Apple makes a major update to iOS (the operating system that runs on all iPhones) once a year, with new features and interface tweaks. There are also plenty of smaller point updates, with fixes and security patches; these are just as important.
We expect Apple to make the new version of the iPhone software – iOS 16 – available in the coming days. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to do to update your iPhone to the latest software available, including what to do if you’re experiencing issues like running out of space or unable to connect to Wi-Fi.
How to get your iPhone ready to update iOS
Before updating iOS, we recommend that you do the following:
- Back up your iPhone – you can do this using iCloud, or through the Finder on a Mac or iTunes on a PC. We explain here how to make a backup. In the past, people have lost data such as old text messages and photos during an update, so we can’t stress enough how important this step is!
- If you want to be extra careful, you can keep a copy of the previous version – we’ll explain how below. This is in case you need to go back later – but if this is beyond you, don’t worry about this step.
- Make some space on your iPhone. You will need quite a bit of available space for the update. If you don’t have an extra 20GB or so on your phone, uninstall some apps to make room – you can reinstall them afterwards as you already own them so they’re tied to your account. If you don’t have enough space, iOS also offers to temporarily delete some files for you.
- Plug your iPhone into a power outlet – the new version of iOS won’t install if you don’t plug it in.
- Make sure to download over wifi and not mobile or you may run out of data. Also check if it is a secure network. (We don’t recommend doing this over hotel Wi-Fi, for example.) We’ve got some tips for updating iOS if you don’t have Wi-Fi.
How to Update iOS
Here’s how to download and install the latest version of iOS on your iPhone:
- Go to Settings > General > Software Update. iOS will check for a new version; if not, you will see the message ‘Your software is up to date’. Sometimes it takes a while until the software becomes available.
- Assuming a new version is available, tap Download and Install.
- Enter your access code when prompted and agree to the terms and conditions if necessary.
- Your device will download the update in the background. You will see an indication of how much time it is likely to take. In our experience, this is far from the goal: the reality may be double or even triple what these estimates! At least you can continue with other things while the download is taking place. Once the download is complete, you will receive a notification on your iPhone.
- Now tap on Details on the notification panel. This will take you back to Settings > General > Software Update.
- Tap Install Now. (Again, expect this step to take some time, especially if it’s the night the software arrives!)
- You can also select Later. iOS offers to update overnight – all you need to do is make sure the device is plugged in.
Update iOS if you don’t have WiFi
Are you very excited about updating iOS but currently unable to access Wi-Fi? Or maybe it is, but it’s hotel/restaurant WiFi and you’re not sure you can trust it? You may be wondering if you can update iOS with cellular data or cellular data.
Apple used to have a download limit that meant you couldn’t download more than 200MB over a data connection. This limit was lifted in iOS 13, so you can now download apps of any size. Go to Settings > iTunes & App Store > App Downloads. You can choose from Ask if over 200 MB, Always allow or Always ask.
If you’re still running iOS 12, you’re still on the data cap, which means you can’t download iOS 13 or later via data — but there’s a workaround as long as you have a Mac.
Make sure you don’t use up all your data for the month before you start! Even unlimited data is not always completely unlimited and you could be penalized later.
Follow these steps to update iOS with cellular (or cellular data) data:
- Create a hotspot from your iPhone – this way you can use your iPhone’s data connection to connect to the Internet on your Mac.
- Now open iTunes and connect your iPhone.
- Click the icon in iTunes that represents your iPhone.
- Click Check for updates.
- Go through the options to download and install the latest version of iOS.
Your Mac will proceed to download the latest version of iOS using your data connection from your iPhone. You can then use iTunes to update iOS on your iPhone.
If your Mac happens to be connected to the Internet via Ethernet or otherwise, you can also download iOS using iTunes or the Finder in exactly the same way as above. (Note that Apple disabled iTunes with the arrival of Catalina, so on Macs running that version of macOS or later, the Finder manages things like software downloads.)
How to Update iOS When You Run Out of Space
Downloading from the Finder or iTunes is also a great way to update iOS if you don’t have enough space on your iPhone, so follow the steps above.
You can also try these steps to make some more space on your iPhone.
Will the iPhone update erase my data?
If you are short on space, you may be afraid that you will lose some of your data if you install the new iPhone update. It is understandable that some people are concerned about this as it has happened in the past. However, once the iOS update is installed, all your data should be intact, and if not, you have a backup, don’t you?
Make sure to backup your phone before updating.
Why is my iPhone not updating?
You may be wondering why your iPhone is not showing the iOS update as available. There are a few reasons why this could be the case.
- Maybe you’re just too eager – there may be a delay before the big annual iOS update comes out. Inevitably, someone you know will see it sooner.
- Your phone may be too old to run the latest version of iOS. Find out which iPhones can get iOS 16.
- You may not be connected to Wi-Fi – as we said above, you need Wi-Fi, but there are workarounds.
- You may not be plugged in – you must be plugged in or Apple will stop the installation (in case the battery runs out half way).
If these points don’t apply to you, try installing through the Finder or iTunes as described above.
What to do if iPhone update is stuck?
So you followed all our advice and yet the update is taking AGES! Maybe your iPhone seems to be frozen or the update is almost stuck at the end. What should you do?
First, it can just be slow, especially if you’re updating just after a major update is released. Sometimes an update can take all night! When a new version of iOS comes out, we recommend giving it a few days to slacken the screams and iron out any bugs before putting it on your device.
If you think your update is stuck, wait a little longer in case it just takes a long time. If you are sure that the update stalled, instead of just slowing down to snail’s pace, you need to restart your iPhone. The process to reboot your iPhone will depend on the model you have, but since iOS 16 won’t run on anything older than iPhone 8, all you need to know is the following steps:
For all iPhones with Face ID and iPhone 8 or 2nd generation iPhone SE: Quickly press and release the volume up button > press and release the volume down button > press and hold the side button > press and hold until the Apple logo appears > then release.
Hopefully you can restart the installation without any problems.
Another reason why an iPhone update can stop is if your Wi-Fi connection has dropped. If you install the update a few months after launch, there should be no issues with busy servers or long delays. In that case, if you are having trouble with the download time, your Wi-Fi network may not be performing. Read this: How to troubleshoot Wi-Fi on iPhone or iPad.
What To Do If iPhone Update Stuck Verify Update
Once the iOS update is downloaded to your device, it will be verified by Apple. If your device gets stuck on this screen, your Wi-Fi connection may have been lost, so check your internet connection.
If that’s not the culprit, try rebooting your device following the steps above.
How to upgrade iOS from a beta version
If you’ve previously tried a beta version of iOS before the full release, keep in mind that you’ll need to remove the Apple configuration profile from your device to get upcoming non-beta iOS releases.
You can do this by going to Settings > General > Profile and selecting iOS Beta Software Profile, then choose Delete Profile and enter your passcode to confirm the change. From now on you will receive official updates (instead of beta updates) as usual.
Get a copy of the old version of iOS
What happens if you later change your mind and want to downgrade to the previous version of iOS? Downgrading is very tricky, so we can’t guarantee that having the old version means you can go back, but here’s the method you should use.
- Open the Finder on your Mac.
- Hold down the Option/Alt key in Finder and select Go > Library.
- Select the Software Updates folder for your device if it is there.
- You can also launch your web browser and go to IPSW.me and find the right one for your device.
We have a separate article that explains how to roll back to an older version of iOS.
If you’ve already started the update and notice problems, learn what to do if you can’t update iOS.
And if your iPhone isn’t running the new version of iOS, you might want to check out our roundup of the best iPhone deals so you can save money while packing yourself a shiny new device.