Your Apple device automatically downloads IPSW files when performing an update via the Finder, iTunes, or Software Update. These OS images are essential to the software update process, restoring your iPhone to default factory settings, etc.
You can manually manage, explore, and install IPSW files with third-party tools. Follow along with our tutorial to learn how IPSW files work, where to download them from and how to use IPSWs to update or downgrade the operating system software powering your Apple devices.
What Are IPSW Files? What Are They Used For?
IPSW (short for iPhone Software) is Apple’s proprietary file format for the package and delivery of iOS and iPadOS firmware updates.
Hosted on Apple’s servers, IPSWs typically bring various enhancements, bug fixes, and security patches. These files are required to restore, update, or downgrade the software on the iPhone and iPad.
A file with a .ipsw extension is a renamed ZIP archive containing at least three encrypted volumes in the Apple Disk Image (DMG) file format, along with other installer files, property lists, the bootloader, baseband firmware, and so on.
One DMG holds the file system for a whole operating system. The remaining DMGs provide RAM disks for the restore and update processes.
How to Download iOS Firmware Update Files
If automatic updates are enabled in Settings, your iPhone will fetch new IPSW files as soon as Apple pushes them live. Performing updates through iTunes or Finder will automatically download appropriate IPSW files into a special folder on your computer.
To access this download location on your Mac, click the Finder icon in the Dock, then press and hold Command + Shift + G on the keyboard or choose Go to Folder from the Go menu. On your PC, press Windows + R. Next, type the correct path for your OS version in the box (replace “USERNAME” with your Windows account name) and hit Enter:
You’ll find one or more IPSW files in device-specific folders titled iPhone Software Updates, iPad Software Updates, or iPod Software Updates.
You cannot change the IPSW download location in iTunes.
Power users who want complete control over firmware files will want to download their IPSWs from specialized websites. Using your browser, visit one of the websites recommended in the next section and click the IPSW download link for the desired device and OS version.
The IPSW archive is saved in your computer’s Downloads folder, so use Finder or File Explorer to explore its contents. You can safely rename the IPSW and trash, copy, or move it like any other file. Don’t worry; deleting downloaded IPSWs won’t damage your Apple device.
The Best Sites to Download iPhone IPSW Files
Folks who use automatic updates or the Software Update feature needn’t worry about IPSWs. However, if you want to flash or downgrade your Apple device manually, you’ll need to obtain the appropriate IPSW file for your hardware from one of the following websites:
- IPSW Downloads: The most comprehensive website for IPSW downloads because it provides links dating back to the original iPhone.
- iDownloadBlog: Aside from IPSW download links, iDownloadBlog hosts jailbreak resources and tools such as Evasi0n, Absinthe, RedSn0w, etc.
- iClarified: iClarified maintains download links for every released IPSW, each labeled with the 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 the iPhone software updates released thus far.
Be sure to disable the feature that automatically opens ZIP archives—Go to Safari > Settings, select the General tab, and untick the box next to Open “safe” files after downloading. Other browsers may change the .ipsw extension to .zip. In that case, 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 gobble up storage space. After you successfully update your device, trash 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 redownload the correct version the next time you attempt an update.
To see how much space IPSWs take up on your Mac, choose System Settings from the Apple menu in macOS Ventura, select General in the sidebar, and click Storage on the right. In older macOS versions, you can choose About This Mac from the Apple menu and hit the Storage tab.
The amount of storage space wasted on IPSW downloads is displayed next to iOS Files. Click the Info button to get a list of IPSW files taking up space, select any storage hogs you’d like to clear, and hit the Delete button.
How to Use Downloaded IPSW Firmware Files
When a device needing an update connects to a computer, iTunes or Finder will pop up a dialog asking whether you’d like to install the latest software. Respond positively to have the most recent IPSW downloaded, so you don’t have to. Your computer will then install the update to the connected device.
Want to downgrade to an older iOS version? In that case, you must provide download the correct IPSW file. Then, plug the device into the computer’s USB port, launch iTunes or Finder, select your device in the sidebar, and hold down Shift (Windows) or Option (Mac) while clicking the Restore button. Finally, select the downloaded IPSW file and click Open.
The restore 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 might need to put your iPhone or iPad in DFU mode. Apple restricts IPSW signing to prevent downgrades to older OS versions that lack the latest security protections. To restore unsigned IPSWs, use the specialized third-party software mentioned right ahead.
The Best Apps to Manage IPSW Archives
Aside from iTunes and Finder, the free Apple Configurator app won’t just let you install IPSWs but also quickly deploy multiple devices with custom settings, apps, firmware, and data.
To make the most out of IPSWs, you can use third-party software such as DigiDNA iMazing or Tenorshare ReiBoot. Some of those 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’ll see an error message without suitable software to handle IPSWs.
If the wrong app attempts to open the 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 type. On macOS, choose the built-in Archive Utility app from the lists. Microsoft users should associate IPSWs with one of the installed apps for file compression, such as the free 7-Zip software.
Tinkerers and Jailbreakers Love Their IPSWs!
Knowing what IPSW files are and how to use them lets you roll back a buggy iPhone update within 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 around with iOS, and we hope our guide helps you make the most out of them.