How to upgrade to iOS 7

iOS 7 arrives today, and eager users everywhere are getting ready to upgrade their devices. If you’re concerned about the upgrade process, or if you 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 7 with this step-by-step guide.

What devices will run iOS 7?

Before you consider upgrading, you must make sure that you have a compatible device. Since iOS 7 packs some new features and a graphics-heavy new design that require serious processing power, Apple has limited the operating system to the following models.

iPHONE MODELS: iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s
iPAD MODELS: Second-, third-, and fourth-generation iPad or later; iPad mini
iPOD TOUCH MODELS: Fifth-generation iPod touch (16GB, 32GB, and 64GB)

If you have an earlier model of any of these products, you’ll have to stick with your current version of iOS.

Missing iOS 7 Features

While certain older devices can run iOS 7, they may not be able to take advantage of all the iOS features available on a new iPhone or iPad. Specifically, here’s what you can expect to miss if you’re using a device that’s older than the models listed.

Touch ID: iPhone 5s
iCloud: iPhone 3GS or later, first-generation iPad or later, third-generation iPod touch
Slo-Mo: iPhone 5s
Burst Mode: iPhone 5s
Auto Image Stabilization: iPhone 5s
Video 3x Zoom: iPhone 5s
Panorama: iPhone 4S or later, fifth-generation iPod touch
Square and video formats: iPhone 4 or later, third-generation iPad or later, fifth-generation iPod touch
In-camera filters: iPhone 5 or later, fifth-generation iPod touch
Photos app filters: iPhone 4 or later, third-generation iPad or later, fifth-generation iPod touch
AirDrop (requires iCloud): iPhone 5 or later, fourth-generation iPad or later, fifth-generation iPod touch
FaceTime over cellular: iPhone 4S or later, third-generation iPad or later, fifth-generation iPod touch
Siri: iPhone 4S or later, third-generation iPad or later, fifth-generation iPod touch; requires Internet access
Maps flyover and turn-by-turn directions: iPhone 4S or later, iPad 2 or later, fifth-generation iPod touch

Prepare to install

Once you’ve double-checked that your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad is capable of running iOS 7, you need to decide how to install the OS. If you plan to install wirelessly, confirm that you have an available Wi-Fi connection; if you intend to install via iTunes, you need your computer and the latest version of iTunes. (If you don’t have it, you can download it from Apple’s website.)

We also suggest that you make a backup of your device before proceeding: If you’re doing a straight update, a backup prevents you from losing data in case something goes wonky down the line; if you’re doing a full restore of your device before you install iOS 7, you’ll need a recent backup to recover your information.

Back up via your computer

To make a backup using your computer, you can go through iTunes. Just plug your device into your computer (or use the Wi-Fi Sync option) and open iTunes.

Once the program is open, click the Devices button, select your device, and scroll down in the summary section to Backups. There, under ‘Manually Back Up and Restore’, click Back Up Now.

Back up via your device

To make a wireless backup directly from your device, you need an iCloud account. Once you’re logged in to iCloud, make sure your device is connected to a Wi-Fi network—you can’t create a backup over a cellular network.

COPY TO THE CLOUD: If you have an iCloud account, you can back up your device wirelessly.

After you’ve done so, just go to Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup, turn on the iCloud Backup toggle, and tap Back Up Now.

Turn to page two to read about upgrading to iOS 7.

Upgrade to iOS 7

You have two ways to update your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch to iOS 7: over the air (by way of a Wi-Fi network) or from your computer. Over-the-air updates are easier—assuming that you have a reliable Wi-Fi network—but tethered updates are faster.

Want to wipe your device and do a fresh install instead? Jump to the “Do a fresh install on your device” section.

Install over the air

If you’ve used an iOS device before, you’re probably familiar with the process of downloading app updates from the App Store app: When a 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 7 is similar, although instead of going to the App Store, you use the Settings app.

INSIDE UPDATE: The Settings app has a Software Update panel for upgrading your operating system over the air.

Just as they do with App Store apps, 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 that an update is available, but your device isn’t yet showing it, you can force iOS to check for an update by navigating to the Software Update screen.)

You don’t 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. Delta updates are much smaller than full updates, so you can download them just about anywhere you have a decent Wi-Fi connection—you don’t have to worry about having to wait an hour while a 500MB file downloads.

