How to Jailbreak Your iPhone: Step-By-Step and Possible Risks

Phone broke out of the jail cell, padlock broken
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Jailbreaking Your iPhone: An Overview

Jailbreaking an iPhone allows you to make several customizations and unlock features that are otherwise unavailable. While the process may seem daunting, it’s fairly straightforward if you have the right tools.

Currently, only iPhones running iOS 14.8 or lower can be jailbroken using tools like uncover or checkra1n. Follow the steps listed below to jailbreak your iPhone using uncover:

  1. Download the Alt Store on your PC or Mac.
  2. Install it onto your iOS device.
  3. Download the uncover IPA file from their website.
  4. Sideload it on the iPhone using Alt Store.
  5. Open the uncover app and click on the ‘Jailbreak’ button
  6. Allow the process to complete. Your device will reboot and some code will be visible on-screen
  7. Check for the presence of an app called ‘Cydia’ to verify if the jailbreak process was completed successfully.
  8. To ensure safe online browsing on a jailbroken iPhone, use a VPN.

Jailbroken iPhones can be secured with a VPN, which you can install in the same way as factory-set iPhones. Go with NordVPN if you want a security-minded service.

Do you want to know exactly how jailbreaking works, or do you want to know more about the security risks of jailbreaking? Then read the full article below.

Jailbreaking an iPhone allows users more freedom to control what parts of their data are shared, and with whom. A jailbreak increases the personal accessibility of your device, which is good news for your privacy. Of course, once jailbroken, you’ll be able to customize your iPhone interface and install apps that Apple hasn’t approved.

On the other hand, a jailbreak eliminates security restrictions, so if you are not careful, there’s a chance of errors appearing in your operating system. In this article, we explain what a jailbreak is, the advantages and risks of jailbreaking an iPhone and why you should or shouldn’t do it.


What is Jailbreaking? What Does Jailbreaking An iPhone Do?

What is jailbreaking iconSimply put, jailbreaking is a bypass of the security of a device to increase its usability. iOS, the iPhone operating system, is a closed operating system. This means that users can make (almost) no adjustments to their personal preferences, at least on a device level. That’s why some users decide to jailbreak their iPhones so that they can control the operating system themselves.

The closed nature of iOS devices is not optimal to stimulate innovation either. For example, iOS’s limited accessibility makes it more difficult for amateur developers to get started with Apple devices, reducing the opportunities for talented and creative hobbyists to develop new apps or features. On jailbroken devices, developers can work to their heart’s content without the restrictions normally imposed by Apple.

In short, if you want more customization than iOS normally allows, or if you like to tinker with iOS as a hobby, a jailbroken iPhone can give you more freedom.


How to Jailbreak an iPhone

How to jailbreak an iPhone iconThere are a lot of ways to jailbreak your iPhone, but there are some popular tools that the vast majority of jailbreakers use. For recent versions of iOS, these are checkra1n and uncover (or uncover). These tools are relatively easy to use because it’s quite clear which steps you need to go through. Both tools also give you the option to install Cydia after the jailbreak.

It is important to realize that jailbreaking tools exploit weaknesses in iOS. These weaknesses first need to be discovered, so generally, this means that you can’t jailbreak the very latest versions of iOS immediately after release.

Here’s a rundown of devices and iOs systems checkra1n and uncover will work on, at the time of writing:

Jailbreak toolCompatible iOS versionsCompatible iPhone versions
uncoveriOS 11.0 – 14.8.1iPhone 5s  – iPhone 11 Max Pro
checkra1niOS 12.0 – 14.5iPhone 5s  – iPhone X

Jailbreak your iPhone using uncover

Basically, anyone with an iPhone with iOS 11 – 14.8.1 can use uncover to jailbreak their iPhone. Before you start jailbreaking, it is useful to make a backup, because there is always a chance that something could go wrong.

