Things I wish I knew before jailbreaking

It is prudent to do a lot of research before attempting to jailbreak your iPhone. I would encourage you to do it on your own.  But here are some important tips to get you started, and some things I wish I knew before I went ahead and did it.

Know and trust your chosen method

There are several ways to jailbreak your iPhone.  Different hackers have provided different tools for you to use, some more popular than others.  By far the most popular and easiest methods are Pwnage Tool or RedSn0w (formerly QuickPwn) provided by the iPhone Dev Team. (Read key terms for explanations.) Both feature a graphical interface and a step by step approach. Before attempting, read a good online tutorial such the one at ifonenation.

Understand the risks and time involved

Jailbreaking will violate your warranty and the terms of your carrier contract.  So choose a reversible method. With the Dev-Team tools, you can always restore Apple’s default firmware.  Jailbreaking using restore (ie, wiping the phone clean first) is recommended over using upgrade.  This is because every time you upgrade you lose a chunk of disk space taken up by your last OS installation.  However,  if you use the cleaner restore, you will lose all your settings and have to re-enter them.  You should not allow iTunes to restore any backup (see below). You’ll probably have to re-synch all media content from iTunes.   This is a time consuming process that you’ll want to allow time for to make sure your phone is in stable condition.

Be warned that there have been persistent rumors that Apple may get vindictive and deliberately brick jailbroken phones with firmware upgrades.  This is all the more reason never to upgrade via iTunes.

Do not restore from an iTunes backup

After jailbreaking, don’t restore an iTunes backup. Doing so may work, but may lead to unexpected instability.  It is much better to start from scratch, re-adding and even re-downloading free applications from the store, re-synching your media, and manually re-entering your settings. (Or try some semi-automated methods such as this script for OS X.)

Of Cats and Mice: official firmware upgrades and jailbroken updates

Every time Apple releases a firmware update for the iPhone, Apple uses more sophisticated (and unknown) methods to counter jailbreakers.  Applying official firmware upgrades through iTunes may make it harder if not impossible to jailbreak later.  Therefore, do not upgrade your iPhone through iTunes if you ever might possibly want to jailbreak it.  With every firmware update, hackers have to completely re-do their jailbreaking exploit. This may take days or weeks to do, so be patient.

Really get to know your firmware version

It is vital to understand what official firmware version you’re interested in, and what version of the jailbreaking tool goes with it.  This can frequently cause confusion, so read carefully.  For example, Apple released firmware version 2.0.1 but the iPhone Dev Team had already released Pwnage Tool 2.0.1 to correct a problem with jailbreaking Apple firmware 2.0.  So the version of Pwnage Tool that goes with Apple firmware 2.0.1 is actually Pwnage Tool 2.0.2.  Confusing, but it is crucial to understand this.

Furthermore, you should make sure than any 3rd party software you install and use is compatible with each firmware upgrade.

Understand key terms and jargon

jailbreaking: to modify a device’s firmware in order to remove certain kinds of access restrictions

unlocking: to unlock the phone from its official carrier allowing you to use any SIM card.  There are hardware unlocks you can buy.  Successful software unlocks have been released by the Dev-Team.  (See yellown0w and ultrasn0w.)

hacktivating: to activate your phone unofficially when using one of the below tools.  This is necessary if you do not have an official iPhone carrier.

pwnage: geek lingo for “to own,” or perhaps more colloquially, to make something or someone one’s bitch.

Pwnage Tool: the Mac application provided by the iPhone Dev Team for jailbreaking your phone. Requires restoring phone.

QuickPwn: an alternate cross-platform jailbreaking application provided by the Dev Team.  Allows you to quickly jailbreak firmware that has been upgraded by iTunes.  (See understand the risks and time involved header, above, for distinction between restore & upgrade.)

RedSn0w: the replacement for QuickPwn as of FW 3.0. Also cross-platform.

ZiPhone: another jailbreaking method that I would not recommend. Nobody really uses this anymore.

purplera1n:  another rival jailbreaking method released by whiz-kid GeoHot.

blackra1n: rival jailbreak method for OS 3.1.2 (3G & 3GS) released by GeoHot.  Very fast jailbreak but ‘tethered’, which means you must re-do it every time you reboot your phone.  No unlock and Windows only.  the super-easy web based jailbreak for iOS 4.0/4.01 (but not 4.02+) by comex.

Cydia: an installer tool included in the Pwnage Tool package that is like the App Store application for unofficial applications.

Installer: another tool included in the Pwnage Tool package with a similar function.  Cydia is recommended currently. Be cautious of using such tools if still in beta.  Discontinued as of firmware 3.0.

Icy: ditto, introduced with firmware 3.0.

Sources: On-line places to get extra software through the above tools.  Some sources are included in the distribution of these tool, but others can be found on the web and added to them.  Be cautious that you add only sources that you trust.

Repos: Repositories. Similar to sources. I will admit I don’t myself yet understand the distinction.

Packages: individual software products listed in sources that you can install.  Some are back-end software without a GUI, and should only be installed if you know what you’re doing.

DFU Mode: The recovery mode for the iPhone which will force iTunes to ask to restore firmware.  Typically you must put your iPhone in DFU mode to jailbreak it.  Pwnage Tool explains how within it.  Here’s an iClarified tutorial.

OpenSSH: A package installed by Cydia (and possibly by Pwnage Tool itself), that allows you to browse the file structure of your iPhone from a computer via SSH or SFTP.

yellowsn0w: the first software unlock for OS 2.2.x provided by the Dev-Team. Can be installed with Cydia.

ultrasn0w: the software unlock for OS 3.0 provided by the Dev-Team. Can be installed with Cydia.

purplesn0w: rival software unlock for OS 3.0 released by whiz-kid GeoHot.

bluesn0w: a project involving expanding bluetooth functionality which as of 6/22/2009 was still incomplete. This is not a project by the Dev-Team.

