How to Install an iOS Beta

Apple Public Beta Program
image copyright Apple Inc.

While this article is still accurate, it only applies to people with Apple Developer accounts. However, Apple has created a public beta program that allows anyone to install of a new version of the iOS before it's officially released, even without a developer account. 

To find out more about the public beta, including how to sign up for it, read this article.

******

Apple announces the new versions of the iOS—the operating system that runs the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch—well in advance of their release.

Almost as soon as the announcement, the company also releases the first beta of the new iOS. While first betas are always buggy, they provide an early glimpse into what's coming in the future—and bring cool new features with them.

Betas are generally intended for developers to start testing and updating their old apps, or making new ones, so they're ready for the official release of the new OS. Even if you're a developer, the process of installing an iOS beta isn't as easy as perhaps it ought to be. Following the instructions included in Apple's Xcode development environment never worked for me, despite numerous attempts. However, the method detailed below worked on the first try and was much easier. So, if Xcode hasn't worked for you either, or you want a quick way to install a beta version of the iOS, try this. It requires a Mac.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: 10—35 minutes, depending on how much data you have to restore

Here's How:

  1. To begin, you'll need to sign up for a US$99/year iOS Developer account with Apple. There's no other legal, legitimate way to get a beta version of the iOS. And, since this method of installing the beta includes a check-back with Apple, not having the developer account may cause a problem for you.
  1. Now you need to add your iPhone (or other iOS device) to your developer account. When the iPhone activation process checks with Apple, it needs to see that you're a developer and that your device is registered. Otherwise, the activation will fail. To register your device, you need Xcode, a development environment for creating apps. Download it at the Mac App Store. Then launch it and connect the device you want to register. Click on the device. Look for the Identifier line (it's a long string of numbers and letters). Copy it.
  2. Next, log in to your developer account. Click iTunes Provisioning Portal and then click Devices. Click Add Devices. Type in whatever name you want to use to refer to this device, then paste the Identifier (aka Unique Device Identifier, or UDID) into the Device ID field and click Submit. Your device is now saved in your developer account.
  3. Once you've done that, locate the beta you want for the device you want to install it on (different versions of the beta are available for the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, etc). Download the file. NOTE: Depending on the requirements of the beta, you may need to download a beta version of iTunes as well.
  4. When your download is complete (and give it a while; most iOS betas are many hundreds of megabytes), you'll have a .dmg file on your computer with a name referencing the iOS beta. Double click the .dmg file.
  1. This will reveal a .ipsw file that includes the beta version of the iOS. Copy this file to your hard drive.
  2. Connect the iOS device you want to install the beta onto to your computer. This is the same process as if you were syncing or restoring your device from backup.
  3. When the sync is complete, hold down the Option key and click the Restore button in iTunes (this is the same button as if you were restoring the device from backup).
  4. When you do this, a window will pop up showing you the contents of your hard drive. Navigate through the window and find the .ipsw file in the location where you put it in step 4. Select the file and click Open.
  5. This will begin the process of restoring the device using the beta version of the iOS that you've selected. Follow any onscreen instructions and the standard restore process and in a few minutes you'll have installed the iOS beta on your device.

What You Need:

  • A paid iOS Developer account
  • An iOS device
  • The latest version of iTunes (including, possibly, a beta version)
  • A download of the iOS beta you want to install

More From Us