How to download the Cisco IOS

by David Davis on March 13, 2006

Say that you buy a used Cisco router off of Ebay. It is running an older version of the Cisco IOS and you would like an upgrade to it.

First let me point out that, if you read the Cisco IOS licensing agreement, the Cisco IOS license is non-transferable. That means that, technically, the IOS software on the used Cisco router doesn’t belong to you at all. So, technically, you must buy a new IOS license to go with that used Cisco router. Not a lot of people do this because, many times, that IOS license actually costs more than the used router you just bought.

So what do you do?

Here are your options:

  • Download the Cisco IOS from somewhere like a bittorrent or a file sharing program. ** I don’t recommend this option to anyone ** This is because this option is illegal. However, I mention it because I believe that many people do this, even though it is not right.
  • Purchase a maintenance contract for the hardware and download the software. Technically, this is not legal either. To have a maintenance contract, you must also have bought an IOS license. However, many times, Cisco doesn’t stop you from doing this.
  • Buy the IOS from a reseller, such as this version available from CDW and then you are completely legal. The cost of the software will vary based on the model of the router you are buying it for and the features of the OS you are wanting. Unfortunately, even if you spend over $1000, you still aren’t licensed for upgrades to this version of the IOS, even after buying it. To also be able to get upgrades when they are available, you must also buy maintenance on this router (Cisco calls it Smartnet).

You might have been looking for a link to just download the Cisco IOS for free. Unfortunately, I can’t offer that but I can offer you the right way to obtain the Cisco IOS and a lot of other free Cisco and Windows how-to advice.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

anand singh 06.27.10 at 5:11 am

this is a golden oppertunity for students who like to join cisco.

Ben 12.23.10 at 9:32 pm


I am not having any luck finding the IOS for my devices:

•One 2501 16/16 router with transceiver
•One 2521 16/16 4 port Serial Frame-Relay Router
•One 2611 64/16 Dual Ethernet Cable/DSL Router
•Three 2924 or 2924-M switch

Please advise.

Thank you,

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