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How To Upgrade to iOS 7

iOS 7, Apple’s new mobile operating system, is officially available as an over-the-air update starting today. But before you happily turn on your iPhone and start looking for all the great new features, there are few things that you should know.

First, the iOS 7 update is only available for later Apple devices. The list includes the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad 2, iPad with Retina display, iPad Mini, and the iPod Touch 5th generation. (It also comes pre-installed on the new iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C.) That means it’s not compatible with the iPhone 3G or 3G S, the original iPad, or any earlier versions of the iPod Touch.

Any new system upgrade is a great excuse for clearing out old files and getting more organized, and the availability of iOS 7 is no exception. Before installing iOS 7 it’s a great idea to delete any apps that you are no longer using and update the ones that you do use. Many developers release updates to coincide with system upgrades and it makes sense to have the latest versions before you make the switch. (Connect to the App Store, tap Updates and then Update All.)

It also makes sense to upgrade to the latest version of iTunes. Right now that’s iTunes 11.1. The easiest way to upgrade iTunes is to download the latest version on your Mac or Windows computer and then plug in your mobile device in the normal way. This way, both your mobile device and your base iTunes computer are in sync.

Next comes the most important part: backing up your existing data. That includes your contacts, messages, photos, media, apps and any other files you will need in the future. The best way to back up your Apple device is through iCloud, which is available on any device running iOS 5 or later. Go to Settings, then iCloud, then Storage & Backup and tap Backup Now. If you haven’t used iCloud before, you will be asked to enter your Apple ID (which is the same ID you use for iTunes).

You’re now almost ready for your iOS 7 upgrade. The last thing to do is plug your mobile device into a power source to ensure your download will proceed without interruption. After you are safely plugged in, go to Settings, then General, then Software Update and tap Download. Your Apple device will perform a few housekeeping functions and then present an Install prompt. Tap Install and your download will be begin.

The amount of time the download takes will depend on several factors. Unless you have a strong signal and Internet connection, it makes sense to download via your home Wi-Fi network. (This will also preserve your data allowance.) It used to be the case that everyone trying to upgrade on the same day would result in slower download times, but Apple has learned from past upgrade cycles and those first-day bottlenecks appear to be a thing of the past.

Once your download is complete, you will need your Apple ID and password to sign in to iOS 7 for the first time. After that, you are ready to go!

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