How do I download and install iOS 10 on my iPhone and iPad? Should I install iOS 10 now, or wait until a few days after launch day? And will my iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPad 4 etc, be powerful enough to run iOS 10 without slowing down? In short, should I upgrade to iOS 10?

iOS 10 launched on 13 September 2016, and you can update your iPhone or iPad to the latest operating system for free, assuming it's a recent enough device to qualify. (We list all the devices that are allowed to install iOS 10 later in this article, as well as offering advice on whether each device is powerful enough to run iOS 10 without slowing down.)

You've probably got three questions: can I update my iPhone or iPad to iOS 10, should I update my iPhone or iPad to iOS 10 and (if the answer to the first two is yes) how do I update to iOS 10? We'll address all these questions in our complete guide to iOS upgrades.

We explain how to get (download, install and run) iOS 10 on your iPhone and iPad, potential problems you may encounter while installing iOS 10, the devices that can run iOS 10, our advice about whether it's a good idea for you to make the update and, finally, whether you should let Apple update your iPhone or iPad for you overnight. We also discuss iOS betas and how to install the iOS 10 beta, although with the launch so imminent most of us won't need to install the beta version of iOS 10.

Oh, and if you do change your mind afterwards, you'll need our guide to removing iOS 10 and going back to iOS 9.

Read next: iPhone 7 review | Best iPad buying guide | How to set up a new iPad | How to speed up a slow iPad | Which iPad do I have? | iOS 11 rumours: release date and features

Updated 2 November to include the new iOS 10 public beta release.

How to get iOS 10: The basics

iOS is the operating system software that runs on iPad, iPhone and iPod touch devices. It's the underlying framework that organises, launches and runs other apps, and can perform a number of features of its own. iOS 10 is the newest update to iOS, and launched officially to the public on 16 September 2016.

If you've got an iPhone 5 (or later, an iPad 4 (or later), an iPad mini 2 or later or a sixth-gen iPod touch, your device is officially rated as iOS 10-compatible, and you can update to iOS 10 for free. (We discuss the list of compatible devices in a little more detail in a later section.)

We discuss iOS 10 as a single entity for most of this article, but we should quickly acknowledge that a number of smaller point upgrades will be released throughout its year-long lifetime. When you update your device to iOS 10 you will automatically get the most recent version that is available.

How to get iOS 10: Download & install iOS 10

Read next: How to fix a broken iPhone Home button

How to get iOS 10: iOS 10 UK release date

The final version of iOS 10 was made available for public download on 13 September at about 6pm UK time. The current public version is iOS 10.1.1.

Here's our full article on iOS 10's release dates and new features.

Read next: Advanced iOS 9 tips | iOS 9 vs iOS 10

How to get iOS 10: Can I update my iPhone/iPad to iOS 10?

The iPad 2 and iPad 3, the iPad mini 1, the iPhone 4s and the fifth-gen iPod touch all got unlucky this time around. They could run iOS 9, but they can't run iOS 10.

To run iOS 10 you'll need an iPad 4 or later, an iPad mini 2 or later, an iPhone 5 or later, or the sixth-gen iPod touch.

Read more: Can my iPad or iPhone run iOS 10?

How to get iOS 10 on your iPhone or iPad

How to get iOS 10: How to install iOS 10

It's very easy to update your iPhone or iPad to iOS 10 - You should get a notification informing you that a new version of iOS is available for you to download; all you need to do is confirm that you're happy to do this.

Download the iOS 10 install file, and then install it; the process chould take a few hours - don't worry, this is normal - but the length of time depends on the server traffic and how well Apple is coping with it. It's got much better since the huge delays people faced when updating to iOS 6 on launch day.

Haven't got a notification that iOS 10 is ready? Take a look in the Settings app and scroll down to General. Tap Software Update (the second option down), which will have a little '1' if there's an update for you.

iOS will think for a moment and then present you with the update, including the amount of storage space required (you may need to clear some space before downloading) and a link to a 'Learn more' article that tells you about the changes. Simply confirm you wish to upgrade and follow the steps.

If everything is working as it should, updating to iOS 10 should be extremely simple and user-friendly. It's also free.

How to download and install iOS 10 on your iPhone or iPad: Step by step

The update is pushed out to your iPhone or iPad automatically. You just need to go into the software update section of Settings and accept the update. Hopefully you will be lucky and it will work first time.

1) Go to Settings > General > Software Update

This will force your iPhone or iPad to check for the latest updates. (You may get an alert telling you that iOS 10 is ready, in which case you'll just need to tap download.)

2) Tap Download

Your iPhone or iPad will start to download the update.

3) Leave the update to download in the background

Once the download has finished you will receive a notification saying an update is available for your device.

4) Tap Details

This will take you to Settings > General > Software Update.

