How to upgrade your iOS device to iOS 5

iOS 5 has hit the stage, and eager users everywhere are getting ready to upgrade their devices.


iOS 5 has hit the stage, and eager users everywhere are getting ready to upgrade their devices.

If you're concerned about the upgrade process, or simply want to know all your setup options before making the big switch, let us help you upgrade your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad to iOS 5 with this step by step guide.

What devices will run iOS 5?

Before we get into the upgrade process itself, you'll want to make sure you actually have a compatible device.

Because of new features and enhanced graphical animations, iOS 5 may require more processing power than your device offers; as such, Apple has limited the operating system to the following models:

iPhone models: iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S

iPad models: iPad (no support for Multitasking or Gestures, though), iPad 2

iPod touch models: iPod touch (third generation), iPod touch (fourth generation)

If you have an original iPhone, iPhone 3G, or first or second generation iPod touch, you'll have to stick with your current version of iOS. Which, if you remember some of the hullabaloo over the iPhone 3G running iOS 4, may be the better option.

Ready, set, prep

Now that you've double checked that your device is capable of running iOS 5, here's what you need to upgrade: your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad, your computer and the latest version of iTunes.

We also suggests that you make a backup of your device before proceeding: If you're doing a straight update, a backup prevents you from losing any data in case something goes wonky down the line, and if you're doing a full restore of your device before you install iOS 5 you'll need a recent backup to recover your information.

To make a backup, connect your device to your computer via USB, open iTunes, select your device and press the Sync button. This should automatically update your iTunes backup with any extra relevant information. If your device is already plugged into you computer, you can also control click on the device in the iTunes Source List and select Back Up from the subsequent drop-down menu.

Update your device

In theory, when you open iTunes with a compatible device connected, you'll be prompted to download iOS 5. In practice, this may not appear automatically, the update may not have automatically propagated to the server your copy of iTunes checks with, or iTunes may have hiccupped.

But never fear: You can force iTunes to check for an update by clicking on the Check For Update button in the Summary pane for your device.

Assuming that everything is working properly, iOS 5 should begin downloading from the iTunes server to your computer. You can do other tasks while waiting for the download to finish. Once it does, your device will restart and begin installing the software.

If you'd like to restore your device, that is do a fresh install of iOS 5 and then re-upload your backed up settings, you'll want to click the Restore button instead of Check For Update.

You'll download iOS 5 like above, but instead of doing a direct update from iOS 4 to iOS 5, your device will restore itself to factory settings before installing the new OS.

The post-PC walkthrough

Unlike previous iOS upgrades, once the software finishes installing, you can activate and set everything up directly on the device itself, no computer intervention necessary. Any subsequent iOS updates can even be done over-the-air, as mentioned later in this article.

Once the update finishes installing, you're greeted with a welcome screen displaying the message "Slide to set up" in a variety of different languages. If you need quick access to your device's IMEI or ICCID number without finishing the setup, you can tap the information button located directly above the slider.

To begin the setup process, you're asked if you'd like to enable Location Services. This allows Apple apps and third party apps to access your location via Wi-Fi networks and your GPS location.

Following that, your device will check for any Wi-Fi networks in the area for you to connect to. If there aren't any, or if you're on an iPhone or 3G-enabled iPad and would rather use your cellular service, just tap the Next button.

Did you restore your device?

If you're updating from a clean slate, you'll need to decide whether you want to set your device up from scratch, restore it from an iCloud backup or restore from an iTunes backup.

Chances are, unless you're a developer, that if you're updating to iOS 5 on launch day you haven't used iCloud's Backup feature to keep a copy of your device's settings. And since iOS 4 devices can't even back up to iCloud, the only way you could use this feature would be to restore your device using the backup of another device currently running iOS 5.

All that said, if you have an iCloud account, have made a backup of a different iOS 5-enabled device, and want to restore this image to your current device, you can do so by tapping Restore From iCloud Backup. Sign into your account, agree to Apple's terms and conditions, then choose which backup file you'd like to use, and tap the blue Restore button in the top right corner of the screen. Depending on the speed of your Wi-Fi connection, this process can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.

More likely, you'll want to restore from the iTunes backup you made before downloading iOS 5. You did make a backup, right? To do so, tap Restore From iTunes Backup, and you'll be brought to the Connect to iTunes screen. Assuming you've stayed connected to your computer, just open iTunes (if you haven't, re-connect your device).

After selecting your device, you'll see the Set Up Your Device screen, which asks if you'd like to set it up from scratch or restore from a specific backup. Choose restore, select the latest backup from the drop-down menu, and click the Continue button to proceed. This process is significantly faster than an iCloud restore, as you're transferring data over USB rather than via Wi-Fi.

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