iOS 9 marked the first major version of the iPhone and iPad software that Apple opened up for public beta testing after a similar trial run with iOS 8.3 last year. As many users have noticed, Apple’s public beta program is continuing with the upcoming iOS 9.1 release available as an OTA (over-the-air) update for non-developer testers, but many users will surely want to hop off the beta train and onto the stable release cycle with today’s iOS 9.0 release.
Several readers have already asked about downgrading from the iOS 9.1 public beta to today’s iOS 9.0 release, and while it’s possible it does come at a cost: potentially losing some important data. If moving from iOS 9.1 public or even dev beta to today’s official iOS 9.0 release is worth it for you, read on for a detailed guide for doing just that.
Step 1: Ensure iCloud Is Backing Up and Syncing
While there doesn’t seem to be an official path from iOS 9.1 public beta to today’s iOS 9.0 release that keeps all of your data intact, iCloud is mostly version-agnostic in that it usually syncs and backs up important data like contacts and notes for use on older versions of iOS. Using the iOS device that you plan to downgrade, go to the Settings app then iCloud pane to ensure important information like Contacts, Reminders, and Notes are all toggled on if you plan on keeping this information.
Likely due to privacy concerns, Apple has not enabled syncing data from the Health and Activity apps through iCloud so expect to lose this information if downgrading. Backing up to iCloud does preserve Health and Activity, but you won’t be able to restore to iOS 9.0 using your iOS 9.1 backup unfortunately. Still, I recommend creating a full iCloud backup just in case you have second thoughts after moving down to iOS 9.0 and want to recover your data with iOS 9.1. While connected to power and on a Wi-Fi Internet connection, go to Settings > iCloud > Backup and ensure iCloud Backup is toggled on. Then tap Back Up Now to begin a full backup to iCloud.
Step 2: Disable Find My iPhone/iPad/iPod touch
While you’re in Settings > iCloud, you’ll want to disable Activation Lock in iOS 9.1 to save some time when restoring to iOS 9.0. Do this by going to Settings > iCloud > Find My iPhone/iPad/iPod touch (depending on which device you’re using) and toggling off Find My iPhone/iPad/iPod touch which should prompt you for your Apple ID and password used for iCloud.
Note: this may differ from your App Store password if you use a separate account for iCloud and purchases.
Step 3: Backup Purchases and Data to iTunes
Now that we have a few safety nets in place, it’s time to connect your iOS device to iTunes on your Mac or PC using your charging cable and put up a few more before downgrading from iOS 9.1 to iOS 9.0. After plugging in your iOS device, you may have to give your computer and device permission to “trust” each other, then click the icon in the top left corner of iTunes for managing your device.
From here you can create a local backup to iTunes and transfer any purchases not already saved to your computer. Even if your device is set to backup to iCloud, you can still choose to do a manual backup here. If you opt to encrypt your backup and protect that file with a password, most passwords from iOS will remain intact if you decide to restore to your iOS 9.1 backup in the future.
This process may take several minutes, especially if you opt to transfer any purchases from your iOS device to your Mac or PC using iTunes. Note that iTunes will need to be authorized with the same account used on your iOS device before transferring purchases.
Step 4: Put iOS Device in Recovery Mode
Now that you have a couple backups in place in case anything goes wrong, it’s time to downgrade from iOS 9.1 to iOS 9.0. iTunes doesn’t allow devices to easily rollback from a higher version of iOS to a previous release, so you’ll need to first put your device into recovery mode. Apple offers a guide for putting a device into recovery mode, but it boils down to four steps:
- Turn off your device and leave it off.
- Plug in your device’s USB cable to a computer with iTunes.
- Hold down the Home button on your device as you connect the USB cable. Keep holding down the Home button until you see the Connect to iTunes screen.
- When you see [the screen with iTunes + Lightning cable], release the Home button. If you don’t see this screen, try steps 1 through 3 again.
Step 5: Restore iOS Device to Factory Settings
Once your device is in Recovery Mode and connected to iTunes, you should see a prompt to Restore and Update. Following this prompt will show you the latest official version of iOS, specifically iOS 9.0 in this case, then begin downloading the full operating system after you follow the on-screen prompts.
You can follow the download progress in the upper right hand corner for an estimated time before the install begins.
Once iOS has finished downloading, your iOS device will begin installing the operating system. You’ll notice a progress bar beneath the Apple logo on your device’s display while iTunes says Restoring iPhone/iPad/iPod touch Software/Firmware.
Next you’ll notice iTunes no longer displays your device as it completes one more cycle of fulfilling a progress bar after a restart. Upon rebooting, iTunes may still prompt you to activate your device
Step 6: Restore iOS Device From Non-iOS 9.1 Backup or Set Up As New
Once your iOS device is wiped clean and restored to iOS 9.0, you can either choose to setup your device as new or restore content and settings from an iTunes or iCloud backup saved from iOS 9.0 or earlier. Welcome back to iOS 9.0.
Backups from iOS 9.1 will not be compatible and are only used for returning to iOS 9.1. Using your computer, iTunes will offer the option to restore to a previous backup, or you can start the setup process on your device to choose restoring through iCloud if you have a compatible backup.
Whichever route you take, restoring or starting clean, you can still sign in with iCloud to bring back the information it syncs including contacts and notes. The downside here is that not restoring will erase any Health and Activity data not present in an older backup or completely if you start fresh. Note also that many apps including some games will lose data when setting up as new or using an older backup.
Alternatively: Await Official iOS 9.1 Release Later This Fall
If you’ve already updated to iOS 9.1 public beta and decide that losing data isn’t worth the hassle, Apple’s official path for public beta testers seems to be this: continue to test future iOS 9.1 releases on your device, then update to iOS 9.1’s official release when it comes later this fall. There’s no exact date for when iOS 9.1 will be available, but it’s likely it will arrive with the iPad Pro which is shipping sometime in November. Have anything to add to this tutorial? Let us know below in the comments!