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A step-by-step guide on how to download iOS 7

iOS 7, the next major update to Apple's mobile operating system, is due out any moment today. Historically, it has been released at about 18:00 BST (13:00 EST, 10:00 PDT) on the announced date, and that's the timing we're expecting today, too.

Okay, so how do you get it? And what do you need to do before you download and install it?

1. Check your device

First you need to make sure you have a compatible device. iOS 7 will work on the iPhone 4 and later, Retina display iPads, the iPad 2, and fifth-generation iPod touch. Not all devices will get every new feature available in iOS 7. For example, iPhone 4 won't have Siri or the panoramic camera feature. See our complete list of devices that will run iOS 7 for more details on the missing features.

iOS 7 will also come preinstalled on the new iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C, which will be available 20 September, this Friday.

2. Decide to download now or later

Not everyone will want to download iOS 7 right away. Why? Because the crush of users all trying to get it ASAP will likely crowd Apple's servers, making the operating system very slow to download.

Wait until later tonight or tomorrow, and the download and installation will go much faster. The update also seems to go faster via iTunes than over-the-air (I’ll explain this below).

3. Update iTunes (if backing up to or installing from iTunes)

If you back up your iPhone or iPad to iTunes, or if you plan to install iOS 7 from iTunes, you have to check whether you're running the latest version (11.0.5). To check, launch iTunes, and go to Help > Check for Updates.

Install any updates and restart iTunes.

4. Back up your device

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

With the latest version of iTunes installed, you can go ahead and back up your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch using iTunes.

Alternatively, you can back it up to iCloud. Go to Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup. Under Backup, turn on the switch for iCloud Backup.

5. Update iOS

When iOS 7 becomes available, you can update 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 iTunes method, which I'll explain second.

Over-the-Air (via Wi-Fi): On your device, go to: Settings > General > Software Update

You'll see instructions there to download and install it.

Via iTunes: Alternatively, you can update your software via iTunes. This is the method I prefer and 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 it.

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

A dialog box will tell you that a new software version is available. Select "Download and Update" or just "Download." In the past, "Download and Update" hasn't always worked for me. The other option to "Download" has, though, but it can take a while if the network is jammed with people trying to upgrade to iOS 7. 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.

6. Be patient!

The worst thing you can do during an update is interrupt it, so just be patient and let iOS 7 do its thing. If you're anxious to get iOS 7, 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.