How to revert back to an older version of an iOS app using iTunes

There have been many occasions when a developer updates an app with changes that you might not like, or the new update removes support for an older device you own. Having the install file for the older version of the app can be very useful in such cases, since you can restore the older version using iTunes. But how do you keep the older version if iTunes replaces the file with the newer version when you hit update? Read on.

If you update an app using iTunes, you might lose the older version, but if you update on your iOS device, iTunes will still have the older version unless you sync. App installations are internally stored as .ipa files on your PC or Mac’s storage, and you can manually copy that file to some place safe like a Dropbox folder by following these instructions:

Back up phase

Navigate to apps tab

Apps downloaded from iTunes are automatically added to your library, but the ones you install on your iOS device only appear in your library after you sync using iTunes. To see these apps, open the “Apps” tab.

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Search for the app you want to backup 

In the search bar on the top right corner, type in the app installation you want to back up. Click on the result to see the app in your library.

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Show in Finder 

Once you get to the app, right click the icon to get a menu, and click “Show in Finder” (in case of Windows, show in Explorer) to see the .ipa file.

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Back up 

Now that you know the location, you can simply copy the file and paste it in a safe folder, from where you can access it later. As Steveo suggests in the comments below, it might be a good idea to add the .bak suffix (or any extension really) to the backup copy, so it can’t be accidentally replaced.

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Restore phase

Delete newer version

Delete the newer version of the app from both iTunes and your iOS device. To delete in iTunes, right click on the app’s icon and click “Delete.”  To delete on iOS, long tap on an icon, and press the cross button on the top right of the icon.

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Open older file in iTunes

Navigate to the place you backed up the older version of the app, and open it in iTunes.

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Sync

Sync your device with iTunes so that the older version of the app can be copied to your device, but make sure the app is queued for an install. Once the sync completes, you’ll see the older version of the app installed on your home screen.

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This is how you’d normally back up an app, but what if iTunes overwrites an older version of an app with a newer version, and you want the older version back? Don’t worry, even though iTunes deletes the older version of the app with the new ipa file, you can access and restore them from the recycle bin or Trash.

Let us know how it goes in the comments below.

Also see: Make iTunes 11 look like iTunes 10 in 4 Steps

  • Steveo

    Little bit of a typo or you skipped a step here,”Restore phase

    Delete newer version

    Delete the older version of the app from both iTunes and your iOS device. To delete in iTunes, right click on the app’s icon and click “Delete.”  To delete on iOS, long tap on an icon, and press the cross button on the top right of the icon.”

    You should NEVER delete the older version. Only delete the newer version.

    Also, it’s a good idea to rename your ipa files to .bak. I had one instance where iTunes scanned for ipa files and wiped out all of my backed up ipa files. Now I rename them to make sure iTunes can’t do that.

    • http://www.iphonehacks.com iPhoneHacks

      Thanks Steveo. It was a typo. It’s fixed, also updated the post with your tip of renaming the files.

      • Steveo

        Cool beans. Also, for me, the newer version is only on my phone, not in iTunes on my PC. I guess if I backed up my older version, then synced first, I get the newer version in both places. I usually delete the newer version before plugging in the computer.

  • deft

    so does this work with the ipsw? to revert to jailbreaking?

  • deft

    nvm read it to fast.. sorry

  • Thommy_

    I understood this and did it already several times. But how to revert an iPhone app on an iPad to an older version?

  • AA

    I don’t understand the following step if someone can clarify please…

    “Now that you know the location, you can simply copy the file and paste it in a safe folder, from where you can access it later. As Steveo suggests in the comments below, it might be a good idea to add the .bak suffix (or any extension really) to the backup copy, so it can’t be accidentally replaced.”

    Do I literally just copy and paste the file onto my desktop, onto my hard drive, any folder??
    Or do I need to create a folder on iTunes itself?

    Many thanks for your help