5) Tap Install Now

The iPhone or iPad will now start to install the iOS update. 

You can choose to leave the installation for later. Settings will display a notification badge until you have installed the update.

How to update to iOS 10 if you haven't got room on your iPhone/iPad

A common problem when updating your version of iOS is to find that there isn't room on your device for the install file. One solution is to delete lots of files from your iPhone and make room, then put them back afterwards. (Apple says it will offer an automated tool to do this for you when iOS 10 launches.) But another solution is to update iOS via iTunes on your Mac.

We explain this relatively painless process in a separate article: How to update iOS on your Mac

How to update to iOS 10: Common problems when updating iOS, and how to avoid/fix them

Updating to iOS 7, iOS 8 and iOS 9 in the past has been difficult in all sorts of different ways. In this section we'll try to offer tips on avoiding or fixing these problems if you encounter them.

We had a complete nightmare installing iOS 7 in 2013 - it took us all night. We had hoped things might go a bit smoother in 2014 with the launch of iOS 8. But unfortunately not. Again, many faced installation dramas because Apple's servers seemed unable to cope with the sheer number of people trying to access them to get the download. So if this was your experience with iOS 8 it's not a huge surprise, and you shouldn't feel like you're alone.

One thing is for sure: if you chose to update as soon as iOS 8 launched you were probably in for a long wait because the first few hours of an update are always the busiest time on Apple's servers. If you're like us you tried to update to iOS 8 pretty much as soon as it was launched, and probably found that it was going to take hours (ours said 14 hours). Perhaps you even saw error messages and warnings that the update had failed.

If you want to avoid having a long wait for the download, we recommend you wait for a day or two, both because the rush will have died down and because some initial bugs and problems that weren't noticed in the beta testing phase will have been patched.

All that presumes you had enough space on your iPhone to start with. The main issue encountered by those trying to update was the fact that the iOS 8 update requires a lot of space to be available on your iPad or iPhone. When we tried to update it said we needed 5.8GB of storage available, even though it claimed that the iOS 8 update itself is just 1.1GB. Why does it need so much space? This is because it downloads a compressed file, unpackages it and then installs it. You need the space for the unpacking and the update. It also needs enough space for iOS 8 itself.

If you don't need to free up a lot of space you may be happy to delete a few images from your Camera Roll or some of your music. You might find it useful to read our guide to saving space on your iPhone here.

Luckily you don't really need all that space to be available - you can download the update via your Mac or PC. We show you how to do that here. Also read: How to improve iPhone battery life.

Read next: iOS 10 troubleshooting: How to fix common iOS 10 problems

How to get iOS 10

How to get iOS 10: Should you let iOS update your iPhone or iPad overnight?

Apple is keen for more users to install incremental iOS updates that provide fixes and small improvements. One way it encourages this is by offering the chance to install them for you overnight while you're sleeping. If you're prompted to update your iPhone while you're using it, Apple now lets you choose 'Later,' which will then specify a time period during which it will update automatically for you if you've got your iPhone plugged in to a power source, which most people do overnight anyway.

When Apple prompted Macworld's own Ashleigh Allsopp to update to iOS 9.1 and offered that 'Later' option, she decided to make the most of the convenient new feature. She expected to wake up in the morning as usual to an updated iPhone. And indeed she did, but she woke up more than an hour after her alarm was scheduled to go off. The update had worked brilliantly, but her alarm had been deactivated, causing her to be very late for work.

She's not the only one. Users have taken to social media and forums to express their annoyance with the issue, which we consider to be a bug, and many have been late for important meetings and school.

Therefore, we'd only recommend choosing the later option if you don't have to wake up at a particular time in the morning, or if you can set another alarm on a different device!

How to get iOS 10: Should I upgrade to iOS 10? What are the benefits, and will iOS 10 slow down my Apple device?

This leads us to a harder question: even if you're allowed to upgrade, is it a good idea to install iOS 10? Are there any reasons why you wouldn't upgrade to iOS 10?

First of all, bear in mind that upgrading iOS tends to be essentially a one-way journey. It's always extremely hard (if not impossible) to go back to the previous version afterwards, so be sure you want to do this before starting the upgrade process.

So you'll probably be stuck with the new OS if you update. But are there any actual down sides in the way iOS 9 will work?

Partly this depends on whether you're interested in the new features provided by iOS 10, and you can read more about those in our iOS 10 review. But it also depends on which device you've got. We'll divide this section of the article into three: those who have old iPhones and iPads that only just make it on to the list of compatible devices; those with relatively recent iPhones and iPads; and those with a brand-new iPhone or iPad.

Should you update to iOS 10? Older devices: iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPad 4, iPad mini 2

The main thing to worry about here is speed.

