Using cracked IPAs to evaluate software

One of the purposes of jailbreaking is to be able to evaluate software from the App Store before purchasing the ones I plan to actually use. (Which as a developer myself, I swear I do.)  The App Store provides no way to demo the products, offers no refunds, and the reviews tend to be mixed.

There is a certain procedure that needs to be followed quite exactly if you want to do this:

Prepare iPhone to be able to accept the cracked IPAs

Basically, this involves patching the iPhone’s mobile installation framework, adding some empty directories to your phone, and adjusting some file permissions.

First try a patch from Cydia

For each iPhone OS since about 2.1 there has been a corresponding mobile installation patch available through Cydia. Sometimes different hacker sites release their own versions that accomplish the same thing.  For OS 3.0 xsellize has released Installd, and hackulous has released AppSync.  I am using AppSync with success on 3.0.  For OS 2.x there were such patches as “IPA Prep” and “MiPatch”.  Often you must add the repo for that hacker site to Cydia first, which may mean registering at one of those sites to get the repo URL.   (The Repo URL for xsellize contains your user/password, for instance.) Add the appropriate repo to your Cydia Sources.  Cydia -> Manage -> Sources -> Edit -> Add.  (Never add more than one such patch, and always uninstall all others, including previous firmware versions, if you need to try a different one.) You will then want to reboot your phone. Then skip the next step and come back to it if it doesn’t work.

Failing that, patch it manually

As the above Cydia method now works reliably, I would not recommend the manual approach any longer. Just be aware it is possible to manually install a patched file.  Look around with Google for the file that corresponds to your firmware version.  The method is simple: using your SFTP client, just replace the existing file (on 3.0 called installd, on 2.x called MobileInstallation) and set the file permissions appropriately.

This applies to FW 2.x, not 3.x:

Follow the iTunes (.ipa) method posted here very carefully.

Note you need to actually obtain a patched MobileInstallation file. First, make sure to download this file with FireFox and not Safari. Safari likes to add an inappropriate file extension.  This file should have no extension. If it does, find another source.  If the link on those directions does not work, try this one, which worked for me. If that doesn’t work just Google for “MobileInstallation IPA” and you’re bound to find one that does.

Sync one free or purchased app in iTunes

After installing one of the above patches and rebooting your phone, sync at least one free or purchased app with iTunes before adding any cracked ones.  Do not skip this step.

Obtain the cracked IPAs

These are found all over the place now, but currently the most reliable source is appulous.  It’s likely to be shut down eventually, so just look around for alternatives. They may come as .zip files.  In that case, do not un-archive them, just change the file extension to .ipa by removing the “.zip” part.

Add them to iTunes

Simply double-click on a cracked IPA to add to iTunes.  It will be copied into ~/Music/iTunes/Mobile Applications.  So I recommend keeping the originals in a separate location for future use if necessary.  Then just sync iTunes as normal.


It is very important that you follow the above instructions carefully, and that in particular you make sure to add a “purchased” application first and sync before adding any cracked IPAs.  Otherwise it won’t work at best and at worst, will cause your purchased apps to crash too due to sneaky Apple DRM (digital rights management).

Installing cracked IPAs is a good way to make your iPhone generally unstable. If you are uncomfortable with this possibility, I would advise not doing it.  However, some basic features I jailbroke my phone for, such as using NetShare allow no other option at the moment.

In the event that your applications start to crash regularly (especially the free or purchased ones), unfortunately the only way to deal with this is to completely delete all non-factory applications from iTunes, sync to remove them from the iPhone, and start over.


3 Responses to “Using cracked IPAs to evaluate software”

  1. Alex Says:

    Your blog is interesting!

    Keep up the good work!

  2. muerto Says:

    the “IPA prep” just don´t work and it bricked my ipod

  3. metaclam Says:

    You better make sure you’re using IPA Prep 2 for FW 2.1 +. It works for most people, definitely.

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