How to prepare an iPhone or iPad for an iOS upgrade by clearing space and making sure there are backups.

iOS 11 is a major upgrade for the iPhone and iPad and no doubt soon after will come service packs. Will the upgrades proceed smoothly without hitches? Yes if you follow these top tips.

Is my iPhone or iPad compatible?

It almost certainly is compatible and according to Apple it will work on these devices below, some of which are quite old, so if you have bought an iPhone or iPad in the last four years, iOS 11 will work.

iPhone: iPhone X, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 5s.

iPad: 12.9‑inch iPad Pro 2nd generation, 12.9‑inch iPad Pro 1st generation, 10.5‑inch iPad Pro, 9.7‑inch iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, iPad Air, iPad 5th generation, iPad mini 4, iPad mini 3, iPad mini 2.

iPod: iPod touch 6th generation.

Do you have space to upgrade?

There was a time when iOS upgrades required 5GB of free storage space it it would not start. That was a terrible situation when your device was a 16GB model and you had to delete almost everything on it.

iOS upgrades are getting easier and Apple has reduced the storage requirements.

If you have a recently iPhone or iPad with 32GB or more of storage then you probably have sufficient space to upgrade. Some of the devices towards the end of the compatibility list are 16GB models and you may need to create a few gigabytes of free space in order to upgrade to iOS 11.

Go to Settings > Photos & Camera and turn on iCloud Photo Library and Optimise iPhone Storage. This assumes you have sufficient space on iCloud to store all of your photos, but Apple’s online storage is quite cheap. Remember that deleted photos are not deleted, they are moved to the Recently Deleted album and it needs emptying. Go to iPhoto > Albums > Recently Deleted > Select > Delete All.

Go to Settings > Storage & iCloud Usage > Manage Storage in the storage section. This shows the apps that are using the most storage. Most apps can be deleted temporarily to free up space and after the upgrade they can be downloaded again. This is true not just for free apps, but paid ones too. some iOS games are over a gigabyte and deleting one or two might free up enough space to upgrade.

 iOS Settings showing the used and available storage Photos and Camera settings on the iPhone

If you have downloaded movies and TV shows from iTunes Store, open the Videos app and delete them off the device. They remain online and can be downloaded again. A little cloud icon in the bottom right corner of the movie or TV show indicates that it is stored online and is not taking up space on the iPhone or iPad.

Messages can consume a lot of space and can be cleaned to free up storage. Go to Settings > Messages > Keep Messages. The default is Forever, but selecting 1 year will remove old conversations and if you really need to save space, choose 30 Days. Anything older will be deleted.

 iPhone Videos app showing TV programmes Delete old messages in the iOS Settings app


Have you backed up your iPhone and iPad?

Before upgrading to iOS 11 you should check that you have backed up your iOS devices. iCloud backups are often enabled, but if you have just the 5GB free plan you could be out of space and backups might not be taking place. Best check.

Go to Settings > General > Storage & iCloud Usage > Manage Storage under iCloud. You can see the amount of online storage used and the total, so make sure there is sufficient for backups. There is a Backups section and tapping a backup tells you when the last backup was and the next backup size.

 iOS Settings app showing Manage Storage settings iOS backup status in the Settings app

It is also worth plugging the iPhone into your computer and using iTunes to make a backup too. Make sure you select the option to create an encrypted backup or some items are excluded from the backup for security reasons. If the worst happens, restoring a backup from the computer is easier and quicker than restoring over Wi-Fi from iCloud.

Are your apps up to date?

Some apps will not work on iOS 11. The bad news is that all 32-bit apps will stop working because only 64-bit ones will be supported from now on. The good news is that hardly any 32-bit apps are still around and nearly all apps are 64-bit. However, it is still possible that you have one or two and they will have to be deleted.

Most apps will work fine with iOS 11, but you should ensure that they are all updated to the latest version. Developers might need to tweak apps for the new operating system and you should look at the Store app on the home screen for the red badge indicating that there are app updates. If there are, open the Store app and update.