A cross-platform build system for creating iOS, macOS, Linux, and Windows programs.



Practically all jailbreaks prior to iOS 15 have been ‘rootful’ as they work on and install files to the (root) system directories (e.g., /usr, /Library, /Applications, etc). Moving forward with iOS 15 and beyond, most if not all jailbreaks will have to be ‘rootless’ as Apple now prevents writing to the system directories with a protection called Signed System Volume (SSV). There are workarounds for this, namely bindFS, but these are less than ideal.

To work around SSV, the Procursus Team has thought up a rootless scheme that is now the de facto rootless standard. The changes namely involve working in and installing tweaks/addons to /var/jb and using the iphoneos-arm64 package architecture. To learn more about the specifics of this implementation, see The Apple Wiki.

With this new target location, all projects will have to be recompiled to reference resources from and install to /var/jb. This involves changing the internal structure of .deb’s to include this new path and specifying library and framework install paths using @rpath instead of absolute paths. Theos will handle both of these changes for you. For more information on what @rpath is and how it works, see Mike Ash’s informative blog post.


Important Notes:

  • You must run make clean when switching between a rootful and rootless build

  • If you maintain a library, you’ll want to add some variation of the following to your code so that it will have the correct install path:
    ifeq ($(THEOS_PACKAGE_SCHEME),rootless)
    XXX_LDFLAGS += -install_name @rpath/<lib-name>.dylib
  • Likewise, if you maintain a framework, you’ll want to add some variation of the following to your code so that it will have the correct install path:
    ifeq ($(THEOS_PACKAGE_SCHEME),rootless)
    XXX_LDFLAGS += -install_name @rpath/<project-name>.framework/<project-name>
  • The iOS 14 arm64e ABI mentioned in arm64e Deployment is now required for the relevant devices
    • Currently, it’s only possible to build for the new ABI on macOS
      • If you want to maintain support for earlier versions, you can grab the toolchain from an earlier Xcode release as specified in arm64e Deployment and switch between it and the newer toolchain as desired by setting the PREFIX variable to the older toolchain’s bin (i.e., <xcode-ver>.xctoolchain/usr/bin/) in your project’s makefile
    • That being said, developers on other platforms can circumvent this in two ways:
      • By switching the arm64e slice’s header post-build but pre-package
        • This can be done manually or by using a tool such as by dlevi309 in a before-package:: rule in your project’s makefile
          • As stated in the tool above, the last 4 bytes of the 12 byte header would be:
            • iOS 13: 00000002
            • iOS 14: 80000002
        • The various architecture slices are available within $THEOS_OBJ_DIR/{arch}/*.dylib
      • By adding oldabi as a dependency to their package (preferably only as a last resort)

Theos supports building for the rootless scheme in a few ways:

  • Provides rootless-compatible libraries and frameworks in $THEOS_VENDOR_LIBRARY_PATH/iphone/rootless

  • Provides rootless.h – a header that contains convenient macros to easily convert rootful paths to rootless ones in your code at compile-time, assuming you compile for the rootless scheme (see below)
    • #import <rootless.h>
    • Courtesy of opa334
  • THEOS_PACKAGE_SCHEME=rootless – a variable to enable a handful of internal changes including:
    • Searching for libraries and frameworks when linking in $THEOS_LIBRARY_PATH/iphone/rootless and $THEOS_VENDOR_LIBRARY_PATH/iphone/rootless
    • Passing the relevant prefixed rpaths to the linker so your project can find the linked rootless libraries and frameworks on-device
    • Sharing the install prefix (THEOS_PACKAGE_INSTALL_PREFIX=/var/jb) with the compiler for use in your code
    • Setting the package architecture to iphoneos-arm64 if your control file specifies iphoneos-arm

Additional notes:

  • You do not need to create separate package identifiers for rootful/rootless versions of the same package
    • Newer versions of rootless-compatible package managers (e.g., Sileo and Zebra) will present only the compatible version to users
    • The behavior of other package managers varies and may or may not supply the correct package to users
  • This new rootless scheme only supports iOS 15+, which itself only supports newer devices
    • This means that you do not need to compile for legacy architectures (e.g., armv7(s) or older) if you were previously and can bump your deployment target to 15.0 when building for rootless