Apple TV Screensaver Will Not Display Entire iPhoto or Aperture Library

I recently purchased a 3rd Generation Apple TV and a 22″ Samsung 1080P LED-backlit LCD TV to act as a digital photo frame for my house. I thought I’d found the perfect setup because Samsung TVs have 3 separate timers to turn the TV on and off, so it would only be on when we are home (morning and evenings during the week, during the day on the weekends.) I have over 10,000 photos in my Aperture library, and I was looking forward to seeing them instead them just sitting on my computer.

After going through the Apple setup instructions on my Mac (in iTunes, go the Advanced menu and select Choose Photos to Share… and select either iPhoto or Aperture library) and on my Apple TV (Settings > General > Screensaver), I was viewing photos.  My first impression was extremely positive.  The Ken Burns effect I’d selected was beautiful and the pictures slowly zoomed in and out with perfect fluidity. It wasn’t until a couple of hours later that I noticed *the problem*.

The Problem is that, of the 10,000+ photos on my computer, only a couple of hundred of them are ever displayed by the screensaver. You start seeing repeats pretty quickly. When I select my Aperture Photo Library to be the screensaver, I expect to get my entire Aperture Photo Library. Especially when the Apple Setup instructions show a library containing 11,535 photos.

The problem lies with how the Apple TV (Gen 2 and Gen 3) handles the screensaver photos.  It caches a subset of the photos in the small internal flash storage and then cycles through this cache.  It never connects back to the iTunes host for more photos.  Ideally, the screen saver would stream the entire photo library from the host computer, just as it does for music and video.  It’s a streaming device after all. It would be OK to revert to cache if the iTunes computer isn’t available, but it should switch back to streaming the entire library when when it is.

I wasn’t surprised to find that there are many others having the same problem.  I was surprised to find that it was first reported on the Apple Support Communities in October, 2010. Apple hasn’t acknowledged the problem, other than apparently deleting a poll asking other users if they also had the problem.  It’s a fix that would be easy for Apple to implement, but for now, it appears that I must resume my search for the ideal digital photo frame, which may involve using a Gen 1 Apple TV instead.

Written by in: Tech | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Last updated on: 2014-May-27 |


  • platetone says:

    i sure wish they’d fix this. it’s really depressing to only see the same hundred or so photos out of tens of thousands. evidently there is an AppleTV update coming soonish.

    • Ty says:


      I too had this problem, BUT, I’ve found a workaround: Use the *slideshow* instead of the screensaver to view your photos. The slideshow has settings to prevent repeats. I can now view ALL my photos with no repeats!


      Hope this works for you too :)


      • Carlton Bale says:

        Thanks Ty. Yes, this is a temporary work-around. The only problem is that it reverts back to the standard screensaver if the network connection is interrupted, a button is pressed on the remote, the power goes out, etc. I wish the behavior you describe were the DEFAULT behavior!

  • says:

    I too found the same problem and it is disappointing. Is there any way to force it to dump the cache? Maybe a forced reboot? (ugh)

    • Carlton Bale says:

      As I recall, if you manually play photos from iTunes, it causes the cache to reset. But there is no auto-purge method as far as I know.

      • sean says:

        I find even the slide show repeats a ton of pictures even if you turn the repeat off. It does seem to at least go through the whole library

  • Stu says:

    sometimes the simplest things seem way to big for apple. why can’t they fix this and, like you say, stream the images like it does with every single other file type? frustrating!

    • Carlton Bale says:

      Stu, I agree with you. Apple seems to try to “just make stuff work.” It’s extremely frustrating when something doesn’t and they appear to have no desire to fix it. But what’s just as frustrating is that no other company or device seems to offer this feature either. Now that the Google Chromecast is out, I’m hopeful someone will create some software to do what Apple won’t.

  • Patch says:

    Not sure if still relieve not, but maybe help someone.
    I’ve been looking for this for ages, and found a way.

    In Screensaver settings, under Choose Photos, choose the computer that’s got Home Sharing turned on; then click photos. Worked for me.

    Anorexic option I was playing with was to create a smart album where event name did not equal ; then use that folder (which would contain all photos / events) to be the album with the screensaver pictures. But I don’t need to explore that option now.

    Hope that helps someone.

    • SteveV says:

      I had to get at it in a slightly modified way. I went to my iMac and first unselected home sharing then reselected it. Then I went to my Apple TV and selected Computer/Pictures/All photos/Screen Saver. Now it works as it should.

  • Thanks guy`s, have been trying to sort this issue for ages, beginning to think about just forgetting the screensaver all together, now at least I know there are others out there trying to find a fix if Apple don`t want to bother.

  • Kim says:

    well I’m sure hoping someone fixes this problem. I love to play my music through my itv and have all my photos showing as screen saver. It is so bothersome that I only get a small percentage of photos showing. If Apple is unable to fix this problem does anyone have any other product suggestions that can do what the itv appears to not?

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