Updating your iOS device can be a simple and easy process, provided you take certain precautions up front. These simple steps can minimize your opportunity to lose data and will maximize your chances for a successful iOS update.

iOS 7 on iPhone 4

Preparation for any major systems upgrade comes in three basic parts: minimize your potential for loss, maximize your opportunity for success, and the carry out the act of upgrading itself. The following will guide you through the first two phases to help ensure the desired outcome if you’re planning on upgrading to Apple’s iOS 7 operating system later today or this week. The goal is to upgrade your eligible device to iOS 7 while keeping all of your app data fully intact.

Maximize: check device eligibility

The devices that are available to update to iOS 7 are the iPhone 4, 4S and 5, the iPad 2, 3, and 4, as well as iPad mini, and the 5th generation iPod Touch. Keep in mind that once you upgrade from iOS 6 to iOS 7, you will not be able to downgrade from iOS 7 back to iOS 6. You may even want to hold off until a future update of iOS 7 just to see if performance on your particular device improves beyond what some early tests have shown.

Minimize: offload photos and shared files

Off-load Photos and Shared Files

Some files on your iOS device are more important than others; namely, the photos you take and the files you create. It is a good idea to remove or at least copy such files from your device when conducting a major upgrade.

Device Camera RollOffload all photos stored locally in your device’s camera roll by attaching your device to a Mac and launching the OS X ImageCapture utility. Choose an appropriate “Import To” location and click on the “Import All” button. If you have a Windows PC, you can delete the photos through Windows Explorer after connecting your iPhone through a USB port. Once you have saved the photos in your camera roll, you can remove them from your device.

Copy shared files – Certain iOS apps will allow you to share files using iTunes. To copy these files, attach your iOS device via USB, launch iTunes and select the attached device.  Navigate to the “Apps” tab for that device and at the bottom of the screen you will see a list titled “File Sharing”. Copy the files for each app to you local hard drive for safe keeping.

Maximize: Update all apps on your iOS device and iTunes

Update all Apps on your iOS Device and iTunes

Following a successful update, you will be given the option to perform a restore from backup. Within a given backup, the actual apps you use will not be backed up. Instead, they will be downloaded and installed again from iTunes. To make the restore process run smoothly, ensure you have the latest version of each app you are using before you update.

Remove unused apps from the deviceRemove any apps that you no longer use to reduce the time it takes to restore. To do this, tap and hold an app’s icon until it jiggles. Then click on the red minus sign in the top left corner to delete it. Repeat the process for any apps you no longer use.

Update iOS apps on the deviceUpdate each of the apps you do decide to keep. Go to the App Store app on your device and select the “Updates” tab. Here you will see a list of apps that can be updated. Tap on “Update All.”

Check iTunes Version – To see if iTunes itself is up to date, select “Check for Updates…” from the iTunes menu on the Mac or the Help menu on a PC. On the Mac, the check within iTunes is more reliable than the system wide check for updates done through the App Store on the Mac. Download and install the latest iTunes update if necessary.

Download iOS apps to iTunes – From within iTunes, access your iTunes Store account to ensure that you have downloaded all of your apps to your local iTunes app library.  To do this, “Sign In” from the Store menu in iTunes and go to the iTunes Store.  Then click on “Purchased” from the list of Quick Links on the right side of the screen.  From here you can view all of the Apps that are “Not on This Computer” and download them to your app library.

Update iOS Apps on iTunes – To update all of the apps in your app library within iTunes, first select “Apps” from the list in your Library. If it is not visible, check your iTunes preferences. Once you see the list of apps, click on the “Update All Apps” button in the bottom right corner.

Minimize: Backup to iCloud and iTunes

Backup to iCloud and iTunes

There are two types of backups you can restore from, iCloud and iTunes. Restoring from an iCloud backup has become my preferred method of restoring my iOS device. While every app will be downloaded again directly from iTunes, I have had the most success at restoring app data and settings from an iCloud backup.

Even if you do not plan on restoring from an iTunes backup, I would still recommend backing up your iOS device to iTunes. You will not have access to your backed up files when they are backed up to iCloud, whereas you will have access to your backup up files when backing up to iTunes.

Back up to iCloud – To back up your device, go to the “iCloud” section of the Settings app on your device. Select “Storage & Backup” and make sure the iCloud Backup setting is switched to “On.” Then tap on “Back Up Now” to perform a backup.

Back up to iTunes – Backing up your iOS device to iTunes requires you to connect your iOS device via USB. Once attached, you simply select the iOS device you want to back up from the list of devices and click on the “Back Up Now” button on the “Summary” screen.

Maximize: Perform a clean device restart

Perform a Clean Device Restart

One last step that I have performed prior to every upgrade is to remove all apps from the running app list, as well turn the device off, then back on again. After having my fair share of frozen updates in the past, I now always ensure that my iOS device can shut down and start up again properly prior to applying any major update.

