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Jailbreak: Five Things You Need to Know


So you’ve just jailbroken your iPhone. Congratulations! Your iPhone life is about to improve in so many ways. Be sure to follow our Jailbreak series to get the most out of jailbreaking your iPhone. Going forward, here are some tips to bear in mind.

1. Never upgrade firmware directly via iTunes

In the process of jailbreaking the iPhone OS, a partition inside the iPhone OS is created specially to store the files and data necessary for jailbreaking to work. This partition is typically 500MB. If you look at the storage bar of your device in its iTunes page, you’ll see this 500MB partition marked as “Others”, since, naturally, iTunes does not recognize this third-party addition.


When a user attempts to upgrade the iPhone firmware by clicking on the ‘Upgrade’ button in iTunes, it will not count the 500MB into the storage space available to install new firmware. The result is that these 500MBs are effectively “lost.” For example, if you directly upgrade your jailbroken iPhone — running, say, 2.2 — to 2.2.1, you’ll find that you now have 1GB of used space in “Others”.

If you wish to upgrade the firmware of your iPhone, always restore to the default firmware first. After you’ve done so, you can safely click that ‘Upgrade’ button in iTunes.


2. You can be a law-abiding customer

Jailbreaking and unlocking are, to the uninitiated, one and the same thing. Do know, they’re not. Jailbreaking frees your iPhone to run applications and code that are not signed by Apple, while unlocking frees the device from the carrier that it is bound to as part of the service contract you’ve signed with your carrier of choice.

So, the fact is, yes, you have to jailbreak before you can unlock your iPhone, but unlocking is not a necessary step in jailbreaking. While tools such as QuickPwn and Pwnage include unlocking as part of their procedure, it is equally easy to skip that step. You are certainly not obligated to unlock if you choose to not violate the terms of service set by your carrier.

3. There is more than meets the eye in Cydia


Cydia, the jailbreak equivalent of Apple’s App Store, is, on the whole, well-designed and easy to navigate. But, being a community, pro bono effort, it is ad-supported. If you are new to jailbreaking, here is how you separate the wheat from the chaff.


This is what you’d immediately see when you click on an item listed in Cydia. Of most interest to you is perhaps the ‘More Information’ link. But before you tap on it, wait a couple of seconds (or more, if your data connection is slow).


What just happened? Ads have loaded and the ‘More Information’ link has been pushed down, out of sight. If you’d tapped before the ads could load, you’d have most likely tapped on the ad instead of the link you intended to visit. So, when browsing in Cydia, patience will go a long way in making your shopping experience a more pleasant one.

While we’re still on the subject, the only page links in Cydia that matter to the typical user are listed below.


More Information — Tapping on this takes you to a sub page where you can usually find a detailed write-up of what you are about to install. But sometimes, a More Information link can take you to an external site. This varies from developer to developer.


Changelog — Some developers offer a list of the changes the latest version of his or her application contains. Reading the changelog gives you a better idea of what to expect, and whether the app is worth upgrading.


Screenshots — Most of the hacks available in Cydia are visual ones. This is especially true of custom themes. Most developers will include screenshots — “Screenies” as they are commonly called in the jailbreak community — accessible thru the ‘Screenshots’ link.

But remember that every page in Cydia contains ads. So wait a while and let those screenshots load.

4. Secure your iPhone

icon Being an operating system with UNIX components, iPhone OS has a root account. The default root password has already been made widely-known on the Internet, so any one with some knowledge in SSH can easily access the contents of your iPhone wirelessly. Be sure to change the password after you jailbreak your phone.

  1. Fire up Cydia on your iPhone.
  2. Browse or search for an application called MobileTerminal and install that.
  3. Open MobileTerminal and type ‘passwd’ (without the quotes).
  4. You will be prompted for the old password; for iPhone OS 2.2.x, the password is ‘alpine’.
  5. Hit the Return key. You’ll be asked to input a new password.

As an extra security measure, you can install utilities such as BossPrefs or SBSettings and turn off SSH.

5. If your device is getting sluggish, uninstall WinterBoard

“Jailbreaking slows down your iPhone.”

“Your device will become unstable.”

I often hear these two comments about jailbreaking. To be fair, there is some truth in them. If you think the performance of your iPhone is beginning to feel really sluggish, chances are you have installed too many WinterBoard themes and hacks.


WinterBoard is a well-known feature of the jailbroken iPhone. The most visible part of WinterBoard that you see is as an application that lets you apply themes to the user interface of iPhone OS.


