IPSW is the format Apple uses to distribute firmware (software that assists in the running of a particular device) for its portable gadgets such as the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. In Apple's case, this is the iOS software. Although iTunes can download the firmware updates, you cannot directly access the IPSW file in iTunes. Instead you must open it with file manager software.
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Open your file manager software. This could be Windows Explorer for PCs, Finder on a Mac, or a third-party utility on either system.
Navigate to the appropriate folder in Windows XP if you use it. The folder is at C:\Documents\username\Application Data\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPhone Software Update. Replace "username" with your Windows username. Replace "iPhone" with "iPad" or "iPod" if needed. Note the location is "iPod" not "iPod Touch."
Navigate to the appropriate folder in Windows Vista or later if you use it. The folder is at C:\Users[username]\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPhone Software Updates. Replace "username" with your Windows username. Replace "iPhone" with "iPad" or "iPod" if needed. Note the location is "iPod" not "iPod Touch."
Navigate to the appropriate folder in Mac OSX if you use it. The folder is at ~/Library/iTunes/iPhone Software Updates. The ~ sign may be replaced with another reference to your Home directory. Replace "iPhone" with "iPad" or "iPod" if needed. Note the location is "iPod" not "iPod Touch."
Look for the IPSW file inside the folder. You will normally only see one file, which will be the latest firmware you have downloaded through iTunes. You can now copy this file to another location or computer. Do not remove the original file as this may cause problems next time you sync your device.
Tips and warnings
- The main use for an IPSW file is if you want to download an update through iTunes on a fast connection and then use the file to update your device on a different computer with a slower connection. Alternatively you could download the file once and then use it on multiple computers. To use the IPSW file, connect your iOS device to the computer, open iTunes and select the device, then hold down the Shift key (on PC) or Option key (on Mac) and click on Update. You'll then be able to manually choose the IPSW file on your computer that you want to use for the update.
- If you can't find the "Application Data" folder in Windows, you made need to show hidden files. This setting is in the advanced settings section of the Folder Options menu.
- Apple distributes some firmware and other software by wrapping the IPSW files in a protected format called DMG. It does this either because the software carries a fee and the DMG format helps protect this fee structure, or because the firmware is a beta edition designed only for designated testers and developers. Some third party software can extract an ISPW file from the DMG format, but this is unauthorized and may violate copyright laws.
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