Once you’re done with the backup, proceed with the steps listed below to jailbreak your iPhone using uncover. These steps described the process of jailbreaking an iPhone using the latest uncover release i.e. v. 8.0.1. The steps may vary for previous releases.

The uncover jailbreaking process can be divided into two broad steps: downloading and installing the Alt Store and installing uncover. Each of these steps is explained below.

Install the AltStore on your iPhone

Unlike checkra1n, uncover requires users to sideload an app onto their phones. This app then executes the jailbreak process. Sideloading refers to installing apps on iOS that are not permitted by the App Store. For this, we need to download and install an alternate App Store that can install uncover. A PC or Mac will be required to install AltStore on an iPhone.

The steps listed below describe the process for installing AltStore on your iPhone using a Mac:

  1. Download AltStore from their website. The store has versions for both Microsoft and macOS.
  2. Double click on the downloaded AltStore icon to install the application.
  3. Once AltStore is installed, you should see a diamond-shaped icon in the Menu Bar at the top of the screen. Click on it.
  4. From the dropdown menu, select “Install Mail Plug-In.” This will install a plug-in in the Mail app that allows AltStore to be loaded onto your iPhone.
  5. Screenshot of iOS, user interface Install Mail Plug-in
  6. Open your Mail app and click on “Preferences” in the Menu Bar. It is usually in the “Mail” drop-down menu.
  7.  In preferences, click on “General” and locate the “Manage Plug-Ins” button located on the bottom right side of the window.
  8. Check the box next to “AltPlugin.mailbundle” in the pop-up window that opens up.
  9. Screenshot of Mail Plug-In Configure
  10. Go back to the Menu bar and click on the icon described in step 3. From the drop-down menu, select “Install Alt Store” and then click on the desired device. You’ll be asked to sign in with your Apple ID and password, which is normal and safe for such a procedure.
  11. Once installed, the AltStore should be visible as a normal app on your iPhone.

Now that we’ve installed AltStore on your iPhone, let’s see how we can use it to download uncover and jailbreak your phone.

Installing uncover on the device

Installing uncover on an iPhone once AltStore has been installed is quite easy. Follow the steps listed below:

  1. Go to the Settings app on your iPhone and scroll to find the “General” tab.
  2. In the General tab, look for “VPN and Device Management.”
  3. You should have the option to “trust” apps installed using Alt Store. Grant the required permissions.
  4. Screenshot of iOS, Trust AltStore
  5. Head over to the uncover website.
  6. Screenshot of Uncover Website, Open in AltStore button highlighted
  7. Click on the “Open in AltStore” button. This should redirect you to the AltStore app.
  8. The app will now install uncover on your device. Once installed, you should see the uncover app in the AltStore as well as on your device. Sometimes, the uncover app doesn’t appear in the app tray even after successful installation. Try rebooting your phone if you’re unable to see the uncover app despite successful installation.
  9. Screenshot of iOS, Uncover AltStore
  10. Open the uncover app and click on the blue jailbreak button. (The device we used for testing was on a higher iOS version, which is why the jailbreak button is not visible).
  11. Screenshot of Uncover App interface
  12. The app will now execute the jailbreak process. Your system may reboot a few times during the process.

Jailbreak your iPhone using Checkra1n

Checkra1n is a semi-tethered jailbreak, which means it requires a connection to a laptop or PC. The checkra1n app is compatible with macOS or Linux. There is no support for Windows. For people who do not have access to a macOS or Linux operating system, we recommend the uncover jailbreak. The same goes for people with older iOS versions. Again, make a backup of your files. Once you have done that, you should follow these steps for checkra1n:

  1. Download and install the checkra1n tool on your PC or laptop from checkra.in and open it.
  2. Connect your iPhone to your PC or laptop. If everything works, you’ll see the window below.Checkra1n jailbreak screenshot
  3. Optional: checkra1n may indicate that it does not support your operating system, even though it should. In that case, your iPhone has to be connected in Recovery Mode. Checkra1n gives the exact instructions for this in the window.
  4. If an Apple logo appears, the iPhone is in Recovery Mode and checkra1n gives instructions to put your iPhone in DFU mode. Follow the instructions on your screen and wait. If it’s ok, you’ll see the message below on your computer.
  5. Checkra1n now starts up the iPhone in jailbroken mode. The jailbreak is complete!

