The Apple TV series of streaming devices are hassle-free, but things can get buggy, especially when you control things on your TV rather than the Apple TV.
From time to time, you may find that the volume buttons on your Siri remote don’t do anything, so you need to look up your original TV remote or figure out where exactly the volume controls are located on your TV. So stop looking through the cabinets and try some of these Apple TV troubleshooting tips.
The different remote controls
At the time of writing, there are three remote designs for Apple TV devices, as you can see here. The layout for remotes with Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K look the same and have a MENU button.
However, the new second and third generation Apple TV 4K models have changed that. The glass touch interface is gone, replaced by a touch-sensitive circle and directional wheel. The most important difference is that the MENU button on the latest remotes has been changed to a back button, represented by a left arrow.
So whenever we refer to the MENU or Back button below, remember that it’s the same button.
1. Does it happen in every app?
Before blaming the remote itself, it’s a good idea to confirm that the volume controls don’t work in different apps. Try it on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or any streaming service you subscribe to. If the volume control issue occurs only in certain apps, check for updates or uninstall and reinstall the app.
2. Restart your Apple TV
Restarting Apple TV clears up any number of random glitches. Press and hold the Back or MENU buttons at the same time as the TV button to restart your device.
Continue holding these two buttons until the Apple TV indicator light flashes rapidly. Unplug the Apple TV from the wall when you see the flashing light. Wait at least five seconds, then plug it back in and turn it on. You should see the Apple logo on the TV screen if the restart is successful.
3. Restart the remote
You can restart the remote if restarting Apple TV doesn’t fix the issue. That’s how:
- Press and hold the TV and volume down buttons simultaneously for about five seconds.
- Wait for the status light on your Apple TV to turn off and then back on.
- Release the buttons on the remote control.
- Wait for the connection lost notification to appear on the screen.
- Wait for the remote to restart.
- The remote is ready to use when the Connected notification appears.
After restarting the remote, try adjusting the volume again.
4. Check for software updates
Your Apple TV needs to work with various brands (e.g. Samsung, Sony or LG) and different models within that brand. If you have a new TV or your TV recently received a firmware update, your Apple TV may also need to be updated.
Usually, your Apple TV will show a notification when a new update is ready, but you can manually check for one like this:
- To open Settings.
- Go to System.
- To open Software Updates.
- If an update is available, you can select Download and install.
Wait for the update process to finish, then try using the volume buttons again.
5. Charge the remote
If the remote control battery is dead, it may malfunction. Here’s how to check the battery level:
- To open Settings.
- Go to Remote controls and devices.
- Check the remaining battery percentage.
Leave the remote connected to the charger for at least 30 minutes after checking the battery level and making sure it is low.
6. Move closer to Apple TV
The Apple TV remote uses Bluetooth to communicate with the box itself, but for some TV models it uses IR (infrared) to control TV functions such as volume adjustment. Unfortunately, typical IR problems can prevent it from working properly.
While Bluetooth will work from any practical distance you can be from the TV, IR can struggle to cover greater distances, especially in bright environments. Move closer to the TV and see if the volume controls start working. If it works at closer distances, it may indicate that the IR signal is not strong enough to overcome the distance or the interference.
7. Clean the IR sensors
Another IR related issue is if the sensors are obscured by dirt. Check the IR sensor on the TV and the transmitter on the remote control to make sure dust or other foreign matter isn’t blocking the signal. Remember that Bluetooth will not be affected by this which may explain why only the volume is not working or works intermittently.
8. Enable HDMI-CEC
HDMI-CEC is a technology that allows a device like Apple TV or Apple TV 4K to directly control your TV. Take advantage of two-way communication over an HDMI cable.
If your TV supports HDMI-CEC, you should also turn it on and make sure it’s enabled on your Apple TV. This also bypasses any IR related issues as the Apple TV is sending commands to the TV via HDMI after receiving a Bluetooth signal from the remote.
In addition to controlling the TV volume, HDMI-CEC also allows Apple TV to turn the TV on or off. You’ll need to consult its manual to enable the feature on your TV. Some TVs call the feature HDMI-CEC, but others may use a name that includes the term “link” somewhere.
To make sure HDMI-CEC is turned on on your Apple TV, go to Settings > Remote controls and devices > Check the TVs and Receivers and verify that the setting is active. Then try the volume controls again.
9. Use an iPhone or iPad as a remote control
If you have an iPhone or iPad on the same Wi-Fi network as your Apple TV and on the same Apple ID, you can use it as a remote control using the Apple TV Remote app.
In both iOS and iPadOS, simply swipe down from the top right corner of the screen to reveal the Control Center, then look for the remote control icon and select it.
You now have all the remote functionality on your device’s touch screen. Try using the virtual volume controls to see if they work. If the volume controls on your virtual remote work, but the physical buttons don’t, there may be other issues.
10. Pair the remote again
If restarting the remote doesn’t work, you can try pairing the remote with your Apple TV again:
- Turn on your Apple TV and make sure you can see the Home screen on your TV.
- Point the remote at the Apple TV and bring it within three inches of the device.
- Press and hold the Backwards or Menu button and the volume up button for five seconds.
- If prompted, place the remote on top of the Apple TV.
If your remote fails to sync, check that you have the latest version of tvOS. Remember that you can use an iPhone or iPad as a temporary remote if your Siri Remote is unusable for any reason.
11. Try another remote
If you have multiple Apple TVs or have a friend willing to lend you the remote, one last check you can do is use a different remote. If the other remote also doesn’t work, the problem must be with Apple TV, your TV, or a specific combination of both. You may want to consider a factory reset of your Apple TV and double check all the settings on your TV and the Apple TV box to make sure it’s correct.
Similarly, you can take the remote and try using it with another Apple TV; If the volume control problem follows the remote, that means there is something wrong with the remote itself.
12. Take your remote to Apple Service (or buy a new one)
If you’re 100% sure that the remote is the problem, you can return it to Apple for a warranty replacement. Repairing an Apple TV remote is rarely worth it, so if you’re out of warranty options, it’s best to buy a replacement remote.
The good news is that the latest Siri Remote model is backwards compatible with older Apple TV devices, so you can get a nice upgrade to soften the blow of having to replace the remote. However, you may not get all the features your new remote offers.