The Apple TV is a great bit of kit, offering a simple all-in-one solution that allows you to watch the latest from streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Apple TV+, download a variety of apps and play great exclusive games via Apple Arcade. But while the Apple TV is the go-to media streamer for many households around the world, there’s an issue: some Apple TVs seemingly turn on randomly. 

While you could put this down to an accidental press of the Apple TV remote, I’ve personally experienced the issue and can reassure you that this simply isn’t the case. But after scouring forums and experimenting with various settings on my Apple TV, I think I’ve finally figured out what causes the issue. 

Why is my Apple TV turning on?

Scouring through forums, it’s clear to see the Apple TV can turn itself on for a number of reasons. Some claim that the background app refresh causes the Apple TV to turn itself on, while others claim that locally connected NAS drives can cause Apple’s media streamer to power on randomly. One thing is clear; it’s not a straightforward fix.

Apple’s own help pages, which have become much more in-depth in recent years, don’t offer any remedy for the issue discussed by hundreds of Apple TV users in various online forums. So, what are you to do if your Apple TV keeps turning on randomly? I’ve personally had the issue with my Apple TV for a few years, and I think I’ve finally cracked the secret.   

Remove Apple TV as your Home hub

My Apple TV would turn itself back on almost immediately every single time I put it to sleep, and thanks to the HDMI-CEC support that allows the Apple TV to control your TV’s power and HDMI input, it’d mean my TV would immediately turn back on. It was a similar story whenever I’d play PS4 on another HDMI input - the Apple TV would randomly switch the source.

For me, the issue was to do with Apple Home. You can access your Siri-compatible smart accessories while away from home, but to do so, you need to nominate a Home Hub - this can be either an Apple TV or an iPad. (You can see where this is going, right?)

I set the Home app up a few years ago, and I had completely forgotten that I’d set up my Apple TV to be my Home Hub. After disabling the functionality, my Apple TV once again stayed asleep when not in use. If my issue sounds familiar, follow these steps to remove your Apple TV as a Home Hub:

  1. On your Apple TV, head to Settings.
  2. Select AirPlay and Homekit.
  3. Scroll down to the Home Hub section, and if connected, click the name of your Home to disable the functionality. 

Disable background app refresh

As mentioned, there doesn’t seem to be a one-size-fits-all answer to the problem, so if the above doesn’t work, you could try disabling background app refresh. Some Apple forum users are adamant that background app refresh functionality is what causes the Apple TV to turn on randomly, although I’m not personally convinced. Still, there’s no harm in trying, and it won’t be detrimental to the overall Apple TV experience either.

To disable background app refresh on Apple TV:

  1. On your Apple TV, open the Settings app.
  2. Select General, and scroll down to Background App Refresh (it’s near the bottom of a very long list of settings).
  3. You can select Background App Refresh to disable the functionality altogether, or disable it on a per-app basis. For the purpose of this tutorial, I’d recommend turning it off completely. 
  4. Restart your Apple TV.

Turn off HDMI-CEC

Now this isn’t really so much a fix, but if the above options don’t work for you, you’ve always got the option of disabling HDMI-CEC support on your Apple TV. It’s a compromise, as it means your Apple TV won’t be able to change the HDMI input or turn the TV on, but at least you won’t be greeted to a bright Apple TV home screen while trying to sleep! 

To stop your Apple TV from controlling your TV:

  1. On your Apple TV, head to the Settings app.
  2. Select Remotes and Devices. 
  3. Under the Home Cinema Control section, disable Control TVs and Receivers.

You’ll no longer be able to use the Apple TV remote to wake your TV, but at least you won’t have to deal with the Apple TV interrupting your viewing experience when not in use.