What to do if your iOS device refuses to install updates over the air

Many of us – me included – keep having a problem where our devices see a new iOS version and tell us they’re happy to install it over the air. When the device is restarted it contacts the Apple server to verify the install, only to present an error message along the lines of “Your device could not be activated”. This happens after a short delay.

The only way to recover from this is to install the .ipsw file via DFU mode and restore an iCloud backup. This takes ages and really is unnecessary hassle.

I’ve just come across a solution that worked for me – and it’s something I hadn’t really thought about. I’ve read many reports that point to the iPad 2 – 3G 64GB version as something rather prone to this problem, but it turns out it may have been the DNS on my WiFi connection.

While it works for all my web browsing needs, I guess my provider’s own DNS isn’t passing through some port on which my device is verifying the update with Apple – whichever detail that may be. By simply changing the default to Google’s public DNS ( I was able to activate my iPad without a hitch.

To change the DNS, head over to Settings – WiFi, then find your network and tap the little info icon next to its name. Take a look at the DNS setting. Mine was the same IP as my router, meaning my internet provider takes care of DNS lookups.


Aside from Google, OpenDNS also has a couple of popular DNS IP addresses:

Let me know if it helps!

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