How Long Will the iOS 5 Upgrade Take?

When iOS 5 finally shows up for the masses, you might want to know how long you should plan for the upgrade.

Unlike a computer OS upgrade, and iOS device won’t take hours, but it’s not like downloading and installing an app either.

Before you do the upgrade be sure to read our guide on what to do first and on how to perform the upgrade.

If you are thinking about upgrading to iOS 5 before you head in to work or before you leave for the day, make sure you have enough time, or you might have to leave without your iPhone!

Sync and Backup – 1 to 15 Minutes

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iTunes will first perform a sync of your iOS device after you connect your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to the computer. If you haven’t performed a sync in a long time, it might take quite some time. Any content that you’ve downloaded directly on the device like music, videos, books, apps and more will take a while to copy over to the computer. Some apps also take a long time to back up to the computer. I have a couple of library apps that hold books that I need for my other job. This app alone adds five minutes to the backup process.

Transfer Purchases – 1-15 Minutes

Just to be safe, I always manually do a backup and transfer purchases before upgrading. Like syncing this time depends on how long it has been since you last performed this step.

iOS 5

Downloading iOS 5 – 15-20 Minutes Depending

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The longest step in this process could be downloading the new version of iOS from Apple. Depending on your Internet connection speed, this can take quite a long time. On my cable connection and it usually takes about 15-20 minutes. Slower DSL or dial-up will take much longer. If you have FIOS or a really fast connection it might just take minutes.

Installing iOS 5 – ~10 Minutes

After the update has been downloaded iTunes will start the actual process of installing the new version on your device. In my experience this usually take about ten minutes.

Restore from Backup – 5-10 Minutes

Once complete you have a chance to set up the device as a clean device without anything on it or you can restore from the backup. If you want to have all of our apps and content just as it was before the update, do the latter. This will take another ten minutes or more depending on how much content you had on your device before the update.

How Long Does it Take to Upgrade to iOS 5?

For most users, expect to take about an hour for this process to go from start to finish. Below are the estimates based on my experience updating iPhone and the iPad over the last three years. For me the update process usually comes closer to the lower number than the higher numbers.

Initial Sync 2-3 Min
Backup and Transfer of Purchases 3-30 Min (low end)
iOS 5 Download 5-30 Min
Device Firmware Update 10-15 Min
Restoring Backup 5-15 Min
Total 25-88 Min

Start the process at least 90 minutes before you will need your phone for any critical tasks.

If you plan to buy an iPhone 4S in the next week, should you go through the bother of installing iOS 5?

Even if you only get the use of it for a couple of days, I would suggest that it will be worth the 90 minutes it could take.

First, you will be able to get access to the new tools and features. It will help you get used to your new phone.

Second, whoever will get your old phone will appreciate it much more. Handing it down to a family member or friend? They will appreciate the effort. Finally, if you are selling the phone, it may be worth more to someone if you advertise it as having iOS 5.