Your Apple device automatically downloads IPSW files when you perform an update via Finder, iTunes, or Software Update. These OS images are essential for the software update process, restoring iPhone to factory default settings, etc.
You can manually manage, explore, and install IPSW files with third-party tools. Follow our guide to learn how IPSW files work, where to download them, and how to use IPSWs to update or downgrade the operating system software that powers your Apple devices.
What are IPSW files? What are they used for?
IPSW (short for iPhone Software) is Apple’s proprietary file format for packaging and delivering iOS and iPadOS firmware updates.
IPSWs hosted on Apple’s servers typically have various improvements, bug fixes, and security updates. These files are required to restore, update or downgrade the software on your iPhone and iPad.
A file with the .ipsw extension is a renamed ZIP archive that contains at least three encrypted volumes in the Apple Disk Image (DMG) file format, along with other installation files, property lists, bootloader, baseband firmware, and so on.
A DMG holds the file system for an entire operating system. The remaining DMGs provide RAM disks for the recovery and update processes.
How to download iOS firmware update files
If automatic updates are enabled in Settings, iPhone will fetch new IPSW files as soon as Apple sends them live. Performing updates via iTunes or Finder will automatically download the appropriate IPSW files to a special folder on your computer.
To access this download location on your Mac, click the Finds icon in the Dock, and press and hold Command + Shift + G on the keyboard or select Go to folder from Go Menu. Press on the PC Windows + R. Next, type the correct path for your OS version in the box (replace “USERNAME” with your Windows account name) and press Enter:
You’ll find one or more IPSW files in device-specific folders titled iPhone software updates, iPad software updatesor iPod software updates.
You cannot change the IPSW download location in iTunes.
Advanced users who want full control over firmware files will download their IPSWs from specialized websites. Use your browser to visit one of the sites recommended in the next section and click on the IPSW download link for your desired device and OS version.
The IPSW archive is stored in your computer’s Downloads folder, so use Finder or File Explorer to explore its contents. You can safely rename IPSW and discard, copy or move it like any other file. Do not worry; deleting downloaded IPSWs will not harm your Apple device.
The best sites to download iPhone IPSW files
People who use automatic updates or the software update feature do not need to worry about IPSWs. However, if you want to flash or downgrade your Apple device manually, you will need to obtain the correct IPSW file for your hardware from one of the following sites:
- IPSW Downloads: The most comprehensive site for IPSW downloads because it provides links dating back to the original iPhone.
- iDownloadBlog: Apart from IPSW download links, iDownloadBlog hosts jailbreak resources and tools like Evasi0n, Absinthe, RedSn0w, etc.
- iClarified: iClarified maintains download links for every released IPSW, each tagged with iOS version number and device model.
- iOS Ninja: Direct IPSW download links for iOS, iPadOS and tvOS firmware updates sorted by device category, model and version.
- iJunkie: IPSWs for all iPhone software updates released so far.
Be sure to disable the feature that automatically opens ZIP archives—Go to Safari > Settingschoose General tab and uncheck the box next to it Open “safe” files after download. Other browsers may change the .ipsw extension to .zip. If so, change it back to .ipsw and iTunes will accept the file (but don’t double-click the ZIP!).
Are IPSW files safe to delete?
Multi-gigabyte IPSW downloads can eat up storage space. After updating the device, discard the IPSWs to avoid running out of disk space. Should an update fail due to a corrupt installer, deleting IPSWs from the above folders will force iTunes or Finder to re-download the correct version the next time you attempt an update.
To see how much space IPSWs are taking up on your Mac, select System settings from the Apple menu in macOS Ventura, choose General in the sidebar, and click Storage right. In older macOS versions, you can choose About this Mac from the Apple menu and press Storage the tab.
The amount of storage wasted on IPSW downloads is shown next to it iOS files. click on Info button to get a list of IPSW files taking up space, select any storage hogs you want to remove, and press Delete button.
How to use downloaded IPSW firmware files
When a device that needs an update is connected to a computer, iTunes or Finder will pop up a dialog box asking if you want to install the latest software. Please respond positively to download the latest IPSW so you don’t have to. Your computer will then install the update on the connected device.
Want to downgrade to an older iOS version? If so, you need to download the correct IPSW file. Then connect your device to your computer’s USB port, launch iTunes or Finder, select your device in the sidebar, and hold Shift (Windows) or Option (Mac) while clicking Restore button. Finally, select the downloaded IPSW file and click Open.
The recovery process will erase all data, reinstall a fresh copy of the latest iOS version, and load factory settings. You can also restore an iPhone or iPad from a backup to avoid losing anything, but be sure to back up your iPhone using either iCloud or your computer beforehand.
Before downgrading, you may need to put your iPhone or iPad into DFU mode. Apple restricts IPSW signing to prevent downgrades to older OS versions that lack the latest security protections. To recover unsigned IPSWs, use the specialized third-party software mentioned just ahead.
The best apps for managing IPSW archives
Aside from iTunes and Finder, the free Apple Configurator app will not only let you install IPSWs, but also quickly deploy multiple devices with custom settings, apps, firmware, and data.
To get the most out of IPSWs, you can use third-party software such as DigiDNA iMazing or Tenorshare ReiBoot. Some of these apps may require a paid subscription to unlock advanced device management features.
Double-clicking an IPSW file in the Finder or File Explorer should open it in iTunes or a third-party app. You will see an error message without suitable software to handle IPSWs.
If the wrong app is trying to open your IPSW file, change your file association: Control-click (macOS) or right-click (Windows) the IPSW file, then choose Open with and select the app that understands the IPSW file extension. On macOS, select the built-in one Archive tool app from the lists. Microsoft users should associate IPSWs with one of their installed file compression apps, such as the free 7-Zip software.
Tinkerers and Jailbreakers love their IPSWs!
Once you know what IPSW files are and how to use them, you can roll back a buggy iPhone update in minutes. And with a third-party app, you can easily downgrade to an older, unsigned iOS version.
IPSW files are essential for jailbreakers, developers, and enthusiasts who like to tinker with iOS, and we hope our guide will help you get the most out of them.