iOS Ad Hoc Distribution

Ad Hoc distribution allows a developer to e-mail an iOS app archive to a tester and let the tester install the app in her device. I had to do that this morning so I can be on the road and still do a daily drop to my client. Here are the basic steps:

Steps in Developer Machine

Log into provisioning portal, and create a distribution provisioning profile. Choose Ad Hoc as the Distribution Method. You can choose wild card as the App ID.

Add all devices to be used for testing to that distribution profile.

Back in Xcode, open the organizer (Window > Organizer).

Click LIBRARY > Provisioning Profiles.

Click the Refresh button from the bottom. You will need to log in using your iOS developer account. This will import all provisioning profiles and certificates in to the machine.

Next, we will need to use the distribution certificate for Release build. That’s because, by default, when you build an archive, the Release build configuration is used.

In Xcode, open the project’s build settings. From the Code Signing Identity section, for the Release build, choose the distribution profile you had created.

Now, we are ready to build the application archive.


Choose iOS Device as the device. Then select Product > Archive from the menubar. If you do not select iOS Device, this menu option will be disabled.

Xcode will create the archive. From the Organizer window, choose Archive at the top. You should see your application’s archive.


Select the archive. Click Distribute. Select Save for Enterprise or Ad-Hoc Deployment. Click Next.

From Code Signing Identity drop down, select the distribution provisioning profile.

Click Next and save the archive file. It will have a .ipa extension.

We will also need to export the distribution provisioning profile. Back in the Organizer window, select Devices from the top. Click LIBRARY > Provisioning Profiles. Select the distribution provisioning profile. Click Export button from the bottom.

E-mail both the archive file and the exported provisioning profile to the tester.

Steps in the Tester’s Machine

The tester can use a Windows or Mac machine to install the app. She will need to have iTunes installed.

Save the application archive and the exported provisioning profile somewhere.

Launch iTunes.

Drag and drop the application archive and the exported provisioning profile files into iTunes.

Attach a iOS device to the computer. Make sure that this device was added to the provisioning profile.

In iTunes, go to the device’s library. Click App from the top. Click Install next to the app. Then click Apply or Sync. This should install the app.


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