iPhone, iPad firmware corruption on Windows 7

May 7th, 2011

I was having trouble updating my iPhone and iPad software to the latest iOS version.  iTunes would download the update without a problem, but then fail while “processing” the file, claiming that the firmware file was corrupted.  I tried all the usual suggestions (reinstall iTunes, try it from a different user account, turn off anti-virus, etc.) and even had a lengthy phone conversation with two AppleCare techs.  No luck.

First, the solution (for those of you who got here via a search engine and have the same problem): run iTunes as an Administrator.  You’ll need to have an Administrator account you can use.

  1. Exit iTunes if you already have it open.
  2. Click the Start Menu and type iTunes in the search box to find the shortcut.
  3. Right-click iTunes and select “Run as Administrator”
  4. Perform the update.

The full story:

I looked up the updater log files, which on Windows 7 are located at

C:\Users\<name>\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPad Updater Logs

and it listed

iTunes: Restore error 1403

Searching the Apple Community boards for this error code shows up a bunch of posts of people having similar problems, but none of the solutions worked for me.

I called AppleCare, and they had me try a few things but ultimately weren’t any help.  They were adamant that the file download was somehow being corrupted by either anti-virus software on my computer or malware.  It took some digging to find out where to get the file myself, but this page has good instructions, which I’ll just summarize.

  1. Go to: http://itunes.com/version
  2. Find the file you want in the XML, and use the URI to download.

The XML also has the SHA1 hash, so you can check for corruption of the download.  Which I did.  No, the file I downloaded was fine.  BTW, you can get iTunes to restore with a saved file instead of downloading itself by shift-clicking Update or Restore in the device view.  It still claimed the file was corrupt.

After a lot of poking around, including capturing IP traffic from my box to see if some authentication from Apple was failing, it dawned on me that it could be a permissions issue with decompressing the file.  Hence starting iTunes in Administrator mode to make sure it has free rein over the file system.

It’s a mystery to me how iTunes got locked out of whatever stuff it needs to access to do it’s update, but there you go.

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