External HDD as Primary

Hi all,

I need a bit of assistance before I go out and buy a 1TB external USB HDD for my Apple TV. I understand from the online help that it is possible to set an external USB HDD as the primary HDD (i.e. iTunes will sync with this drive rather than the internal PATA disk). This is useful for me as i have a music collection > 40GB (if I had the 160GB internal, i would probably just use the external as secondary, but this is by the bye).

  1. Does this make the internal disk entirely redundant - is it still used for any processes?
  2. If the external disk (now Primary) supports ‘Spin Down’ does it indeed spin down when the Apple TV is on standby? I know in theory it should, but does anyone have an actual experience with this.
  3. How does this affect the speed of accessing data? The internal PATA disk is fairly slow by todays stantards (5400rpm?), so a decent USB disk should be at least as fast?
  4. Has anyone experienced issues when playing back video from an external USB disk. I’d be particularly interested in performance with 720p video.
  5. Ultimately I’m hoping to get the Broadcom HD chip to aid HD playback, but this is a little but redundant if there are issues accessing the data. Does anyone have experience with 1080p playback from an external disk?

Sorry for all the questions! Hopefully someone may have answers to at least some of these?! As an aside, I really like what the ATV Flash guys have done. Thanks and congrats!


  1. The internal drive still stores the AppleTV system and aTV Flash software. Only the media files are present on the external drive.

  2. Yes, it should spin down when not in use.

  3. You should not notice any difference in accessing media. Most AppleTVs actually have a 4200 rpm internal drive.

4/5. 720p should be ok, and I assume 1080p would be fine as well.

Can the external be used only as secondry? Also, Can it be accessed by XBMC?

Thanks for quick response!

I take it the HD chip is required for 1080p playback? What is the maximum playable resolution w/o the chip?

Thanks once again.

Yes, by default it will be used as secondary. A comprehensive guide for USB storage can be seen here:

The max resolution without the Broadcom card is 720p, (bit rate up to 5 Mbps).

When I try to set the USB drive to external it continuously asks if I want to make it a primary. If I say no it just takes me back to the smart installer with no change. USB storage still says “Internal”. Any suggestions?

You won’t need to change any settings if you just want to use the drive as secondary. When connected it will appear in the nitoTV → Files menu.