How can I downgrade from iOS 8 to iOS 7? Will I be able to delete iOS 8 from my iPhone or iPad and use an earlier operating system? Can I reinstall iOS 7 (or iOS 6) after upgrading to iOS 8?
For those who are worried about getting stuck with iOS 8 when it's launched next month, this article will explain how to downgrade your iPhone or iPad (or iPod touch) to an older version of iOS - the pitfalls, the problems, and the preparations you can make before upgrading in the first place.
Before we start, however, we should of course point out that iOS 8 isn't out yet, and hasn't even been announced. This is a preliminary article that will discuss how downgrading has worked in the past, aiming to help you plan your upgrade (or choose not to upgrade at all, if the downgrading process's difficulty puts you off). This will be updated with the latest information once Apple unveils iOS 8.
(If you're wondering, iOS will almost certainly launch at WWDC 2014, which starts on 2 June, with a beta programme allowing early access shortly after that. Expect public access to open alongside the launch of the iPhone 6 and iPad 6 around September or October.)
How to downgrade from iOS 8 to iOS 7: The easy method
With iOS 7 there was an easy method of downgrading to the previous operating system, and a difficult one. But the easy one was only possible for early beta testers, and for a week or so after public access was opened. Around the 21st of September 2013, Apple stopped 'signing' (allowing) pre-iOS 7 operating systems for installation. Apple may run things differently with iOS 8 (there's been a lot of user anger at the inability to easily downgrade to iOS 6), but expect downgrading to get harder - if you desperately want to reinstall iOS 7, do so early.
We'll start with the easier downgrade method that used to be possible with iOS 7, and may well work in the early days with iOS 8.
You can download the required .ipsw (iPhone/Pad/Pod software) file for your chosen version of iOS from JustaPenguin or a similar site. (That site also lists which versions of iOS are usable for each iOS device.)
Because you’re not downloading the software from Apple itself, we should check it's safe. (If you're feeling reckless, you can skip this step.) In Apple OS X, use Terminal to verify that the file you’ve downloaded has not been corrupted.
After you've downloaded the .ipsw file, run the following command:
/usr/bin/openssl sha1 path/to/file
You can type or paste just the '/usr/bin/openssl sha1' part of the command, then drag-and-drop your .ipsw file to the Terminal window to complete the path to the file itself.
Compare the alphanumeric string you see with that published on trusted sites. We looked at a few sources: The iPhoneWiki as well as our source download site of Icj.
Satisfied that you have an genuine firmware file, plug your iPhone or iPad into your Mac by its USB cable. Launch iTunes. Click on the device icon in the top-right corner.
Hold down Option or Alt key, and click on the button labelled Restore iPhone...
An open file dialog window appears. Navigate to your downloaded .ipsw file and click Open. Then let iTunes do the rest. You should have an iPad or iPhone restored to iOS 6 after a few tens of minutes. (If you have Find my iPad or Find my iPhone activated, you will be asked to deactivate this first.)
How to downgrade from iOS 8 to iOS 7: The hard method
And here's a radically simplified version of the hard method, which currently is the only way to downgrade from iOS 7 to iOS 6. It's best to assume, when you upgrade to iOS 8, that it will be just as hard as this to go back. Upgrading iOS should be viewed as a major commitment.
Make sure you've got:
- An iPhone 4
- A Windows computer
- iTunes 11.0.5 or earlier
- Saved SHSH blobs for iOS 6.1.3 or earlier
- iFaith (a jailbreaking software tool - available from GitHub.)
[If you haven't been saving your SHSH blobs - and if you're not a jailbreaker there's not really any reason why you would - then don't be tempted to look for them online. They're created specifically for the chip in your iOS device so you won’t be able to use someone else's. And what's more, people often use SHSH blobs as a lure to spread malware or scam people out of money.]
