Tips for installing iOS 4

iPhone and iPod Touch users who have run into backup or download issues trying to directly upgrade to iOS 4 may be more successful doing a restore and update instead.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read

Are you still having trouble trying to upgrade your iPhone or iPod Touch to Apple's new iOS 4? If so, here's a workaround that could help.

Trouble upgrading to iOS 4?
Trouble upgrading to iOS 4? James Martin/CNET

After Apple released iOS 4 on June 21, a small but significant number of folks anxious to upgrade started reporting various issues from long download times to error messages to backups that never seemed to finish. In my corner, I tried several times to update my iPod Touch 2G by following the standard steps, but without any success.

Each time I triggered the update, the software would start to back up my device only to run for hours and hours without making much, if any, progress. I even kept the backup running for more than seven hours one night to find in the morning that it was stuck at virtually the same place.

Some people reported backups or downloads that took hours but finally did finish, while others have bumped into specific errors that prevented the update from running.

In preparation, Apple did release a support document in early May to anticipate and respond to many of the possible errors. But on my end, I found that running a restore and update instead of a direct update was the only fix that worked. Hopefully, following the steps below may help some of you who already tried to install iOS 4 but have experienced issues similar to mine.

  1. Make sure you've upgraded iTunes to 9.2 to be ready for iOS 4.
  2. After connecting your iPhone or iPod Touch, right-click on the name of your device in iTunes and select Back Up to make sure all your apps and data are fully backed up.
  3. After the backup completes, click on the Restore button in iTunes. You'll see the warning message asking if you're sure you want to restore your device to its factory settings. Go ahead with the restore, which will refresh your device back to its original state and then update your firmware to iOS 4.
  4. After the restore completes, check your iPhone or iPod Touch to confirm that iOS 4 installed. Click on the Settings icon, select the General category, and then select About. The version should say 4.0.
  5. Now you can restore all your apps and data from the earlier backup. To do that, right-click on your device in iTunes, select Restore from Backup, and then choose your recent backup. This should put back all of your apps, though you'll need to manually copy any data that you don't sync automatically. For example, I always manually copy music from iTunes to my iPod Touch since I don't want my entire library to transfer. After the restore, I had to recopy all the tracks that were initially on my device. But otherwise, all my apps and other data were just as I had left them.

You can read more about this process from some of the sources that I double-checked, including CultofMac and the Unofficial Apple Web Log.

I did find a few alternative methods for performing the upgrade if the traditional steps fail. One option suggested downloading iOS 4 directly and then clicking on the Update button while holding the Shift key in Windows or the Option key on a Mac. This lets you upgrade directly without going through the entire restore process.

But doing the restore and update worked for me, so it's something you might want to try if you still can't get that pesky iOS 4 upgrade to run.