iOS 7 has been quickly adopted by iPhone and iPad owners; after a month it was on three-quarters of active iPhones. But not everyone is happy, with some complaining about the new look, the effect on older iPhones' performance, and various changes to the user experience. In this article we discuss methods to downgrade from iOS 7 to iOS 6 - but be warned that they're exceptionally difficult to pull off. Updated 11 March 2014 to cover iOS 7.1.

Before we get on to the downgrade methods, however, a word of warning. The original method of downgrading from iOS 7 to iOS 6 on your iPhone or iPad (listed at the bottom of this article for the benefit of future downgraders) doesn't currently work, and the only method that's left is extremely hard to do, and only works in a small number of cases. It may therefore be worth considering sticking with iOS 7 - we certainly recommend this (see Hate iOS 7? Give it a month, 7 things we love about iOS 7, and 5 reasons to upgrade to iOS 7). Besides, we may be able to help with whatever is annoying you about the iOS 7 software.

For one thing, iOS 7.1 is out now, and this is supposed to fix some of the issues with the original iOS 7. You can read about all the new features of iOS 7.1 elsewhere, but most relevant for iPhone 4 owners (and some iPhone 4s owners) who have experienced slower performance since upgrading is the claim by Apple that iOS 7.1 improves this state of affairs.

iOS 7.1 also tweaks the design, which may be good news for some. The green of the FaceTime, Messages and Phone icons are less yellow, for instance - not quite so 'toxic chemical spill'.

And there are more tweaks and tips we can suggest for unhappy iOS 7 users. If you've not got the hang of iOS 7's many new features, for example, you could try Get to know iOS 7 using our 40 tipsHow to take eye-catching photos in iOS 7 and Secrets of the iOS 7 keyboard.

If you're facing bugs, crashes and other problems, take a look at How to fix iOS 7 glitches and Dealing with the quirks of iOS 7. And if battery life is suffering, try How to improve iPhone battery life in iOS 7 and iOS 6. If you don't like the look of text in iOS 7, read How to make text in iOS 7 more legible.

How to downgrade from iOS 7 to iOS 6

Still determined to dump iOS 7 for iOS 6? Okay - let's see if we can help.

[Also related: What people hate about Apple iOS 7: review of reviews | What people love about Apple iOS 7]

How to downgrade from iOS 7 to iOS 6: the new, extremely difficult method

This method, as discovered and explained by Simon Hill on DigitalTrends, is incredibly specific in terms of the hardware and software it works with. Brace yourself, because this gets nasty. To downgrade to iOS 6, you'll need:

  • 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)

Don't worry about the SHSH blobs just yet - we'll explain what that means shortly. First of all, are you downgrading on an iPhone 4, and do you use a Windows PC? (If the answer to the latter is yes, perhaps you're one of the many PC users who happen across Macworld via search engines. In which case, welcome! And have you considered switching to a Mac?) If the answer to either is no, then this method isn't for you, unfortunately.

(If you'd like help running Windows on a Mac, by the way, try our Windows on a Mac tips masterclass.) 

If you are using a Windows computer and an iPhone 4, then we can press on. Is your version of iTunes 11.0.5 or earlier? If you've updated to a more recent version (I'm on 11.1.1), you can still use this method, provided you uninstall iTunes entirely and redownload iTunes 11.0.5 from the web (although not from Apple's site). DigitalTrends suggests Old Apps, but you may be able to find other sources with a quick search.

How to downgrade iTunes 11 to iTunes 10 in Mac OS X

Finally, what's an SHSH blob, and have you saved one? It's a cryptographic key - a small bit of saved data - that Apple uses to control the version of iOS you can install on your iPhone or other iOS device. Each one is uniquely generated for a specific device, so you can't use someone else's. Jailbreakers commonly save these blobs locally so that in future they can trick iTunes into restoring their devices to an earlier version of iOS.

(If you don't know where your SHSH blob is, you can try to find it using the jailbreaking tool iFaith. Start iFaith up, select OK, and choose 'Show Available SHSH Caches on Server', then Yes. Now pick 'Show list of available SHSH blobs on TSS server(s)', and pick a blob to download.)

iFaith is available from GitHub.

If you've got all of these ingredients, we can go ahead with downgrading from iOS 7 to iOS 6. The remaining steps run as follow:

  1. Back up your iPhone
  2. Connect your iPhone 4 to the Windows computer
  3. Start iFaith and select ‘Build signed IPSW w/ blobs’, ‘Browse for SHSH blobs’ and select the one you saved or found with iFaith earlier
  4. To get the iOS firmware file, choose ‘Download it for me’, and then (when it’s finished) ‘Build IPSW’
  5. Note the name of the IPSW file, then select OK
  6. 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
  7. Start up iTunes (version 11.0.5 or earlier, remember) and - after it detects your iPhone - click OK
  8. Hold Shift and click ‘Restore iPhone’ under Summary. Find the IPSW file and select it
  9. Follow remaining instructions

Head over to DigitalTrends for a fuller explanation of how this method works. And we'd probably recommend the technique for experience techies only.

