How to get your iPhone ready for iOS 5

With iOS 5 just around the corner, it's a great time to clean house and make sure your iOS device is ready for the update. Follow our step-by-step guide.

Jason Parker Senior Editor / Reviews - Software
Jason Parker has been at CNET for nearly 15 years. He is the senior editor in charge of iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.
Jason Parker
3 min read
iOS 5
iOS 5 may be coming Tuesday, October 4. Is your iPhone ready? CNET

Four months after it was releaed in June at Apple's WWDC, iOS 5, the next major version of the software that powers Apple's iPods, iPhones, and iPads, will release today. By now, you're probably ready for the handy new features, tweaked UI, new Twitter integration, and everything else (read what we've learned so far of iOS 5), but is your iOS device ready?

To make sure your iPhone is set up for the launch of the latest iOS, we've put together a step-by-step guide for making sure it is primed for the update.

Editors' note: Apple's updates are set up to let you update no matter what iOS version you're on or what apps and music you have on your device--as long as your hardware is eligible. Eligible devices include the iPod Touch third or fourth generation; iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4; and both the iPad and iPad 2. While not required, this how-to is more of a spring cleaning to get ready for iOS 5.

Cleaning out the crap
Do you really need that simulated beer glass app anymore? Are you really still listening to "Never Gonna Give You Up" on a regular basis? Over time, you have probably downloaded all sorts of things--some useful, and others that are just plain trash.

With a new OS update coming, this is the perfect opportunity to clean house. Delete those unwanted apps and music from your iPhone, and reorganize those messy home screens. As part of iOS 5, you'll no longer have to plug in your iPhone to sync, but to get it ready for the update and clear out some space, it's worth visiting the standard sync features one more time.

Plug it in
Plug in your iPhone and load up iTunes (if it doesn't load automatically). Start by right clicking on your iPhone in the left-side navigation of iTunes and select Transfer Purchases to make sure all the apps and music you've bought on your iPhone are backed up to the computer. This can take a considerable amount of time (especially on a PC) depending on how many apps and songs you have.

Transfer Purchases
Transfer purchases just to make sure that any of the music and apps you've bought will be saved to your computer. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

When that's finished, go through each of the tabs across the top starting with Summary and ending with Photos. In the Summary section, make sure to check for updates to make sure you have the latest version of the iOS to ensure a smooth transition to iOS 5. From there, you'll want to go through each tab to organize Apps, Music, Movies, TV Shows, Books, and Photos. As a guideline, think back and try to delete items you haven't used or looked at in a couple of months.

Organize the apps and media you DO use
Once your iPhone is pared down to just the apps you use regularly, start making folders to categorize your apps so you can get to them quickly. Make a folder by touching and holding an app to go into jiggle mode, then touch and drag an app to a similar app (a racing game onto another racing game, for example). iOS will suggest folder names based on the apps dropped into a folder, but headings like Games, Utilities, Work, Music, and other generic categories will work fine for most users. If you have apps that you use daily (or more), either create a folder of quick apps or go ahead and leave them on your home screen for immediate access. For your most-used apps, we recommend moving them to a corner of the home screen so you always know exactly where to go to open popular apps like the Facebook app, for example.

Make app folders
Drag-and-drop apps into folders using the Apps tab in iTunes, but keep most-used apps on the home screen for easy access. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Next, sort through the Music, Movies, Books, and TV Show tabs to make sure you don't select anything you have already watched, read, or listened to. Finally, decide which photos you want synced with your iPhone and which ones are just fine living on your computer.

Sync your iPhone
While that may seem like the end, we recommend waiting through the syncing process then backing up your phone one last time so you can be absolutely sure it has all your latest configurations.

That's it! Your iPhone is now ready to download and install iOS 5 when it comes out. Whenever it's actually launched, you can now be sure you have your content laid out just the way you like it and can start using iOS 5's new features immediately.