Note: To check if the jailbreak was successful, you can look for an app called Cydia, which is like a jailbroken app store (explained in detail later). If you can successfully install repositories using Cydia, the jailbreak was a success.

Also, please realize that although jailbreaking your iPhone is legal, there is content on Cydia which probably isn’t. For instance, there is a streaming app called ¨Movie Box Pro¨, which allows you to stream copyrighted movies and series for free. Of course, this warning doesn’t just apply to jailbreaks involving checkra1n, but to jailbreaking in general.


4 Different Ways to Jailbreak an iPhone

If you’re going to jailbreak your iPhone, it’s useful to know that there are different ways of going about it. These jailbreaks take advantage of weaknesses in iOS in a variety of ways. This means that some jailbreaks need a connection between your iPhone and a PC.

However, other jailbreaks use exploits without the need to connect to a computer. Here are the four different ways to jailbreak an iPhone.

1. Tethered jailbreak

Tethered jailbreaks require a connection to a PC or laptop to run the jailbreak. In addition, each time the device is rebooted, a connection to a PC or laptop must be established. Without this connection, it is simply not possible to reboot jailbroken iOS devices.

2. Untethered jailbreak

With untethered jailbreaks, jailbroken iOS devices can be rebooted without any connection to a laptop or PC. The exploit that is used to break into the operating system is so strong that the user can turn their iPhone off and on while maintaining the jailbreak. However, the first time the jailbreak is executed, there must be a connection to a computer.

3. Semi-tethered jailbreak

Semi-tethered jailbreaks require a computer connection whenever users want to turn on their jailbroken device and run modified code on it. In other words, rebooting your device will be possible without this connection, but you won’t be able to use any “jailbreak features.” Checkra1n, which we showed you earlier, is an example of a semi-tethered jailbreak.

4. Semi-untethered

Semi-untethered jailbreaks are similar to untethered ones, but no connection to a PC is required at all for the jailbreak. Also, users can always reboot. The catch, however, is that a non-jailbroken version of iOS is booted, after which the user has to redo the jailbreak via an app on the device. This requires some effort, as jailbreak apps are naturally not approved by Apple. If the instructions are followed correctly, however, this type of jailbreak is very user-friendly. uncover is a leading example of a semi-untethered jailbreak.


Cydia: An “Unofficial Store” for Jailbreak Apps

If you want to jailbreak your iPhone, it is advisable to install Cydia. Cydia is a package manager, which is comparable to an app store. It is by far the most commonly used app for jailbroken devices. Because almost all jailbreakers are active on Cydia, it is also the most reliable way to download apps and modifications.

Below, you will find a number of examples of popular apps which you can find on Cydia:

  • Filza is a file organizer for jailbroken iPhones, which gives more options than standard apps on a non-jailbroken iOS version. Filza is also compatible with cloud services such as Dropbox and Google Drive.
  • iCleaner Pro is a cleanup application for iOS with a lot of options that are not available on the standard iOS version. Think of enabling and disabling startup processes that run in the background, or removing unused languages from your keyboard.
  • Activator is an app that gives full control over touch commands. The app also supports specific touch commands for other apps on Cydia. In addition, Activator allows you to set up custom controls for all kinds of actions. Think of playing music, opening certain apps or (un)locking your screen.
  • iTorrent is an app that many within the jailbreaking community use to download torrents.

As you can see, jailbreaking can focus on expanding functionality, with apps like Filza and Activator. On the other hand, there are also apps like iTorrent or iCleaner Pro, which serve a specific purpose. These four examples are only a fraction of what is available if you use Cydia. If you are going to jailbreak, take some time to find out which apps suit your preferences.


