Jailbreak how-to: SSH basics and theme editing

One of the most common topics in the jailbreak forums is always theme editing and customization.  To really be able to truly customize a theme, you need to know how to SSH into your iPhone.  Anyone who is already familiar with web development and using an FTP client should be right at home.  For the most part, FTP clients are also capable of SSH.  If you don't have a client, don't worry, there's plenty of free ones.

And now for the typical disclaimer - if you aren't comfortable messing with your phone's file system and the possibility of having to completely restore if something goes wrong, don't proceed any further. As always, we aren't responsible for any damage you may do to your phone, so proceed at your own risk.  If this all sounds okay to you, read on iPhone ninja!

1.  Download an FTP client. In the video, I'm using CyberDuck, which is a Mac client for FTP. You can also use Fugu or iPhone Explorer.  If you're a windows user, iPhone Explorer has a Windows version or you can use something like SmartFTP.

2.  Install OpenSSH and SBSettings to your iPhone.  Most of you probably already have SBSettings, but you'll need OpenSSH to be able to access your iPhone's file system.

And don't forget, at some point, change your iPhone's root and user passwords!  If you need help with this, jump over to the Forums.  OpenSSH and SBSettings can both be downloaded through Cydia or Rock, your preference.  SBSettings isn't necessary, but it gives you a very easy way to toggle SSH on and off.  Here's a ninja tip, whenever you aren't actively using SSH, turn it off. It not only further protects you from unauthorized access, but SSH is a huge battery hog.  So when you're not using it, just switch it off.

3.  Alright now that we've got that taken care of, you'll need to do one of the following after SSH is enabled on your iPhone:

  • iPhone Explorer users - plug in your phone and launch iPhone Explorer and it should automatically populate your iPhone file system, then skip to step 5
  • Most other FTP clients - be on a wifi network and find your iPhone's IP and jot it down, it's found under Settings --> Wi-Fi --> click the blue arrow next to the network you are connected to, once you have that, launch your FTP client

Click the blue arrow, like in the image below, IP address is what you're looking for, write it down.

4.  For FTP users, you'll need to enter your iPhone's IP address and make sure the port is set to 22.  Your username is root and the default password is 'alpine' (without the quotes).  Then click connect or continue.  If you're successful, you should now have a list of all your iPhone's files.  (Note: over wi-fi, you don't have to have your iPhone plugged in, but I'd recommend it so it doesn't kill your battery)

5.  You'll now see a list of files you can navigate through, to get to your themes for editing, simply click Library ---> Themes and all the themes you've downloaded should be in there.  Next jump down to the video for a walk-through of how to alter/change/add files in existing themes as well as create your own custom themes! And one more ninja tip, go into Settings --> Autolock --> Never. Sometimes when you're SSH'ing and your screen goes off, your SSH client will give you an error, so turn off auto-lock while you're customizing.

YouTube Link

Have something to say about this story? Share your comments below! Need help with something else? Submit your question!

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

Jailbreak how-to: SSH basics and theme editing

14 Comments

No video embedded, and when I try to go directly to it, it says its private. :(
Thanks for the tutorial!! Going to build my own theme. :)

@Ivory - sorry about that, i set the video private until Rene was ready to publish the article and forgot to set it to public. should be embedded and working now. sorry again :)
@William, forgot, the name would probably help, it's called iTopple

Jailbreak hmmm...
Knock knock i hear apple knocking on ur door n about to break it down. Lol
jb is da only way to really fully use ur iPhone!

Great directions. However, you should point out that in order to be totally secure and safe, EVERYONE should have changed their root password from alpine to something else beforehand. I have jailbroken a bunch of friends'/relatives' iphones and the first I do is change the root password from the default alpine.

I edit themes right on my iPhone through ifile ... I usually delete all those annoying unlock and lock sounds Oreo change any little thing. It's as easy as copying and pasting.

@Dodger13, that's fine and good for tweaking or removing files, but for creating your own theme or dropping files from a computer, iFile simply does not work for advanced editing. I posted this up the correct SSH way as I plan on working on tutorials that include photoshop and editing.

When i show package content for my downloaded theme i can't view any .png files. why? do i need to download a certain program? i'm so confused..

Awesome guide. Greenpois0n is my first jailbreak and I got some really cool themes but wanted to make some personal changes. Thanks for the walkthrough and video. great work!!

I guess I don't understand. I can't just download an app and navigate to the files I want to change on the actual phone? Am I making the changes on a pc and then uploading the changes to the phone? I assumed I could just make changes and then respring.