How to Downgrade iOS and Keep Your Data

Most of the time, you want your iPhone running the most current version of iOS. After all, Apple’s updates tend to offer  cool new features along with performance and security enhancements for your iPhone or iPad.

However, there are times that an iOS update just doesn’t work out well for your device. Whether there was a bug in the update itself or you have an older device that just made the cutoff to receive the update, things are no longer running properly, and you wish you could turn back time to the older iOS version.

Never fear, there is a solution — you can downgrade to a previous version of iOS that was working for you and you’ll be back in action. Here’s how the process works.

Back up before downloading

First, a big warning about downgrading your device — it will be wiped completely to factory settings in the process. If you have an archived backup from a version of iOS at least as old as the version you are downgrading to, you will be able to restore that backup; if not, you are going to be starting over from scratch.

Before you start this process make sure you have backed up any photos, videos or other content from your device that you wouldn’t want to lose.

Where to find older versions of iOS

Only the last couple releases of iOS will work for the downgrade method we’re  using, but assuming everything with your iPhone was fine prior to the current version, then jumping back one version should be enough. You can find these files at ipsw.me, a site that specializes in hosting these files. You’ll need to perform this step on a Mac or PC.

1. Select your device. The site guides you through a two-tiered visual menu to find the exact model of your device.

2. Select the version of iOS you wish to download. Only “Signed IPSWs” with the green checkmark will work for the method that we are going to use through iTunes. Older unsigned versions would require a jailbroken iOS device and a restore outside of iTunes.

3. Click the Download button. Make note of where this file is located as you’ll need to navigate to it later.

Once you’re done downloading the version of iOS that you need, then it’s time to get your device ready for the downgrade.

Put your iOS device in recovery mode

The next step in the downgrade process is to put your iPhone or iPad into Recovery Mode. First power off the device, then connect it to your Mac or PC.

The next step depends on what device you’re looking to downgrade.

  • iPhone 8 or newer: Press and release the Volume Up button, press and release the Volume Down button, then press and hold the Side button until the connect to iTunes screen appears.
  • iPhone 7/7 Plus:Press and hold Side and Volume Down buttons until the connect to iTunes screen appears.
  • iPhone 6s or older, iPad, or iPod Touch: Press and hold Home and Top (or Side) buttons until the connect to iTunes screen appears.
  • iPad Pro 11-inch or iPad Pro 12.9-inch: Press and release the Volume Up button, press and release the Volume Down button, then press and hold the Top Button until the connect to iTunes screen appears.

Downgrading your device to an earlier version of iOS

There’s no turning back once we start this final process, so again make sure that you’ve backed up any photos, videos or other critical files on your iPhone.

Once your device booted into Recovery Mode, iTunes should have opened up automatically on your computer and prompted you; if not, open it yourself and you should be greeted with a Restore prompt.

1. Hold down Shift (PC) or Option (Mac) and click the Restore button.

2. Find the IPSW file that you downloaded earlier, select it and click Open.

3. Click Restore

Once the process completes itself you should be up and running again on the older working version of iOS. If you have an archived backup of your device from this version of iOS or an earlier one, you can restore that now to get back your personal data. Otherwise you’ll just need to go ahead and set up your device as if it were new.

Image Credit: Tom's Guide