iOS 4.2 Upgrade Guide

iOS 4.2 for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch is set to roll out any day now, which means there’s plenty for users to think about before updating. We updated our iOS update guide to help you decide when to upgrade, and what you need to do to be prepared when the time comes.

Do you want to upgrade immediately? And even if you want to, should you? When you upgrade, what steps can you take before — and after — to best ensure a positive, successful migration? We’ve put together this guide to help you answer exactly those questions. We’ve already updated it with one batch of post-release reports, and more will be coming. Please use the comments below to share your experiences and questions for everyone to read.

iOS 4.2 will be iPad compatible

Should I Upgrade?
iOS 4.2 is a little different from previous iOS updates because it brings the iPad inline with the operating system version running on the iPhone and iPod touch. That means that iPad users finally get to try out multi-tasking and folder management for apps, just like iPhone and iPod touch users have been doing ever since iOS 4 was first released. This also marks a change that at least some iPad owners won’t be happy with: The iPad’s rotation lock switch is changing to a mute switch to match the iPhone. There isn’t any way for users to decide which feature they prefer, but at least the rotation lock is still available through the less convenient software switch, just as it is on the iPhone. iOS 4.2 is compatible with the iPad, and all but the first generation iPhone and iPod touch models. Some features like multi-tasking aren’t available on the iPhone 3G or second generation iPod touch, and HDR photo support requires an iPhone 4.

The iOS 4.2 update is free for for iPhone and iPod touch users, and when iOS 4.2 ships in November, it will be free, too.

Here’s some of what you can expect to see once you install the iOS 4.2 update:

  • AirPrint wireless printing
  • AirPlay wireless video and audio streaming to Apple TV 2
  • Game Center (new for iPad)
  • Unified Mail inbox (new for iPad)
  • Web page content searching

Even though iOS 4.2 has already undergone extensive testing ahead of its release, it’s probably not a bad idea to wait at least a day or two for all the edge-case problem reports to come in before upgrading. Of course, we’ll be upgrading as soon as Apple’s servers start dishing out the update so we can start digging for problems and bugs that may have slipped through the beta testing process.

Update Your Apps First
Before updating to iOS 4.2, make sure you have already updated to iTunes 10.1 on your Mac or PC. Mac users can go to Apple menu > Software Update, and Windows users can choose Help > Software Update to make sure the most recent version of iTunes is installed. iTunes 10.1 will be available for download ahead of the iOS 4.2 rollout at the Apple Web site.

Next, pay a visit the App Store in both iTunes and on your iPhone or iPad and make sure you have the latest versions of all your apps. Most apps should run fine after you update to iOS 4.2, but to take full advantage of the update’s features developers have been hard at work getting their code ready to go.

If you aren’t sure how to update apps on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, check out our Quick Tip to help you through the process.

Check for iOS Compatibility Issues
We suggest making a point of checking developers’ Web sites for any mission-critical apps you run to make sure they aren’t warning about show stopping compatibility issues. If you find any issues with apps you simply can’t live without, we recommend delaying your iOS 4.2 update until the developers release compatibility updates. That said, we haven’t heard of any critical compatibility issues yet.

Backup, then Backup Again
Updating to iOS 4.2, or any iPhone OS for that matter, can wipe out your phone and then restore it. Just like the data on your computer, the information on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch could be forever lost if it isn’t backed up. iTunes backs up your handheld’s data every time you sync with your Mac or PC, so you should already have a copy of all your important information safely tucked away.

You can make doubly sure your device’s data is protected by backing up your backup. If you already have a strong backup process in place, odds are your iPhone and iPod touch backups are included. If not, or if you aren’t sure if your handheld data is included in your computer backup, check out our Quick Tip on backing up your iPhone’s data.

Save Your Settings and Notes
While the update to iOS 4.2 shouldn’t wipe out any of your settings, it’s still a good idea to go into the Settings app and note anything you might not otherwise remember if things go south. An easy way to make sure you have an accurate record of all your settings is to use the screen capture feature to take snapshot pictures of your iPhone and iPod touch settings. We have a Quick Tip that details how to take iPhone screenshots and what to do once you have those pictures.

We also recommend emailing yourself any notes you can’t afford to lose even though they should be syncing with Mail if you use Apple’s built-in Notes app. To email a note to yourself, tap the Notes app icon, select the note you want to email, and then tap the envelope icon at the bottom of the screen.

Copy Your Data Back
Although it’s unlikely, after you update to iOS 4.2 there’s a chance that some of the applications, music, or videos that you expect to see won’t be there if, at some point, you told iTunes to stop syncing and disabled its warnings. Re-enabling warnings in iTunes will gives you the opportunity to transfer apps and media back from your iPhone that otherwise might get missed.

Resetting warnings in iTunes
To re-enable warnings for your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, connect your handheld to your computer, Ctrl-click or Right-click on your device in the Library list, and then choose Reset Warnings from the pop-up menu. We have a Quick Tip that details the process, too. Once you’ve reset the warning, perform another sync, and iTunes will obediently display any warning dialogs that were previously hidden.

Updating to iOS 4.2
Now that you’ve covered as many of your bases as is reasonable, go ahead and tell iTunes to install the iOS 4.2 on your device.

The OS download and update process will take some time. Afterwards your device will need to be reactivated online, so make sure you’ve got plenty of bandwidth (and battery power, if on a laptop) to get the job done.

Once the update is complete, go through your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch and make sure your settings are correct. The two places we suggest checking right away are Mail accounts and Calendars because those are areas where users have had issues with prior iPhone operating system upgrades.

To check your Mail and Calendar settings, go into Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars and confirm that the Accounts section contains exactly what you expect. Next, scroll down to the bottom of that preference list and confirm that Default Calendar is also set properly.

Post-Update Advice
Previous iOS upgrades have typically gone smoothly, and early installers running the developer releases haven’t been reporting any major problems.

Even though developers seem to be doing fine with the update, keep in mind that patience is a virtue. If you are worried you might have problems, hold off and wait to see if post-release trouble reports start coming in. Also, we recommend you wait to do anything in iTunes until after your device’s display shows that it has completed the update and the initial post-update Sync.

Once you’ve updated your device it will, in theory, be fully functional, and all of the data that was there before the upgrade will still be in place. In fact, you’ll likely even find that all the web pages you had open in Mobile Safari are still there.

Because the update completely replaces the firmware on your iPhone, the first post-upgrade Sync will trigger a backup that will take a long than usual time. Depending on how much data is stored on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, the backup process could take 15 minutes or longer.

Since you’re already in down time-mode because of the upgrade process, this is a good time to go ahead and let that first backup happen incase something goes wrong later. Simply plug your device back into your computer, let iTunes do its thing, and then you’re off and running.

Dive In and Let US Know What You Think
After you finish the update process it’s time to start playing with the new features in iOS 4.2, then come back and tell us, and the rest of your fellow TMO Observers, about it all in the article comments.