How to downgrade from iOS 7 to iOS 6: the old, easy method [that no longer works]

[Edit, 17 Jan 2014: this method no longer works, as Apple has stopped signing pre-iOS 7 operating systems for installation. We're going to keep it here since it may work on future versions of iOS - users may well wish to downgrade from iOS 8 to iOS 7 - but everything in italics currently doesn't work.]

According to our poll, 64% of Macworld readers think that iOS 7 is great. However, there are some people who are not so keen. Like many Apple mobile users, I pressed the big Upgrade button on Wednesday night this week to install Apple iOS 7.  By the following evening, I’d had enough and was desperately seeking a way to turn back the clock and return to iOS 6. Here’s how to downgrade from iOS 7 to iOS 6. 

To downgrade from iOS 7 to iOS 6 is actually ridiculously easy - under certain conditions at least. But why would you want to turn your back on all that translucent bright and shininess? In my case, and in two words, iPad 3.

Otherwise known by its formal title of Apple iPad with Retina display, the first Retina-class iPad was launched by Apple in March 2012, and based on my experience at least it does not run iOS at all well.  

It runs, yes, but with a sticky interface punctuated by cheap Android-like judders and stutters instead of the usual Apple oil-on-glass slickness. I realise my expectations are ridiculously high – you may have an iPad 3 with iOS 7 and be entirely happy with it. I did, and I was not. 

In fact, it’s made me realise that the graphics engine in the third-generation iPad is only just quick enough to run the highly optimised iOS 6 with sufficient speed that you barely see any micro-second hesitations.  

I’ve seen iOS 7 running on the current iPad 4th-generation model, and there’s little complaint about its performance. So it seems there’s a very good reason Apple was keen to introduce the iPad 4 model with its faster Apple A6X chip and PowerVR SGX 554MP4 graphics processing unit, just six months after the iPad 3.  

Where the iPad 3 is just fast enough to run Retina graphics, the iPad 4 has power to spare, and certainly sufficient to give iOS 7 its required swish. 

Hate iOS 7? Give it a month / Forget the iPhone 6: iOS 7 is what will transform your user experience

Can I remove iOS 7 and install iOS 6? 

[Just to repeat that this method no longer works, as Apple has stopped signing pre-iOS 7 operating systems for installation. We're going to keep it here since it may work on future versions of iOS - users may well wish to downgrade from iOS 8 to iOS 7 - but everything in italics currently doesn't work.]

In certain cases, yes you can officially remove iOS 7 and install iOS 6. For this relatively simple tast, you will need an iPhone or iPad that Apple will still authorise installing older iOS software. You also need a Mac or Windows PC with iTunes software, and the necessary Lightning or 30-pin cable for your device. 

With credit to 9to5mac.com, I found JustaPenguin, a site that lists all Apple devices that run iOS software and importantly, their Apple Signing Status. 

Contrary to what I and many have been led to believe, Apple does allow limited backgrades for some of its mobile hardware; typically to the latest version of the previous integer release. 

In my case, I wanted to prepare a clean install without restoring old files and apps, preferring to do a manual rebuild of the iPad to the way I wanted it again. But you should also be able to restore your files and settings using previous setup. Just don’t forget to make a full backup in iTunes of your device first.

You can download the required .ipsw (iPhone/Pad/Pod software) file from JustaPenguin, or from numerous other sites. 

Do take advantage of the security hashes though – it’s within the realms of possibility that taking an operating system file from a party other than Apple may not be secure, and the firmware may have been tampered with to introduct malware or backdoors. With the help of a MD5 or SHA1 security hash, you can check if a file has been tampered.

How to check integrity of iOS firmware

In Apple OS X, use the Terminal.app to verify that the file you’ve downloaded has not been corrupted by accident or design.

One such way is with SHA1 hash file. After you’ve downloaded the correct .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. I looked at a few sources in the hope that consensus would provide some integrity – for example The iPhoneWiki as well as my source download site of Icj.  

How to install iOS 6 on an iOS 7 device

[Just to repeat that this method no longer works, as Apple has stopped signing pre-iOS 7 operating systems for installation. We're going to keep it here since it may work on future versions of iOS - users may well wish to downgrade from iOS 8 to iOS 7, if history is any guide - but everything in italics currently doesn't work.]

Satisified that you have an unadulterated genuine Apple firmware file, the rest is easy.

Plug your iPhone or iPad into your computer by its USB cable. Launch iTunes. Click on the device icon in top-right corner of iTunes.app window.

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, for example in the Downloads folder, 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 deactive this first.)

That’s it – after the install process you should have your iPhone or iPad back to its iOS version 6 shape.