While Apple always works on streamlining iOS and making sure it runs smoothly, it has to be said that recent updates have slowed down iPhones and iPads near the older end of the list of compatible devices. iPhone 4s owners were not impressed when iOS 8 noticeably slowed down a lot of their devices, for example, and while this appeared to be a less common problem with iOS 9, we'd still advice caution.

We'd give it a few days after launch. Try to find someone else running the same hardware and see how they got on - has their device slowed down at all?

Here's what we've seen first-hand:

  • iPhone 5 - ran the iOS 10 beta fine, although we've not tried it with the full version yet

How to get iOS 10: Should you upgrade iPhone 5c to iOS 10?

Should you update to iOS 10? Medium-age devices: iPhone 5s, 6 or 6 Plus, either iPad Air model, iPad mini 3 or 4

It's not guaranteed, but these devices should be okay running the new software. We'd take the plunge as soon as the update becomes available: the servers quickly get clogged up, and it'll be much quicker if you do it right at the start.

We can confirm first-hand that the following devices are fine with iOS 10:

  • iPhone 5s - runs fine
  • iPhone 6 - runs fine

Should you update to iOS 10? iPhone SE, 6s and 6s Plus, either iPad Pro model, or the sixth-gen iPod touch

As previously mentioned, it'll be hard to downgrade back to iOS 9 once you make the jump. But there's really no reason not to make the upgrade if you've got a very recent device. These will easily be able to handle the processor demands of iOS 10, and iOS 10 doesn't include any significant graphical changes to annoy you, as happened with iOS 7. 

(When iOS 7 launched, many users were horrified by the radical graphical redesign, which took a while to get used to and still annoys a minority of iPhone and iPad owners. That year we advised people to spend time with borrowed iOS 7 devices if they could, and see if they got used to the look of the OS after a week or two - generally interface changes feel earth-shattering at the time, then before you know it you can’t remember how it used to look.)

We can confirm first-hand that the following devices are fine with iOS 10:

  • iPhone SE - runs fine
  • iPhone 6s - runs fine
  • iPhone 6s Plus - runs fine
  • iPad Pro 12.9 - runs fine

Should you update to iOS 10? Conclusion

If your iPad or iPhone is up to it (and really up to it - not just officially rated as iOS 10-compatible), you should probably update. Even if you don't care about the new features, the boring stuff - such as bug fixes and compatibility with new apps - is important.

But take the decision carefully, because you probably won't be able to go back.

See where your iPhone or iPad sits on the chart of compatible devices above. If it's only just new/powerful enough to run the new OS, you need to find out if there will be any speed problems. See how people with the same model as you get on.

How to update to iOS 10: Important steps to prepare your iPhone or iPad for the upgrade

We're about to walk you through the update process. But before we get to that, here are the steps you should take before you click yes on that update alert. (My colleagues look at a couple of aspects of this in a little more depth in a separate article: How to prepare your devices for iOS 10.)

1) Back up your data

Use iCloud or iTunes to back up your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. If you don't do this, and you find that messages or photos disappear from your iPhone after the update, then that's your look-out.

Beware: the backup will include purchased music, TV shows, apps, and books; photos and video in the Camera Roll; and device settings, but it won't include anything you synced from your computer. To re-sync that stuff you'll need to sync with iTunes. For that reason we recommend backing up to your computer as well as iCloud.

2) Save a compatible copy of iOS 9 in case you change your mind

You may change your mind and decide you want to downgrade from iOS 10 to iOS 9, and this will be easier if you make sure you've got a copy of the latest version of iOS 9 compatible with your device.

You see, Apple 'signs' versions of iOS, which in effect tells your iPhone or iPad that the version you want to use is okay for that device. As long as that version is signed, you can install it on your iOS device, even if it's earlier than the one on there at the moment. (Traditionally, Apple stops signing old versions of iOS only a day or two after releasing major updates, so you'll need to act quickly if you want to go back.)

If you have a copy on your hard drive you will find it, by default, by following this path: youruserfolder/Library/iTunes and then select the Software Updates folder for your device. (Access the Library folder in your user folder by holding down the Option key in Finder and selecting Go > Library.)

Your Mac may have deleted this file, however. If so, launch your web browser and search for download ipsw. You'll find a number of sites offering links to the file you need. Make sure you get the right one for the device you use.

3) Make room on your device

If you have limited space on your phone you may not be able to perform the update - it's a fairly hefty download. To get ready, you can remove content you no longer need, which is a good idea in any case. See our guide to making room on your iPhone or iPad

Our iPhone required 5.8GB of space to be available in order to perform the iOS 8 update - since our iPhone is only 16GB this wasn't really an option so we opted instead to update via iTunes on our Mac. More on that process below. The iOS 10 update file is likely to be smalle than this, since Apple has been making efforts to streamline the process, but it won't be a negligible size.

