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Most computer users have experienced an upgrade release of software that didn't exactly thrill us – sometimes features got taken away, sometimes the program was buggy – but in any case, we decided to back out the upgrade and re-install the older version.

Well, that's usually not too hard on your Mac. But what do you do on your iPhone or iPad? You can't usually download an old version from the App Store (unless the new version was so new that it was spit off into another program). So can you revert to an older program?

Yes – if you still have it. As you download new versions, the old ones get tossed in the trash. Once you empty the trash, they're gone – unless you have some other backup. You have been reading all about backups on Fridays with Calvin, right? Of course – so you're all set. You have some sort of generational backup in Time Machine, or on a DVD, a hard drive, tape…something.

In my case, I wanted to replace an upgrade that had some bugs that (at the time) there was no easy workaround for. So the first thing I did was to find the old version and restore it. With Time Machine, it's pretty easy – all I needed to do was find the folder the app was in and go back to before the date on the app.  Hmmm…so where is it? I didn't have any idea. But iTunes knows – so let's ask it.

If you go to your apps in iTunes, you can right-click on any of them and select "Show in Finder." 

Now that you have the proper Finder window open, you can go to Time Machine (if you have the icon in the menu bar, click and select "Enter Time Machine," otherwise go to Applications and start Time Machine). Use the timeline on the right to scroll back to a date before the update, then restore the app.

Before you hook up your device to sync, you will need to delete the app already there. If not, instead of putting your old app on the device, iTunes will ask to copy the one from the device back to iTunes, because it's newer. Realize what's happening – if you delete the app from the device, you will lose all data associated with that app. Don't say I didn't warn you – I'm not responsible for any data loss if you whack one of your apps. If your app has a way to export or save data – on iDisk, Dropbox, via email, whatever – export all the data you want to keep. Restoring the app won't bring that data back. 

To delete an app on the device, touch it and hold on it until the apps start wiggling and the X appears in the upper-left of the apps icon. Touch the X, and you'll be warned that you are tossing out the data with the app. That's ok, because you backed it all up just now, right?

One last thing – you'll need to go to the Apps tab after you connect your device, and put a check mark next to the replaced app to tell iTunes to load it. iTunes is smart – when you deleted the app and hooked up to your computer, it saw you deleted the app and realized you didn't want it on your device. So it unchecked the box next to the app that signifies "load me." When you check the box, your "Sync" button in the lower-right of iTunes will change to "Revert" and "Apply" buttons. Hit "Apply," and your old app will be back. Reload your saved data, and you're back in business (well, maybe – it's possible your newer app changed your data in some way that makes it incompatible with the older version – keep that in mind before you decide to revert). 

Also keep in mind, you will now be nagged by the App Store as having an upgrade available for this app. Don't blindly hit "Update All" or you'll undo what was done. It would be nice if Apple would add a "Skip this version" button, but there isn't one, so be forewarned.

It's not hard to get back to where you once belonged, but it does take a little planning and the foresight to have an archive backup.


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