How To Downgrade From iOS 4 To iPhone 3.1.3

A lot of iPhone 3G owners — myself included — have discovered that upgrading to iOS 4 has slowed their devices to a crawl. If you decide the new features and shortcuts just aren't worth the glacial performance, here's how to downgrade your iDevice.

Note: The process should work nearly the same on Windows and OS X, so unless we say otherwise, you can follow the same steps on each. The main difference between Windows and OS X is RecBoot, so Windows users, make sure you pay close attention to the RecBoot process before diving in. The same basic steps should also work for iPhone 3GS, but I don't have one and haven't tested it. Image remixed from drewm.

Step 1: Find or Download iOS 3.1.3 and RecBoot

The first thing you need to do is get a copy of the iPhone OS 3.1.3 image. There's a good chance you've already got a backed up copy of the 3.1.3 release on your system, so let's check there first. On OS X, check in ~/Library/iTunes/iPhone Software Updates. On Windows, your iPhone OS updates should be stored in C:Documents and Settings[username] Application DataApple ComputeriTunesiPhone Software Updates (or to get there more quickly, type Win+R and paste %appdata%Apple ComputeriTunesiPhone Software Updates). If you see a file inside this folder corresponding to iPhone1,1_3.1.3_7E18_Restore.ipsw or iPhone1,2_3.1.3_7E18_Restore.ipsw, those are likely the restore images you need.

If you don't see anything that resembles the 3.1.3 OS or you just want to download a fresh version for good measure, web site iClarified has maintained a list of iPhone firmware files. Just find 3.1.3 for your phone (the 3G version points here and it's what I used successfully) and download the 228MB file.

Next, download RecBoot from here (available for Windows and Mac). This handy little utility plays an important role in finishing off the downgrade.

Step 2: Put Your Phone Into DFU Mode

You need to put your iPhone into Device Firmware Update (or DFU) mode in order to downgrade to 3.1.3. The video above demonstrates the process, but in case you prefer a little text:

  1. Plug in your iPhone.
  2. Power it down by holding the sleep/lock button and sliding to power off.
  3. Once it's powered down, press and hold both the sleep/lock button and the home button for ten seconds.
  4. After 10 seconds, release the power button but continue holding down the home button.
  5. If you did it right, iTunes will pop up a window (like the one below) telling you that it's detected an iPhone in recovery mode and your iPhone's screen will be black. If it didn't work, start from the beginning and try again.

Step 3: Restore iPhone OS 3.1.3

Now that you've done all the legwork, it's downgrading time. You can either follow the video above or follow along with the instructions below.

Dismiss the iTunes alert that told you you're in recovery mode, make sure you've clicked the iPhone under the Devices sidebar in iTunes, then hold Shift and click the Restore button (if you're on OS X, Alt/Opt+Click). iTunes will pop up a window prompting you to choose a file. You want to navigate to the 3.1.3 OS you located or downloaded above. Select that file, and iTunes will start the OS restore process. Expect this to take around 10 minutes or so.

When it's finished, you'll likely receive an error message like the one above (error 1015) and your iPhone will boot up with a "Connect to iTunes" screen. This is where the utility you downloaded above, RecBoot, comes in handy. Open RecBoot, and click Exit Recovery Mode. In a few seconds, RecBoot should kick you out of plug-me-into-iTunes recovery mode and you'll boot right into your freshly downgraded 3.1.3.

Note: I used RecBoot in OS X, and from what I've read, the Windows version may have some peculiarities. First, you'll need .NET 4.0. Second, you may need to run the application in Compatibility mode if you're not running Windows XP (Right-click the EXE -> Properties -> Compatibility -> Run this program in compatibility mode for Windows XP). You'll also need to download libusb, which may also be peculiar on 64-bit systems. Read up on using RecBoot on Windows here.

Step 4: Restore Your Backup

At this point, you've got a fresh 3.1.3 installation, but you probably want to sync your apps and data back to your phone as they were before you downgraded. If you're lucky, you've got a backup saved from before you upgraded to 4.0 (you can select different backups from the drop-down menu). If you don't have a pre-4.0 backup, you're unfortunately out of luck — iTunes won't let you restore data from a 4.0 backup to your downgraded 3.1.3.

This method worked like a charm for us, but your mileage may vary. If you had a different experience, can offer more insight to the Windows downgrade process (particularly with RecBoot), or know of a better downgrade method, let's hear about it in the comments.


Comments

    anyway of upgrading 1st gen ipod touch this way? :P

    i keep getting error 3194. what should i do?

    Can I use this to get my iPhone to work with a different sim card?

    Thanks LifeHacker, worked a treat. iOS4 really is a dog on the 3G.

    Trickiest part was getting the inf file loaded into the system, but once that was done, everything went ahead without a hitch

    Many thanks for this straightforward explanation.

    iOS4 totally undesirable in 3G.

    is this for jailbroken iphon? i have an iphone with ios 4 and i want to go back to 3.1.3 but my iphone is not jailbroke...is this applicable? thanks

      I just completed the downgrade for my iPhone 3G which has never been jail-broken. Runs great again! One snag I hit was running RecBoot on Win7 x64. I run it on a mac via Boot Camp. When trying to install LibUSB, I got a blue screen. After System Restore, I just booted into the Mac OS and ran the Mac version of RecBoot. When I booted back into Windows, iTunes recognized the phone with the 3.1.3 OS.

    Just completed this. All fine other than the LibUSB part. Could not for the life of me work out how to install this from link in this article. Need to go find a jailbreak program that will install for you. I used Quickfreedom which appears to have worked.