The invisible part of WinterBoard is a platform for system hacks to run, injecting code into iPhone OS while it is running on your device. In an over-simplification, it does this via a system process called the Mobile Substrate. Mobile Substrate runs beneath SpringBoard, Apple’s name for the home screen of your iPhone. You can think of SpringBoard to the iPhone what the Desktop is to Mac OS. Some system hacks are dependent on WinterBoard, ‘piggy-backing’ on it and running in the background.


An iPhone freshly rebooted typically has about 30—50MB of free memory out of the total 128MB available to iPhone OS. Running in the background, WinterBoard typically takes up 11MB or so. Add a theme and some hacks, and it adds up quickly. Remove WinterBoard, and you will see a dramatic improvement in the responsiveness of your iPhone. But you’d lose what many users consider as the most compelling reason to jailbreak the iPhone, so it’s really your call.

If you really must keep WinterBoard, go easy on the number of themes and WinterBoard-dependent hacks you install. Also, uninstall the themes and hacks that aren’t in use; you can certainly claim some speed and memory back this way.

32 Responses to “Jailbreak: Five Things You Need to Know”

  1. Hi I bought my iphone 3g second hand and there is some definite “lost” storage space, is there any way possible to reclaim the lost partition or is it gone forever…?

  2. I recently jail broke my phone… An email wen out to my whole company that we can’t use jail breaks….. I am on my company’s exchange server. Is there anyway they will know my phone is jail broke?

  3. Dealing With Apple Service – I have a jailbroken iPhone 3GS with lots of great Cydia apps I can’t live without. I’m currently running firmware version 3.1.2

    Here’s the issue, I’ve got some problems with my phone (battery discharge and dropped calls) that require sending the phone into Apple.

    How should I prepare my phone so that a)They don’t invalidate my warranty, and b)I can get back to where I am today in terms of jailbreak status and apps???

    Any help would be appreciated.

  4. I’m knew to the iphone world got a 3GS over here in germany. Do i have to do a complete retore and lose all apps and data that is currently on the phone to jailbreak it??? THANX

  5. d4lions

    Can you still download apps from itunes if you are jailbroken?

    Sounds like the the “sluggishness” is from visual mods vs applications/features proper (teathering feature vs eye candy?)

    I want to get one, but I travel overseas very often, I have to have a GSM unlocked phone that will work on 2 sides of the world.

  6. hey i was just wondering if, when you install cydia/downloader on to your ipod/iphone and the sync your ipod/iphone with your computer does apple reconise that u hav downloaded it and disable or delete your itunes account altogether?? i have an ipod touch 2nd gen, and i really want to install cydia, but i dont want to lose my itunes account. What should (or do) i need to do to get cydia without losing my itunes account. Pls reply i need 2 no thanks :D

  7. can you get caught by apple using a jail broken ipod or using installous in any way? you guys seem to know what your talking about and im not sure if i should use installous to get free apps.

  8. Another fan of Rick Astley I see. Your instructions only change the password of the “mobile” user, leaving the administrator’s (“root”) open for anyone to fill your screen with aberrations from the past century, or worse. The how-to at Cydia has it right of course. Copy paste is your best friend, specially if you don’t know what you’re writing about. ;)

  9. Michael

    Hi, I am thinking about using the Jailbreak thing so I can video on my iphone.
    The only thing is that I’ m not sure if I will break my phone in the process and it will become unusable. On a rating out of 10, (10 being highest) What’s the chances of my phone dying?

  10. Leonardo

    I’ve broken the #1 Rule, I’ve updated directly from iTunes from 2.2.1 to 3.0 a Jailbroken iPhone.
    Now 300Mb are in “other”, how can I fix it?

    Thank you

  11. Response to general

    If you back up your iphone before you jail break it, and if for some reason you do loose all that good stuff in the process of jail breaking, just hook it back up to your comp and run itunes. Then all your old text msgs and emails will be put bak

  12. Great article, very useful info.

    Please note in order to activate SBSettings after installing it, just sweep your finger over the top status bar.

    Please say what the SBSetting theme used in the screenshot is please? The font looks really good too, what is that?

    Thank you

  13. Nice Post. The only thing I’m not sure about is the first point. I’ve never run into the problem of losing space to “Other” when upgrading from a jailbroken firmware to an upgraded stock firmware. I suppose it could have happened before and I just never noticed it. Either way, I would add to that part of the post that if that does happen, a fresh restore will set everything straight. I recommend doing a DFU restore anytime you’ve been jailbroken, just to be sure there are no lingering files or system settings. Thanks for the tips!

  14. Clayton Lai

    JD – Look for a Processes toggle for SBSettings in Cydia. Once installed, you will have a task manager in SBSettings; it even lets you kill processes.

  15. Really enjoy your blog and jailbreak series. Do you know how to figure out which if any hack would be slowing the phone down. Something like a task manager or something like that. Thanks!