How to update iOS on your iPhone or iPad

Apple's Operating System for iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches is called iOS. It provides a very user-friendly, polished and generally very secure operating system for Apple's portable devices. When the first version was released in 2007 on the first iPhone it was revolutionary. It still continues to push the limits of what is possible on mobile devices today.

iOS like most software will always have some bugs in it, and there are always new features being added; so to make sure that you stay safe online and also have access to the latest features, it's a great idea to keep your copy of iOS up to date.

Updating iOS will keep Safari up to date as well

The Safari browser on your iPhone/iPad is linked to the underlying iOS Operating System; so in order to keep Safari up to date, you need to make sure that iOS is up to date as well.

Before you update iOS

Installing any Operating System updates is generally pretty safe; however it's always recommended to make sure you have a full backup of your iPhone or iPad before you upgrade iOS. With a backup you'll have a safe copy of your data. In the event that something fails during the update you'll be able to restore your data from the back up and try again.

You can follow Apple's guide to Backing up your iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Once you have backed your device up then you are fine to start the iOS update process. Updating may take a while and involves downloading a lot of new software, so it's a great idea to plug your phone into a power charger and connect to a WiFi network.

iOS may automatically prompt you when updates are available

When a new version of iOS has been released by Apple, it will occasionally give you an alert.

Screenshot of the iOS update prompt

Clicking Details will take you to the information page in the Settings app about the pending update.

Triggering iOS updates manually

If you don't want to wait until iOS prompts you to update, follow these steps to trigger the update process manually.

  1. Tap the "Settings" App

    Updating iOS is performed through the Settings application on your iPhone or iPad. When there is an update available, there will be a red badge icon on the Settings App.

    Screenshot of the Home Screen, highlighting the Settings app icon which has a notification badge on it

    Tap the Settings app to open it.

  2. Scroll to the "General" section and tap it

    The Settings App has many options; you'll need to scroll the view down a bit until you see the "General" section. Because there is a pending iOS update you'll see a red badge next to it.

    The Settings app with the 'General' item highlighted

    Once you've found General, tap on it.

  3. Tap on "Software Update"

    Under the General section which you've just loaded, you'll see the Software Update option right near the top; again with a red badge showing that there is a pending update available.

    The Settings app with the 'General' item highlighted

    Tap on Software Update.

  4. Install the iOS update

    Once you've entered the Software Update screen you'll see the details of the next version of iOS you can install. The version number is in bold at the top as well as the approxmiate download size. There's a short blurb about what the update includes. If you tap Learn More you'll find out detailed information about each major aspect of the update, including what's changed in the latest version of Safari.

    The 'Download and Install' prompt on the Software Update screen

    When you are ready to proceed, tap Download and Install.

  5. Enter your passcode

    The final step to take before the upgrade starts is to enter your phone's passcode. This ensures that the owner of the phone is agreeing to update the phone's software.

    Once you enter the passcode, the latest iOS update will begin to download and install. Once the update has started installing you can't stop it.

    Before you proceed, make sure that your phone is plugged in to a power charger - it's also a good idea to connect to an unmetered WiFi connection so that you don't waste your mobile data quota.

    iOS prompts you to enter your passcode

    The time it takes to download and install the update depends on the speed of your internet connection and how big the update is; but usually it seems to take about 30 minutes.

    During that time you won't be able to use your iPhone or iPad.

  6. The iPhone or iPad will reboot

    Once the update has installed, your phone will reboot and when it restarts it will be running the latest version of iOS.

  7. Congratulations! iOS is up to date!

    Now that the update process has finished, you will have the latest version of iOS installed. You can confirm this by going to our "what operating system do I have?" page which will confirm the version of iOS that you have.

    Should I always update iOS?

    Generally speaking; it's an excellent idea to keep iOS as up to date as possible. However; many people have noticed a trend that when Apple release a new "major" version (for example when iOS is at version 12.x and then they release the 13.0 branch...) it isn't always perfect...

    Historically the new "major" version of iOS introduces new features, but also some new bugs too!

    Some people love being on the "bleeding-edge" of software and will jump right in and install the latest version straight away; however you may also decide to wait just a little bit until any hidden snags have been found and worked out first. This is your decision to make. You can find out how people are liking the latest version of iOS by searching Google for things like "iOS 13 review" or "problems with iOS 13" and so on.

    The decision when to upgrade is yours; however it's also important not to lag too far behind the latest version.

    Always upgrade if there's a security problem!

    The exception we make with the choice to being conservative with upgrades is when there are serious security problems found in iOS.

    You can keep an eye on security updates from Apple. If there are ever any critical iOS updates then you should definitely install them.


    You have now updated your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to the latest version of iOS. Well done; have fun exploring the new features from Apple.

    Why not check out our guides to staying safe online next.

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