iOS 13 will be arriving on iPhones on 19 September, in fact many are already running the final version of iOS 13 because beta testers were able to get their hands on the Gold Master following the 10 September keynote. iOS 13 will bring a lot of excellent new features to your iPhone, but what if once you get it you find that important apps you rely on no longer works, or maybe you hear about security concerns around the release (we aren't aware of any, but it happens). If you want to revert to an older version of iOS you can, but the options are limited and won't be available indefinitely.
It is possible to remove the latest version of iOS 12 from your iPhone or iPad and go back to something earlier, but you have to move fast - it all depends on whether Apple is still 'signing' the earlier version. iOS 11, for example, is no longer available, but each time a new version of iOS 12 comes out it will be possible to downgrade to the one before.
In this article, we show you how to downgrade iOS 13 on your iPhone or iPad, and also discuss the possible dangers of doing so. We'll also look at whether you can still downgrade from iOS 12 to iOS 11, and what options you have in that scenario.
Note, if you are running a beta of iOS downgrading is easier (depending on your viewpoint). We have a separate article about downgrading the iOS beta.
Should you downgrade iOS?
A couple of things worth noting before you try to downgrade.
First up, downgrading iOS will require you to completely wipe your phone - all your contacts, photos, apps and everything else will be deleted. It's not like the upgrade process where all your data remains intact.
While it will be possible to restore from a backup once you're running the old version of iOS again, you won't be able to restore from a backup you made while running the newer one. If your iPhone or iPad has automatically backed up via iCloud since you've upgraded, you won't be able to access any of your data after downgrading. You'll have to start again from scratch, or restore from an older backup (if available).
Can I downgrade iOS?
Even if you have decided that you are happy to risk losing your data and put up with the disadvantages of downgrading it is possible that it will be impossible to do so.
In order to downgrade to an older version of iOS Apple needs to still be 'signing' the old version of iOS. As a rule of thumb, Apple tends to stop signing the older version around two days after the release of the new version. That means that the window is small, and it's worth checking that it's still available before following the below tutorial.
While there's no official resource, you can head to this site to check the status for your iOS device; this site also lists signed versions of iOS for each device. If Apple has stopped signing the software and you still try, chances are your phone will be wiped and you'll be prompted to re-install the latest version of iOS 12, which at the time of writing is iOS 12.4.1.
If Apple is only signing the current version of iOS that means that you can't downgrade at all. But if Apple is still signing the previous version you will be able to return to that.
One option if you can't revert to the version of iOS that you need could be to buy a second-hand iPhone running the version you require, but remember you won't be able to recover your latest backup of your iPhone onto the new device without updating the iOS software too.
How to downgrade to iOS 12
Follow these instructions to downgrade to an older version of iOS:
This process uses iTunes, note that when macOS Catalina arrives in October the method will change because the iPhone will be managed via the Finder on a Mac.
- Open iTunes on your PC or Mac. If you haven't got it already, download it from the Apple site.
- Download the old iOS software update (assuming it's still being signed - see warnings above). There are many sites that offer IPSW downloads; just make sure you're downloading the software for your specific device or the restore will fail in iTunes.
- Connect your iPhone or iPad running the newer version of iOS to your PC or Mac, and select it in the dropdown in the top-left of iTunes.
- Click Restore iPhone while holding down the Option/Alt key (Mac) or the Shift key (Windows) and locate the IPSW file you downloaded earlier.
- Once you select the software, it should be verified and extracted by iTunes and loaded onto your iOS device.
And that's it! Once the process is complete, you'll be welcomed by the older iOS welcome screen. Simply follow the setup instructions and select a backup to restore from (if available).