App Store – Unable to Purchase error (Fix)

| March 2, 2012

Do you get the Unable to Purchase” error on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch

when you try to update, or purchase apps from the app store?   The error looks something like this.

A dialog box appears with the header of “Unable to Purchase” and the error goes along the lines of “Forum for iPhone” and 4 other items could not be purchased at this time. Please try again later.”

Here’s an example.

Unable to Purchase Error

Unable to Purchase Error

The name of the app and the number of “other items” will vary from person to person, and over time the number of “other items” will also increase.   The error is frustrating because if you click on the OK button, you can purchase or update the apps without any problems so it clearly doesn’t stop anything from working.  The error also comes up intermittently which adds to your frustration.

I came across a fix that appears to have resolved the issue for me and several other people, and thought i’d share it with others experiencing the same issue.  The fix is extremely simple, and doesn’t require jailbreaking your device.  My iPad 2 is not jail broken and it works just fine after performing the fix.  This fix should also work fine with the iPhone and iPod Touch, but I haven’t personally tested it with either.

Here’s how to fix the issue.

1. Go to the following website and download a program called iExplorer.  It’s free and no other add-ons, or mucking about is necessary.

Simply download and install the iExplorer program.

Ensure your iPhone, iPad, or ipod Touch is not plugged in via USB and that iTunes is not running.

2. Run the iExplorer program

3. Plug in your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch via USB.  At this point the program should auto detect the device and give you an explorer like interface showing you all the files and directories on the device.

4. In the top left hand window you should see theDownloads folder.  Click on this folder (not the plus sign as you want to be in the root folder).  At this point you should see a lot of files appear in the right hand window that resembles this:

iExplorer window

iExplorer window

Note: If your device is Jailbroken, the file is located in /var/mobile/Media/Downloads.

Mac Users:  You need to expand the Downloads folder, because there’s no explorer pane on the right. Also, you need to expand the Media folder to find Downloads.

5. You don’t want to delete anything here.  But what you do want to do is scroll to the bottom of the window where you’ll find a file that contains the word sqlitedb and rename it to something else.  Eg.  Mine is called downloads.28.sqlitedb which I renamed to downloads.28.sqlitedbold.  Note: To rename the file, simply click the filename twice (slowly with approx 1 second between clicks).  Technically you can delete the file instead of rename it but to be safe I recommend to just rename it.

6. Once you’ve renamed the file to something else, simply close iExplorer, and shut down the app store app on your device if it’s running, and then restart it.  The error will be gone and if you open up iExplorer again, you’ll notice the database file has been recreated.

That’s it!  Easy eh!

The database will be automatically rebuilt when you go back into the App Store on your device which is why you see two files in the above image.

The app store will still find future app updates and everything should be working as it should.  I’ve found no issues  by performing these steps but as usual I take no responsibility if things don’t go to plan for your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.  I’m pretty confident you’ll have no issues though.

Feel free to leave a comment and let me know if the tutorial helped resolve the problem.


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Category: Apps, iPad, Tutorial

Comments (88)

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  1. Miguel says:


  2. Gary says:

    Found your tutorial on the Apple Support Forum, and it worked. Thank you for this! Regards, Gary

  3. Frank says:

    Same as Gary – found link on forums. Simple process and appears to be fixed. Thanks!

  4. Chris says:

    What do we do with the downloads.28.sqlitedbold file? can we just delete that file?

  5. Geoff Leff says:

    Yes.. it can be deleted.. I only recommended renaming the file as a safeguard.

  6. Robert says:

    Nice clear instructions.
    Seems to have worked, thanks

  7. Justin Stanley says:

    awesome!!! worked for me!

  8. Vic says:

    This. Is. Great. Solved my problem. 31 apps and growing…
    Thank you!

  9. John Mc. says:

    I haven’t tested it yet, but I was so relieved that I wasn’t the only one having this problem AND that a fix that at least works for some was published. My error doesn’t come up every time, so only time will tell if this fixes the problem for me. I’ll try to remember to repost either way.

  10. Keith says:

    Question – what about those apps that were trying to install but couldn’t? The error message says “Unable to Purchase…and 15 other items could not be purchased at this time.” What about those other 15 items? Any way to still get those? Example: I saw that Trial Xtreme 2 was for free; tried to download it and couldn’t. Now it’s $1.99. Guess AppStore doesn’t see that I attempted to download it and couldn’t. :(

  11. Nick says:

    Seems to have worked, thanks. Should I be concerned that the db has not grown anywhere close is size to the orig db ? (was 612KB new db is now 80 KB)


  12. Geoff Leff says:

    The error above shouldn’t have prevented the downloading of apps.. The error was a nuisance but not a hinderence. I would think you had another issue if you were unable to download apps.