The Risks of An iPhone Jailbreak

Infographic showing the risks of an iPhone jailbreak

Since Apple did not design iPhones to jailbreak, there’s always a chance something could go wrong. Especially since there are so many different manuals available online, it’s unlikely you’ll know exactly what every modification to your device involves. So, always keep an eye out for potential problems, and use only well-known jailbreak tools.

Once you’ve completed a jailbreak, your iPhone’s warranty is no longer valid. This means that you are completely responsible if something goes wrong. Apple won’t provide support anymore if your iPhone is faulty, even if the cause of your problem has nothing to do with jailbreaking.

Below are some concerns and risks you might run into when jailbreaking an iPhone.

1. Legality

Jailbreaking isn’t illegal in itself, as long as you own your device. There is no law in the United States or the UK that makes jailbreaking illegal. However, there are certain illegal activities that are possible through jailbreaking. For example, downloading paid apps for free is illegal.

Jailbroken devices also make it much easier to access apps for illegal purposes. However, as long as you don’t pursue malicious activities, jailbreaking is legal.

2. Security risks of an iPhone jailbreak

Another risk of jailbreaking is caused by the removal of so-called “sandboxes.” On non-jailbroken devices, apps run in a closed environment, the sandbox. This ensures that apps cannot affect the rest of the system. With jailbroken devices, that sandbox is removed, which means that it is theoretically possible for apps to make changes to your system.

In practice, this does not occur with legitimate apps, because their code is not written to interact with the system. However, it is always very important to research apps that you want to install from Cydia. Rule of thumb: don’t install anything you don’t know. In reviews and on online forums you can find a lot of information to determine whether an app or tweak can be trusted.

In addition, never install pirated versions of apps from Cydia. Developers of apps for Cydia regularly include a mechanic that “punishes” users if they install non-legitimate versions of apps. For example, a Reddit user said that his background image permanently changed into a cartoon pirate after he installed a bootlegged version of a tweak.

3. Malware

In the past, malware, including worms, has been discovered on jailbroken devices. In almost all cases, however, this was not due to the jailbreak itself, but to the subsequent actions of users. It is certain, however, that the chance of malware being discovered after jailbreak increases, simply because your security is less tight.

On the other hand, it is mostly up to you whether you download an app that turns out to contain malicious software. Again, if you are not sure that an app does not cause problems, do not download it.

4. Privacy

In principle, the same rule applies to privacy risks. Do not use anything about which you don’t know enough. On the other hand, certain apps from Cydia can also enhance your privacy. For example, PrivaCy is an app that allows users to check which usage statistics are uploaded to external servers. This is much more user-friendly than having to set this up for each individual app.

Just like on regular iPhones, you can use a VPN on jailbroken iPhones to remain anonymous on the Internet. You can just set up a VPN on your iPhone the way you normally would. This ensures that your data is encrypted and your IP address is unrecognizable, greatly improving your privacy.


Securing Your Jailbroken iPhone

Securing your Jailbroken iPhone iconLet it be clear that leaving your iPhone alone is always safer than jailbreaking it. Since the process is literally about breaking through system security, jailbreaking only improves the safety of your device in some specific cases.

Although, if you’re a little tech-savvy, there are a few measures you can take to make your jailbroken iPhone safer. Here are some changes you could make:

  • Remote access denial: Turning off the ability to remotely access your device is always a good idea.
  • Code signing: It’s also sensible to reenable code signing in iOS after a jailbreak.
  • Sandboxing: It’s possible to enable sandboxing up to the scale of regular iOS once jailbroken.

These are actions that require some work and technical knowledge. If you are going to jailbreak with limited technical expertise, using extreme caution is the best advice to keep your iPhone secure.

