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Part 3 - AppleTV Hardware Modification
The next part of this guide is going to focus on taking apart the Apple TV and removing the hard drive and the fan while also replacing the WiFi adapter with a new CrystalHD mini-PCI card. The hard drive and fan represent the only moving parts in the Apple TV and removing them will make the ATV completely silent.
In addition to the written guide below, this video will cover all the same material.
Step 1 - Remove the rubber base
Remove the rubber footing attached to the bottom of the ATV. This is not a fun task... The rubber will likely tear and force your to rip it off in strips. This is OK, you never need t use it again, but even so its messy. In addition to the rubber, there will still be a sticky residue from the glue used to attach the bottom cover all over the metal case. I used an old credit card to strip away the residue and it took me about an hour while watching TV. You do not need to remove it all, but since it inhibits the air flow and we are going to remove the fan, I highly recommend taking the time to do it right.
Note: Since the case no longer has any traction on the bottom, it s a good idea to attach some rubber feet to the bottom of the case one its all cleaned up. This will keep it form moving around and will also lift it up a bit to allow better air flow.
Step 2 - Remove four screws
Locate the four screws on the corners of the ATV and remove them. There are additional screws in a rectangular pattern near the front of the ATV and these hold in the Hard drive. We will be removing them later as well.
Step 3 - Remove the bottom of the case and disconnect the hard drive
Be careful to not damage the IDE cable plugged into the hard drive as you lift the now unscrewed plate from the bottom of the case. The hard drive is attached to the plate, so as you lift it, locate the IDE connector attached the main board of the Apple TV and carefully remove it from the main board by pulling the blue tab up. Once the Cable is safely removed, unscrew the hard drive from the ATV bottom cover and set it aside. We will not be using the drive again in this guide, but you may want to keep it if you choose to revert back to a normal Apple TV.
Step 4 - Remove the WiFi adapter
Next to the big black fan is a small WiFi adapter plugged into a mini-PCI slot. We need to use that Mini-PCI slot for the CrystalHD card, so now its time to remove the WiFi adapter. Carefully remove the WiFi antennae wires from the card (the black and blue wires with copper connectors) by lifting them straight up. This can be tricky the first time so feel free to use some pliers, but just be careful not to damage the leads if you ever want to revert back to a stock Apple TV.
To remove the WiFi card itself, remove the screw holding it in place at the top and pinch the plastic mount on the other side while lifting the card front the top. It will lift up and rock toward the back of the ATV and then just pop out.
Step 6 - Install the Crystal HD (BCM70015) card
Install the CrystalHD into the mini-PCI socket now vacated by the WiFi adapter. Slide the pins into the socket (it’s keyed so it can only go one way) and push the card down so that the mounting holes line up with the screw hole used for the WiFi card. Once the Crystal HD is set well, keep holding it while you replace the mounting screw.
Note: The WiFi antennae are just hanging loose at this point, and while this is OK, you may want to use some electrical tape to tuck them away somewhere.
Step 7 - Remove the Fan (optional)
After a bit of reading I am convinced that the fan does absolutely nothing. So... I just pulled it off and never looked back. To remove the fan, just pull it off. It is held in place by some rubber standoffs and they will probably tear off and break as you pull the fan. If you are not comfortable removing the fan, you can simply disconnect it and leave it in place.
Step 8 - Put it all back together
Set aside the Hard drive, IDE cable, WiFi adapter and the fan and keep them somewhere safe... You never know when you might want them again... Then slide the bottom cover back into the case (be careful to get the power socket lined up correctly) and replace the four case screws.
That's it, your Apple TV is now silent!
Now - Plug in the modified Thumb-drive from part 2 and power it up! Part 4 covers what to expect on your first boot.