  13. Geoff Leff says:

    The small database size is normal because it’s been rebuilt. Over time it will probably increase in size.

  14. Taker says:

    thanks! it helps a lot!!

  15. Brian says:

    Thank you for these very helpful instructions but I don’t know how to rename the file. The only options I get when I highlight the file and right click are Add New Folder and Delete Selected. Would you please be kind enough to inform me how to rename the sqlitedb file? Thank you.

  16. Geoff Leff says:

    Hi Brian,
    To rename the file, just click once on the file with the left mouse button, then wait a second, then left click again on the same file. You should be able to rename it then.

  17. Brian says:

    Thank you, Geoff. All is well! I can’t thank you enough for your very clear instructions which enabled me to get rid of a problem that has been bugging me for weeks. I was hopeful that Apple would fix this problem with 5.1 but, alas, they didn’t . . . but you did!

  18. Shirley says:

    Hi there,

    I’ve followed your instructions but when I click on the‘Downloads‘ folder I don’t get a list of files appearing in the right hand window.

    I tried it with another iPhone4S and it worked, I can see it, however that phone doesn’t have a problem only mine does.

    Any other suggestions please?

    Thank you!

  19. Geoff Leff says:

    Hi Shirley,

    I don’t have an answer for you? Was your device new when you got it? Perhaps it’s jailbroken in which case the file will be located somewhere else?

  20. nozero says:

    Thanks! It worked for me. The only thing I noticed was there was no way to rename the file. It was not a option I could find, so I just deleted it.

  21. Geoff Leff says:

    Hi Nozero,

    To rename the file you just need to click on the filename twice. Deleting the file is also fine though. When I get a moment I’ll add this to the tutorial.


  22. Geoff Leff says:

    Hi Shirley,

    I’ve found the alternative directory if your phone is jailbroken. I’m not sure if yours is though. Can you have a look at the following directory for the file and see if it exists.. You may or may not even be able to get to the directory unless your device is jailbroken but it’s worth a try.

    Instead of going to /Media/Downloads/ go to Root/private/var/mobile/Media/Downloads

    I’m not sure if Root is a directory or just referring to the upper most directory though as I don’t have a jailbroken device to check.

    If you can see the file in the above directory, you can follow the same instructions but with the new directory.


  23. TORTURE says:

    很好。谢谢。(Very Good. Thank you)

  24. nozero says:

    Thanks Geoff, that may help others who share my lack of insight. Thanks again!

  25. cdub says:

    perfect…, worked for both my iPad and iPhone…, thanks for the tip!

  26. Rick Gerritsen says:


  27. Solange says:

    Worked for me on my jailbroken 4s, did it using Ifile. I don’t know how you figured this out, but I’m SO grateful, that message was getting on my nerves!

  28. Jacob says:

    Worked perfectly , Thanks

  29. des says:

    Good work ! Thanks !

  30. Pete says:

    Thank you so much for posting this blog. I’ve been searching for a fix to this for weeks and everything I found was for Jailbroken devices. This flaw in Apple’s programming (i.e. you should be able to reset this database from within iOS) and the lack of acknowledgement of this error by Apple has been bugging me no end. I thought I’d have to go to one of those church-like Apple Shops and get indocturinated.

    Thanks again…. oh and iExplorer is definitly a must have

  31. michael says:

    When updating my ipad apps, I always get “could not be purchased…” message, even though I deleted the apps.
    I haven’t jail-broken but I find any name with sqlitedb.
    There may be normal names as you describe.
    Do I have any other option?

  32. Geoff Leff says:

    Hi Michael,

    The sqlitedb file is the database that seems to contain a history of apps downloaded in the app store. Even though you may have deleted the apps, the database will likely still contain a reference to it. I’m not an expert on what the database file contains but database corruption occurs with just about all databases from time to time. In the case of the iPad and iPhone etc, the database is recreated in the event it gets deleted.

    I’m not sure I undertand what you’re saying but if you are unable to find the sqlitedb on your device, you may be looking in the wrong place.. I’m pretty sure it will be there somewhere. Using the iexplorer you should be able to find it and remove/rename it. As far as I’m aware, there’s no other options to fix the issue.


  33. Abulfathi says:

    Hi geoff….i did what u have mention above….and after i restart my ipad 2, and connect to apps store…i cannot download or update any apps….i open back ieplorer and the file did not create again….please help me….

    Now when i want to install any apps form apps store…just white icon and waiting queue appeared in springboard…not downloading the apps…

    P/s: i open purchased tab in apps store and new apps that i choose to purchased shown but got the cloud logo…when i click that, it show ” you have purchased this apps but did not downloading.if any problem appeared please connect to itunesto download the apps and sync with ipad….

