What's with this strange, nonstandard update to iTunes?

(Joseph Delaney) #1

I recently started seeing an odd software update on my Mac whenever I plug in an iOS device. There’s an Apple support article about it, and looking at the discussion off that article shows that this update is generating some degree of confusion.

It starts with a dialog to update your software in order to communicate with your iOS device. The first strikingly odd thing is that it’s not the usual update mechanism - the dialog box is not coming from the App Store (normal for a macOS update), and it’s not coming from iTunes (normal for an iOS update), in fact it’s not directly connected to any process that has a UI; if you cover it with another window, there’s nothing that you can click in the dock to bring it back up and can’t command-tab back to it. You need to minimize or hide the other applications windows to reveal this dialog again.

The next odd thing is that, after a download progress indicator finishes, it usually ends with a message that the update is not available on the servers.

This is all happening on fully updated systems that are not running (and have never run) any betas.

Does anyone know what this is, or why it’s happening? (my personal theory, completely devoid of any fact, is that it’s meant for people running the latest iOS beta but accidentally got pushed out to everyone, or maybe incorrectly identifies a non-beta iOS device as running a beta?)

Solved: iOS 12 not syncing with iTunes 12.8 Mac OS 10.3.6
(Adam Engst) #2

That’s freaky—what happens if you click Learn More in the dialog?

It seems to be suggesting that the Mac’s software is too old to connect to a newer iOS device, but that obviously doesn’t match with the fact that your Mac is fully updated.

(Joseph Delaney) #3

“Learn More” brings you to the Apple support article - https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208831

It appears to only happen once per device, at least I haven’t had it reoccur recently.

(Seth Anderson) #4

It did happen to my iPhone about a month ago, and it popped up another dialogue box that I didn’t see at first. It took so long, without a progress bar, that I finally quit iTunes and unplugged my phone. The second time, I just let it run for about an hour, and it finished. (I have screen shots somewhere)

I haven’t seen the message since.

AT&T is my carrier, fwtw.

(Dennis Swaney) #5

Seth, why did you have to run iTunes as this seems to be saying, while the message is on your iDevice, it is your Mac software that needs updating?

(Simon) #6

I just got the same thing while attempting to sync my iPad mini to my MBP over USB. Both devices are running the latest OS versions and are fully updated. I have no idea what this is. It has so far never happened before when syncing my iPhone to my MBP which I do the same way.

The update dialog is not connected to any app or process. Were it nor for the Apple support article (and this thread) the whole situation would feel rather shady to me.

The update required me to quit iTunes to finish, but iTunes was in the middle of syncing to my iPad and appeared stuck. At some point I just yanked the cable and then quit iTunes. The updater eventually finished (took about 2 minutes). It had a countdown timer but that seemed rather erratic and inaccurate. The dialog just vanished and I hope that means it finished successfully.

Who at Apple designs this garbage? What happened to explaining to your users what you’re doing and why? Some kind of feedback? Pretty please?

(Simon) #7

In the process Finder must have been restarted as well. Why? I have no idea.

The reason I know is because my Finder windows have reverted to their “default” (that’s another issue).

(Seth Anderson) #8

I got this message on my Mac again yesterday when I synced my iPhone (via USB cable), and as @Simon mentioned, the dialogue window is non-standard. The updater progress claimed it was going to take 2 minutes, but instead took over 30 minutes, moving in irregular starts and stops (1 minute 27 seconds, progressing for a few seconds, stopping again, etc.).

I let it run on its own, and it did eventually finish, but I found the process a bit weird.

(Al Varnell) #9

It is an update that comes from the usual Software Update server and only updates the Mobile Device portion of the iTunes software when you plug an iDevice into you computer. There was one posted back in July and another on Sep 12. Here is what is installed:

(Dennis Swaney) #10

Al, am I correct in thinking that it is part of iTunes 12.7 and/or 12.8? I haven’t seen that message with iTunes 12.6.4 or 12.6.5 and I ONLY sync with iTunes via USB. Oh, My iMac is running El Capitan, if the MacOS version is a factor.

(Al Varnell) #11

iTunes 12.8 is the only place I’ve seen it so far, but I’ll have to check a 12.6 installation or two this weekend to see what happens there. I should also check the distribution to see if there are any clues there, although I suspect the process to check for this update is built into iTunes.

(Adam Engst) #12

I just got this too. It’s a weird approach for Apple. I’ll try to write a short article about it if I can find the time in everything else that’s happening.

(Al Varnell) #13

I’ve had a chance to do some further checking and using macOS El Capitan and iTunes 12.6.4 and 12.6.5.

The distribution list didn’t reveal too much. It checks against a long list of iDevice board codes, so it’s evidently not for every such device. It requires the following apps to be closed:

  • iTuned
  • Configurator
  • ConfiguratorUI
  • FinalCut
  • Xcode
  • iMovie
  • Image Capture

And I could find no indication that Finder should have to quit before or after installation, so that’s some other bug and it didn’t happen in my case.

There is no check to see what OS is being run, so that’s just a function of what software update catalog you are currently subscribed to.

The only software check is to see if /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/MobileDevice.framework/Versions/A/Resources/Info.plist contains CFBundleVersion less than 988.

So to my experience with iTunes 12.6.4, neither my iPhone 7 nor my 10.5" iPad Pro triggered the update, even though it contained an older version of the MobileDevice.framwork.

Installing iTunes 12.6.5 made no difference, but in checking I see that it already contained the updated MobileDevice.framework, so that is to be expected.


(Simon) #14

I don’t get why they couldn’t just run through the regular update mechanism. You could still have iTunes trigger it. The way they did it now is completely non-standard. Users have no idea why they’re getting it and what it does. To many this will come across as some kind of potential malware issue.

(Al Varnell) #15

I think the first part of your question has an obvious answer. Not everybody needs the update. It has to be triggered by plugging in a device that matches up with the list of devices that need it, rather than checking for software currently installed on that Mac.

Certainly, it could be given to everybody whether they need it or not and would not cause users to question it, but it isn’t the first time that Apple has done something similar.


(Dennis Swaney) #16

OK. Thanks for the info, Al. I just finished updating the 4 iDevices that could do so to iOS 11.4.1. I’m going to see what happens with the release of iOS 12.0 tomorrow - will probably wait for at least 12.1 however.

(Jim Carr) #17


I note the iTunes 12.6.5 read me file says for compatibility with iOS 11.

Don’t know what happens with 12.6.5 and iOS 12.

I like managing apps and podcasts via iTunes.


(Al Varnell) #18

That’s because iOS 11 is all that’s out.

The only reason there is a 12.6.5 is because it’s needed for iOS 12 release later today.


(Jim Carr) #19


They could have said so.

12.6.5 also seems to be for the purpose of presenting us with a new and improved “Apple Media Services Terms and Conditions”

Along with notice that iBooks Store is now Apple Books.


(Al Varnell) #20

Strangely I didn’t get that notice from iTunes at all. It showed up when I updated a media based app in the App Store app on my iPhone that was not connected to iTunes.