Using a VPN with your jailbroken iPhone

Whether you’re using a jailbroken or factory-set iPhone, using a VPN is always good practice. The best VPN providers offer 256-bit AES military-grade encryption and create a secure tunnel so you can use the internet safely.

VPNs also change your IP address to any country you choose, allowing you to browse online in relative anonymity. Good encryption and using a VPN’s secured, firewall-protected servers can protect your device from hackers or other third-party snoops.

If you’re looking for a security-conscious VPN provider, we recommend NordVPN. Check out our full NordVPN review, and see why it’s topped our list for security, speeds and user-friendliness.

Visit NordVPN

Reversing Your iPhone Jailbreak

Reversing your iPhone Jailbreak iconIt is possible to undo your jailbreak, with both checkra1n and uncover. Basically, you could go back to the pre-jailbreak status of your iPhone by simply restarting it. Rebooting semi-tethered and semi-untethered jailbroken iPhones will start up your phone in “normal mode.”

However, if you want to make sure you don’t have any trace of a jailbreak on your iPhone, you can restore your iPhone from a PC or laptop running iTunes. Use the method below to completely undo your jailbreak process:

  1. Connect the jailbroken iPhone to your computer and open iTunes.
  2. Select your iPhone from the left column of iTunes.
  3. Under the “Summary” tab, you will see a “Restore” button. Click on it to start.
  4. A message will appear asking you if you want to make a backup. Click “Yes.” The recovery will start.
  5. Your iPhone restarts automatically. You will be asked if you want to restore from a backup. If you want to restore your apps and files from before the jailbreak, click “Yes.”
  6. When the backup and restore are complete, your iPhone is back to its old state.

Conclusion

Clearly, jailbreaking your iPhone gives you a lot of new features you wouldn’t normally have with iOS. On the other hand, it eliminates security measures that Apple has included for a reason. Jailbroken iPhones increase the responsibility of users many times over. But if you manage that responsibility well, jailbreaking can provide an enhanced experience on your iPhone.

Disclaimer: Please be aware that the text above only attempts to provide information about the risks and opportunities of jailbreaking. It is always your responsibility to read and comply with the latest laws and regulations regarding jailbreaking.

Jailbreaking Your iPhone: Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have problems that need a quick solution? Check below for frequently asked questions about jailbreaking your iPhone.

Jailbreaking is the removal of iOS security limitations, the iPhone’s operating system. Apple uses these limitations to protect the company’s intellectual property and to ensure that dangerous apps cannot be downloaded.

On the other hand, Apple also restricts the adjustment of functionality by users. That’s why people who want to customize their iPhone often resort to jailbreaking.

If you’re dissatisfied with the standard features of iOS, and you don’t mind voiding your warranty, you can run a jailbreak. The Cydia package manager lets you make lots of new changes to your operating system.

Another reason to jailbreak is that you can use hundreds of new apps that aren’t Apple-approved. Also, a jailbreak enables amateur developers to access iOS code.

Jailbreaking isn’t illegal. There is no law in the United States or the UK that prevents jailbreaking. However, there are certain illegal activities that are possible through jailbreaking. For example, pirating apps is illegal. Jailbroken devices also make it much easier to access apps for illegal purposes.

Some of the risks of jailbreaking an iPhone are:

  1. Apple’s warranty is voided if you jailbreak your iPhone.
  2. Users of jailbroken iPhones have so much freedom in iOS that it’s easier than normal to accidentally download malware.
  3. Apps also have fewer restrictions due to the removal of security limitations which can lead to unintended consequences.

The uncover tool allows you to jailbreak all iPhones that use iOS 11 up to iOS 14.8, including the iPhone 11 and the iPhone SE. At this point, this is only possible with the semi-tethered version of unc0ver.

Tech journalist
Erik was educated in the humanities, after which he started to investigate technological and online culture. Specifically, he is interested in privacy and net neutrality. Erik has worked as an editor, copywriter and translator for several platforms, with technology as a recurring theme.