How to Downgrade your iPod Touch or iPhone from iOS4 to 3.12/3.13

July 16, 2010 by  

Downgrade your iPhone or iPod Touch from iOS4 to OS 3.13If you’re like me, and apparently many others, after installing iOS4 for your iPod Touch or iPhone you were less than impressed.  Well after several weeks, and a few tries, I’ve successfully removed iOS4 from my iPod Touch 2G and downgraded/reinstalled the previous OS 3.12 (more on why it’s not 3.13 in a bit).  Read on and I’ll explain how you can do the same on your device to solve problems such as battery drain, sluggishness, and crashing.

I’ve always been someone who jumps on upgrades for software pretty much as soon as they come out.  I also try a lot of beta software – friends, colleagues, clients, and readers of this blog have come to trust  me to “test it all out” and then report back on what are the best programs, devices, and technology available.  I have to say however it was a mistake for me to upgrade my iPod Touch 2G to iOS4 the day it came out. I should have waited a few days and read about what others were experiencing as it would have saved me a lot of problems.

I was really excited about the new features in iOS4 and you have heard me mention here on this blog before that my iPod Touch has pretty much been my favorite piece of technology for the last few years.  It’s amazing and it just works – I travel without my laptop a lot more these day thanks to this handy little device.  In fact it has essentially acted as an Apple gateway drug making me want to switch from a PC to a MAC.

But my wonderful, joyful piece of technology was no longer bringing me as much joy after upgrading the firmware/software from 3.13 to iOS4. As it turns out many of the new features I was excited about (multitasking and screen rotation lock) were not supported on my older device. But worse was that the addition of persistent wi-fi when the device goes into sleep/standby mode was killing my battery.  Even when it was off in my pocket what used to last a few days was out of juice by the middle of a single day.  UNACCEPTABLE!

I also found using it just felt slow and sluggish and many of the apps were crashing – something I never experienced before. As I mentioned one of the reasons I love my iPod Touch is that it “just works” which has long been the mac fan mantra.

I searched around on the web and tried about a week ago to downgrade but it didn’t work.  I was stuck having to manually turn off the wi-fi by putting it into airplane mode when I wasn’t actively using it just to make my battery last throughout the day. I decided to wait for Apple to release a fix, patch, or official way to downgrade to the previous OS – but alas the 4.01 update was released today and it does not appear to address the horrendous battery drain or the slowness/crashing I have been experiencing.

So I decided to brave the downgrade again being I’m a techy and comfortable trying the various steps and methods I found. It took lots of Google searching, some sweat (when I thought I bricked it and couldn’t bring it back to life) and lots of swearing but I FINALLY was able to downgrade from iOS4 to 3.12 on my iPod touch.  I wanted to go to 3.13 but for some reason that was a no go. No major loss as 3.13 only contained minor updates from 3.12 – but I am still searching for a way to bring it back to the 3.13 software I had on it before I foolishly chose to upgrade to 4.  Here is what finally worked for me – I hope these steps and links will help you and others restore your iPod Touch or iPhone to the previous OS:

  1. I primarily followed these instructions from LifeHacker (which are for Mac or Windows users) however it didn’t work for me exactly as they suggested so I had to make a few changes.
  2. One of the main things you need to do is put your device into what is called Device Firmware Update (DFU) mode in order to properly restore a previous OS/Firmware. To do this you follow some special instructions for how to power it up which they detailed nicely in the Lifehacker link above – they even include a video walkthrough.
  3. In order to restore you need to download the previous firmware which you can find here As I mentioned earlier I tried to restore to OS/firmware 3.13 (which was the latest before the release of iOS4) but I kept getting “error 3194” after it would try to restore through iTunes.  I searched high and low on Google but none of the solutions I found others suggesting seemed to work until I found a few people mention they were able to successfully restore to 3.12.  I tried that and it did the trick! You might want to try 3.13 first so you can have the most up to date software – but if that doesn’t work try 3.12 like I did. (IMPORTANT – Make sure you download the right firmware for your device from the link in this step.  They have various versions of the iPhone and iPod Touch).
  4. After you successfully restore the previous OS you need to use a program called RecBoot to kick your iPhone/iPod Touch out of recovery mode. You can download the latest version of RecBoot from here
  5. On a windows computer in order to run RecBoot successfully you need to install something called LibUSB which are special drivers for your USB ports.  The first time around I had trouble doing this and got very confused until I found this great blog post with a YouTube video that did the trick I am running Windows 7 64-bit but I believe these steps are exactly the same for 32-bit you just download a different version of LibUSB. It also says in the readme file that you need to download “iTunesMobileDevice.dll” and put this folder in the same folder that RECBOOT is in.  The Readme file that comes with RecBoot gives you a link where you can download this file.

One odd thing was that the LifeHacker instructions state you need to use RecBoot to kick your device OUT of DFU/Restore mode.  When I was wrestling with the 3.13 OS this didn’t seem to work for me and I started sweating bullets as my device would not turn on and seemed to be stuck in restore mode with a black screen.  I tried it several times to no avail – however once I successfully restored the 3.12 OS it seemed to kick itself out of restore mode without the use of the Recboot software.  But I can’t say you don’t need it as I had to try several attempts to get this to work so I’m it’s possible that some of the earlier steps I took while following the “official” Lifehacker instructions might have had some effect on my solution.

