An IPA file is an iOS app. If you have a really old iTunes backup folder, you will find a lot of these files in it. These IPA files are a back-up of the apps installed on your iPhone or iPad. The IPA file serves two purposes; if an app is pulled from the App Store, you will still have a copy of it that can be installed on your device. If you restore your iPhone, you don’t have to download apps from the App Store again, You can just get them from your hard drive. As of iOS 9 though, iTunes no longer saves IPA files. It does this to make the backup files smaller. When you transfer purchases from your iPhone or iPad, the apps no longer go with it. There is still a way to download an IPA file on your Mac or PC.
iTunes doesn’t transfer app files to your computer when it backs your phone up. It does still let you download apps from the iTunes Store. When you download an app from iTunes on your desktop, you basically download an IPA file. This file can be transferred/installed on your device.
Download An IPA File
Open iTunes. Click inside the search bar at the top right. Switch the search tab from ‘In Library’ to ‘Store’.
Search for the app you want to download an IPA file for. It will load the results from the App Store. You will see apps for both the iPad and the iPhone as well as iMessage apps. Click the app you want to download an IPA file for. You can click ‘Get’ from the search results, or you can go to the app’s page and click ‘Get’ there.
Sign into your Apple ID when prompted. It’s a good idea to use the same Apple ID that your iPhone is registered with. iTunes will start downloading the file. You can view download progress by clicking the little arrow button next to the iTunes status bar. When the file finishes downloading, the app’s page will read ‘Downloaded’ instead of ‘Get’. iTunes doesn’t tell you when it’s finished the download.
Locate IPA File On Your Computer
On a Windows PC, go to the following location in File Explorer. You will find the IPA file here. It will be named after the app you downloaded.
C:\Users\UserName\Music\iTunes\iTunes Media\Mobile Applications
On a Mac, go to the following location to get the IPA file.
That’s all it takes. If you’re pressed for storage on your desktop, you can move these IPA files elsewhere. Remember that an IPA file is not the same as an IPSW file. The IPA file is just an app. If you lose it, it’s not that big a deal. The IPSW file on the other hand is a backup of your iPhone or iPad. You don’t want to lose it.