How to Update an iPhone

How to install an iPhone update

Think you might have an iPhone update waiting for you? Here’s how to install one via iTunes or over the air | JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images

The world of mobile software doesn’t sit still for anybody, so iPhone software updates have become a regular part of life. If you don’t install them regularly when they arrive, there’s a chance an update is waiting in the wings for you to install right now, perhaps Apple’s new iPhone update for iOS 10. Not sure how to find the update or install it? Read on.

Apple generally issues an iPhone update several times a year. One of these is usually a big, feature-rich update, like iOS 10, which introduces a big update for Messages, the ability for Siri to work with apps, new ways to use 3D Touch, redesigned apps (like Maps, Photos, Apple Music, and News), and the brand-new Home app for HomeKit. The other iPhone updates that Apple releases each year are more minor, and often fix security issues and squash smaller bugs that have made their way into the programming code. Sometimes, though, they add new features, like the software update that will enable a new depth-of-field effect for the camera system of the iPhone 7 Plus.

Your iPhone notifies you when an update is ready for you to install, but it’s easy to ignore that notification, or to dismiss it without realizing what you’re missing. If you’re not sure whether your phone has an available update, look at the icon for the Settings app. If it has a red badge with the number one on it, then it’s probably time to update your software.

Apple offers two ways to update your iPhone: over the air, and via iTunes on your computer. Both methods of installing an iPhone update are pretty straightforward, so you should just choose the one that works better for you. We’ll go over both methods step-by-step, and you’ll have an up-to-date iPhone in no time.

How to install an iPhone update over the air

The most convenient way to update your iOS software is to do it “over the air.” This means that your phone downloads and installs the update all by itself, without connecting to a computer. The only thing you might need to do is plug your phone into the wall, connect to a Wi-Fi network, and tap a few buttons to accept the user agreement.

1. Back up your device

how to update iPhone

Source: Chris Reed

The first thing you should do before updating the operating system of any device, including your iPhone, is to learn how to back up your iPhone in case something goes wrong. It’s unlikely that something will go wrong, but it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to the data, photos, and other information on your phone.

If you back up your iPhone using iCloud, go into Settings > iCloud > Backup, and tap “Back Up Now.” If you use iTunes, connect your device to your computer, open iTunes, tap on the device’s icon in iTunes, and select “Back Up Now.” If you don’t have regular backups set up already, now is a great time to schedule them.

2. Open the “Settings” app

iPhone update

Source: Chris Reed

To find and install an iPhone update, you’ll need to open the Settings app. Trying to locate it? If you’re like lots of iOS users who don’t need to use the Settings app very often, you may have hidden the icon in a folder to keep your iPhone’s homescreen clean and organized.

3. Tap “General”

how to update iPhone

Source: Chris Reed

Once you open the Settings app, tap “General.” It should appear in the third section of the Settings app.

4. Tap “Software Update”

iPhone update

Source: Chris Reed

The Software Update page will show you whether there’s an iPhone update is available. If you don’t need to update iOS, your iPhone will tell you that your software is up to date. But if there is an iPhone update for you to install, this is where you’ll see its version number, as well as a quick overview of the features or bug fixes it adds.

5. Tap “Download and Install”

How to update an iPhone -- software update for iOS

Source: Jess Bolluyt

Once you tap the “Download and Install” button, your iPhone will begin downloading the software update. Downloading an iPhone update will take a while, but when the download is complete, another window will ask you if you want to install it.

5. Agree to the terms and conditions

How to install an iPhone update -- agree to terms and conditions to download a software update

Source: Jess Bolluyt

Next, your iPhone will ask to agree to the Terms and Conditions associated with the latest version of iOS. You can read it if you enjoy wading through legalese, but most people simply hit “Agree” without taking a close look.

6. Tap “Install”

How to update your iPhone -- install a software update

Source: Jess Bolluyt

If you’ve set a passcode on your iPhone, you’ll need to enter it to authorize your iPhone to install the update.

All done!

Next, your iPhone will install the update. After it completes the installation, your phone will reset. Once it does, you can rest assured you’re on the cutting edge of technology, using the latest software available and getting access to the latest and greatest features of iOS.

If you don’t have enough storage space on your iPhone to update over the air — which can happen with the sort of major iPhone update that Apple issues in the fall if you have a 16GB iPhone with lots of apps or media, you can use iTunes to install the update without spending an hour deleting apps or culling. Read on to find out how.

How to update an iPhone via iTunes

Source: Jess Bolluyt

How to update using iTunes

Many iPhone (and iPad) users think that updating over the air might is more convenient, but using iTunes is also easy when it comes time to update your iOS device. One benefit to using iTunes is that it downloads the iPhone update to your computer rather than to your phone, which is great when your iPhone doesn’t have enough free space to accommodate the download.

1. Back up your device

update iPhone

Source: Chris Reed

The first thing you should do before updating the operating system of any device is back up your data in case something goes wrong. It’s unlikely that you’ll run in to problems, but again, it’s better to be safe than sorry if you value the photos, data, and information that you store on your phone.

If you back up your iPhone using iCloud, go into Settings > iCloud > Backup, and tap “Back Up Now.” If you use iTunes, connect your device to your computer, open iTunes, tap on the device’s icon in iTunes, and select “Back Up Now.” This is a great time to set up regular updates if you haven’t already.

2. Open iTunes

How to update an iPhone with iTunes -- iTunes icon on Mac

Source: Jess Bolluyt

The first step to updating your iPhone via iTunes is to open iTunes on your computer.

3. Make sure you have the most recent version of iTunes

How to install an iPhone update via iTunes -- checking for updates in iTunes

Source: Jess Bolluyt

You won’t be able to update your phone without the latest version of iTunes installed on your computer. To ensure that you’re using the latest version, click on iTunes in the menu bar, and click “Check for Updates.” The software will either tell you that iTunes is up to date, or will tell you that it needs to be updated. Either way, the process is quick.

4. Plug your phone into your computer

To install an iPhone update via iTunes, you’ll need to plug your iPhone into your computer. You can just use the USB cable that came with your phone.

5. Select your device’s icon in iTunes

How to udpate an iPhone via iTunes -- iOS device icon

Source: Jess Bolluyt

Once iTunes recognizes your iPhone, an icon for the device will appear in the upper left corner. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, it can be hard to find, so look at the same section where you switch from Music to Movies to TV Shows.

6. Click “Check for Update”

How to install an iPhone update via iTunes -- new software version

Source: Jess Bolluyt

On the first screen you reach upon clicking on your iPhone’s icon, you should find a “Summary” button and click it. Then you can press “Check for Update.” If an iPhone update is available, iTunes will find it and prompt you to download and install it.

7. Click “Download and Update”

How to update your iPhone via iTunes -- iOS 9.3 update

Source: Jess Bolluyt

Agree to the terms and conditions, and you’re off to the races. iTunes will download the iPhone update and install it on your phone. Then your iPhone will be ready to go, with the latest version of iOS and all its best features ready for you to use.

Follow Chris on Twitter @_chrislreed

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