The Setup

I am a hybrid user. I have Apple devices that The Kiddo & I just love (4 iPods of various stripes & 2 iPads, all non-jailbroken) and I use iTunes for Windows to manage all their content. I also use a good anti-virus & firewall, and I make sure that my computer is always up-to-date with the latest Windows patches.

I’m a pretty model user, as far as such things go. So, when iTunes needed to download & install updates to my devices, I didn’t think much of it.

Imagine my shock when, for seemingly no reason, installing Apple updates through iTunes started resulting in errors — typically, when iTunes would try to “verify with Apple.” Not just any error, of course: Error 3194.

In my house, Error 3194 is known as The Unresolvable Error. Oh sure, Apple has a lot to say about fixing it:

 Resolve error 3194 by updating to the latest version of iTunes

Ummm, ok.

For good or ill, I always update iTunes when a new version comes out. So, when the dread Error 3194 darkened my humble doorstep, I was already running the latest version.

iTunes Diagnostics

On a lark, I ran a diagnostics report to see what it came up with. It confirmed what I suspected: iTunes couldn’t communicate with Apple’s servers. Most likely the verification servers since iTunes never had any trouble downloading device updates. At any rate, not especially helpful, but it felt good to know that the software & I were on the same page.

Modifying the HOSTS file

Ok, so what next? I got some more info from OS X Daily:

If you run into Error 3194 within iTunes when you are trying to restore your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, you can fix it by temporarily blocking Apple’s firmware signing services. Error 3194 seems to be triggered when unsigned firmware is used, often during an iOS downgrade or even during some restores.

This worked for a little while. iTunes still wouldn’t install device updates on its own, but I could still download them. Then, I could press SHIFT while clicking Update or Restore in iTunes to point to the downloaded file and install it manually.

Unfortunately, this fix didn’t last forever. A search of the Apple support community revealed that I should probably remove the line I added to my HOSTS file, so I used this Microsoft KB article to just reset my HOSTS file to the default.

But this didn’t work, either. Error 3194 refused to back down.

Firewall Rules

Next, I found this Apple support article which lists several things to check with regard to security software. Now, as a seasoned Windows user, I come across software all the time that says “make sure to disable your firewall as it might interfere with this program” and it rarely turns out to be true. However, with iTunes, I was willing to give it a shot.

So, I disabled my firewall and tried to update again. Still, no luck. This article also suggests uninstalling my firewall, but of course this is a deal-breaker. Indeed, I’m thinking how very like Apple to suggest doing the one thing no sane responsible Windows user would EVER do (right?). I mean, it’s tantamount to waving a giant red flag in the midst of cyberspace and screaming, “Hey, hackers!! Woo-hoo, I’m over here!! C’mon in and have some tea!” It’s like the ghost of Steve Jobs is taunting me: “How badly do you want to update your iPods, you Windows heathen!?!?” As it turns out, pretty badly. I uninstalled my anti-virus & firewall and tried again. Still nothing. Indeed, I thought for a moment I could hear Error 3194′s maniacal laughter.

The article also lists the ports and servers that iTunes needs access to. So, after re-installing my anti-virus/firewall, I created custom rules that specified the servers (I didn’t need to specify the ports since these are enabled by default). Once done, I tried to update again, and again Error 3194 jeered at me.

Is it iTunes or is it Me?

After being thwarted by Error 3194 yet again, I started wondering what my security software maker, ESET, thinks about all this. One Google search later, I found this #1 result:  iTunes not working with your Windows ESET security product?

It was then that I realized I hadn’t upgraded my anti-virus/firewall program since I bought it 4 years ago. After I finished kicking myself, I proceeded to upgrade and then performed the rituals required to make sure nothing iTunes did was blocked.

Once I’d restarted, I tried once more: I pointed iTunes to the update file I’d already downloaded and attempted to install manually. I still got an error, but it was a different one, indicating the update file was corrupted.

I download the file again, through iTunes, straight from Apple. Three hours later, iTunes prompts me to install it and I say “Ok, install it already, you bastard.”

This time, something altogether wild and strange happened. iTunes installed the update.

No pauses. No errors. Just a confirmation message indicating the update installed successfully.

Holy crap, it’s a miracle!!

Recap

I don’t think I can adequately express my joy and relief at being able to update my devices. If you’re wrestling with Error 3194 and your Apple device isn’t jailbroken, here’s a checklist you can use to make sure you’re doing everything you can:

  1. Make sure your operating system has all the latest updates and patches.
  2. Make sure your HOSTS file doesn’t have any screwy IP addresses that Apple doesn’t like. Basically, either make sure your HOSTS file has the default verbiage for your OS or make sure the IP addresses that are there are non-Apple ones. (Indeed, hopefully, any changes to your HOSTS file are ones you’ve made, yourself. If not, then you have more serious problems than faulty iTunes updating.)
  3. If you use a third-party anti-virus firewall solution (like me), try the following:
    • Disable the software.
    • Uninstall the software.
    • Make sure it’s upgraded to the latest version. Also, search the maker’s knowledge base for any iTunes articles. In the time since you bought your software, they could have published something that solves this problem. If they haven’t, send them a support ticket & pester them mercilessly for a fix.
  4. If you’re using Windows Firewall: iTunes 10 for Windows: Enable iTunes in the Windows Firewall

If you’ve tried all this and you’re still getting Error 3194, you are now free to back up all your data, wipe your hard drive clean, and rebuild your computer (or pay someone to do it). The items I list above are the sum total of all the info I’ve been able to find on this error. So if you’re still stuck and you’re not willing or able to dissect your computer on your own, then starting anew might be the last resort.

Hopefully, after reading this, you’ve been able to resolve this maddening situation with Error 3194. If you have, please feel free to leave me a comment and let me know. I love to hear good news!

If not, please don’t ask me to help. I’m just as clueless are you are. I’ve only written this article to consolidate what I’ve learned and share what’s worked for me. However, if you learn something more that I haven’t included, please do leave me a comment so I can update this post. Thanks!!