Is it time to install the newest, shiniest version of iOS? Don’t rush in head first and hit Install–there are a few things you should do before upgrading that iPhone or iPad.

iOS upgrades always come with new features that improve the user experience, so it’s understandable that you may want to rush to install. But all it takes is an error in the update process to wipe out data or mess up your device, so do yourself a favor and follow these steps to ensure a successful update.

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Before you upgrade: Back up

The most important thing you can do before installing a new version of iOS is to back up your device. There are two ways to do that: Via iTunes or iCloud.

Setting up iCloud backup

Backing up with iCloud is simple, and once you turn it on it happens during the night when your device is plugged in. iCloud won’t create a complete backup of your device, though–it only backs up certain things (Figure A).

Figure A

To turn iCloud backup on:

  1. Open the Settings app (Figure B).
  2. Tap on your name on the top of the screen to open the Apple ID screen.
  3. Tap on iCloud and then scroll down until you see iCloud Backup. You can tap on that to toggle it on or off, as well as to initiate a backup instead of waiting for the evening.

Figure B

If the only thing you want to back up are settings and saved documents, the iCloud backup is all you need. If you want to be able to totally restore your device, you’ll need to go one step further and do a local backup using iTunes.

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While you’re in the iCloud settings screen, it’s also a good time to be sure that you’re allowing apps to store their data in iCloud. Both above and below the iCloud Backup option are toggle buttons for various apps–if you don’t want to worry about losing data, make sure the ones you use are toggled on.

Performing a full backup with iTunes

Backing up with iTunes creates a locally stored file that’s basically a complete image of your device, down to stored passwords and browsing data (if you choose the encrypted backup option).

For the sake of this article we’re going to do an encrypted backup.

  1. Plug your iOS device into your computer. It should force iTunes to open automatically.
  2. Once iTunes is open, click on the small device icon on the left side of the app (Figure C).
  3. From there you’ll see Backups options. Click on This Computer and check Encrypt iPhone/iPad Backup.
  4. Enter a password for your backup in the window that pops up. Click Continue and that’s it–your device will back itself up.

Figure C

If something goes wrong, or you want to copy all your settings after you upgrade, simply plug your device in and follow the instructions for setting it up from a backup–it’s super simple.

Updating your device

Now that you’ve backed up your data in whatever way you’ve chosen, it’s time to update to the latest release of iOS. This part is even easier than backing up.

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap on General, then on Software Update (Figure D).
  3. Your device will check for an update, and if one is available it will give you the option to download and install it.
  4. Follow the steps and your device will be up to date with the latest, greatest version of iOS!

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Figure D