iPad Basics: How To Tell If Your iPad Is Running the Latest OS Software & How To Update It

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iPad Software Update

Here’s a question I’ve had asked often lately when I’m talking to people about their iPads or iPhones: how do I tell if my iPad / iPhone is running the latest operating system software?

It’s a good question, because generally speaking it’s a good idea to keep your iPad up-to-date and run the current version of iOS, the operating system for iPad and iPhone.  And happily it’s very easy to check whether you are running the current version and to update your iOS version if needed.

Here’s how:

The quickest way to see which iOS version you are currently running:

Go to the Settings app and to General > About. On the About screen the 9th item down the page is Version. This will list the current version of iOS – at the time of writing this post that is 5.1.1.

Updating iOS If you’re running iOS 5 or later on your iPad:

iOS 5 was released in October of 2011. If you are running that version or later on your iPad then you can simply go to the Settings app and then tap on General on the left-hand sidebar – you’ll then see an item titled ‘Software Update’ in the right-hand window, just below the ‘About’ item. Tap on that and you’ll either get a verification that your software is up to date, or a box showing that an update is available. If there’s an update available, you can choose to install right from this same screen.

* The only exception to the above is when a full new version (for instance the next major update to iOS, iOS 6, which is due for release this fall) is released. These generally require a full restore via iTunes to apply rather than an over-the-air update on the iPad itself.

Updating iOS If you’re running an earlier version than iOS 5 on your iPad:

If you never got round to updating to iOS 5 you really should – it boasts a great number of impressive new features and had been updated a few times since with further enhancements and security patches.

If you are on any of the iOS 4.x versions you will need to connect to iTunes on a PC to update iOS on your iPad. As long as you have iTunes installed on your Mac or Windows PC it should open automatically when you connect your iPad to it via USB port and your sync/charge cable.

When iTunes opens it should immediately recognize that your iPad’s iOS version is out of date and it will prompt you to update to the current version. You can then just choose to download and install the latest version and follow the on-screen prompts to get the installation done. The whole process generally takes just 10-15 minutes depending on your connection speeds and the general performance of your PC.

Of course, once you update to iOS 5 you’ll be able to use the simpler update method described above.

That’s about all there is to it.  Happy updating.

Patrick Jordan

Founder and Editor in Chief of iPad Insight. Husband, father to a lovely daughter, Commander of the Armies of the North, dog lover (especially Labs), Austinite, former Londoner, IT consultant, huge sports nut, iPad and mobile tech blogger, mobile apps junkie.

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9 thoughts on “iPad Basics: How To Tell If Your iPad Is Running the Latest OS Software & How To Update It”

  1. Your comment that going to iOS 6 will require a full iTunes restore worries me. I have purchased more apps than will fit on my iPad. So I have uninstalled some to open up space and I will bring them back when needed. Does this restore re-install everything or just the apps that are currently installed?

    By the way, iPad Insight is my favorite site. I get your latest posts every day and have found them really useful.

    1. It may not be necessary to do a full restore, but it’s generally considered a good idea to do so when moving up to a full new iOS version. If you end up doing a restore you should make sure you have done a backup beforehand. Once a restore is completed it gives you the option to setup as a new iPad or restore from a backup. Restoring from a backup will only put back apps that were installed at the time of the backup, not any that had removed. Those will just be available to reinstall if needed.

      Hope that’s clear, it came out quite wordy.

      That’s great to hear that this is your favorite site, and that our posts are proving useful for you. Thanks for sharing that!

  2. My iPad was purchased for me by my children the first week of January 2011. I cannot upgrade even to iOS 5 as the software update does not appear on my general settings menu. How do I upgrade this iPad?

    1. You need to connect to a PC running iTunes in order to upgrade to iOS 5. THen from there onwards you can do updates wirelessly.

  3. I have original iPad I have gone through iTunes to update and it says software is up to date but it is version 5.1.1 does this mean my iPad will not take version 6

  4. Thank you. Maybe you could help me with another problem. My daughter has an ipod touch that is about 4years old. Just recently she cannot download any apps it says she needs at least version 4.3 it has version 4.1 however, itunes does not allow her to update. We dont know if there is a second problem because she can only open 2 of her apps the others just open and close right away she also only listen to music through headphones Any help would be appreciated.

  5. I just spent eons of time updating my iPad (original) from version 4.3.5 to 5.0 without success it seems. I say this because my version still says 4.3.5 and not 5.0. I did everything right with regards to connecting to itunes via my PC etc. All that seemed to happen was I got more photos downloaded unto my ipad that what was previously there. What did I do incorrectly?

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