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One of my clients had a non-working AppleTV Gen 1 edition (the white not quite Mac Mini one).
The Hard disk had died, so we needed to get a new OS on there.

While there are plenty of write-ups about upgrading them, I couldn’t find any clear instructions on starting from scratch. The closest I found was at the OpenElec forums within their upgrade script, so I used their drive partitioning as a baseline, then worked out how to go from there.

After a few hours of trial and error last night and today, I finally got to the point where I had a working drive, and could replicate the repair process from scratch.

Without further ado, here’s my instructions:


How to create a new working Apple TV Storage device for replacing an internal drive.

You’ll need:

1) atv_restore.tar.gz –
2) atv_recovery.tar.gz –
3) OpenElec files for ATV –
4) A new storage device of some kind. 4G is enough, so CF or DOM or similar is suitable.
5) Ability to follow instructions, and use common sense.
If you lack this, find someone who can assist, and who has these attributes.
No, I’m not being facetious either, the operations below are destructive, so someone with a cluestick is preferred.


Make a temp work folder.

mkdir /tmp/atv
cd /tmp/atv

Unzip the OpenElec files, and put the SYSTEM, KERNEL, and place into the work folder.
Copy the atv_restore.tar.gz to the work folder.
Copy the atv_recovery.tar.gz to the work folder.

Mount your external drive. All data will be erased on it.
*Take a note of the drive letter*

*Make sure that you have the correct drive letter*
**Double check**

Operations below are destructive, so check once more, all data will be erased on the destination drive.
In my computer, my new drive has popped up as /dev/sdf

Instructions below assume your new drive is /dev/sdf

If you are using a different drive letter, amend instructions to your drive letter.
Assuming drive is /dev/sdf in the following instructions

****Replace /dev/sdf with your drive if your drive is not using /dev/sdf*****

#Erase existing partitions/drive if not currently empty.
dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdf bs=4 count=1M #Quick hacky partition / boot sector eradication, bwahahahahhem.
#Create GPT
parted -s /dev/sdf mklabel gpt
#make sure current OS knows *current* drive partition setup (i.e. no partitions, 1 gpt)
partprobe /dev/sdf

#Create EFI partition, and set bootable (35M size)
parted -s /dev/sdf mkpart primary fat32 40s 69671s
parted -s /dev/sdf set 1 boot on

#Create a “Recovery” partition (419M size)
parted -s /dev/sdf mkpart primary HFS 69672s 888871s
parted -s /dev/sdf set 2 atvrecv

#Create OS Boot partition (944MB)
parted -s /dev/sdf mkpart primary HFS 888872s 2732071s

#Create Media partition (rest of drive-262145sectors)
DISKSIZE=$(parted -s /dev/sdf unit s print | grep Disk | awk ‘{print $3}’ | sed s/s//)
let SECTORS=”${DISKSIZE}”-262145
parted -s /dev/sdf mkpart primary ext4 2732072s ${SECTORS}s

#Create SWAP partition
parted -s /dev/sdf mkpart primary linux-swap ${SECTORS}s ${DISKSIZE}s

#Update OS with new drive setup
partprobe /dev/sdf


#Format Partitions —-
mkfs.msdos -F 32 -n EFI /dev/sdf1 #boot
mkfs.hfsplus -v Recovery /dev/sdf2 #recovery
mkfs.hfsplus -J -v OSBoot /dev/sdf3 #Linux OS / ATV OS / OpenElec etc
mkfs.ext4 -b 4096 -L Linux /dev/sdf4 #Storage
mkswap /dev/sdf5

#My new _4g_ CF “HDD” looks like this:
#parted /dev/sdf print
#Model: TOSHIBA MK4309MAT (scsi)
#Disk /dev/sdf: 4327MB
#Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B
#Partition Table: gpt
#Number Start End Size File system Name Flags
# 1 20.5kB 35.7MB 35.7MB primary boot
# 2 35.7MB 455MB 419MB hfs+ primary atvrecv
# 3 455MB 1399MB 944MB hfs+ primary
# 4 1399MB 4193MB 2794MB ext4 primary
# 5 4193MB 4327MB 134MB linux-swap(v1) primary

#Setup Recovery partition (sdf2) to default factory restore files.
mkdir -p /mnt/recovery
fsck.hfsplus -f /dev/sdf2
mount -t hfsplus -o rw,force /dev/sdf2 /mnt/recovery
tar -xzvf atv_restore.tar.gz -C /mnt/recovery
chown -R root:root /mnt/recovery

#Copy OpenElec files to OSBoot Linux partition (sdf3) SYSTEM, LINUX ——–
mkdir -p /mnt/linux
fsck.hfsplus -f /dev/sdf3
mount -t hfsplus -o rw,force /dev/sdf3 /mnt/linux
cp KERNEL /mnt/linux
cp SYSTEM /mnt/linux
umount /dev/sdf3

#Redo recovery partition (sdf2) to patchstick defaults now. —–
#Copy over recovery.tar.gz files
#update keyword -> bootable
#rename boot script to
#make executable and own all files as root
tar -xzvf atv_recovery.tar.gz -C /mnt/recovery
echo bootable > /mnt/recovery/keyword
rm /mnt/recovery/
mv /mnt/recovery/patchstick.boot /mnt/recovery/

#Make sure to edit fsck.ext4 /dev/sdf3 to fsck.hfsplus /dev/sdf3 in default as this may break our HFSplus partition if we fsck.ext4 it…

chmod 7777 /mnt/recovery/
chown -R root.root /mnt/recovery
umount /dev/sdf2

#Setup media partition (/dev/sdf4) ——
mkdir -p /mnt/media
mount /dev/sdf4 /mnt/media
mkdir -p /mnt/media/.config
touch /mnt/media/.config/ssh_enable #I like SSH access as a default.
mkdir -p /mnt/media/.cache
mkdir -p /mnt/media/.xbmc/userdata
umount /dev/sdf4

#Prepare for takeoff, er eject drive.
eject /dev/sdf

This drive can now be mounted in the ATV1, and will boot into OpenElec (after a 1st reboot fsck)

#Amended Boot script for reference ( )

fsck.hfsplus /dev/sdf3 &> /dev/null
fsck.ext4 /dev/sdf4 &> /dev/null
mkdir /boot
mount /dev/sdf3 /boot
kexec -l /boot/KERNEL –command-line=”boot=/dev/sdf3 disk=/dev/sdf4 quiet nosplash”
kexec -e

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I was reading a post up at Carsonified (, which talked about MySQL backups.

While he slightly re-invents the wheel, its fairly similar to what we do over at Computer Solutions as a solution for Backup.

How do we do it?

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