changing some settings and somehow messed up my connection with my Remote app. The Remote app would not recognize my Apple TV. After looking everywhere online, I finally decided to restore my Apple TV to factory settings by connecting it to my iMac via a micro USB cable. After restoring it, I connected it back up to my TV as normal. The first thing it asks is if you would like to connect to a wireless keyboard, so I connected my Apple keyboard which then gained me control of the Apple TV so that I could go into Settings and reconnect my Apple Remote app. Let me know if this helps anyone else.

  44. Thanks Matt! Your tutorial really helped me set up my Apple TV with my new WiFi network. My kids trashed the remote who knows where.

  45. Guys – I get stuck on the ‘enter this code on your apple TV” screen with the 4-digit code. I’m not able to navigate on my apple tv screen so I can’t enter the code to pair my app with the apple tv without a remote (since I lost it). Is there a way around this?

  46. Thanks, worked for me and as per replies above saved the holiday entertainment after we left the remote at home. Although we also failed to pack a 5m Ethernet cable too ???? so had to go buy one today! Thanks for posting clear instructions!

  47. I am having the same problem as C.G. I did the whole ethernet cable thing. My Apple TV is now in the same network as my Iphone 7 but when I use the Apple TV remote app I get stuck on the “enter 4 digit code” which needs to be set up on the Apple TV with the silver remote which I do not have obviously. I have tried the keyboard think also. I am desperate please help!! I believe I have a 3rd generation Apple TV

  48. Doesn’t help at all, the remote app won’t connect without a working Apple TV remote. Another useless tip article. Wasted time reading it.

  49. @asdas from you May 2016 post

    This was perfect and worked like a charm. The key I kissed on my first try was to ignore all my other Apple products and to just turn on the keyboard and use it. Setting it was easy. Setting up the internet connection again. Then setting up my iPhone to use the Apple TV App. Thanks for the suggestion, much easier than moving TVs to be within reach of my internet modem with wires. Thanks!

  50. i solved in this manner:
    -connected apple TV via usb cable to my mac
    – reset apple TV trought Itunes
    -disconnected apple TV
    -connecetd apple TV to my TV HDMI
    -in MAC installed CiderTV (simulate bluetooth keyboard)
    -connected CiderTV to apple TV
    -reconfigured the APPLE TV

  51. Great! I must be the millionth person who has gone on holiday with an Apple TV and forgot the remote… your blog rescued us as well…. thanks so much!

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