Your device proceeds to download the update, and then restarts and installs it before greeting you with the customary welcome screen.

Jump to the “Set up from an update or restore” section to continue the setup process.

Install the update from your computer

If you’re not that adventurous, you may prefer to install software updates the old-fashioned way. No problem: Just plug your phone into your computer (or use the Wi-Fi Sync option) and open iTunes.

UPDATE ME: When you’re installing through iTunes on your computer, clicking ‘Check for Update’ forces iTunes to see if a new version of iOS is available.

In theory, the first time you open iTunes with an iOS 7–compatible device connected to your computer, iTunes will prompt you to download iOS 7. In practice, that may not happen automatically—for example, your computer may not have been notified of the update’s 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 7 from Apple’s 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, you’ll see a message saying that your device has been updated and is restarting. The process should preserve all your data and apps—you’ll simply have a shiny new version of iOS once your device restarts.

Jump to the “Set up from an update or restore” section to continue the setup process.

Do a fresh install on your iOS device

If you’d rather wipe your device and do a fresh install of iOS 7 (and then, optionally, restore your apps, settings, and other data), you can do so from iTunes.

On your computer, click the Restore button instead of ‘Check for Update’ in the Summary screen for your device. This action makes iTunes download iOS 7, as described above, but instead of performing an in-place update, iTunes erases your entire device and installs the new OS with factory-default settings.

Once iOS 7 is installed, you can disconnect your device from your computer and set it up wirelessly. That said, if you plan to restore your device from a backup, restoring your apps and data from the server will take longer. (Jump to the “Set up a device from a fresh install” section below to continue.)

If you don’t have much time to restore your device backup, it’s best to do it directly in iTunes, as restoring via USB is much faster than going over the air via iCloud. So, if you keep your iOS device connected to iTunes after restoring, you’ll see a screen asking whether you want to set it up as a new device or to restore it from a local backup.

RESTORATION NATION: After a restore installation of iOS 7, you can use iTunes to restore your data from a local backup.

Set up a device from a fresh install

You can perform most of iOS 7’s setup on your device itself. Don’t worry about making a mistake—if you find yourself tapping the wrong thing, you can press your device’s Home button at any time to launch the iPad Not Set Up menu and reset the process.

TIME TO START OVER: If you make a mistake or have problems with your network, press the Home button to bring up the iPad Not Set Up menu.

After a fresh install, your device greets you with a screen displaying “Hello” and “Slide to set up” in a variety of languages.

Drag your finger along the Slide to set up text to the right to access the next screen in the process. Your device asks you to pick your language and country, along with your Wi-Fi network. The device checks for any Wi-Fi networks in the area to which it can connect; to move forward, select a Wi-Fi network and tap the Next button. (You can also choose to set up your device over a cellular connection—if it has a cellular antenna—by tapping the Next button without selecting a network.)

The screens also ask whether you’d like to enable Location Services. Agreeing allows Apple apps (and third-party apps) to access your location via Wi-Fi networks and your Global Positioning System location.

LOCATE ME: Turn on Location Services to give iOS 7 access to your device’s GPS data for apps such as Maps and Compass.

You can always enable or disable these features on an app-by-app basis, and you can configure the option in more detail from the Settings app.

From here, you have three choices: You can set up your freshly installed device with factory settings, restore from an iCloud backup, or restore from an iTunes backup.

TIME TO SET UP: Now that you’ve upgraded your device, you must decide whether to restore your earlier data and apps or start fresh.

START FROM SCRATCH: If you want to have a clean slate after upgrading to iOS 7—maybe you’re giving this device to a family member or you’ve received it as a gift—you need to set up the device from scratch.

THE APPLE ID: Your device explains what an Apple ID is, and asks you to sign in with yours, create one, or skip this step.

The first thing you need to decide is whether to supply an Apple ID (or to create one, if you don’t have one). You use your Apple ID to buy music, apps, and books from the iBookstore, and you can associate it with iCloud if you want to.

If you already have an Apple ID, tap the Sign In with Your Apple ID button and enter your username (usually your email address) and password. Apple then spends a few moments linking your device to your Apple ID. If you don’t have an Apple ID, it’s easy enough to create one by tapping the Create a Free Apple ID button. You then enter your birthday, name, and email address (or you can create a new iCloud email address), as well as a password, a security question (in case you forget your password), and whether you’d like to receive email updates from Apple.