- Back up your iPhone
- Connect your iPhone 4 to the Windows computer
- Start iFaith and select ‘Build signed IPSW w/ blobs’, ‘Browse for SHSH blobs’ and select the one you saved or found with iFaith earlier
- To get the iOS firmware file, choose ‘Download it for me’, and then (when it’s finished) ‘Build IPSW’
- Note the name of the IPSW file, then select OK
- Hold the sleep button your iPhone, then slide to power off. Press Start in iFaith and follow the instructions to put the iPhone into DFU mode
- Start up iTunes (version 11.0.5 or earlier, remember) and - after it detects your iPhone - click OK
- Hold Shift and click ‘Restore iPhone’ under Summary. Find the IPSW file and select it
- Follow remaining instructions
That should do the trick.
How to downgrade from iOS 8 to iOS 7: The beta programme
One thing you can consider is joining the developer beta programme, which Apple will announce alongside the new software. This is the scheme that lets app developers download and try out beta versions of iOS 8 ahead of its public launch, so that they can make their software work with it.
You'll get bragging rights (I've got the latest version of iOS on my iPad, and it hasn't even been released yet!), you can have a proper go on it ahead of launch to see if its broad design changes are to your liking, and downgrading will probably be easier for you than it will be for the general public.
But joining the beta costs money, and the versions of iOS 8 you'll get access to won't be finished. And you're not supposed to publish information about it (and certainly not reviews) ahead of launch - you'll have to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
How to downgrade from iOS 8 to iOS 7: How to prepare for upgrading
The fact that we're discussing this before Apple even announces iOS 8 gives us an advantage - we haven’t upgraded yet, and we can prepare for the launch. What should you do to make sure that upgrading is right for you, and to boost your chances of being able to go back if you don’t like it?
In fact, we discuss this elsewhere in some detail, but the gist of our advice would be:
- Don’t upgrade unless you’re sure - check the reviews, try it out on friends’ devices, and make sure you’re reading advice specific to your model of iPad or iPhone (older models may not get all the features, for instance, or may suffer from performance problems).
- Consider joining the beta programme in advance, as discussed above.
- Save your SHSH blobs before upgrading.
- If you do upgrade, don’t do it on launch day - there will be heavy traffic on Apple’s servers, and you won’t get a chance to try it on your mates’ phones.
- Equally, don’t leave it too long. If there’s a honeymoon period at the start when downgrading is easier (as there was with iOS 7) it probably won’t last long.
Finally, we'd add a word of comfort to those who do upgrade and then find themselves unable to go back. First, an iOS upgrade is a major thing that underpins everything you do with your smartphone or tablet, and so it's likely to take a while to get used to it. This is particularly true with aesthetic updates. Second, Apple won't sit still; expect updates to iOS 8 that solve some or all of the most highly publicised gripes and issues.
How to downgrade from iOS 8 to iOS 7: Why does Apple make it so hard to go back to an older version of iOS?
Because it's easier to support a user base that’s concentrated on a small number of software platforms. (Compare things in the more fragmented and confusing world of Android.) Because it’s easier for developers to build apps for such an audience. Because users on the latest software make the best evangelists for an ecosystem of products. (Look! My iPhone has AirDrop!) And, probably, because encouraging people to use the latest software in turn encourages them to upgrade their hardware.
How to downgrade from iOS 8 to iOS 7: Should you upgrade?
It’s obviously too early to speak specifically about iOS 8, which we can only speculate about. But as a general rule iOS upgrades are something to take seriously - they fundamentally alter your experience with a very expensive piece of consumer hardware, and often can’t be undone.
I'm a fan of iOS 7, and love trying out new features and getting used to a new look. But it can be unpleasant at first, and some people have never grown accustomed to iOS 7's design. Just because it's called an upgrade, don’t assume it’s guaranteed to be an improvement.
More coverage of WWDC 2014
But what else should you expect at WWDC 2014 (where iOS 8 is expected to be unveiled)?
Want to know what happened last year? At WWDC 2013, Apple unveiled OS X 10.9 Mavericks and iOS 7, both of which were released as beta versions after the event, as well as the new Mac Pro, a new MacBook Air, iTunes Radio, and iWork for iCloud.
This year, as well as iOS 8, Apple is likely to launch OS X 10.10, as well as other new products such as a Retina MacBook Air, and maybe even an iPhone 6 and an iWatch.