    So just to be sure, if I dont have a recent backup (last one I have is mid 09 from OS 2. something), then if I do this I lose all my data and apps?

    who ever writing this blog it stupid. did not know the situation of other iphone user. this will not work with phone not jailbroker and have not back up your shsh file.

    Never worked on my 3G, ended up having to go into Apple store (WTF) I now hate those guys. They restored to 0S 4. I used to love apple but now I hate the F&*ks for creating a problem and not providing a solution. Just let is go back to the working 3.1 version, whats the big deal Steve, I mean really surely they realise they are sending people to Android. This will be my last Apple product EVER.

      Thanks! It works great! Finally downgraded from iOS4 to 3.1.3 with no problems. My iPhone is back to normal. 4.0 is slow and not recommended for 3G.

    just followed all instructions and only when almost finished i realised i don't have a backup!!! all info and contacts i had were erased!
    Adam, it would have been great and very useful (mostly for anxious people like me...) if you'd had a warning at the beginning of the article...
    Thanks for the insight tho :)

      Agree re having the warning at the start, very very nearly missed it at the end and started doing this

    Thanks, this worked great on mac and was fairly simple even for a novice like me.

    Can this be used on non jailbroken phones? One person above is saying yes an another saying no?

      yes, i just did it on a non-jailbroken 3G

    Great solution to a very annoying problem.. Make sure you have a V3 backup though..

    Thanks for the instructions. Great job!
    Now I'm back to iOS3 on my iPhone 3G.

    I just did my downgrade on Windows 7 64bit. Instead of using recboot I used a little program called TinyUmbrella! Worked perfect and I didn't have to mess with LibUSB. Hopes this helps someone else out.

      Cheers Greg!
      That helped me out! really appreciate the tip =)

    yes, works as the name says... even with no shsh blobs for 3.1.3!

    Trying to downgrade my 3g from iOS4 to 3.1 on WinXP sp3 and on the step to use RecBoot, nothing is happening. I see the iTunes error message saying the iphone couldn't be restored, but when I hit Exit Recovery Mode, nothing happens. I was able to load the libusb0.dll but not register, is that the problem? Any advice? Thanks.

      I got it now. Didn't have my .inf file or the libusb dll setup correctly. Thank you all so much for this hookup. Fuck Steve Jobs and (bad)Apple.

    I found the advice here really relevant, and I had decided to set aside some time to downgrade because the infuriating slowness of my iPhone 3G with iOS4 was driving me nuts.

    Visiting iPhoneDoctor in Chatswood on a completely unrelated matter, I asked a tech there about the 3G with iOS4 - he said that half had problems, but half did not. He asked me whether I had upgraded normally thru iTunes, or done a full restore, to get to iOS4 - and seemed unsurprised that I had the usual iTunes update. He suggested that everyone who had done an iPhone restore (after a backup of course!) was perfectly happy.

    I've just done it here - it took about an hour for backup, firmware update, restore and re-sync from backup. All perfectly straightforward but requires patience at times as progress sometimes seems to stall for several minutes.

    And the result? - BRILLIANT!! I'm now happily running iOS4.01 on a 16GB 3G - and it's just as snappy as it ever was!!

      So how do you do complete restore to get iOS4?
      Do you just download the iOS4 image file and install it?

      I want to try this. have you experienced any problems yet?

    I found the advice here really relevant, and I had decided to set aside some time to downgrade because the infuriating slowness of my iPhone 3G with iOS4 was driving me nuts.

    Visiting iPhoneDoctor in Sydney, Australia on a completely unrelated matter, I asked a tech there about the 3G with iOS4 - he said that half had problems, but half did not. He asked me whether I had upgraded normally thru iTunes, or done a full restore, to get to iOS4 - and seemed unsurprised that I had the usual iTunes update. He suggested that everyone who had done an iPhone RESTORE instead (after a backup of course!) was perfectly happy.

    I've just done it - it took about an hour for backup, firmware update, OS retrieve from Apple's servers, reinstall and re-sync from backup. All perfectly straightforward but requires you to be really patient as progress sometimes seems to stall for several minutes.

    And the result? - BRILLIANT!! I'm now happily running iOS4.01 on a 16GB 3G - and it's just as snappy as it ever was!!

    hi there i dont know if im missing something reguarding iphone downgrading from ios4 to 3.1.3
    but i downloaded the restore image for 3g but itunes says theres nothing in the file just kooks like a zipped folder whick i exstracted but with no joy still any ideas many thanks
    joe

    It didn't work for me. I got hung up at the RecBoot step. Seems the instructions could be add a step or 3 to be more precise. I did not get the EXIT Recovery Mode screen, only the ENTER Recovery Mode screen. Looped through the process a few times and will now just (try to) Restore 4.0.

    Will this also work for 2.2.1?

    I downgraded successfully.

    Managed to find my old backup files on time machine, so if you have time machine don't forget you get your most recent Iphone 3.1.3 file there (iPhone OS 4.0 was released 21/Jun/10 just in case you need to find it).

    Also after restoring to 3.1.3 I found it a bit hard to jailbreak using Pwnge Tool, so I used Red Snow 0.9.4. But you will need iPhone OS 3.1.2 aswell to jailbreak 3.1.3.

    iClarified has a good guide here:

    http://www.iclarified.com/entry/index.php?enid=7429

    So now downgraded and jailbreaked and it is much quicker. I would also recommend turing off splotlight as per lifehackers guide here:

    http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2010/07/disable-spotlight-searches-to-improve-iphone-3g-performance-on-ios-4/

    Unless you really use it that often for music searches, I know I don't.

    Had the same crawl problem (had to reboot twice - awful) then someone suggested I make sure all safari windows were closed. I habitually left about 8 pages open. CLosed everything and has worked like a charm ever since, no need to downgrade.

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