4 things to do before installing iOS 6Even if you’re not trading up for the iPhone 5, you can still make your old iPhone (or iPad, for that matter) new again by installing Apple’s iOS 6 software update onto your handset.

Update: Looking for tips on installing iOS 7 to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch? Click here!

Apple just pushed the iOS 6 update live on its servers, and you can install it on your iPhone or iPad wirelessly, in just a few taps.

Why bother with the upgrade? Well, I can tick off at least seven nifty new features right here, including turn-by-turn car navigation through the new Maps app, full-screen web surfing, a “do not disturb” mode for calls and alerts, the ability to decline a call with a text message, easier Photo Stream sharing, and more.

A red badge should appear on your iPhone’s (or iPad’s) Settings app once iOS 6 is available to download. After that, all you’ll have to do it tap the “Download and Install” button, and your device will take care of the rest.

That said, there are a few things you should do before updating iOS on your iPhone or iPad to the latest and greatest version, starting with…

1. Update iTunes

Apple recently issued a new version of iTunes to go along with iOS 6, and while there’s nothing earth-shatteringly new about the update, iTunes 10.7 is designed to play nice with iPhones and iPads running the iOS 6 software update.

Given that, it’s probably a good idea to update your copy of iTunes before taking the iOS 6 leap. Here’s how to do it.

For iTunes on a Mac:

  • Click the Apple menu in the top-left corner of the screen, then select Software Update.
  • The Mac App Store application on your Mac should open automatically, and it will scan your system for software that needs to be updated. Near the top of the list, you should see an entry for iTunes; just click the Update button.

For iTunes on a PC:

  • Open iTunes, click the Help menu, then select Check for Updates.
  • After a few seconds, a window should appear prompting you download the new version of iTunes; go ahead and click the “Download iTunes” button.

2. Back up your iPhone/iPad

The process of updating an iPhone or iPad is usually a smooth one, although snafus have been known to happen—particularly last year, with the rocky release of iOS 5.

Indeed, a stalled iPhone/iPad update could freeze your device or corrupt its data, including your photos, contacts, music and apps.

That’s why it’s critical you back up your iDevice before beginning the iOS 6 installation process. Here’s how:

Using iCloud

If you’re using Apple’s free iCloud service on your iPhone or iPad and you have iCloud backups enabled, your device should be backing itself up automatically whenever its locked and connected to a Wi-Fi network.

Checking your last iCloud backup

It’s a good idea to check the date of your most recent iCloud backup before installing iOS 6 on your iPhone or iPad.

Nice, but it’s still a good idea to check the date on your most recent iCloud backup—and if the backup file is more than a few days old, you should probably perform a manual backup before proceeding.

  • Tap the Settings icon, then tap iCloud, Storage & Backup.
  • Scroll to the bottom of the next screen and check the date of your last backup. Was it more than a day ago? If so, tap the “Back Up Now” button to manually create a new backup file.

Using iTunes

Still syncing your iPad or iPhone with iTunes? If so, iTunes creates a backup of your iDevice with each and every sync, and it’s worth it to perform one last backup before installing iOS 6.

  • Connect your iPhone or iPad to iTunes on your desktop using its USB sync cable. Or, if you’re using Wi-Fi to sync your device with iTunes, you should see it already listed in the left column of the iTunes interface.
  • Click the “Sync” button on iTunes, sit back and wait; within a few minutes or so, iTunes will have created a new backup of your iPhone or iPad data.

3. Plug your iPhone or iPad into a power source

One thing you definitely don’t want to happen during the iOS 6 update process is have your iPhone or iPad run out of juice midway through the installation; it’s a sure-fire way to corrupt your device’s data, or worse.

With that in mind, make sure to plus your iPhone or iPad into a wall outlet using its power adapter or connect it to a powered USB port on your PC or Mac before you install iOS 6. Better safe than sorry, right?

4. Be patient

Whenever there’s a major new iOS update available for download, a stampede of eager iPhone and iPad users tends to slow Apple’s servers to a crawl—and when that happens, downloads that normally take minutes could take an hour or more.

iOS 6 Preparing Update message

Relax: you’re not the only one staring impatiently at the “Preparing Update” message.

Also, the actual installation process may take a good 30 minutes-plus, after the initial download.

And if you find yourself staring impatiently at a seemingly endless “Preparing Update…” message while iOS 6 is busy installing itself on your iPhone or iPad, relax—you’re not the only one. (For the record, it took about half an hour for my iPhone 4 to move past the “Preparing Update” step.)

All told, it took nearly an hour and a half to update my iPhone to iOS 6, so make sure to set aside at least that much time before taking the plunge yourself.

My advice: be patient if the iOS 6 download and installation process takes longer than expected—and whatever you do, don’t interrupt it in mid-stream.

And if you’re willing to live with iOS 5 for a little while longer, consider waiting a day or so before pulling the trigger on iOS 6.

Bonus tip

You can check for the iOS 6 update manually on your iPhone or iPad by tapping Settings, General, Software Update.

Looking for more iPhone tips? Click here, or click here for iPad tips.

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