Jailbreaking 101: Which Tool to Use to Hack Your iDevice

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So you’re thinking of jailbreaking your iOS device are you? The process of hacking your iDevice is simpler than ever but with so many different hardware, firmware, and software combinations out there, choosing the right jailbreak tool for your configuration for you can be a bit daunting if it’s your first time. Here’s a guide to picking the right tool for you.

Determine your hardware

If you’re not sure what hardware model you have, read this guide for iPhone, or this one for iPod Touch. If you have an iPad, the iPad 2 has a front-facing camera, while the original iPad does not. Apple TV can also be jailbroken.

Determine your firmware

To determine your iOS firmware, on your device, open the Settings app, then navigate to General; About; Version. Alternately, you can plug in your device to your computer and open iTunes. Your Software Version is listed under Summary.

Mac or PC?

Depending on if you sync your iDevice to a Mac or Windows PC, there are different tools available.

Tethered or Untethered?

The terms tethered or untethered jailbreaks refer to whether or not the hack will remain after a device reboot. In most cases, an untethered jailbreak is more desirable because you won’t need to re-hack your device in the event you switch it off and on. Certain hardware/firmware configurations only support a tethered jailbreak, however.

Choosing your jailbreak tool

Now armed with the knowledge of your hardware and firmware configuration, you’re ready to choose a jailbreak tool! Here are my recommendations:

My device is…

Any device (including iPad 2) running iOS 4.3-4.3.3 or iPhone 4 CDMA/Verizon running 4.2.6-4.2.8: Use the browser-based JailbreakMe tool on your device itself by navigating mobile-Safari to jailbreakme.com.

Any device except iPad 2 running 4.3.4-4.3.5 or iPhone 4 CDMA/Verizon running 4.2.9-4.2.10: Download redsn0w for Mac OS X or Windows or PwnageTool for OS X. This is unfortunately a tethered jailbreak.

Any device except iPad 2 running developer build up to iOS 5 beta 6: If you’re on a Mac, you can use redsn0w. If you’re on Windows somehow (odd, considering developers must use OS X to run Xcode), Sn0wbreeze works as well. This is a tethered jailbreak and generally not recommended.

Apple TV (2nd Generation) running 4.3: Seas0npass lets you perform an untethered jailbreak to your Apple TV, allowing you to SSH into your set top box and play otherwise unsupported media.

Any device/software not listed above: Older, discontinued devices are pretty much all jailbreakable. JailbreakMe works on many older firmwares so it's always worth trying but if that doesn't work, PwnageTool for Mac and redsn0w for Mac/PC are your Swiss army knives of jailbreaking for older devices.

Something to add about jailbreaking? Use the Comments!

Mike Keller is PCWorld’s resident iOS developer nerd. Catch Diary of a Developer every Tuesday here at GeekTech.

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