Stop any running apps –  Double click the home button on the device to display the list of running apps along the bottom of the screen. Tap and hold one of the running apps until they jiggle. Click on the red minus sign in the top left corner to stop each running app.

Restart the device – To power off the device, press and hold the power button on the device until the “slide to power off” touch control appears. If the touch control does not appear, or the device does not successfully turn off, you may have to press and hold the power button until it does.

Power and Wi-Fi access – Finally, ensure that your device has access to power and is on a trusted and fast Wi-Fi network.

Performing all of these steps takes me from ten to fifteen minutes, depending on how out of date my iTunes App library is. The actual iOS update, be it over the air (OTA) or via iTunes on your Mac or Windows PC, is actually the simplest part.

If all does not go well the first time you update to iOS 7 and restore from a prior backup, fear not. Provided you have followed all of the steps outlined above, you can attempt the restore process again.

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  1. I may prepare my iPad by not upgrading. I’d assumed I’d upgrade as a matter of course. But today Business Insider published a side-by-side comparison of common apps and pages in iOS 6 and iOS 7.

    None were improvements–change for the sake of change isn’t an improvement. Half were tolerable. Half were clearly worse, with a clear pattern evident.

    * Too bright has always been the bane of mobile devices. You’re out for a walk in the evening. Your eyes are adjusted to the darkness. You decide to make a call and find a bright screen blasting your eyes. iOS 7 makes that worse by having an overabundance of almost all white screens, including a fingerprint sign-in one that’s impossible to avoid. Dreadful.

    * Too little contrast. One of the essential features of good design is having a solid contrast between the background and what’s read (text and icons). In window after window, iOS 7 violates that. One example is the Map application where street names have inexplicably been changed from an easily readable black to an almost unreadable light grey. And when you consider how often that Map application is consulted in a bouncing car with changing light levels, it’s even worse. Again dreadful.

    Stated simply, iOS 7 has too much art and too little design.

    1. I absolutely agree! Too many whistles and bells, fluff. Not nearly the substance for all the trouble and hype!

  2. Looking forward to this!!1 iOS7!! :D

  3. Out of curiosity, why stop all running apps before restarting? Wouldn’t a restart, by definition, stop all running apps?

    1. Bob TheWraith Goodwin Troy Wednesday, September 18, 2013

      Its a bit hard for the iOS update to replace the app with the new version while its running : /

  4. I had no idea about the ImageCapture utility – yet another discovery of something neat that’s been right in front of me the whole time. I hate iPhoto, and with over 2,500 photos on the iPhone, just thinking about trying to manage has made me… not want to manage them. Now it’s all done, in just one swell foop. Thank you!

    1. Can you expand on the imagecapture utility you mention- I don’t know of this either…

  5. Manus from Soundwave here. You can get the iOS7 version of our music discovery app at https://itunes.apple.com/app/soundwave-music-discovery/id623353909. I wonder why we are NOT mentioned in the article……hmmmmm :-)

    1. Advertising your product in a fourm? Bad idea. Look desperate.

    2. wtf does Soundwave music have to do with how to get a phone ready for iOS 7 ?,
      It must be such a crap app if you have to spam it…….

  6. im still at version 6.1.2, do i need to install 6.1.3 and 6.1.4 for me to be able to install ios 7?

    1. I have the same question. When I go to Software Update on the Settings Menu, the latest update it says is 6.1.3

      1. If you upgrade to the latest version of iTunes on your PC/Mac, then it should give you the option of updating directly to 7.

      2. The Last iPhone 4 and 4S update was 6.1.3 (you upgrade directly to 7 from 6.1.3)
        only the iPhone 5 had 6.1.4, not the 4 or 4S, so you can’t get 6.1.4 ;)

    2. You don’t. Just restart your phone and you will see iOS7 as an update option,

  7. This sucks I lost all my photos

    1. I upgraded my iPad and all of my photos are still intact.

  8. Why won’t anybody answer me

    1. Get outta here. This isnt Apple Support.

      ;Why won’t anybody answer me

      Here is an answer – help yourself.

    2. Because no one has this problem. BACK YO SHIT UP!

    3. Google is your friend.

  9. Early adopters = testers.

    And I hope Michael W. Perry isn’t using ANY map app while driving.

    Perhaps what he mentions has nothing to do with real world experiences on devices that have auto dimming.

  10. Has iOS 7 how can you delete the running apps on iOS 7 it’s not possible so that will make your phone go slow if you have tons of running apps!!! Ugh wtf iOS 7!?!?!

    1. yes simply double tap home and swipe up on applications you are not using lol

      1. I’ve tried double tapping and swiping up and they don’t move or go anywhere!

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