And if you’d rather not set up an Apple ID, you can tap the Skip This Step link below the two options. You can always add or create an ID from the Settings app later, but note that you won’t be able to buy anything on the iTunes Store or set up iCloud until you do.

Jump to the “Set up from an update or restore” section to continue the setup process.

RESTORE FROM iTUNES: If you have an iTunes backup and you disconnected your device from your computer after you restored it, select this option and reconnect to your computer. iTunes then takes you through steps similar to those outlined in “Set up a device from a fresh install” earlier in this chapter.

If you want to restore from a backup, choose Restore from this backup, and then use the pop-up menu to select the desired backup. Click Continue, and iTunes restores that data and syncs with your device. It then asks you to give your device a name and to choose whether to sync songs and videos, photos, and/or apps to your device automatically. After you make your selections and click Done, iTunes performs its first sync. Once that is complete, the setup process continues—on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch—just as if you had performed an update without restoring.

Jump to the “Set up from an update or restore” section to continue the setup process.

RESTORE FROM iCLOUD: If you have an iCloud account and you’ve previously backed up your device to iCloud, this option lets you restore that data directly to your device without having to connect to a computer. Choose Restore from iCloud Backup, and then enter your iCloud Apple ID and password. Agree to the iCloud terms and conditions by tapping Agree (twice), and your device displays all compatible iCloud-hosted backups. Be sure to pick the correct backup here, as the list may include backups for other devices you own.

CHOOSE YOUR BACKUP: Tap the correct backup to restore your device.

Choose the desired backup, and then wait—the process can take anywhere from a few minutes to many hours, depending on how many apps you had installed and how much data you had stored in those apps. (Restoring from an iTunes backup is much faster than restoring from iCloud, which is why many people back up to iTunes periodically even if they normally back up to iCloud.)

When the restore is finished, your device restarts, and you see a screen explaining that you have a few more steps to follow.

Jump to the “Set up from an update or restore” section to continue the setup process.

Set up from an update or restore

After you’ve set up a network connection, entered your Apple ID, and agreed to the terms and conditions, it’s time to decide whether to use the iCloud service. iCloud is an umbrella term for Apple’s collection of sync offerings, which allow you to sync your photos, apps, contacts, calendars, and mail across multiple devices.

You can even set up different Apple IDs for iCloud and iTunes, if you have one shared Apple ID that you use for family purchases and another that you want to use for your iCloud data.

Choose to set up iCloud, and the screen will also ask whether to enable iCloud backups for your device. If you decide to do so, you can have your device back up all essential settings to your iCloud account; if you ever need to restore, you can do it over Wi-Fi without needing a computer. (Of course, if you’d rather back up to your computer, you can always elect to have iTunes back up your device.)

Additionally, the screens will ask whether you’d like to opt in to iCloud’s Find My iPhone, iMessage, and FaceTime services.

LEAVE A MESSAGE: Turn on iMessage and FaceTime to chat with your family and friends using text, photos, and video.

Find My iPhone enables location monitoring for your device, allowing you to find it using your Apple ID and the Find My iPhone app should it go missing; iMessage lets you send text, photo, and video messages to your family and friends over a data connection; and FaceTime lets you chat via video and audio with friends over Wi-Fi and cellular connections (select carriers only).

Your device also prompts you to enter a passcode to protect it from potential thieves or snoops. If you’d rather not set one, just tap Don’t Add Passcode to skip this step.

If you have an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad that can use Siri, Apple’s personal voice assistant, your device will ask if you want to use it.

You can toggle Siri on or off from this initial setup screen, but you can always change your preferences in the Settings app at a later date.

Once you finish the setup process, you see a screen asking whether your device may automatically send diagnostic and usage information to Apple to “help Apple improve its products and services.”

Choose Automatically Send or Don’t Send, and then tap Next.

Congratulations! You’ve answered all the setup questions and you’re ready to begin using iOS 7.

WELCOME, WELCOME: Once you’ve finished answering all of iOS 7’s setup questions, you can head straight to the home screen.

Product mentioned in this article

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