iOS 7 is here! It’s different! It’s beautiful! It’s… terrifying! Not brave enough for this brave new world? It might not be too late to go back. Past a certain point it’s going to become virtually impossible to put iOS 6 back on your phone, but for now you may be able to postpone the inevitable. Be warned: The road ahead is treacherous.
A few quick disclaimers before we get started:
- The easiest way to go back to iOS 6 is to never leave in the first place. Don’t install iOS 7 if you have any reservations at all.
- Back up your data before you do any of this. Back up your data on a regular basis anyway. Back up your data.
The first step is (again, always) to back up your device. Next, go get the build of iOS 6 that your phone runs. If you have an iPhone 5, that means grabbing iOS 6.1.4. If you have something else (iPhone 4S and below, iPads 2-4, iPod Touch 4 or 5, or iPad Mini) you’ll want 6.1.3.
Did you back up your device yet? Back up your device.
Now put your phone into Device Firmware Update (DFU) mode by plugging it into the computer and holding the home button and the power button for 10 seconds. Then let go of the power button and only the power button, and keep the home button pressed down for another 10 seconds or so. The screen will stay black, but iTunes will detect a phone in recovery mode. It’s worth noting that this isn’t strictly necessary, but it does make matters a little simpler.
Ignore any restore prompt iTunes throws at you. Specifically this one.
Open the panel for your iPhone and option-click/shift-click (OSX/Windows) on Restore iPhone.
This will give you a dialog box popup; use it to go find that ipsw file you downloaded after you backed up your device. And bam, you should be good to go. If things aren’t working, try booting up your phone, disabling Find My iPhone, and do it all again.
There you go, back to skeumorphic goodness. Now just avoid installing iOS 7 for as long as you can bear it. And while you’re doing that, try to make peace with the fact that iOS 7 is coming for you eventually, and there’s pretty much nothing you can do to stop it.
This is available for limited time only. At some point — soon — this process is going to stop working. Maybe it already has. Once it does you’re probably stuck. And probably forever. I know, that might be tough to hear, but as a consolation prize, there’s a perfectly good explanation.
In order to install an operating system on an iPhone, you need something called a SHSH blob (Signature HaSH blobs). Your SHSH blob is basically a crypto signature used to verify that the firmware on your iDevice is legit. Simply put, if you slap iOS 6 back on your phone, iTunes will need an key to verify it. So long as Apple is actively supporting iOS 6, iTunes can whip up a key on the spot and you’re all good. But once Apple stops “signing” iOS 6, you’ll have to use a key you saved earlier. Your key is specific to your device, and you need to have grabbed it before you got rid of iOS 6. There’s no way around it.
If you’re still on iOS 6 and haven’t actually gone to iOS 7 yet, you should be able to prevent buyer’s remorse by grabbing your SHSH blobs before you leave. You can snag them with a little program called TinyUmbrella. Boot it up and then plug in you iOS 6 phone. Click your phone’s name in the left hand bar and click “Save SHSH”. Then you’ll have your key if you need it later, and want to beat a retreat from iOS 7. But, if you’re already off of iOS 6 it’s already too late.
There’s (a faint, faint glimmer of) hope!
If you jailbroke your phone when you were on iOS 6.1.4, there’s a chance you might still be able to downgrade since Cydia (the jailbreak app store) will actually save your SHSH blobs for you. This means there’s an old key out there for your device that can unlock iOS 6 even though Apple’s not supporting it any more.
The process for doing this is still being hammered out by hackier minds than ours, and we’ll update with specifics as they become clearer.
But really, just live with it
Downgrading is exactly what it sounds like, a downgrade. Like it or not, iOS 7 is the future of Apple products. It just is. Apple derives its ease-of-use by quashing fragmentation and making sure that as many people as humanly possible are all using the same operating system.
The transition can be difficult, but you’ll get through it. Remember people were afraid of iOS 6 because of the Apple Maps stuff? And now you’re trying to go back? It all turned out fine then, and it’ll work out this time too. Really.
Because iOS 7 is rolling out to users everywhere, making it as good as possible is Apple’s number one software priority right now. If you run away to iOS 6 (if you even can) you’re just spending more time on a sinking ship that Apple is actively scuttling.
OS upgrades are good; they mean better things are coming. And if you’re not too keen on having to change, just go talk to an Android user who’s been stuck on an outdated non-stock ROM for ages. We know, this is a tough time. But you’ll get through it, and you’ll come out on the other side with an iOS that’s alive and kicking.