I have a double story house with the modem upstairs and an Apple TV downstairs. I also have a USB hard drive with an iTunes library and iPhoto library on it. At the moment every time I want to use the libraries I have to plug my USB drive into my MacBook.

I've recently discovered that my modem has a USB port on it, and I can plug my USB hard drive into that. Can I plug my hard drive into that port and make the libraries accessible to both my MacBook and Apple TV?

If possible I don't want to have to keep my MacBook turned on all the time. I.e., it would be nice to just have the USB hard drive plugged into the modem and access my library on the Apple TV without my MacBook being turned on.

In researching this answer I've read a lot about Apple's AirPort Extreme and how it can do something like that. But unless that's my only option I would rather not spend an extra $200 if I don't have to.


2 Answers 2


This is similar to another recent question: Is Apple TV intelligent enough to stream directly from a NAS?

As @tubedogg says, you need iTunes running on a Mac/PC in your network to share local files. You can only remove this requirement if you buy/stream everything from the iTunes store.

Unless you hack your ATV.

You can run something like PlexConnect on it to stream content from a local Plex server, but again you need a Mac/PC running a Plex server, so it's not that different than requiring a Mac/PC running iTunes.

I think there might be an XBMC hack (for ATV2 only) that will allow you to stream from a NAS/UPnP device, which might work with your modem's USB port, but I doubt it will work from the AE's USB port. The AE's USB port is best used for a Time Machine drive, which is a great backup strategy, but off-topic.

So, if you haven't bought everything from the iTunes Store (or haven't used iTunes Match to make a copy of all your music available to you from the "cloud"), you do need to keep a Mac/PC running iTunes to access your personal content, regardless of where your USB drive is plugged into.

  • Thanks. That was the type of answer I was after. It answered my question and have me even more useful information which I will look into as another possible solution.
    – Richie
    Feb 17, 2015 at 8:02

Home Sharing functionality operates through iTunes itself. If iTunes isn't running (even if the MacBook is), your iTunes library isn't available on the Apple TV. So plugging the hard drive into the modem won't do anything.

Note the above is answering your question about your current setup. Purchasing an Airport router would change this answer, but you asked if your current setup would allow functionality like the Airport allows.

  • Not happy with this answer. You have not lead me to any resolution at all. I am aware that I can plug my hd into my modem. What I asked was whether I can use that setup to share my itunes library to my apple tv. I've since done more research on an airport extreme and can confirm that it can be used to share my itunes library to my apple tv without having to keep my computer on. There's a meaninful asnwer to help someone else.
    – Richie
    Feb 16, 2015 at 7:45
  • Feel free to go ahead and plug it in then. It's not going to magically make Home Sharing work. Depending on the modem, it might not do anything at all. If it's a router/modem combo it might, but even then all it would do is make the contents available on the network. Home Sharing is software built into iTunes and as I stated will not work if iTunes is not running.
    – tubedogg
    Feb 16, 2015 at 7:50
  • 1
    You asked if you could do something without buying the Airport, so my answer was going off the assumption that's what you wanted to know. The Airport router enables the functionality you describe through software that is on the Airport. No Airport, no functionality. Your question was not clear that you knew your router had functionality to allow the hard drive to be plugged in at all, hence the first part of my answer. The latter part is still accurate and answers what you are now stating your question was intended to be.
    – tubedogg
    Feb 16, 2015 at 7:59
  • Thanks. I appreciate your follow up effort (hence the up vote) but did not appreciate the initial answer which has since been edited. I already was well aware that I could plug my hd into my modem for home sharing but I wanted to know if that setup would allow me to share iTunes to my Apple TV without the MacBook being left on. I've re read my question and I think it was clear enough
    – Richie
    Feb 17, 2015 at 8:08

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