September 22, 2012, 7:30 AM — iOS 6 arrives today, and eager users everywhere are getting ready to upgrade their devices. If youre 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 6 with this step-by-step guide.
What devices will run iOS 6?
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Before we get into the upgrade process itself, youll want to make sure you actually have a compatible device. Since iOS 6 packs a few major new features that require heavy processing power, Apple has limited the operating system to the following models:
iPhone Models: iPhone 3GS and later
iPad Models: second generation and later
iPod touch Models: fourth generation and later
If you have an earlier model of any of these products, youll have to stick with your current version of iOS.
Missing iOS 6 Features
Certain older devices that can run iOS 6 may not be able to use all of the features available in the new OS on a new iPhone or iPad.
Flyover and turn-by-turn navigation features of the new Maps app are available on only the iPhone 4S or later, fifth-generation iPod touch, and the iPad 2 or later
FaceTime over cellular networks and Siri are available on only the iPhone 4S or later and the third-generation or later iPad
Siri is available for the iPhone 4S or later, fifth-generation iPod touch, and the third-generation iPad
Panoramic mode only works on the iPhone 4S or later and the fifth-generation iPod touch
Safaris offline Reading List feature is available on only the iPhone 4 or later and the iPad 2 or later
Prepare to install
Once youve double-checked that your device is capable of running iOS 6, heres what you need to have available for the upgrade:
Your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad;
If youre installing wirelessly, a valid Wi-Fi connection;
If youre installing via iTunes, your computer and the latest version of iTunes (which you can download from Apples website).
We also suggest that you make a backup of your device before proceeding: If youre doing a straight update, a backup prevents you from losing any data in case something goes wonky down the line; if youre doing a full restore of your device before you install iOS 6, youll need a recent backup to recover your information.
To make a backup using your computer, connect your device to your computer using a USBtodock-connector cable, open iTunes, select your device on the left, and then press the Sync button to the right. This should automatically update your iTunes backup. If your device is already plugged into your computer, you can just Control-click (or right-click) the device in the iTunes source list on the left and choose Back Up from the subsequent pop-up menu.
If your device is configured to back up to iCloud (in the iCloud screen of the Settings app), you can force a backup by going to the iCloud screen, tapping Storage & Backup (near the bottom of the screen), and then tapping Back Up Now (again, near the bottom of the screen).
Upgrade to iOS 6
There are two ways to update your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch to iOS 6: over the air (meaning over a local Wi-Fi network) or from your computer. Over-the-air updates are easierassuming you have a reliable Wi-Fi networkbut tethered updates are faster.
Install an update over the air: If youve used an iOS device before, youre probably fairly familiar with the process of downloading app updates from the App Store app: When a little red badge appears in the upper right corner of the App Store icon, you open the App Store, navigate to the Updates tab, and download your app updates all at once or one by one. The update process for iOS 6 is similar, although instead of going to the App Store, you use the Settings app.
As with the App Store, iOS devices running iOS 5 or later periodically check for new iOS updates. When one is available, a red badge appears on the Settings app; to download the update, open Settings and navigate to General -> Software Update. There, you see some brief information about the update and a button to install it. (If you know an update is available, but your device isnt yet showing it, you can force iOS to check for an update by navigating to the Software Update screen.)
You dont want your device to shut down before installation is complete, so make sure that it has 50 percent or more of its battery charge remaining, or is connected to a power source, before you start to install an update over the air.
These OS updates are called delta updates, because they contain only the parts of the operating system that have changed between the new version and the one your device is currently running. This means delta updates are much smaller than full updates, so you can download them just about anywhere you have a decent Wi-Fi connectionyou dont have to worry about having to wait an hour while a 500MB file downloads.
Your device proceeds to download the update, then restarts and installs it before greeting you with a customary Welcome screen.
The setup screen asks you a few questions pertaining to Location Services, Siri, and more.
Install your update from your computer: If youre not that adventurous, you may prefer to install software updates the old-fashioned way. No problem: Just connect your device to your computer using the standard USBtodock-connector cable, and then check for an iOS update using iTunes.
In theory, the first time you open iTunes with an iOS 6compatible device connected to your computer, iTunes will prompt you to download iOS 6. In practice, this may not happen automaticallyfor example, your computer may not have been notified of the updates availability, because Apple rolls out updates gradually. You can force iTunes to check for an update: Just click the Check For Update button in the Summary screen for your device. Assuming that everything is working properly, iTunes should begin downloading iOS 6 from Apples server.
You can do other tasks while waiting for the download to finish; once it does, your device restarts and begins installing the software. When the update is complete, youll see a message that your device has been updated and is restarting. The process should preserve all your data and appsyoull simply have a shiny new version of iOS once your device restarts.