Do also bear in mind that each incremental update to iOS 10 will take small amounts of space from your device. For example, iOS 9.2.1 was a 100-300mb update depending on the device it's installed on.

4) Update iTunes on your Mac or PC

A couple of years ago people updated iPhones to iOS 6, only to discover that their iPhone or iPad could no longer talk to their Macs because they were running an old version of iTunes. This was made worse if they couldn't actually update to a version of iTunes that was compatible because they were running Mac OS X Leopard on their Macs.

It was a big enough issue for Apple to actually start selling Snow Leopard again because it was the only way to get the Mac App Store - which is the only way to update to later versions of the Mac OS.

Read next: How to get Snow Leopard.

5) Plug in your iPhone or iPad

Make sure you plug in your device to a power source. If you run out of battery mid-download you may corrupt the iPad or iPhone.

6) Make sure you're connected to Wi-Fi

Be sure that you are downloading over Wi-Fi and not via 3G or 4G, or you may end up using up all your data for the month. Read our guide: how to stop running out of cellular data.

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How to get iOS 10: How to get iOS 10.2 now

There are various reasons why you might want to download a beta version of iOS, but generally it's because the public version hasn't come out yet. iOS 10 has already launched, but you can still be on the iOS 10 beta program, in order to test new features before they come out - such as iOS 10.2, before it launches.

In iOS 10.2, you'll get to see the following features:

  • Wallpapers for iPhone 7 and 7 Plus
  • Widget for the Videos app
  • Test the ‘Preserve Settings’ menu in camera settings
  • See Unicode 9 emoji
  • Be able to ‘Press and Hold to Speak’ menu under Home Button Accessibility settings
  • Try the new ‘Celebration’ screen effect in Messages
  • ‘Show Star Ratings’ option under Music Settings
  • Have the option to sort Apple Music playlists by title, type and recently added
  • See a introduction screen for Siri

You can keep up with the iOS version history here.

Downloading an iOS beta is more complicated than getting the final public-release version. 

One option is the developer preview. This is basically a pre-release beta testing version, but Apple calls it the developer preview beta to distinguish it from the public beta which is much more polished.

To start the process of downloading and installing the developer preview, you'll need to sign up to the Apple Beta Software Program and then enroll your device.

It's important to back up your iPhone or iPad first (find out how to back up your iOS device by clicking here).

You'll then want to open this link using your iOS device and click the link in step two on that page to download the profile that matches your device. Once downloaded, the software update will be available by going to Settings > General > Software Update and tapping Download and Install.

iOS 10 Developer Preview

First, while iOS updates are generally free, downloading a developer preview requires a developer account, and this costs money - £79 per year.

The idea of using the developer preview is that you're testing compatibility with software you're building, not having a grand old time using the features normally. If you do install iOS 10, don't put it on your main device. Install it on a device you can cope with being temporarily crippled if the OS is buggier than expected.

More seriously, third-party developers have only just got their hands on the OS, so you can't expect apps to work with it properly. Some apps won't work at all. The developers should sort out any problems ahead of iOS 10 releases - at least, they should if they plan to continue to support their app through another OS update, which isn't guaranteed - but this may take a little while.

A final warning: you're not supposed to install iOS unless you're a software developer. It's a fairly open secret that some Apple fans pose as developers in order to get access to brand-new OS updates - and they pay Apple for the privilege, remember - but this is officially against the rules and we do not recommend it.

If you do decide to install the developer preview, however, here's how you do it.

1. Using Safari on the device you want to update, go to developer.apple.com, tap on Account and sign in using your Apple ID and password. (If you haven't signed up for a developer account, go and enrol.)

2. Tap on Discover (along the top) and then tap iOS. Tap the blue Download button at the top right.

3. You'll have to tap the chevron on the right to expand its view; the best option now is to tap Download next to the Configuration Profile - the first option. (You can select a larger download for your specific model of device, but they are larger downloads and intended for when you download to a Mac first and then sync across to your device. Stick with the Config Profile.)

How to install iOS 10 beta on iPad or iPhone

4. Now go into Settings, General, Software Update. From this point on installing the iOS 10 developer preview is just like updating iOS normally - just follow the prompts and agree to the various terms & conditions. At one point in the process you'll be prompted to restart the device.

How to install iOS 10 beta on iPad or iPhone

5. Enjoy iOS 10! And if you see any glaring bugs, be nice and let Apple know.

Our most popular iPhone tutorials:

How to jailbreak an iPhone

How to unlock an iPhone

How to back up an iPhone

How to block phone numbers on an iPhone

How to reset, factory-reset, restore or restart an iPhone

How to update to the latest version of iOS on an iPhone

How to take a screenshot on an iPhone

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Read on to find out about iOS 9 and what to do if you've got an older device that isn't compatible with iOS 10.