Daily tip: How to install a beta version of iOS via XCode or iTunes beta [Mac only]

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Here is a tip for developers on how to install a beta for iOS using XCode or iTunes. One of the coolest things about being an iOS developer is being able to check out new versions of iOS before they're publicly released. With WWDC 2011 upon us, we should see a beta of iOS 5 soon. If you're a new developer, or you're testing for a current developer, you'll want to make sure you install beta firmware correctly. If you don't, this can lead to problems when upgrading to official or later versions of iOS.

As a forewarning, betas are only intended for developers and testers. Don't expect a beta to be flawless, expect the opposite. I also recommend installing betas on a test device when you can in case something goes wrong.

So if you're new to this process, hit the jump for a walkthrough of how to provision your device and install a beta version of iOS. And obviously, betas are Mac only.

Download the SDK, XCode, iTunes beta, and iOS firmware

  1. Log in to your developer account on Apple's Developer Site.
  2. Next you'll need to go into the dev center for iOS.

  3. Under downloads, you'll see a link for the SDK, iTunes, and beta firmware IPSWs.
  4. Download everything you need and then move on to the next step. (Note: If you're installing via iTunes beta, you don't "have" to install the SDK if you don't want to.

Provision your device's UDID within the the Apple Developer Portal

There's a couple ways to add your UDID to the provisioning portal. The easiest is with XCode (which is what you should be using anytime you are installing beta firmware).

  1. Simply open XCode with your device plugged in. It should bring up your device in the side bar. Right click and choose to add it to the provisioning portal. XCode should ask for your developer login.

  2. Alternately, you can also log into the developer portal and add a UDID via the provisioning portal as well. The XCode option is just a lot easier as it does it for you. You can pull your UDID from XCode or from iTunes (simply click your serial number until it changes to the longer 40 digit number, that is your UDID and what you need to enter into the provisioning portal.

As a side note, if XCode does not load the Organizer window, simply go to Window, Organizer and you should then see your device.

Install the beta version of iOS via XCode

If you're installing via a beta version of iTunes, skip this section and jump down to the iTunes install instructions below.

Once you've provisioned your device with the developer portal and downloaded the newest beta of iOS, you're ready to install it via XCode. It is always a good idea to back up your iPhone and restore it clean before installing a beta as well. Not required but I recommend it. If you are jailbroken, it is especially a good idea to restore stock before attempting this.

  1. In XCode, under software version, you'll need to choose Other version...
  2. Then you will need to navigate to the .ipsw file that you earlier downloaded (the beta firmware file). I typically save them on my desktop or somewhere in a folder that I can easily find.
  3. Select it and click Restore iPhone
  4. A warning will pop up telling you all data will be erased. Agree and your device will be restored to the beta version. You can then restore from a backup in iTunes like normal.

Install using a beta version of iTunes

If you've already installed using XCode, no need to go any further, you're done!

Almost all betas will need to be installed using a beta version of iTunes. In the case of iOS 5, you'll need iTunes beta 10.5.



  • Open iTunes and click on your device. (Always back up before installing ANY new firmware, beta or not.)
  • Under the main Summary tab, you'll see the normal restore button. Simply hold down the alt+option key on your keyboard and click restore.
  • A window will pop up that will let you navigate to the saved beta firmware. Simply select it and click Open.
  • Let iTunes do it's thing. Once it's done, it will prompt you to Set up as new iPhone or Restore from a backup. You'll probably want to restore from your backup. But you can choose which one you'd prefer.
  • Let your stuff sync back over and you're done!
  • And again, I can't say this enough times - beta software is just that, beta. It is meant for developers and testers only. Please do not attempt to install beta firmware without a developer license or permission. And I strongly urge developers to not "sell" UDID spots under their account to people who just want early access to the beta. The purpose is for Apple to get legitimate feedback from developers before a final release. If you do not intend on submitting crash logs and bug reports, please wait for an official release.

    Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

    Allyson Kazmucha

    Senior editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

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    Reader comments

    Daily tip: How to install a beta version of iOS via XCode or iTunes beta [Mac only]


    I am looking at the Dev portal right now, only a Mac version. I am aware it has been made to work on Windows. But there is no official Windows beta.

