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How to upgrade your iPhone 4S to iOS 6 in four steps

Software & AppsGuides
by Jill Duffy, 20 Sep 2012Guides
How to upgrade your iPhone 4S to iOS 6 in four steps

Apple's iOS 6, the next major update to the iPhone maker's mobile operating system, was unleashed yesterday evening.

Okay, so how do you get it?

First you need to make sure you have a compatible device in hand. iOS 6 will support the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, and the new but as-yet-unavailable iPhone 5 (which will hit stores tomorrow), as well as the iPad 2, the new third-generation iPad, and the fourth-gen iPod Touch.

If your device isn't on this list, it won't be able to run iOS 6, and it might be time to consider upgrading to a new phone or tablet. Additionally, some of the devices that are supported won't get every single feature. For example, the iPhone 3GS won't have any of the new Siri features.

How to get iOS 6 in four easy steps

1. Update iTunes

If you haven't recently updated iTunes, take a moment to check whether you're running version 10.7.

Launch iTunes.

Go to Help > Check for Updates.

You want to update iTunes if you use it to back up your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. Backing up with iTunes has one very big advantage over backing up with iCloud: Space. With iCloud, you have 5GB of free space (with more available if you pay for it), but with iTunes and your own computer, you're likely to have a lot more room to save your phone or tablet data.

2. Back up your device

This step may be the single most important one to follow. Back up your stuff!

With the latest version of iTunes installed, you can go ahead and back up your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch using iTunes. To do this, connect your device to your computer and launch iTunes. Make sure iCloud is turned off on your iPhone or iPad. You can't create backups using iTunes when iCloud is enabled. Go to Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup,  and turn off the iCloud Backup switch.

Then in iTunes, right click (or Ctrl-click) on your device, which appears in the leftmost pane under Devices, and select Back Up.

Alternatively, if you have enough space, back up using iCloud. Check out this article for full instructions on how to go about this.

3. Update to iOS 6

You can update to iOS 6 wirelessly, also known as over-the-air (OTA), which for most people with a good Wi-Fi connection will be the simplest method, but it could take much longer than the second method, which I'll explain afterwards.

On your device, go to:

Settings > General > Software Update

You'll see instructions there to download and install iOS 6.

Alternatively, you can update your software via iTunes. This is the method I used, and which I recommend.

Plug your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch into your computer with the USB cord and launch iTunes (if it doesn't open automatically). On the left side of iTunes, find your device, for example, "Jill's Phone," and click on it.

In the centre of the screen, you'll see "Version" and a button "Check for Update." Click "Check for Update" (see the above screenshot).

A dialog box will tell you that a new software version is available. Select "Download and Update" or just "Download."

Note: My first few attempts with "Download and Update" failed. I then just tried "Download," which worked and took about 12 minutes. But you'll have to push one more button in the centre of your iTunes window in order to put the operating system onto your phone.

4. Be patient!

The worst thing you can do during an update is interrupt it, so just be patient and let the download of iOS 6 goodness run its course. If you're anxious to get your paws on iOS 6, just be mindful of when the device shuts down fully to reboot. Leave it alone until you see a screen that prompts you for action.

And that's it – you'll now be a proud member of the iOS 6 club. If you want to read up more on iOS 6 and what new features it brings to the table, check out our Before and After iOS 6 article.

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