How to Fix the Apple TV 2 “Blinking White Light of Death”

This is one of those public service announcement blog posts that I write whenever I run into a non-trivial technical problem.  My hope is always that the time I take to write this up will save someone time & money in the future.

The AppleTV 2 Blinking White Light of Death

Problem is simple: Your AppleTV 2 has a blinking white LED that never stops, and all it displays on the TV is an image instructing you to connect the device to iTunes.

Cause: Most likely, you interfered with a firmware update. In my case,  I had selected an option on my AppleTV 2 to update its firmware.  However, before it was complete, the power to the device was cut.

Mission: Find a Micro USB Cable

I didn’t realize it was possible to physically connect your AppleTV 2 to your computer.  This blog post was my first clue on what had caused my issue, and how to solve it.  Unfortunately, it sounded like he never was able to solve the problem directly.

It’s a bit strange that Apple decided to put a Micro USB port on the AppleTV 2.  However, after reading this support article on the Apple website, I was determined to try to fix it myself.

Finding a Micro USB cable turned out to be non-trivial.  To the casual observer, the Micro USB and the Mini USB look very similar.  The Mini USB is used by Blackerries, hard drives, and countless devices.  The Micro USB port is a bit smaller, flatter, and more oval.

Apple actually does not carry the cable in store, although you can get one online.  The trick was finding a device that uses the Micro USB.  In my case, I found them stocked next to the Sony eReader.

iTunes Saves the Day

I plugged the new Micro USB cable into a powered USB 2.0 hub.  Given some of the issues reported by others, I suspect that it’s possible that the power draw of the AppleTV might be a bit more than typical USB ports can handle.  In any case, the Apple TV showed up in iTunes 10.5.x.  I clicked the “Restore” button, and a couple of minutes later it was done.

No issues at all with the device – it was literally reset to a factory clean state.

Since an overwhelming number of support articles and comments I found online suggested that this didn’t or wouldn’t work, I thought I’d put this blog post out there.  Hopefully it will help someone in their hour of need.