    Are you looking at it on a mac?
    Are you truly a developer, or are you just someone who paid 99 bucks to check it out?

    IOS 5 seems to be faster on iPad 2 than iOS 4 was, only apps that i found that dont work are Crackle, Netflix and Hulu, I have other ways of accessing all 3 for the time being. The new features are worth the little hiccups.

    Interesting that they're all of similar purpose. Guessing that'll be an easy update for all of them.

    I left my office with iTunes 10.5 syncing all my apps to my iPad on ios5. Tomorrow at 830 I'll offer a follow up. So far so good. Now to get my Lion upon running tomorrow !! Being a Dev has it's advantages.

    β€œAnd obviously, betas are Mac only.”
    What does that mean I updated to iOS 5 with my Windows 7 PC.

    Apple only releases Mac versions. End of story. Non developers installing software they do not have rights to doesn't make it "pc compatible"

    I posted this mainly because a lot of ppl buy dev licenses JUST to access beta software. It's easier to link this than tell them how every time we get emails.

    I NEED HELP PLEASE... I started (tried) the above and now I'm getting "iPhone can not be restored, unknown error code (1)". I have tried everything I can think of but no luck. If I can get back to 4.3.3, I will wait for iOS to be release this fall, believe that. Again, PLEASE HELP...

    I purchased a dev licenses, not really knowing what I was getting into. During the upgrade via xcode the phone fail to upgrade and is now cycling through (or staying in restore mode). But each time I try to restore (using itunes 10.5 beta) I get that, "iPhone cannot be restored, unknown error (1).

    Trock6172, first things first, check your HOSTS file, and check for an entry for gs.apple.com - if its there chances are you used tiny umbrella at some point to save your SHSH blobs and it changed your hosts file, if you try and do a legit restore with that line in your hosts it will fail, this causes loads of problems.
    Failing that and if you have your SHSH blobs on cydia then you "SHOULD" be able to downgrade back to 4.3.3 but you will of course be stuck with the IOS5 baseband.
    General comment on this story though, anyone who does try this is going to end up with problems, apple WILL fix this in beta 2, so when that beta 2 update drops and you update you wont be able to activate, and beta 1 will expire and your phone wont boot, steer clear if you know whats good for you

    Ben, YES I saved my SHSH blobs using tiny umbrella before I attempted the upgrade. But I'm not sure how to use tiny umbrella to fix the problem. Also, I believe I also have my SHSH bolbs on cydia,I attempted to re-jailbreak to fix the problem but it just hung up at the end so I stopped it. Any ideas...

    I'm currently on a jailbroken 4.2.6 and it's saying that my Verizon iPhone is not compatible for my upgrade, even though I have the ipsw for the CDMA. What gives? Do I need to have a clean restore first, or do I need to update to 4.2.8?

    If your device ID is not on file on a developer account, it will not verify the install with Apple. You have to have your UDID registered with a developer account in order for it to work.

    Hope this helps you: I had the same error (VZ previous JB etc.) and got this error. I tried opening Tinymbrella and starting the TSS (spelling?) server. What that does it change your hosts file to point to local host and then provide the okay when iTunes checks for valid signatures (I think that is the right names for this stuff). I monitored my hosts file and could not get the restore to happen (got the same error as you) and was stuck in recovery mode. Until - I manually rem'ed out both custom lines in my hosts file (google mac hosts file). Then it worked. I am assuming that I will not be able to jailbreak again - would be a happy surprise if it works out later. You should assume the same if you update to this version. I love the notifications (the main reason I jailbroke in the first place). Email notifications aren't working yet. I'm sure they're working on that. Love the other changes a lot. Most of my apps work and I'm sure the one's that don't will catch up soon.

    I have Xcode on my Mac, that's how I got the multitouch gestures on my iPad awhile back. Would having Xcode enable me to download the beta without having to pay the $99 fee?


    HELP, If I do it through iTunes it worn let me restore to the ipsw. It give me an error that my device is not eligible. I am a registered App Dev and have registered my device in the provision portal, I am afraid to restore through Xcode because the last time I did that my iPhone was dead after install and never re-booted.