What Is an IPSW File?

How to use an IPSW file

What to Know

  • An IPSW file is an Apple Device Software Update file.
  • Open one with iTunes, Fixppo, or ReiBoot.

This article explains what an IPSW file is, the different ways you can use one, and how to install one to your device.

What Is an IPSW File?

A file with the IPSW file extension is an Apple Device Software Update file used with iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Apple TV. It's an archive file format that stores encrypted DMG files and various others like PLISTs, BBFWs, and IM4Ps.

IPSW files are released from Apple and are intended to add new features and fix security vulnerabilities in compatible devices. They can also be used to restore an Apple device back to its factory default settings.

IPSW Files
IPSW Files.

Apple always releases new IPSW files through iTunes. You can also get current firmware versions of iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, tvOS and audioOS through websites like IPSW Downloads. It even has outdated versions from several years ago, including old iTunes editions.

How to Open an IPSW File

When a compatible device connected to a computer is in need of an update, an IPSW file can be downloaded automatically through iTunes after accepting a prompt to update the device. iTunes will then install the file to the device.

If you've obtained an IPSW file through iTunes in the past or have downloaded one from a website, you can just double-click or double-tap it to open it in iTunes.

When it's downloaded through iTunes, the file is saved to the following location:

IPSW File Locations
Windows 11/10/8/7  
iPhone: C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPhone Software Updates
iPad: C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPad Software Updates
iPod touch: C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPod Software Updates
Windows XP  
iPhone: C:\Documents and Settings\[username]\Application Data\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPhone Software Updates
iPad: C:\Documents and Settings\[username]\Application Data\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPad Software Updates
iPod touch: C:\Documents and Settings\[username]\Application Data\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPod Software Updates
iPhone: ~/Library/iTunes/iPhone Software Updates
iPad: ~/Library/iTunes/iPad Software Updates
iPod touch: ~/Library/iTunes/iPod Software Updates

The "[username]" sections in the Windows paths should be replaced by your own user account name. If you can't find the AppData folder, you may have to change your hidden files settings in Windows.

Another way to install an IPSW file with iTunes is by forcing it to use the file of your choice. To do that, hold down Shift (Windows) or Option (Mac) and then press the restore button in iTunes. From there, select the IPSW file you want to install to the device.

You can also install IPSW files without iTunes, but many of the methods are available only through non-free software, such as iMyFone Fixppo, Tenorshare ReiBoot, and iMobie AnyFix.

If an update isn't working properly or iTunes isn't recognizing the file that it downloaded, you can delete or remove it from the above location. This will force the program to download the file the next time it tries to update the device.

Since these files are stored as ZIP archives, you can also open an IPSW file using a file zip/unzip tool, the free 7-Zip being one example. This lets you see the different DMG files that make up the IPSW file, but you can't apply the software update to your Apple device this way—iTunes still needs to use it.

If you find that an application on your PC tries to open the file but it's the wrong application or you'd rather have another installed program open it, learn how to change file associations in Windows to make that change.

How to Convert an IPSW File

There shouldn't be any reason to convert an IPSW file to another format. The way it exists is necessary for communicating software updates through iTunes and to Apple devices; converting it would mean losing functionality of the file altogether.

If you want to open an Apple Device Software Update file as an archive file, you don't need to worry about converting the IPSW to ZIP, ISO, etc. — like you read above, just use a file unzip tool to open the file.

Still Can't Open It?

Some file formats use similarly spelled file extensions that can be confusing when you're having trouble opening the file. Even though two file extensions might look similar, it doesn't necessarily mean they're of the same or a similar format, which, of course, means they might not open with the same software.

For example, Internal Patching System Patch files use the file extension IPS, which looks a lot like IPSW. However, even though they share three of the same file extension letters, they're actually entirely different file formats. IPS files open with Internal Patching System software like IPS Peek.

PSW files can also very easily be mistaken for IPSW files, but they're actually either Windows Password Reset Disk files, Password Depot 3-5 files, or Pocket Word Document files. None of those formats have anything to do with Apple devices or the iTunes program, so if you can't open your IPSW file, double-check that the file extension doesn't actually read "PSW."

Another similar one is IPSPOT, which is used by the Photos app for macOS, for iPhoto Spot files.

If your file doesn't actually end with IPSW, research the file extension you see after the file name—either here on Lifewire via the search tool at the top of this page or elsewhere like Google—to learn more about the format and what program is capable of opening or converting it.

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