The Plight of the 8 GB iPhone - How to install iOS 6 when you are low on free space

Apple released iOS 6 to the world at large yesterday.  Compared to Mountain Lion, or even iOS 5's initial release, iOS 6 seems a little rough around the edges.  I've experienced strange issues with Passbook with an even stranger fix.  More troubling is the ongoing issued with WiFi connectivity which may be fixed.  As always, the smart idea with any major update is to wait a week or two.  I tend to update on day one as a job necessity–if there's a problem I need to know how to deal with it.   Let other people deal with the teething issues of a news OS if you're not in IT or development.

There's one question, however, that I've gotten enough that it warrants a blog post: "How do I upgrade my iPhone or iPad or iPod Touch when I don't have enough free space to download the update?"  This is most common in devices with 8 GB of storage that support iOS 6, but I've also gotten it from people who use all the space on their device.  Dozens of people told me they've tried deleting apps, music and movies but they still can't install iOS 6.

Fret no more.  This procedure should work for any device that can run iOS, as long as you either use iCloud, sync with iTunes on a computer, or both.

  1. Backup your device.  If you're using iCloud, connect to a WiFI network and open Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup.  Make sure iCloud Backup is on and then tap Back Up Now.  Let this backup finish completely.
  2. If you sync with iTunes, update iTunes to version 10.7.  Once iTunes is running 10.7, do a full sync/backup.  Open iTunes preferences and click Devices once the backup is complete.  Check the date and time and verify the backup you have is current.
  3. Make absolutely sure you did either step 1 or 2.  Preferably both.  The next step will erase everything you have, and you'll need these backups to get it back!
  4. On your device, open Settings > General > Reset.  Tap Erase All Content & Settings.  Confirm when your device asks if you are crazy.
  5. Wait.  Your device will reboot.  Don't fill in your Apple ID or setup iCloud.  Skip as much of the setup wizard as you can.
  6. Connect to a WiFi network.
  7. Open General > Settings > Software Update and install iOS 6.
  8. Wait.  Your device will reboot.  Don't fill in your Apple ID or setup iCloud.  Skip as much of the setup wizard as you can.
  9. On your device, open Settings > General > Reset.  Tap Erase All Content & Settings.  Confirm when your device asks if you are crazy.  I know this sounds familiar, but trust me.
  10. Now, when your device reboots you can either run through the setup assistant and restore from your iCloud backup (easy but slow) or connect your device to iTunes and restore from that backup (faster, but not quite as easy).
  11. Your device is now running iOS 6 with all your apps and data intact.

Some of my fellow nerds will argue that steps 8 and 9 could be bypassed, but I wanted to make sure these instructions were as easy and clean as possible.

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