    Thanks geoff…hope u understand…i’m from malaysia and my english is very weak….

  34. Geoff Leff says:


    If you’re using springboard it sounds like you are jailbroken. I’ve never jailbroken an ios device so I’m certainly no expert.

    Just a suggestion though.. Reboot the device, then sync with iTunes. The last time I was stuck on waiting it was because of an interupted download.. when I deleted the ‘waiting’ icon and then performed a sync with iTunes it downloaded the app in itunes and then subsequently onto my iPad.

    Hope that helps.


  35. Whitney says:

    I am not technologically gifted at all… how do I shut down the app store app?

  36. Geoff Leff says:

    Hi Whitney,

    Just double press the home button on your device and then long press on the app store icon until it wiggles.. then you should see a red circle with a dash.. just press that and the icon should disappear from the taskbar. Then double press the home button again to return to the desktop.

  37. Lara says:

    Thank you so much!! It worked! :)

  38. jlseber says:

    Seems to have worked ok for me as well. Thanks for the solution. Hopefully Apple will look at this problem as well at some point.

  39. Fufishiswaz says:

    You, my good sir, are a genius. Worked great! My file tree looked a bit different than your image, but with a bit of digging I found it. Jolly good show!!!

  40. Paris Lei says:

    it works!!!!! thank you very much!!

  41. Rod says:

    Hi, I might be missing something here but safari won’t let me download this file. Rod

  42. Rod says:

    Pls ignore my query …..I’m new to iPad /iTunes and have now sorted out the issue. Thanks very much… Very impressed. Rod

  43. Nashtyash says:

    I cannot thank you enough for this tip! I wasted a lot of time with Tech Support. This glitch was driving me mad. Works perfectly. Many thanks!

  44. EHartley says:

    Worked a treat, it’s just working up the confidence to do it! Thank you!

  45. Bruno says:


    Just makes me wonder, if so many people are affected by this bug, it is a known issue and does not relate to jailbreak manuevers, how come Apple does not have an official solution for this yet…

    Jobs would be disappointed!

  46. Darren says:

    This has been bugging me for a while. Seems fine now. Fingers crossed. Thanks.

  47. Billy says:

    Thanks so much!!! I thought I am the only one who get this problem, and my iPad became so laggy with this bug. I am almost going to do a master reset on my iPad. But now I fixed the bug without losing any data! You are the best!!

  48. Kellexsy says:

    Thank you so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  49. John says:

    Thanks for this, solved it for me!

  50. vm says:

    I have iphone 4s. After installing iexplorer and renaming the file, the message is gone but the aps are still not updating/downloading. They are just hanging there with empty bars below them. Any suggestions?

  51. Geoff Leff says:


    I think Apple are having some issues with their servers at the moment.. I’ve been having the same issue this morning. I also just checked Twitter and loads of people are having the same issue. Don’t worry, the fix you followed didn’t have any ill effects.. Once Apple fix their server issues all will be good again 😉


  52. Jim says:

    Thanks for publishing this great fix for a nerving problem! We Internet ‘takers’ are thankful to you ‘givers’.

  53. Eric says:

    THANK YOU for posting this great fix!

  54. Warren says:

    Yet another success story here – iOS 5.1 on a 3GS. Worked just fine.

  55. gadfly1974 says:

    Best fix ever. Are you a teacher? You’d be excellent.

  56. Morty says:

    Hey Geoff. I can’t thank you enough for this fix. It has been bothering me since christmas. I have over 80 apps that couldn’t be purchased now.
    I found the link to this fix on a Norwegian iPhone forum. Saved it as a bookmark and will share this link if i come across other places where people has this issue.

    Thanks again!

  57. John says:

    I’m about to run this fix. Anyone know if this will help with a few books in iBooks which seem to be in the same situation (unable to download; the image of the book is there, but with the empty progress bar at it’s base, and downloading it individually and deleting it numerous times doesn’t seem to make it go away). Thanks.

  58. Geoff Leff says:


    I don’t think the fix will have any affect to what you’re experiencing however if you sync with iTunes on your PC/Mac it will often fix that issue that you’re experiencing. It’s a stuck download by the looks of things and doing a sync in itunes sort of forces itself to download the file properly. It occasionally happens to me with app downloads.

    Give tha a go.

  59. Yvonne says:

    Worked for me on my iPhone 4. You’re awesome Geoff! Thank you sooooo much!

  60. Ann says:

    Thanks for the info, but I have a problem – When I click on ‘downloads’ nothing shows up, no long list of files.

    The only thing that shows is a PLIST file type named ‘manifest.plist’

    Clicking that file doesn’t do anything either.
    I’m using an iPhone 3GS model number A1303.
    I have content uploaded from various iTunes libraries (from the office computer, school, and home) so syncing with iTunes is not an option.

