iOS 8, the next version of Apple's operating system software for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, is now available to download, just two days before the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus go on sale. Here, we bring you advice about how to prepare for the release of iOS 8, including tips about the upgrading process and advice about whether iOS 8 is right for you.

See also: 8 new features in iOS 8 that we can't wait for and here’s how to install iOS 8 without deleting anything

Many users have been caught out, one way or another, by iOS upgrades in the past. Some have upgraded recklessly and found that they don't like the new iOS, but can't go back because they didn't save the right files beforehand. Others have upgraded on launch day and hit massive server overload, making the process last for hours and occasionally losing apps in the process.

However, we hope that you'll be able to fully prepare for iOS 8 by reading this article and taking the necessary actions to help make upgrading a smooth and pleasant process.

Everything you need to know about the iOS 8 beta versions

Read How to prepare your iPhone for iOS 8 launch and 8 best new features in iOS 8  and Will my iPad or iPhone be able to run iOS 8?

Read on to find out how to prepare for iOS 8's release, and get some advice about the best time to upgrade.

How to prepare for iOS 8: Which devices are compatible with iOS 8?

First things first: will you be able to download and run iOS 8 at all?

Apple has revealed which devices will be able to run the new software, and we've explained everything you need to know about whether your device is supported in our Will my iPad or iPhone be able to run iOS 8 article.

How to prepare for iOS 8: Should I get iOS 8?

Once you've determined that your iPhone or iPad can run iOS 8, you'll need to decide whether or not you should actually upgrade. There are pros and cons to upgrading, but the cons may be slightly more prominent if you're on an older device.

Ultimately the best plan for the iOS 8 launch is to frequently check tech sites you trust for reviews (obviously we would suggest our own iOS 8 review), with details of new features and design changes from iOS 7, and then if possible (and if one of your friends takes the plunge) try the new software on a friend's device. See also: New features coming to the Mail app in iOS 8

Bear in mind that hardware on the lower fringes of the compatibility list may only just be able to run iOS 8; iOS 7 caused performance problems with the iPhone 4, for instance, and you won't get all the new features. Check for user reports from people using the same generation of iPhone or iPad as you.

In other words, make your mind up as far as possible, then upgrade. You don't want to be looking for ways to downgrade afterwards. It may be a free upgrade, but you should treat iOS 8 as a massively expensive purchase - because if you hate it, or your device struggles to run it, you've spoiled your experience with a piece of consumer hardware worth hundreds of pounds.

Also read:

How to prepare for iOS 8: 3 things to do before you upgrade

1. Check your connection

Once you've double-checked that your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad is capable of running iOS 8, you'll need to decide how to install the OS. If you plan to install wirelessly, confirm that you have an available WiFi connection.

If you intend to install via iTunes, you need your computer and the latest version of iTunes.

2. Back up your device

To make a backup using your computer, you can go through iTunes. Just plug your device into your computer (or use the WiFi Sync option) and open iTunes.

Once the program is open, click the Devices button, select your device and scroll down in the summary section to Backups. There, under 'Manually Back Up and Restore,' click Back Up Now.

To make a wireless backup directly from your device, you need an iCloud account. Once you're logged in to iCloud, make sure your device is connected to a WiFi network – you can't create a backup over a cellular network. See: iCloud backup tricks for the iPhone and iPad

After you've done so, go to Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup, turn on the iCloud Backup toggle and tap Back Up Now.

Also read: How to manage iCloud Storage and Backup Settings for iOS

3. Make sure you're up to date

We'd also advise you to check that you're up to date with the current iOS 7 updates before iOS 8 arrives. This should help speed up the upgrade process when iOS 8 becomes available. Make sure you've backed up your device as described above, then go to Settings > General > Software Update. Your device will check for updates, and if there are any available you'll be able to click 'Install Now'.

See also: 10 amazing new Messages features in iOS 8


How and when to upgrade to iOS 8

When iOS 6 launched, Apple somehow underestimated user demand, and its servers struggled to cope. People found that upgrading took them hours and hours. Worse still, some discovered after the upgrade was complete that they had lost some apps.

