How to Use IPSW files
IPSW stands rather simply for iOS Software, and IPSW files are basically just individual firmware downloads for specific iOS devices. These files can be used to update iOS devices manually with the help of iTunes. If you’ve recently downloaded an iOS IPSW file, you might be curious how to use it to update your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad. Using IPSW is often considered advanced but it’s actually pretty easy, just follow along with these directions and you’ll be along your way.
Before using a firmware file to update, you will want to backup the iOS device to be safe.
How to Use IPSW Files
You can use IPSW files on Mac or Windows, both require iTunes to work properly. To use the latest version of IPSW firmware files to update or restore an iOS device, you’ll want to be sure you have the latest version of iTunes installed as well.
- Connect your iPhone or iOS device to your computer
- Select the device in iTunes
- On a Mac, hold down the “Option” key and then click on “Update”
- On a Windows PC, hold down “SHIFT” key and then click on “Update”
- Select the IPSW file you downloaded and click “Choose”
- Let the iOS device update as usual
Going the IPSW route can take longer to update than using the newer OTA (over the air) method, the reason being that OTA uses smaller delta updates than the larger IPSW files, which are the full sized downloads and are often literally 10x the download size.
You can also click on “Restore” and select an IPSW instead but you will lose the existing files and settings on your iOS device. If you go that route, do not forget to backup beforehand.
Why use IPSW?
Though the average user is better off going the easy routes of updating iOS with iTunes or OTA, IPSW can have very practical uses as well. A significant advantage to using firmware files can be found for users with limited access to broadband internet, where downloading a software update on a remote faster connection makes more sense. Typically you would then copy that IPSW file to a USB key or DVD to bring it home to manually update a device. Also, for users with many of the same iOS devices, having a single IPSW downloads let’s you conserve bandwidth by applying a single update to many devices.
Rarely, firmware files are required to restore a malfunctioning iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch that is basically bricked, but still functional. This is somewhat rare, but if an iOS update is interrupted it can happen, which usually requires a device be placed into DFU mode and restored manually with firmware. Typically a normal iTunes based restore is sufficient, which is why that is fairly rare.
Finally, there are some cases where IPSW is necessary to create custom configured firmware for future restores. This typically ties in with the “Restore” method of updating, which allows the use of custom IPSW files, and is generally something created with a third party application like PwnageTool or sn0wbreeze. This is almost exclusively relevant to those who jailbreak and unlock their hardware though, and for the average user the standard IPSW files available from Apple work just fine.
Where do you get IPSW files?
We have several comprehensive lists of iOS IPSW files hosted from Apple’s servers, you can see them all and access the downloads from the following places:
- Browse IPSW files for all iOS Versions here
- iPhone iOS firmware
- Older iPhone ISPW
- Older iPod touch IPSW
- Older iPad IPSW
Note that each list includes all iOS versions after 3.0. Not all versions of iOS IPSW will work on all devices, so be sure to select the proper version for your hardware, and to use the latest which is supported.