Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How To Safely Test iOS 8 Beta

iOS 8
This year installing the iOS 8 Beta is much easier than it was last year when I detailed out How To Install iOS 7 Betas in one of my blog articles.  This year is much simpler and in this article I detail out the steps you can take to install iOS 8 betas, take precautions to do it safely, recommendations for testing iOS, and even how to downgrade a device back to iOS 7 (something that the Apple Developer site still warns is not possible).

In this article I've updated the content from my How To Install iOS 7 Betas blog article for use with iOS 8.  And through some experimentation, I've also discovered how to downgrade to iOS 7 from iOS 8, so I detail out those steps as well.  

This article covers:
  • How To Install iOS 8 on a Device
  • How To Downgrade to iOS 7 from iOS 8
  • How To Recover a Device
Also check out all articles on iOS 8 in this blog.

How To Install iOS 8 on a Device

You need to proceed with CAUTION when testing beta software, so I've focused this article on precautions you should take to do this safely.

This year the Apple Developer site now has a good instruction sheet in the iOS Dev Center in the iOS 8 Beta section.  It is in a PDF titled the iOS beta Software Installation Guide.  Note that these Dev Center URLs are secured and require that you have purchased a membership in Apple's iOS Developer Program.

The iOS beta Software Installation Guide will show you how to register your device using just a web browser at the Apple Developer site.  To install iOS all you will need is iTunes.

Apple Developer iOS Center
Apple warning about downgrading iOS
According to Apple's iOS Dev Center in the iOS 8 Beta section, 
"Devices updated to iOS 8 beta can not be restored to earlier versions of iOS."
This was also the warning with iOS 7 beta.  However, I've proven this not to be the case by successfully downgrading an iPod Touch to iOS 7.1.1 from the iOS 8 Beta.  See the section below more the details.

Just to be on the safe side however, be prepared to not be able to downgrade once you go to iOS 8.

System Requirements
  • A Mac is probably required.  You no longer need to use Xcode to install iOS betas, which only runs on Macs, and can now use iTunes.  Although iTunes runs on Windows, Apple's iOS beta Software Installation Guide makes no mention of iTunes on Windows and instead specifically mentions iTunes on your Mac.  And I did not test iTunes on Windows, so Windows users are on their own.
  • Dedicated development device is recommended.
  • I recommend you use as new a device as possible, so you get the complete iOS feature set (some newer features are not supported on older devices) and for the best performance (betas can be slower than released code).
  • I also recommend, and so does Apple, that you do NOT install a beta iOS on a production device.  For example, I have an iPad and iPod Touch that I have installed iOS 8 on, and I use an iPhone for production use running the publicly released version of iOS 7.

High Level Steps

Here's the high level steps:
  1. If you don't have one, get an Apple iOS Developer account.
  2. Download iOS.
  3. Download/update to the latest version of iTunes.
  4. Register your device for development.
  5. Install iOS onto your device using iTunes.

1. Get an Apple iOS Developer account.

If you're new to all of this, then the first thing you need to know is you need to join Apple's iOS Developer Program.  It's cheap and easy, just $99 a year for a single individual developer - more for a company.  You'll need an Apple ID.  Your application is submitted and paid for online.  The site says your account will be activated within 24 hours.  Mine was activated in less than 1 hour.  Then you'll be emailed an activation code and instructions to active your account.

2. Download an iOS Beta

Apple Developer iOS Center
Links to determine proper download
You can download iOS betas, other previews, SDKs and other tools in the iOS Dev Center in the iOS 8 Beta section.  Make sure you download the correct beta for your model device.  This can be a bit confusing for first timers, because the downloads are distinguished by a model number, which is not the same as the part number assigned to devices in the Apple Store and not the same as the model number found in the Settings app under General > About > Model.  So use the links in the Downloads section of the page to determine the proper download for your iPhone or iPad (links go directly to the respective pages).

The iOS 8 Beta is in a ZIP file.  Unzip this file and you will use the IPSW file inside of it, to install iOS on the device using iTunes.

3. Download/Update to the latest iTunes

Macs come with iTunes already installed.  Update it using the Mac App Store or within iTunes select the iTunes > Check for Updates menu command.

