How to restore an iOS backup to an earlier version of iOS

Cover image for: How to restore an iOS backup to an earlier version of iOS

If you find yourself needing to restore a backup from a device with a newer version of iOS than the target device, you'll need to be aware that restoring a newer backup to a downgraded iOS device isn't possible without a few tweaks. If you try without, you'll see this message:

iTunes could not restore the iPhone "Renate's iPhone" because the backup was corrupt or not compatible with the iPhone that is being restored.

Trying to restore an iOS beta backup to an older version of iOS
Trying to restore an iOS beta backup to an older version of iOS

What are your options, then? Well, there's two:

  1. Patch your backup to make it compatible with the earlier iOS, or

  2. Pull the data you need from your iTunes or iCloud backup, and import it

We describe how the first technique below, and our guide on backup recovery covers the second technique.

How to patch downgrade an iOS backup version

Patching a backup for an iOS downgrade is pretty straightforward, although it isn't possible to move between just any version. We've highlighted the version downgrades that we've tested and know are working below.

Step 1. Take a copy of your iOS backup before you modify it.

Step 2. Open the Info.plist file in the root folder of your backup.

You can open this file with any simple text editor.

Step 3. Search for Product Version, and you'll find a section that looks like the text below.

<key>Product Type</key>
<key>Product Version</key>
<key>Serial Number</key>

Step 4. Change the Product Version value and save the file.

For example, from 12.1.3 to 12.1 or 12.0 and save the file.

Which backup versions are possible to downgrade from?

It may be that other version downgrades work, but these are the ones we've tested and confirmed working. This technique relies on there being little different to the underlying storage format between some versions. If you have success with other versions, please let our readers know in the comments below.

  • iOS 13.3.1 to 13.3
  • iOS 13.3 to 12.4.4, 12.3.3
  • iOS 13.2 to 12.3.4
  • iOS 13.1.3 to 12.3.3
  • iOS 12.3.2 to 12.3.1
  • iOS 12.1.3 to 12.1.2
  • iOS 12.1.3 to 12.1 or 12.0
  • iOS 12 to 11.4
  • iOS 9 beta to 8.4
  • iOS 8.0.1 to 8.0
  • iOS 8 beta to 7
  • iOS 7 to 6.1.4 for iPhone 5 or 6.1.3 for iPhone 4

About the author

Aidan founded Reincubate in 2008 after building the world's first iPhone data recovery tool, iPhone Backup Extractor. He’s led Reincubate to win the UK’s highest business honour twice, has spoken at Google on entrepreneurship, and is a graduate of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation’s Leadership Academy.

His work has been cited in over 20 academic papers on forensics and mobile data, including "iPhone 3GS Forensics: Logical Analysis Using Apple iTunes Backup Utility" (Bader, M & Baggli, I, 2010), "iOS Forensic Investigative Methods" (Zdziarski, J, 2013), "Overcoming Forensic Implications with Enhancing Security in iOS" (Gangula, MR, 2019), and "Direct Message Extraction for Automatic Emotional Inference and Drug Detection" (Fong, G, 2019).

Earlier in his career, he served as CTO at Wiggle through to its $230m breakout exit. Aidan is an occasional investor, and published "So, you want to work in tech?" in 2016.

Reincubate's CEO at Buckingham Palace

Pictured left are members of Reincubate’s team meeting HM Queen Elizabeth Ⅱ at Buckingham Palace, after being awarded the UK’s highest business award for our work with Apple technology.

Our position on privacy and security

How can we help?

Our support team are here to help!

Our office hours are Monday to Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM GMT. The time is currently 12:59 PM GMT.

We aim to reply to all messages within one working day.

Go to support section › Contact support ›
Our awesome support team

Comments (8)

how about 13.3 to 13.3.1?

That'll work fine. 🙂


Worked for iPhone 5s with iOS 10.3.3 importing backup from iPhone X with iOS 13.1.4. Thanks!

can I restore my 13.3.1 to 13.3?

Yes, that should be no problem.

Great Article! I was able to use a 13.3 ios BackUp on a 12.4.4 ios on iPhone 6!


Worked for iPhone 6 with iOS 12.4.4 importing backup from iPhone 7 with iOS 13.3. Thanks!

iPhone 8 13.3 > iPhone 6 12.4.4 = fail iPhone 8 13.3 > iPhone 6 12.3.3 = success!

I succesfully downgraded from an iPhone 6s on 13.2 to an iPhone 6 on 12.3.4 ! Thank you for your precious information !

Awesome! Thanks for commenting.

Just did a restore from 13.1.3 ver on 12.3.3 Thanks for info

Thanks for letting us know!

Can we improve this article?

We love hearing from users: why not drop us an email, leave a comment, or tweet @reincubate?

© 2008 - 2020 Reincubate Ltd. All rights reserved. Registered in England and Wales #5189175, VAT GB151788978. Reincubate® is a registered trademark. Privacy policy & terms. We recommend 2FA. Built with in London.