Updating your Apple iOS? Back it up first.

Posted: November 11, 2011 in Apple, backup, iPad, iphone, iPod, software
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

With the release of the first over-the-air (OTA) Apple iOS update, I’m sure the typical reaction for most iPad/ iPhone/iPod users was to click the update now button and watch as what was once only possible by connecting your iOS device to a computer, occur as if by magic without wires.  I know for me it was anyway.  But did you remember to back up your device first?

Personally, I backup my iPhone every few days – either to the iCloud or to my Mac, typically alternating between the two so I have a backup that is fairly current in each location.  If you are wondering “how do you do that?”  or “why would you want to do that?“, the answer is to the first question is with a combination of iTunes and the iOS on your device already, and as for the second question, that is because as much as we’d like to think they’ve caught all the potential problems before releasing the software update to the masses, the truth is sometimes things go wrong and when they do you will want to roll back the clock to before you clicked that oh so tempting Download & install button.

Backing up.  A quick step-by-step:

First off, i’m assuming you’ve already set up your iCloud.  If not you’ll need to do that first.  If you have already, then read on MacDuff.*

The following is for the iPhone, but any iDevice is basically the same.  If you go to your Settings on your iPhone you will see the General tab, right after which is the new iCloud tab. Burrowing down into the iCloud tab you have the option to turn on what you want to store in the cloud, plus at the bottom the ability to make your iDevice Back Up Now.

open Settings/ iCloud

…then Storage & Backup

here’s where you want to be

I like to force it to back up once in a while, even though it is set to do it automatically.  Click on the Back Up Now and wait while it completes.  It should only take a few minutes.  Once you’ve done that, you may also want to connect your iPhone/iPad to your computer and open iTunes if it doesn’t automatically.

it conveniently tells you when the last iCloud backup was

you can see it was also backed up locally

You’ll want to make sure you’ve checked off the box for “Back up to this computer” and then sync your device.  If you are curious about where the backup is or how big it is or when it was last done, you can go into the advanced settings and see them listed in there.  Typically there will be a couple, unless there has been an iOS update then the only one there will be the most current one which includes the update.

now you can click it

…and wait patiently

Once you are certain you have created your backups, now its safe to click that Download and Install button in the iOS Software Update tab.

You’ll need to be connected to Wi-Fi to download it, possibly due to the size of the update.  It remains to be seen if in the future smaller patches may be able to be done over your cell phone service much the way some App updates need Wi-Fi and others can be done over cellular. (I haven’t tried turning on a personal hotspot with my iPhone and updating the other iDevices that way, but that may be a sneaky way to get around the need for Wi-Fi.)

If all goes well, a few minutes for the download and then a few minutes for the updates to be applied and installed during a restart and you should then be presented with your home screen again, still with all your apps open as before the update as if nothing changed.  If not, for some reason it fails or has problems, at least you’ve got your backups, right?

For me the download went easy, but during the restart process something went screwy and my iPhone 4 turned off.  I had to restart my phone by pushing the power button and it automatically went into install mode again and finished the update.  Aside from a few minor networking issues (I used Airplane Mode to turn off all networks/connections and then turned Airplane Mode off again to reinitialize everything which fixed that problem) it seemed to work pretty smooth.

Even with the minor glitch, it is still much better than the old way of downloading a 600+ mb update which replaced the entire OS on the device.  Especially if you had a couple of iDevices in your house, this new way will save on your data usage and your install time, and hopefully encourage more people to keep their devices updated instead of having to schedule down-time to do it.  Just remember to back up first,  you can never be too safe.  In fact , I’ve never heard anyone complain they had too many backups or were too prepared, well maybe those of us that remember Y2K, but that’s about it.


* the phrase “Read on Macduff” is actually a commonly used bastardization of a quote from Macbeth, act V, scene viii, and is actually “…I throw my warlike shield. Lay on, Macduff, And damn’d be him that first cries, “Hold, enough!


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