Good and Sneaky

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How to make sure your iOS update goes smoothly


…or, what to do while waiting for your new iPhone.

Update 2024: Can you remember when iOS updates were this complicated? Let’s reflect on the past and be thankful for updates via the cloud.

If you’ve ever tried upgrading your iOS device over a weak wi-fi connection, without access to iTunes, or with a nearly-full device, you know how frustrating it can be. While there’s still a little time before Wednesday’s release of iOS 8, here are some tips to make your upgrade go relatively more smoothly.

iOS 8 icon

First off, make sure your device will even run iOS 8. If it’s not listed below, you’re out of luck (and outdated):

  • iPhone 4s
  • iPhone 5
  • iPhone 5s
  • iPhone 5c
  • iPad 2
  • iPad 3rd generation
  • iPad 4th generation
  • iPad Air
  • iPad Mini
  • iPad Mini with Retina display
  • 5th-generation iPod Touch

Make room

If you’re planning ahead and preparing your device to update while you’re at work (and away from iTunes and your computer), you may need more free space on your device than you might expect. If the iOS 6 > 7 upgrade is any indication, you’ll probably need 3GB of storage to upgrade to iOS 8 without using a computer and iTunes.

Clear off apps that you don’t use frequently, especially apps that store data in the cloud, since you can install them again after your upgrade and not lose anything at all.

Back that app up

Even if you normally use iCloud to back up your device, connect to iTunes and do a wired backup. Since you deleted some apps in the previous step, the backup should go more quickly than usual.

Do the update

Let iTunes do the download and update by syncing your device. If you’re not able to connect to iTunes, let your device download and update the OS within your device.

What’s next?

If you’re getting a new device, and you’re going to sell the old one, unlock it. Why? Check the going rates for comparable iPhones on eBay, and you’ll see that unlocked devices command a higher price. Unlock your AT&T iPhone online, or call 1-800-331-0500, but the web form is simple—just remember that the form is asking for the account-holder’s information, not the information for the person who uses the device (the email address is only used for receiving instructions). For Verizon, call 1-800-711-8300 and ask for a SIM unlock.

After you’ve activated your new device, transferred all your date to it, and unlocked the old onet, wipe all data from your old iPhone before you send it off to a new buyer.