With the announcement of the new iPad, Apple released the latest version of its mobile operating system, iOS 5.1. As with every Apple software update, one of the first questions was “how long will it take until it’s jailbroken?” That was answered quickly, as the jailbreak community came through in less than 24 hours.
Keep in mind, though, that this is only for older iOS devices — including the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, original iPad, and iPod touch.
Also note that this is a tethered jailbreak — meaning you’ll have to connect to a PC every time you reboot. If you opt to stay on iOS 5.0.1, you can jailbreak these same older devices untethered by following the instructions here.
As for newer (A5) devices, you’ll want to avoid iOS 5.1 until there is a jailbreak available for them. If you’re still on iOS 5.0.1, you can jailbreak the iPhone 4S here, and you can jailbreak the iPad 2 here.
If you’re still here, then you must be on an older (pre-A5 chip) iOS device, running iOS 5.1. These instructions are just for you:
1. Get redsn0w
The first thing you’ll want to do is to download the redsn0w jailbreak tool for your operating system:
2. Open and connect
After downloading and unzipping, select the redsn0w icon, and go ahead and connect your iDevice to your Mac or PC.
3. Choose “Jailbreak”
From the main menu in redsn0w, choose “Jailbreak” from the first screen of the redsn0w tool.
4. Turn your iOS device off while plugged in
You are now preparing to put your device in DFU mode. Follow the instructions, and — after you’re sure your iDevice is powered off and plugged in — proceed.
During the next step, you’ll be holding down a combination of buttons for precise amounts of time, so be ready to pay attention to the instructions on your screen. It will expect you to start as soon as you hit Next, so be prepared to start holding your iOS device’s power button.
5. Enter DFU mode
The above screen is what you will see after proceeding. The first part has you holding down just the power button for a few seconds.
Next, you’ll keep holding down the power button, along with the home button, for longer this time.
Finally, you’ll let go of the power button, and keep holding down the home button for a while longer.
If you follow the timers just as the redsn0w tool counts them off, your device should now be in DFU mode. The screen will look like it’s powered off, but as long as redsn0w proceeds, you’re in DFU.
If you didn’t quite time it right, all you have to do is power down and start the process again.
If the on-screen instructions aren’t working for you, just power off (while plugged in), hold power and home for 10 seconds, then let go of power and keep holding home until redsn0w advances to the next step.
Note: If you accidentally end up in recovery mode (the “connect to iTunes” screen), you can hold down the home and power buttons for about 15 seconds, until everything shuts off. Then power on again, and you should be fine. If you’re still in Recovery after doing this, look up a tool called TinyUmbrella, or simply restore iOS 5 again in iTunes.
Once in DFU mode, you will see the following screens, appearing in rapid secession (without any input required on your part). Your iOS device should also flash white on the screen for a moment, and then reboot.
7. Install Cydia
The next prompt you’ll be given should be the one above. You can just select “Install Cydia” and proceed. After lots of command-level lines gets displayed on your device’s screen, it should reboot into a jailbroken state.
Cydia, at first, might have a blank (white) icon. If so, you will need to reboot the device (see tethered booting instructions below).
Every time you reboot your device, you’ll need to tether it to your PC. To do this, connect your iOS device to your PC, and open Redsn0w (you’ll want to keep it handy). From the main screen, select “Extras.” Then select “just boot.” That’s it.
After you complete the process, you can open Cydia (on the second page of your home screen) and start searching for jailbreak apps and tweaks. You can refer to our list of the best Cydia apps to help you get started.