How to Fix an Unstable iOS Without Losing Your Data

By | December 12, 2016

iOS is one of the most stable and reliable mobile operating systems around. Even when you have to deal with crashes or freezes, a restart usually fixes the issue. It is only rarely that the iOS becomes unstable, and this usually happens after an upgrade.

If that’s the case, here’s what you can do to fix the issue without losing your data. We’ll start from the assumption that your iOS still works on your phone, but that it either freezes or crashes often.

Downgrading Your iOS

This is the easiest and safest downgrade option that helps you keep all your data, including settings and apps. Before proceeding, however, you will want to backup your messages as well.

  1. Grab an SMS backup or export app from the App Store
  2. Install the Mac / PC equivalent software
  3. Follow the app instructions to export / backup your SMS messages

You’ll also want to make sure that all your photos and videos are backed up in iCloud, Dropbox, or other cloud storage services you use. Chances are your photos are already backed in the Cloud. You can then get started.

  1. Update iTunes on your Mac or PC to the latest version.
  2. Download the right IPSW for your device.
  3. Connect your iPhone (or iPad) to your computer.
  4. Click on your device and go to the Summary section.
  5. Click on Check for Updates while holding the Option (Mac) or Shift (Windows) button.
  6. Choose the IPSW file you have downloaded.
  7. Downgrade your device to the previous iOS (usually iOS 9.3.2 if you’re been running iOS 10).
  8. All your data – except your messages – will stay on your phone.

Reinstalling Your iOS

Sometimes a downgrade isn’t necessary. Reinstalling your iOS could solve the instability issues you’re experiencing. It’s possible to reinstall your iOS without losing any of your data, provided that you have an iCloud or iTunes backup. If your device is still usable, you could do a backup before moving on to the next steps.

Restoring from iTunes

  1. Connect your device to your computer.
  2. Select your device.
  3. Choose the Restore Backup option under Backups.
  4. Choose a backup made before the instability issues began.
  5. Click restore and wait a few minutes.
  6. Don’t disconnect your device until it has synced with your computer.

Restoring from an iCloud Backup

  1. Sign out of iCloud.
  2. Erase all data from your device.
  1. Go to Settings > General > Reset
  2. Choose to Erase All Content and Settings
  1. Turn off your device and then turn it back on.
  2. Follow the instructions on the screen to reach the Apps & Data tab.
  3. Choose Restore from iCloud Backup.
  4. Sign in to iCloud.
  5. Choose a backup.
  6. Wait for the backup to finish (usually takes longer than an iTunes backup).
  7. Start using your device – apps, photos, and music will be restored in the background.

If after restoring or downgrading your iOS you still experience performance problems or other issues, it may be a hardware problem. These may occur especially if you have dropped your device on a hard surface, or if water or other liquids got into it. Water damage, for instance, may have long-term consequences which are not apparent right away.

Have your iPhone or iPad checked by an Apple customer support representative, or if it’s out of warranty, consider sending it to a reliable local repair shop. In most cases, they should be able to fix it for less than what it would take to replace it.

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