How to Use Over-the-Air (OTA) Software Update on iOS

Jan 12, 2012 - 33 Comments

Installing iOS Software Updates with OTA

When a new iOS software update is made available, you can download and install the update directly on the iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch by using Over the Air updates, abbreviated as OTA. These work by downloading only the files that are different (this is called a delta update), so the file size is smaller than updating with iTunes or with general IPSW downloads, making the installation process faster. OTA updates also eliminate the need to connect an iOS device to a computer when upgrading software. It’s always a good idea to backup your iOS device before updating the software.

How to Download and Install iOS Software Updates with OTA

This works to install an available software update directly from the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. You should always backup the device before beginning.

  1. Launch Settings and tap on “General”
  2. Tap on “Software Update” to see information about the available iOS update
  3. Tap on “Download and Install” and let the process complete to update system software

Using OTA update

Updating with Over-the-Air software update mechanism is identical on all versions of iOS that support the update method.

You’ll agree to a Terms and Conditions, and if you’re not connected to a power source, you will get a pop-up notification suggesting you connect to one. Over The Air updates are much faster than iOS upgrades through iTunes or manual updates with firmware files, and assuming you have reasonably fast internet connectivity, should be done downloading in just a few minutes. Leave the device alone and it will automatically reboot and finish the installation.

The video below walks through the process of installing an iOS software update this way:

Note that with newer releases of iOS you’ll see two indicators that the update is actually installing: the gears are moving in the Software Update panels icon, and also there is a progress bar that updates as the file is downloading and installing, giving you an idea of what to expect. When the initial stages are finished in modern iOS onward, you’ll encounter the initial downloading and installing screen, and then see a black screen with a progress bar that indicates the firmware is being updated. Do not try to turn the device off during these steps or you may have problems.

If the OTA update isn’t working or is greyed out, it’s likely because the device needs to have at least half of it’s battery, and perhaps most important but often overlooked, the device must be connected to a wireless network for OTA to be available as an option.

Less likely nowadays with most devices running newer iOS versions, is OTA may not be available because the device is not currently on iOS 5 or greater, when OTA updates became supported.

Keep in mind that OTA updates are not the only way to update your iOS software, you can continue to connect the iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, or iPod touch to a computer with iTunes and it will automatically prompt you to update the device. Additionally, anyone can use firmware and update the software directly, but that is generally reserved for more advanced users. All in all, Over-the-Air is the way to go, it’s the fastest, easiest, smallest download footprint, and most fool-proof method.

OTA software update was first introduced some time ago, if you happen to have a much older iPhone or iPad the screen for updating may look like this instead, but the feature is the same:

Download and install OTA Updates for iOS

You may find that, depending on the version of iOS you run, the menus look slightly different after the iOS 5, iOS 6, iOS 7, iOS 8, or iOS 9 updates, that’s just visual differences, but the process is identical regardless of the version or what it looks like.


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Posted by: Matt Chan in iPad, iPhone, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Chivunda mukuwa says:

    Where do down load the app from am using iPhone 4s with ios7.1.2

    • Paul says:

      You can use the App Store to download apps to iPhone, or you can use Settings app to download latest iOS software to iPhone

  2. Maria molina says:

    Downgrading iOS as removing out of I phon finger print leaving beta date

  3. Nettie says:

    How old is this article please? I’m not trying to sound rude or anything like this I just can’t stop my Safari from crashing and would like to know if this is the latest information about it and how to fix it.

    • Nopi says:

      Over the Air software updates for iOS are the same for every version that supports OTA in iOS. It does not matter what version it is, if the phone can update software, this is how you do it.

      Similar to how if you have a cookie recipe from 1483, does it matter that you’re cooking it today? No, still cookies.

  4. Marcus says:

    I want to change mt iOS from 5 to 6 BUT it keeps telling me my software is up to date. How do I get to up-it to 6 or 7? Pleeeeease help me.

