Daily Tip: How to fix the "app could not be found" error in iTunes

Daily Tip: How to fix

Getting an error that the app you want to install from iTunes can't be installed on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad because it "could not be found" and wondering how to fix it? iTunes is a beast of a program and for all of its convenience it can be downright frustrating at times. But fear not, we suffer through these problems so you won't have to. (Or at least so we can help you fix things faster). For some tips on finding your can't be found apps in iTunes, follow on after the break!

I've had the "app could not be found" error in iTunes quite a bit lately, and there ended up being a few different causes and a few different things I had to do to fix it.

Most of it involved multiple library conflicts. For good or for ill, iTunes can have multiple libraries -- one for music and one for videos, one for you and one for your spouse, one for general use and one for holiday fare, etc. It's one of the ways Apple lets you organize your stuff. But it can go horribly wrong in a couple of ways.

And when it does, iTunes can't figure out why an app that should be installed on your iPhone or iPad isn't in the /Mobile Applications folder.

Remote library connection confusion

If you have a different configuration between desktop and laptop, and you sync Mac system preferences via MobileMe, you can get into a world of hurt. For example, my main media library is on a Drobo hanging off my desktop. My iPhone and iPad library is on the main boot drive of my laptop. Usually that means if I connect to one, the next time I connect to the other I'll either connect to an empty library (on my desktop because there is no local library on the boot drive) or be told it can't find the library (on my laptop, because there's no Drobo connected). If, however, I've connected remotely to my Drobo from my laptop (to move files), then iTunes will open the Drobo library -- over Wi-Fi -- and try to sync my iPhone or iPad from that. Since not all apps were in both libraries, bingo. Missing apps.

Multiple local library collisions

iTunes can sometimes have different local libraries as well. For example, mine had /iTunes, iTunes/iTunes Media, and /iTunes/iTunes Music. When I launched iTunes, it would randomly connect to one of them and, again, because different libraries had different apps, errors would ensue.

How to fix it

Here's what I did:

  1. Stopped syncing systems preferences with MobileMe. Yes, I lost some functionality, but I spared myself a lot of headaches. That fixed the remote library problem.
  2. Copied all files from /iTunes and /iTunes/iTunes Music to /iTunes/iTunes Media (not over-writing duplicates).
  3. Deleted /iTunes and /iTunes/iTunes Music
  4. Made sure I had /iTunes/iTunes Media selected as my library in iTunes
  5. Organized my iTunes Library
  6. (You should choose the iTunes Media option if you haven't already. Captain Default!
  7. Re-downloaded any apps that still showed up as missing
  8. Relaxed and enjoyed

And that's it. Buh-bye "app could not be found", hello successful sync.

Bonus Tip: You can sometimes tell when an app that should be in your library is missing by the lack of artwork on th

Have any other iTunes library tips? Let us know!

Tips of the day will range from beginner-level 101 to advanced-level ninjary. If you already know this tip, keep the link handy as a quick way to help a friend. If you have a tip of your own you'd like to suggest, add them to the comments or send them in to news@tipb.com. (If it's especially awesome and previously unknown to us, we'll even give ya a reward...)

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Daily Tip: How to fix the "app could not be found" error in iTunes

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Thank God, I never had this problem. But I get a lot of "app was not installed because of an unknown error". Very annoying.

I offloaded my iTunes Library to an external volume years ago and I have never had the problems luckily. Then have a script that synchronizes the volumes so its basically a software raid so if I loose one volume I will be Okay.
My person setup on my mac consist of the following
1 500GB HDD partition into 2 drive. One for Time Machine other part for Torrents so if I have high IO on the drive due to seeding and if it dies my main computer doesn't go offline. :)
My 2 other external drives like I said RAID each other just incase I have a failure the other drive will put in to the primary roll. It can cost a bit to get setup but one drive at a time.
Hope this helps someone.

Another cause of this error is if you make the mistake of syncing your iPad/iPhone while iTunes is downloading an update for one of your installed apps.

I think that's what I did, but how do I fix it?? Thanks for your help! I don't want to have to go through all that moving a library etc.

It would be nice it you had a "print" version of these tips, so if I ever had this problem I could pull out the printed version and use it to repair the problem.