Cracked IPAs: iPhone application files that have had their restrictions removed that you can install through iTunes after following a certain initial procedure.  Use these for the purposes of evaluating and comparing products prior to purchase.  Support developers.

IPA Prep: Cydia installed hack from xsellize that allows you install cracked IPAs with iTunes. For firmware 2.x only, replaced for FW 3.0 (see AppSync and Installd, below.)

MiPatch: Alternative to IPA Prep, also for FW 2.x.

AppSync: the replacement for IPA Prep & MiPatch for FW 3.0 provided by Use this or Installd but not both for FW 3.0.

Installd: a similar replacement for IPA Prep & MiPatch for FW 3.0 provided by xsellize. Use this or AppSync but not both for FW 3.0.

brick: when your iPhone is completely locked up, allowing only for the possibility of a total restore.

Be comfortable with working with UNIX paths, file permissions, SFTP and/or SSH, and LAN IPs

Many things can be accomplished on a jailbroken phone by using the provided install tools like Cydia.  However, to really take advantage of your jailbroken iPhone, you must have a basic level of comfort with SFTP (secure file transfer protocol) and/or SSH (secure shell), working with UNIX paths, setting file permissions, how your local area network (LAN) is set up, and how to find the IPs of devices on your LAN.  If any of this is not something you are comfortable with, I would seriously caution you against jailbreaking at all.  In my view, the chief reason to jailbreak if you are not comfortable in this zone is to be able to software unlock your phone.

Ready to do it?

I can’t stress enough that it is important to read and re-read a good tutorial and understand what’s about to happen before pushing buttons.

Please review The Order of Things next.


19 Responses to “Things I wish I knew before jailbreaking”

  1. UltraSn0w 3.0 unlock completes the cycle « Box of Clams Says:

    […] confusing at times since each snow color release actually accomplished different things.  (See key terms […]

  2. iWish Says:

    is there something like mipatch or appsync for FW 3.1.2??
    (i’m using iPod touch 1G FW 3.1.2)

  3. metaclam Says:

    Not sure about mipatch but appsync has been updated for FW 3.1.2. check on Cydia.

  4. Rudolf Coffell Says:

    This is a superb post, but I was wondering how do I suscribe to the RSS feed?

  5. metaclam Says:


  6. iphone jailbreak wiki Says:

    I can’t wait for the new bootrom explot from the Chronic Dev team. I can’t stand all the rumors and speculation that go on with Twitter and other blogs though.

  7. davenycity Says:

    great blog thank you

  8. iMacker Says:

    To back up iPhone data before updating I used the method in the link/URL below; by accessing the root directory and copying the Library>Documents Folder

    Worked like a charm!

  9. dalitopr Says:

    If ZiPhone is not recommended what to use on an iPod with 1.1.5?

  10. Mr. H Says:

    What a load of bull. Just go on youtube and find a guide which tells you exactly how to jailbreak.

    You can always get rid of the jailbreak by restoring, and its perfectly ok to upgrade via itunes, but yes, do set aside a few hours if you do this.

    What I do is just dont update until theres a big update, or just wait until i have enough time. Most of the little updates are of very little use anyway.

    Aways restore from itunes backup, its just stupid not to.

    When the writer of this post says ‘Be comfortable with working with UNIX paths, file permissions, SFTP and/or SSH, and LAN IPs’, thats nonsense. I have never ever used any of these and dont need to. If you really need to put files onto your iDevice, then just download and use iFunBox.

    And of all that jailbreak jargon, you only need a couple of words.

    seriously everyone, its not that big a deal to jailbreak your phone.

  11. metaclam Says:

    Thanks for your comments. They’re not entirely off-base but they’re also over-blown. Jailbreaking has gotten a little easier since this blog post was written, and yes, now there are much better guides, some of which I mention. But too many people jump into it without informing themselves first and wind up with a mess. And while you can use any variety of file transfer tools, you still need to understand the basic concepts of file transfers between devices. The main point is jailbreaking isn’t for the user who wants everything to “just work”. It’s not hard but know what you’re getting into.

  12. Mr. H Says:

    You know what metaclam, i feel that i ought to apologise. Having re-read my post, and then your calm response, i feel like a really stupid troll. I should have said all that in a civilised manner, and so for being rude, I’m sorry :/

  13. sandy Says:

    My iTunes disappeared the last time I JB my iPhone. How can I get my music back on iTunes without restoring? I really appreciate your help…Sandy K

  14. vickysurywanshi Says:

    is it safe to unjailbreak if i hav lost my backup

  15. Rizky Briliantsyah Manurung Says:

    I want to ask, if we jailbreak our device. There’s all of the app is miss? must I Back Up my device in iTunes first?

  16. Sarah Says:

    I tried to jailbreak an old iPhone 1 st gen but accidentally restored the phone with the iTunes official firmware so redsn0w wouldn’t work. Is there anyway I can re-restore the phone as iTunes is rejecting the phone because it doesn’t have a sim that is supported. Any ideas?

  17. Matt Says:

    So is there a way to unlock my iPhone 3GS from a network without having to jailbreak it? Thanks.

  18. Atrelle Says:

    I jailbroke my 3GS and restored it recently from a backup that was backed up while jailbroken now my phone is acting up, what should i do? if i back up to the cloud, will that make a difference? or am i not suppose to restore from a backup that was baked up while jailbroken?

  19. Marcelo Says:

    If I’m using Pangu will I be able to restore the Apple firmware?

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