What Is an IPSW File?

How to Open, Edit, and Convert IPSW Files

IPSW Files
IPSW Files.
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A file with the IPSW file extension is an Apple Device Software Update file used with iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Apple TV devices. It's an archive file format that stores encrypted DMG files and various others like PLISTs, BBFWs and IM4Ps.

IPSW files are released from Apple and are intended to add new features and fix security vulnerabilities in compatible devices. An IPSW file can also be used to restore an Apple device back to its factory default settings.

Though Apple always releases new IPSW files through iTunes, current and outdated firmware versions can also be downloaded through websites like IPSW Downloads.

How to Open an IPSW File

When a compatible device connected to a computer is in need of an update, an IPSW file can be downloaded automatically through iTunes after accepting a prompt to update the device. iTunes will then apply the IPSW file to the device.

If you've obtained an IPSW file through iTunes in the past or have downloaded one from a website, you can just double-click or double-tap the IPSW file to open it in iTunes.

IPSW files downloaded through iTunes are saved to the following locations:

Note: The "[username]" sections in the Windows paths should be replaced by your own user account name. See How Do I Show Hidden Files and Folders in Windows? if you can't find the "AppData" folder.

Windows 10/8/7Location
iPhone:C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPhone Software Updates
iPad:C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPad Software Updates
iPod touch:C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPod Software Updates
Windows XP
iPhone:C:\Documents and Settings\[username]\Application Data\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPhone Software Updates
iPad:C:\Documents and Settings\[username]\Application Data\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPad Software Updates
iPod touch:C:\Documents and Settings\[username]\Application Data\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPod Software Updates
macOS
iPhone:~/Library/iTunes/iPhone Software Updates
iPad:~/Library/iTunes/iPad Software Updates
iPod touch:~/Library/iTunes/iPod Software Updates

If an update isn't working properly or iTunes isn't recognizing the IPSW file that it downloaded, you can delete or remove the file from the above location. This will force iTunes to download a new IPSW file the next time it tries to update the device.

Since these files are stored as ZIP archives, you can also open an IPSW file using a file zip/unzip tool, the free 7-Zip being one example.

This lets you see the different DMG files that make up the IPSW file, but you cannot apply the software update to your Apple device this way - iTunes still needs to use the .IPSW file.

Note: If you find that an application on your PC tries to open the IPSW file but it's the wrong application or if you would rather have another installed program open IPSW files, see my How to Change the Default Program for a Specific File Extension guide for making that change in Windows.

How to Convert an IPSW File

There shouldn't be any reason to convert an IPSW file to another format. The way it exists is necessary for communicating software updates through iTunes and to Apple devices; converting it would mean losing functionality of the file altogether.

If you want to open an Apple Device Software Update file as an archive file, you don't need to worry about converting the IPSW to ZIP, ISO, etc. - like I mentioned above, just use a file unzip tool to open the file.

Still Can't Open Your File?

Some file formats use similarly spelled file extensions that can be confusing when you're having trouble opening the file. Even though two file extensions might look similar, it doesn't necessarily mean that they are of the same or a similar format, which of course means that they might not open with the same software.

For example, Internal Patching System Patch files use the file extension IPS, which looks a lot like IPSW. However, even though they share three of the same file extension letters, they're actually entirely different file formats. IPS files open with Internal Patching System software like IPS Peek.

PSW files can very easily be mistaken for IPSW files but they're actually either Windows Password Reset Disk files, Password Depot 3-5 files or Pocket Word Document files. None of those formats have anything to do with Apple devices or the iTunes program, so if you can't open your IPSW file, double-check that the file extension doesn't actually read "PSW."

Another similar extension is IPSPOT, which is used for iPhoto Spot files on the Mac. They're not used with iTunes but instead the Photos application on macOS.