4. Backup your device

Installing a new iOS will completely wipe your data off your device.  So before you install iOS, make sure you backup your device to both iCloud and your local Mac.  You can do this from within iTunes.  In iTunes:
iTunes Backup section
Backup device here in iTunes

  1. Select the device in the left sidebar.
  2. Go to the Summary screen.
  3. In the Backups section, use radio buttons to select iCloud and This Computer and  the Backup Now button.

Why backup to both ?  Safety.  And after the iOS install, you will have to restore and re-sync your device to get all your apps, music, photos and other data, so you'll want to use the local backup to restore your device because it will be much faster.

5. Register your device & Install iOS

Apple Developer Member Center
Register your device here
These 2 last steps are nicely covered by Apple's iOS beta Software Installation Guide.  Here is a quick overview of the steps:
  1. Register your device in the Certificates, Identifiers & Profiles area of Apple's Developer Member Center.
  2. In iTunes on your Mac, hold the Option key and click the Restore {device type} button.  You will get a file open dialog which you can use to select the IPSW file that you downloaded in section 2. Download an iOS Beta above.

iTunes device Summary
Install iOS here in iTunes


6. Restore and Sync your device

Since the install of iOS will completely delete everything on your device, you will need to do a restore and then sync to get all of your apps, music, photos and other data back on it.

After the final reboot of your device during the install of iOS, you should get prompts in iTunes to activate your device.  These steps will also prompt to restore from your local or iCloud backup.  And after that it will start a Sync automatically.  To manually do a restore in iTunes:
iTunes Backup section
Restore device here in iTunes

  1. Select the device in the left sidebar.
  2. Go to the Summary screen.
  3. In the Backups section, use the Restore Backup button.

If you've got a lot of stuff on your device, like I do, the sync will take hours.  My iPad has almost 60 GB and over 300 apps, so it takes several hours to restore from a local backup and data stores.


How To Downgrade to iOS 7 from iOS 8

According to Apple's iOS Dev Center in the iOS 8 Beta section, 
"Devices updated to iOS 8 beta can not be restored to earlier versions of iOS."
This was also the warning with iOS 7 beta.  However, I've proven this not to be the case by successfully downgrading an iPod Touch 5th gen to iOS 7.1.1 from the iOS 8 Beta.

Steps I Tested

I successfully downgraded iOS on an iPod Touch 5th generation with 32GB.  I used it last year to test the iOS 7 betas.  The iOS 7 beta I last used had expired so I had to recover the device using the steps in the next section, How To Recover a Device.  So when I started this test the iPod had the latest released version of iOS, 7.1.1.

Here are all of the steps I conducted to successfully test upgrading to iOS 8 then downgrading to iOS 7 then upgrade to iOS 8 again:
  1. Backed up to iCloud and to my local Mac using iTunes.
  2. Installed the iOS 8 Beta using the steps in the previous section.
  3. Restored from the local backup.
  4. Backed up the iPod now with iOS 8, to my local Mac.
  5. Completed a device recovery following the steps in the section below on How To Recover a Device.
  6. Repeated steps 2. and 3.


How To Recover a Device

iOS Recover Mode screen
iOS Recover Mode screen
If you have a device that fails to boot or needs to be recovered back to factory defaults due to some failure or is locked in some way, you may be able to use the Recovery mode of the device to get it back to functioning.

Making a device useless is sometimes called bricking.  iOS devices have a Recovery Mode capability that you can use to salvage the device.  This may work for OS and firmware failures, like those that can occur with beta software, hacking or jailbreaking.

In my case, I successfully used Recovery Mode to get the iPod Touch that I used last year for testing the iOS 7 beta, useful again.  See betas expire, so the iOS 7 beta that I still had on my iPod Touch, made it useless because it refused to allow me to access the device.  It simply displayed a message about iOS expiring and prevented access to the home screen.  This was no big deal because I only used it for testing, so there was not any real data on it that I needed.

Steps on How to Recover a Device

Apple has a support doc titled If you can't update or restore your iOS device that walks you through the steps to recover your device.  It discusses using iTunes on a Mac or Windows.  I successfully recovered my device on a Mac.

This process will download the latest released version of iOS and install it.  And the device will be completely reset to factory defaults.  You can then restore your settings and sync your data back on to the device.

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