Fix “format not supported by the iPad” error on transferring iTunes movie rentals

For the past several months, I’ve had an ongoing issue with iTunes, where TV shows that I purchase from iTunes download, but then are unplayable with the error “This movie requires QuickTime, which is not supported by this version of iTunes.” Emails to iTunes support have not yielded any response, but I’ve found a work-around, which is to delete the episode from iTunes, tell iTunes to keep the file, and then add the file back into my iTunes library, after which it is playable.

screenshot of the error: “This film requires QuickTime, which is not supported by this version of iTunes.”In preparation for an upcoming long-haul flight today, I rented a couple of HD movies in iTunes on my Mac, and attempted to transfer them to my iPad (3rd generation). In case you didn’t know, you can do this on the Movies tab (it’s labeled Films in the UK English locale) for a connected iPad in iTunes:

iTunes interface for transferring rented movies

At first, it seemed as if the format of HD movie rentals from iTunes was incompatible with the new iPad. The error I was getting was “the video format is not supported by the iPad”, although when the iPad sync only caused a single error, I got a different message: “it cannot be played on this iPad.”

screenshot of the error message: “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” was not copied to the iPad “Kevin Yank’s iPad” because it cannot be played on this iPad.

A few Google searches suggested that, indeed, iTunes HD movie rentals (even the fancy new 1080p ones) should play just fine on the new iPad. After all, it has more pixels than the 1080p TV you probably have in your living room!

After spending a few minutes thinking what a bother it would be to watch these movies in my plane seat on my 15″ MacBook Pro (first world problem, anyone?), I noticed that none of my movie rentals were showing artwork in iTunes, and I remembered the persistent issue I have with TV shows downloaded from the iTunes Store. Could something similar be happening here? I couldn’t check by trying to play the movies, because doing so would kick off my 24-hour rental period (48 hours if you rent from a non-US iTunes store), which I wasn’t ready to do, but I could try my work-around, right?

Deleting the movies from iTunes and re-adding them was going to be tricky, because when you delete a rented movie in iTunes, it doesn’t offer you the option to keep the file. It just deletes it. The trick is to locate the file in Finder (go into the Rentals list in iTunes, right-click on the rental and choose Show in Finder), use Get Info to open the inspector, and check the Locked checkbox to make the file read-only.

screenshot: the Locked checkbox is check

Now I could delete the file safely in iTunes, then drag it back in to iTunes to add it back into my library. If you use this trick, don’t forget to unlock the file afterward, or it will end up stuck on your hard disk taking up space. The movies now had artwork, and would transfer to your iPad without complaint.

screenshot: both movies now transferred to iPad

I’m ready for my flight! :)

5 thoughts on “Fix “format not supported by the iPad” error on transferring iTunes movie rentals

  1. Mike

    I’m in Canada and have had the exact same problem. I spoke with Apple support. They had me delete my iTunes database and start from scratch. I thought it fixed my issue, but it only masked the issue. I have the same thing as you where I can delete the track in iTunes, re-import it to iTunes and it plays fine.If you find any longer term fix, please let me know. I’ll do the same. ..Thanks.

  2. Gary

    Thank you! — I searched and searched for a solution to the very same issue. Your detailed reply helped in my being able to play a series of rented movies on my iPad. Much appreciation.

  3. Annie

    Thank you so much! After a couple hours of Googling different variations of this issue, your page was the most helpful and actually worked!

  4. Jeff

    Great work-around. How did you discover this?

    I was afraid I’d have to go talk to a “genius” who would then have me put my iPad into DFU (de-f*ck-up?) mode and do a “full” restore (which, of course, is anything but “full” — and anything but “fast” — requiring all my Zinio magazines, Audible audiobooks, Kindle books, etc, to be re-downloaded), only to discover that my purchased iTunes videos still wouldn’t sync.

    iTunes purchases and rentals are supposed to make the process so painless that people will stop pirating stuff. With these kinds of non-sensical and unhelpful errors, Apple is shooting themselves in the foot.

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