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While most users should update to iOS 11 using the standard software update mechanisms within Settings app or iTunes, another more technical option is available that utilizes device-specific firmware (IPSW) to install iOS 11 onto an iPhone or iPad.
In general, using IPSW to update iOS system software is considered advanced and is therefore only appropriate for more technically competent individuals. Nonetheless, it’s not terribly complicated and just about anyone can perform the procedure should they need to, if they follow instructions properly.
Why use IPSW to install iOS 11?
It’s important to point out that most users should just update to iOS 11 using the usual Software Update approach detailed here. But for those who use firmware, the primary reasons most individuals may use IPSW to install any new iOS versions are:
- Storage considerations: You can update a storage constrained device since the firmware is not downloaded to the iPhone or iPad as it is through the Settings OTA method
- Bandwidth considerations: You can download an IPSW file once from anywhere (either with higher speed internet access, or without a bandwidth cap) and then use the IPSW file to update
- Updating multiple same devices: You can multiple devices compatible with the same firmware file with a single firmware, thus preventing the need to re-download the update. For example, if your household as three iPhone 7 Plus devices, a single IPSW can be used to update all three
- Troubleshooting bricked devices: if an iPhone or iPad fails to properly install iOS 11 or the device is in an unusable state brought on by a failed software update (often referred to as being “bricked” because it is inoperable), you can often restore a device with IPSW via Recovery or DFU mode
There are other reasons to use IPSW as well, but we’ll assume if you’re going the route of installing iOS 11 via firmware then you already know why you’re doing so and have a compelling reason to proceed.
Updating to iOS 11 Manually with Firmware and iTunes
This walkthrough demonstrates using IPSW firmware files for updating an iPhone or iPad to iOS 11 that is operating as usual. Note that you can also use IPSW files when a device is in recovery mode or DFU mode if need be, but that is not specifically covered here.
- Back up the iPhone or iPad before beginning, do not skip a device backup otherwise you may suffer permanent data loss
- Download the iOS 11 IPSW file corresponding to the device you wish to update, and save it somewhere easy to find like the desktop
- Launch iTunes and connect the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to the computer using a USB cable
- Select the device in iTunes by clicking the little device icon in the iTunes
- Select the IPSW firmware file by performing the following in iTunes:
- Mac: OPTION + Click on the “Update” button in iTunes
- Windows: SHIFT + Click on the ‘Update’ button in iTunes
- Locate and select the IPSW file you downloaded earlier
- Confirm that you want to install iOS 11 by choosing ‘Update’ when requested
- Let iTunes update and install iOS 11 on the device
When completed, the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch will reboot with iOS 11 successfully installed.
Regardless of whether you update to iOS 11 using IPSW as shown here, or using the simpler traditional software update methods in Settings or through iTunes, the device will be on iOS 11 and ready to go.
For most users, iOS 11 goes well and they are able to enjoy the new interesting features available in iOS 11. There are mixed reports of poor battery life after iOS 11 update, but most of those energy issues can be resolved with a few simple tips if need be.