CAUTION – I highly recommend you read all the steps and download all of the files you need BEFORE proceeding with these steps.  Be sure to review the readme files that might come with any of the downloads. Also if you are using a Windows Computer you will want to create a RESTORE POINT before installing LibUSB or any of this software.  This will allow you to roll your computer back to the state it was in before you installed the drivers and/or software.  If you are unsure how to do this here are step-by-step instructions for creating a restore point in Windows XP or Windows Vista/7. This is good general advice any time you are installing new software or hardware or monkeying with your system.

The only downside in all of this was that after restoring the firmware and my iPod Touch Backup (the one it made by itself before I upgraded to iOS4) none of my apps, music, or videos were restored.  It wasn’t too much of a hassle however because iTunes had all that in place so all I had to do was drag whatever movies and music I wanted back onto my iPod Touch and then check the boxes for the apps I wanted to resync.  It was actually helpful as I had a lot of apps installed I was no longer using so I didn’t bother to restore many of them which freed up more space on my 16GB iPod Touch. One sync with iTunes later and all was right again!

In order to test that my battery life was back to normal I left my fully charged iPod Touch unplugged next to my bed when I went to sleep last night without turning wi-fi off.  Upon waking I smiled as I saw that I still had a full charge. Under iOS 4 I was often greeted by a message in the morning that I needed to charge my device even though it was sitting on my night table unused.

There were a few features in iOS4 I found useful including the spell checker, the updates to email which showed threaded messages much like Gmail, and the improved search feature – but I was perfectly happy with my iPod Touch before I had those features and it is much more important to me that it has good battery life and doesn’t crash as I use it frequently throughout the day.

Hopefully Apple will release a future update (4.1) that will fix these issues and perhaps give us an option to turn off the persistent wi-fi feature to conserve battery life.  I wish they had released an official “downgrade patch” that would allow us to easily roll our devices back to the previous OS if we were unhappy with iOS4 – but for now if you want to go back – follow my steps above and hopefully my wrestling with this will save you some time.  If you have any questions about these steps or thoughts on iOS4 of downgrading please post a comment below.

  • Yes, we have been struggling to find a universal fix for it, but most of the fixes we find only work in some instances. I like iOS4 now that I got it working for my iTouch 3Gen, but it was frustrating until I figured out what was causing my battery to drain dead within 8 hrs of just sitting there on standby.

    Turning off individual app notifications is what I was able to find (on about page 24 of the thread here on the Apple forums: ). It helped some people, but others say they still have issues. I didn't really use those much, anyway. At least it's not a huge problem for me, and is less trouble than switching back.

    While I used to sell Apple products a long time ago (about the first time color models came out, like Mac IIci), this is the first Apple product I've owned. I got it in Feb as a gift. That Apple has not even acknowledged a problem does not give me much confidence for converting to their products.

  • My 2nd Gen iPod Touch just wasn't happy with iOS4. I would have liked it if they came out with an official download that let people easily roll back to 3.13 without having to go through all the grief I did in researching it, testing it, and getting it to work. They must have known it wouldn't work well for the older hardware. Still stuck on 3.12 because any attempts I've made to upgrade to 3.13 (the most recent version of the OS I had before foolishly jumping to 4) has resulted in a frustrating error message with no solution.

    Come on Apple – you know better than that!

  • Joe

    Thanks for the post! I was searching Google for like an hour for a solution to the dreaded “Error code 3194.” I tried installing ios 3.1.3 like 4 times and it didn't work at all so i tried 3.1.2 and it worked! So, thanks a lot for your post.
    When the error did come up, though, the iPod could re-boot by unplugging it and booting by holding down the power button and the home button until the Apple logo comes up. You mentioned you thought your iPod “seemed to be stuck in restore mode with a black screen” so yeah, there's a fix for that 🙂
    Thanks again

  • Hey Joe – So glad to hear my post helped you with your iPod and thanks for sharing the tip about breaking free of the restore mode. Very helpful. My iPod Touch still hasn’t seemed quite the same since moving to OS4 and then downgrading to 3.12. I might try and wipe it and restore again at some point to see if that fixes it. It’s possible that some of the issues I am experiencing are from things that were fixed in 3.13 – wish I could have restored to that. Still surprised Apple didn’t release an “official” way to roll back when so many people had issues with iOS4.

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  • Apple

    So what to do if 3.1.3 AND 3.1.2 give you a 3194 error?
    I hear apple stopped signing all iso3 firmware so you cant downgrade to any.
    Leave it to apple to not let you put the right firmware on your device in hopes that youll buy the new stuff. They really hate giving people even a little bit of freedom….

    • Not sure what to do if the 3.1.2 gives you an error – you could try going a bit further back. I agree it is frustrating that Apple stopped signing previous firmware versions. In my opinion it would have been much smarter for them to make it very easy for you to roll back to an earlier version of iOS. That would have lead to much happier iPhone and iPod Touch users!

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  • Elizabeta-90

    i haw install a version 5.0.1 on my ipod,can i get back the vereson 3 or that posibile???sorry for my english,is not goodd

  • Elizabeta-90

    pleasee replay on my post