ios 16 to ios 17 graphic 10

How to downgrade an iPhone from iOS 17 to iOS 16

Apple consistently releases annual iOS updates, delivering a host of fresh features, security enhancements, and occasional visual makeovers to our iPhones. In September 2023, iOS 17 made its grand entrance. The majority of iPhone users eagerly transition to this new platform, typically embracing the changes with enthusiasm. But what if you find yourself wanting to revert to a prior iOS version? Is that even feasible?

In this article, we delve into the possibilities available when contemplating a downgrade of your iPhone’s iOS.

Is it Possible to Downgrade from One iOS Version to Another?

The feasibility of downgrading iOS depends on various factors, including whether you intend to switch from a brand-new iOS version to an older one, transition from a beta version to a non-beta release, or merely revert to a previous point update within a few days of its issuance. In these scenarios, downgrading is a possibility, but there are limitations.

For example, attempting to downgrade from iOS 16 to iOS 15 is no longer achievable. Similarly, rolling back from iOS 16.6 to iOS 16.5 or iOS 16.6.1 to iOS 16.6 is out of the question. The inability to downgrade arises from Apple’s practice of no longer “signing” these older iOS versions. Nowadays, Apple ceases to sign previous iOS iterations within a few days of a new version’s release.

However, if you act swiftly, there might still be a chance to downgrade from a recent iOS version to its predecessor, and we’ll guide you through the process.

How to Downgrade from a New iOS: iOS 17 to iOS 16.6.1

Let’s illustrate the process by explaining how to downgrade from iOS 17 to iOS 16.6.1, which is currently the last iOS 16 version that Apple is signing. We successfully accomplished this downgrade shortly after iOS 17’s launch when iOS 16.6.1 was still being signed. Theoretically, this process should apply to any update, provided Apple is still signing the prior version. So, before commencing, verify if the older version is still being signed (after several days since the new version’s release, downgrading may no longer be possible).

An alternative way to secure an older iOS version is to create a copy before the arrival of the new one. By installing the iOS version using Finder on your Mac (or iTunes on a PC), you can retain access to that version. In Finder, navigate to Go > Library > iTunes > iPhone Software Update (yes, it’s still found in an iTunes finder on Mac!).

If the old version is still being signed, you may still opt for the new version, but be aware that this process will erase your iPhone. Reinstalling an older iOS version necessitates wiping the current one from your device. Additionally, restoring from a post-update backup will reinstall the newer iOS version on your device.

Here’s the step-by-step process:

  1. Visit IPSW.me and download the appropriate iOS version that matches your iPhone model, ensuring that it is still signed by Apple, though this window is usually quite narrow nowadays. The software will start downloading to your Downloads folder (note that downloading iOS 16.6.1 from this site may take a while due to high demand).
  2. Open Finder on your Mac.
  3. Connect your iPhone.
  4. Disable Find My on your device by going to Settings, tapping on your ID information, selecting Find My > Find My iPhone, and turning off the slider. Enter your Apple ID password when prompted.
  5. Press and hold the Option/Alt key, then click on “Restore iPhone.”
  6. From your downloads folder, select the iOS version you wish to install on your iPhone.
  7. Click “Open.”
  8. A message will confirm the iOS version you’re about to install, which should match your selection. Confirm this and wait as your iPhone is restored.
  9. Your phone will be wiped, and the old iOS version will be installed. In our case, the Finder initially misidentified the version but ultimately installed the desired one.
  10. You’ll need to set up your iPhone as a new device, so be cautious if you want to preserve your data.

The process remains the same when downgrading from iOS 16.6.1 to iOS 16.6, as long as the old version is still signed.

Downgrade iOS on iPhone

How to Downgrade from an iOS Beta

If you’re part of the Apple Beta Software Program, you can also revert from the beta version on your iPhone to the previous iOS version. However, as mentioned earlier, this process involves wiping your iPhone or iPad.

Alternatively, once the full version becomes available, you can exit the Beta program to stop receiving beta updates on your iPhone. You can then install the complete iOS version.

To stop receiving beta updates, follow these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Software Update.
  4. Tap Beta Updates.
  5. Select “Off.”

If you wish to receive beta updates again in the future, return to this screen and choose the desired options.

Why Can’t I Downgrade to an Older iOS Version?

As mentioned previously, the window for downgrading is exceedingly limited. Apple includes a signature with its software releases to confirm their authenticity, primarily for security purposes. This measure prevents inadvertent installation of fraudulent software posing as iOS, which could lead to data theft. In recent years, Apple has removed the signature on previous iOS versions within days, and sometimes concurrently, with the launch of newer versions.

This approach isn’t new. In a 2016 Apple shareholder meeting, Craig Federighi, the company’s senior vice president of software engineering, explained that Apple refrains from providing a downgrade path because each iOS update enhances the security of your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Downgrading would compromise device security, making it easier for hackers to exploit.

If the iOS version you intend to reinstall lacks this signature, you won’t be able to install it on your iPhone or iPad.

The Best Way to Return to a Previous iOS Version

If you absolutely require a specific iOS version, perhaps due to an old app stuck on that version without updates, there’s a somewhat radical solution: purchase an older iPhone.

It may sound unconventional, but it’s likely the most straightforward way to ensure you have the desired iOS version. We recommend checking eBay or refurbished outlets like Decluttr, Amazon Renewed, Back Market, MusicMagpie, or Amazon Renewed (in the U.K.) to find an older model still running the iOS version you need. It’s essential to confirm this with the seller rather than assuming the iPhone will still have the iOS version it had at launch.

However, bear in mind that Apple encourages users to employ its latest software. This guarantees access to the latest features, design, and, most importantly, the latest security updates. To discover the exciting features awaiting you in Apple’s future iterations, take a quick look at our article on the top 5 new features that make iOS 17 an enticing upgrade.

Don’t forget to check more in the Tech section.

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