  5. […] Update to the latest version of iOS either manually, through iTunes, or using OTA […]

  6. […] fastest way to get iOS 6.1.3 is to update through Over-The-Air (OTA) […]

  7. […] Conditions agreement that surely nobody will read, tap “Agree” and be on your way. Using OTA is the simplest way to update iOS, but you can also update devices by connecting them to iTunes and […]

  8. […] easiest way to get iOS 6.1.1 is through OTA update, where it arrives as a small delta package around […]

  9. Tedi says:

    Im trying to upgrade my iPod OTA.. I go to setting and there is no system updates??

  10. […] is available now and can be downloaded from iTunes by connecting the iOS device to a computer, updated with Over-the-Air from the device itself, or by directly grabbing firmware files that are hosted by Apple and […]

  11. […] of them. The vast majority of users are best served updating directly on their iOS device by using OTA update, found in Settings > General > Software Update. Connecting an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to iTunes […]

  12. […] those with iPhones. Curiously, those with iPhone 5 must first download a patch that allows OTA updates to work, prior to being able to download and install iOS […]

  13. […] 6 is now available for everyone to download. Most users are best served updating to iOS 6 through OTA or iTunes, but advanced users can upgrade manually with firmware files. This has several […]

  14. […] beta version. iOS 6 Beta 2 comes as a delta update available to those running the prior beta build through OTA (Over the Air) update and weighs in around […]

  15. kamal says:

    I have an iPad 2 (IOS 5.1.1 ) there is no personal hotspot wat do I do

  16. […] I discovered this to be a fairly common issue with users who updated iOS through on-device OTA updates, though there doesn’t seem to be much explanation as to the cause. Fortunately the fix is […]

  17. […] methods to update to iOS 5.1.1 are either through iTunes update or on the iOS device itself through OTA updates. Connect the iOS device to iTunes and install the update when prompted, or on the iOS device tap on […]

  18. […] methods to update to iOS 5.1.1 are either through iTunes update or on the iOS device itself through OTA updates. Connect the iOS device to iTunes and install the update when prompted, or on the iOS device tap on […]

  19. wunnspeed says:

    So, I’ve tried vie iTunes and via this method to d/l the new iOS update to 5.1. I’m not sure if the European servers are getting hammered or what but I’ve been tying since the announcement and not matter how long I wait, the wait bar keeps running. What gives? Ideas?

    FYI – I don’t seek out tech ideas like this but I occasionally will find one of these useful. Don’t let the detractors stop you. Thanks!

  20. […] iOS 5.0, so older hardware may be left out. In any case, if you are running iOS 5 or later, you can use OTA to update iOS with no attachment to a computer or PC whatsoever. You can […]

  21. […] rate of the latest iOS versions looks to accelerate dramatically thanks to Apple bringing the OTA update feature to iOS 5. Of course this also means that those who are lingering on earlier versions of iOS will […]

  22. Pippox0 says:

    OTA updates don’t work with jailbreak iphone, i guess ?

  23. Mark says:

    I got a tip for everyone that goes along with this one: if you haven’t updated to iOS 5 or iOS 5.0.1 yet, don’t do it! There’s nothing to gain, but you will lose battery life.

  24. Abdullah says:

    Sorry guys, that’s too much. I have been a fan of osxdaily for years but the website seems to be moving in a different direction. From how to take a screenshot in pad to how to update over th air.
    I guess the next post is gonna be on how to turn off your iPhone.

    • Matt says:

      So you’re not going to like every post, get over it or contribute something yourself.

    • Paul says:

      We have a diverse readership and write for a wide variety of users with various skill sets, not everyone is going to find every post useful, that is the nature of writing for a broad audience. Many post ideas come from user inquiries emailed to us or things we find asked frequently in the real world. You are always welcome to submit your own posts and ideas to us directly at

  25. Agra Bagra says:

    This would be better timed with a new iOS release

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