    Any advise on how to resolve this? Many thanks in advance!

  61. Geoff Leff says:

    Hmmm.. I really don’t have any explanation.. The only thing I can suggest is to upgrade your firmware to 5.1.1 released a couple of days ago.. apparently it resolves this bug.

  62. Aaron says:

    I just updated the newest FireWire (5.1.1) and now for the first time I get the bug…so changing to the new FireWire doesn’t do anything…

  63. Glenn says:

    Awesome !!!! I spent 1 week trying to resolve this issue, albeit unsuccessfully. Your instructions worked like a charm !
    Thank You !

  64. Phil B says:

    Geoff, I’ll add my name to the long list of happy customers here. Sorted the problem on my iPhone 4 (and I’ve discovered iexplorer – nice). Cheers mate!

  65. Kevin D. says:

    Thanks — just wanted to add to the list of people above appreciative of your taking time to help with this. I’d had problems downloading app updates stuck in “waiting” state forever, since April! I had more than 70 updates that weren’t happening, until I did this — as soon as I did — problem fixed. I’m watching all the app updates loading right now.

    FWIW, I had trouble renaming the file you mentioned, so I deleted it, apparently with no harm done.

  66. Yarrow says:

    Thank you!!! This problem had been annoying me for months.

  67. Ethan says:

    Yay it worked! Thanks so much!

  68. C15JON says:

    Perfect – thanks a million !

  69. Paul says:

    Thanks for posting this. Just received this error today after multiple attempts/reboots. Your fix solved the problem. Thanks Geoff!

  70. sharon says:

    I done all of this and it’s still not allowing me to purchase – still getting the error message. I am sooo frustrated.

  71. Sharon says:

    I did as detailed but iexplorer did not run, ie pick up device.

    What to do now?

  72. Geoff Leff says:

    Hi Sharon,

    Two points.

    1. The issue this fix is designed to resolve shouldn’t have any bearing with actually making a purchase. The issue here is merely a popup dialog box that complains about the ability to purchase but doesn’t actually effect the ability to purchase.

    2. iexplorer should automatically pick up the device.. if it doesn’t, make absolutely sure itunes is NOT running.. even in the background.. go to your task manager and ensure it’s not running. You could also try re-installing itunes to ensure all necessary drivers are installed again ensurring it’s not running when trying to use iexplorer. I believe a program called DiskAid will do the same as iexplorer but I’ve never used it.

    I hope this helps.

  73. FuRiA says:

    This is fantastic! It’s been over a month with this annoying issue until I found this article!


  74. Rush says:

    Thank you thank you thank you.. i have been trying to get solve this problem since two days and got your EASY fix. it worked like a charm :)

    – rush

  75. Josh says:

    Geoff, thanks, that’s been pissimg me off for a long time!
    By the way, if you fancy updating the path for jailbreakers it’s:

  76. Geoff Leff says:

    Thanks Heaps josh.. I’ve updated the path.


  77. guy says:

    This doesn’t work for me! The permissions and mobile:mobile were already set!

  78. Arjun Shenvi says:

    Worked like a charm:-)
    This problem was bugging me from past so many days. Instructions are very clear. Lots of gratitude:)

  79. Peter says:

    Brilliant, finally managed to get rid of this opaque “computer says no” error and run certain apps again (took a couple of goes to get all of them for some reason).

    iExplorer seems generally useful, and the free demo seems to work at least for a one off fix of this problem, but it’s not at all clear what the demo restrictions are and it does cost a significant amount to register.

  80. Damian says:

    Excellent – this problem was driving me mad. Many thanks for your easy to follow steps to resolve.

  81. Mskeyplus3 says:

    I may have missed this answer but am I to install iExplorer on my iPad or pc? I’m sorry I’m so tired of my iPad acting crazy! It’s been less than a year!

  82. Geoff Leff says:

    Hi, IExplorer gets installed on your PC.

  83. Tom says:

    Great solution, all Apps updatet – however, there still are some “waiting” on the home screen, and these will not load – any idea?

  84. Geoff Leff says:

    Hi Tom,

    If you sync with iTunes it *should* resolve the waiting apps,


  85. JSerr says:


  86. Peter says:

    Hi Geoff,
    and thanks for the answer. I had the problem some times and it is good to know there is a solution.
    I need to contact you regarding the flight tracker but can'[t find your email. Can you contact me please?
    Thanks a million,

  87. Aaron says:

    I just did it but it failed to resolve the problem. Maybe I need to delete the file?

  88. Holly says:

    I had a problem with music and not apps, but it worked just the same! Thanks so much! :)