How to jailbreak your iPhone 4 or 3GS, even on iOS 4.3.1

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Attention, freedom fans: here's how to jailbreak your iPhone 4 or 3GS, even on the very latest OS: Friday's iOS 4.3.1. That'll allow you to break free from Steve Jobs' walled garden o' family-friendly, parody-free tyranny. Richi's going to hook you up with the resources you need, in The Long View... First things first: understand the difference between a "jailbreak" and an "unlock". A jailbreak allows you to install apps from places other than Apple's App Store. An unlock allows you to use a different cellular carrier than the one blessed by your phone, and usually requires you to jailbreak the phone first. Both are perfectly legal, and jailbreaking does not encourage software piracy -- no matter what Apple PR may appear to imply. Second: understand the difference between a "tethered" and an "untethered" jailbreak. A if a jailbreak is said to be tethered, it means that the jailbreak is undone if you reboot the phone -- in other words, you must connect your phone to your PC or Mac to properly boot it. An untethered jailbreak is the gold standard, because you don't need to muck about with any of that nonsense. At the time of writing, all the jailbreaks available for iOS 4.3.1 are tethered. If you don't understand the implications of that, then go back and read the previous paragraph!

You'll need to use a jailbreaking tool to tweak the version of iOS on your phone. If you're using a Mac, you'll want PwnageTool; on Windows, you'll want Sn0wbreeze. You'll also want iTunes version 10.2.1 and a copy of the iOS 4.3.1 install image already downloaded.

All the links for these and their detailed instructions are below, but first, here are some top tips, learned from bitter experience. Ignore them at your peril:

  • Back up your iPhone in iTunes before doing anything.
  • Make sure you stop iTunes from automatically updating itself -- A long-term fear is that Apple may introduce anti-jailbreaking code into a future iTunes update, stop that software from auto-updating.
  • Make sure you stop iTunes from automatically updating  your iPhone -- iOS updates will almost always undo a jailbreak and you may find that new updates aren't jailbreakable (at least, for a few days or weeks).
  • Plug your iPhone directly into a USB socket on your Mac or PC's case -- do not use a USB hub.
  • Use a genuine Apple USB cable, or a 3rd party cable that you know to be of good quality -- some cheapo cables can appear to work fine for regular syncing and charging, but fail in subtle ways when jailbreaking.
  • Be patient -- some of the steps involved in jailbreaking an iPhone take longer than you might think. If it appears to have hung, it probably hasn't. Set aside plenty of time to do the jailbreak; the last thing you want to do is interrupt it mid-process.

As ever, take care; read and understand all the caveats, both here and in the linked articles -- lest you create an expensive brick. Neither I, nor Computerworld are responsible for anything you choose to do with your iPhone -- only you are.

Taimur Asad is doing a consistently good job of explaining all the steps you need to take to jailbreak. Here are his guides to jailbreaking iOS 4.3.1 on Mac OS and Windows. Now what? Once you're jailbroken, you should see an app called Cydia. Open that and the world of open iOS apps is yours. In a future article, I'll recommend a few of the apps I use.  

Will you jailbreak your iPhone? Leave a comment below...

Richi Jennings, blogger at large
  Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can follow him as @richi on Twitter, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email:

You can also read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

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