These days losing apps is less of a worry because most of us download them through iCloud rather than syncing with a Mac. If an app disappears during the upgrade, track it down on the App Store on your iDevice and you should be able to redownload it at no cost. If this doesn't work, get in touch with Apple.

But for the lesser issue of slow upgrades, we'd suggest waiting at least a day before upgrading. This fits in with our general message of caution - you want to read about users’ experience with the new software and try it out on a friend's device or in an Apple store, so it makes to wait. See also: iOS 8 FAQs

How to prepare for the iOS 8 launch: What if I hit problems?

If even all this preparation isn't enough to protect you from an unexpected problem - you can't check everything, and it's possible that you didn't notice that some small but crucial (to you) element of iOS 7 has been altered - then don't despair.

Check online for discussion of the problem you’re having, since it's unlikely that you’ll be the only one experiencing it; other users may find a workaround, and there’s a good chance that Apple will deal with the issue in a subsequent update.

Finally, what we said to many iOS 7 haters who discovered that they couldn't downgrade was this: give it a chance. If there are major aesthetic changes, it's likely to feel weird at first. But when we go back to iOS 6 these days it looks horrible. Operating systems can grow on you. See also: New features coming in iOS 8's Camera app

How to prepare for the iOS 8 launch: delete things you don't need to make space on your iPhone, or use iTunes

It's frustrating when you settle down to update your iPhone or iPad only to discover that the 1.1GB install requires 5.8GB of storage in order to download. If yours is a 16GB iPhone that's a big percentage of your storage space and a lot of hassel.

Apple helpfully suggests that you can make more storage available by deleting items in Usage Settings, but that’s easier said than done, who wants to spend the whole evening deleting photos and music and apps knowing full well that you'll then have to put them back later.

If like us you don’t want to delete anything there is an option. You can download iOS 8 on your Mac (or PC) via iTunes and install it that way.

As with installing on the iPhone via WiFi you should make sure you have a backup. That might take a few minutes if it's not up to date.

Plug your iPhone or iPad into you Mac, select Transfer and Update, and the Mac will began connecting to the iOS update server. Next you need to agree to the software licence agreement. Then iTunes will ask for the passcode to be entered on the phone in question - in our case Touch ID was sufficient.

iTunes told us that there was 11, then 12, then 13 hours remaining. In the end the update failed and we had to start again the following morning. Here's the video of what happened. You can read more about the process of updating via iTunes here: How to update to iOS 8 without deleting anything.

How to prepare for the iOS 8 launch: Downgrading, and saving your blobs

Will you be able to downgrade from iOS 8 to iOS 7 (or, for that matter, iOS 6 or earlier)? Yes, probably - but it won't be easy, if history can teach us anything.

You could downgrade from iOS 7 to iOS 6 in the first weeks after it was unveiled but then the window clanged shut. Right now, the only way to downgrade is if you use one particular model of iPhone, and happened to save your blobs at the right time. Don't know what 'blobs' are? Lots of people don't.

If you're planning on upgrading to iOS 8, it might be worth finding out what they are, and getting into the habit of saving them - although, as I said, it's possible that you still won’t be able to downgrade because you're using the wrong hardware, or because Apple finds a way to close this loophole. Here's how to save your SHSH blobs.

Now, there's been so much annoyance at Apple's strict downgrading policies that it's possible that things will get easier for iOS 8. But don't bet on it. We would suggest reading our article on downgrading from iOS 7 to iOS 6 carefully, to see what files you would need to have saved to pull off that process - maybe you can prepare for the next upgrade in such a way that downgrading is possible. But this isn't guaranteed to work; indeed, reading the article will also give you an idea of how hard it can be to reverse the upgrade, so you know what you're committing to.

Once we know more, we'll update our article How to downgrade from iOS 8 to iOS 7.

Read next: iOS 8 vs iOS 7 comparison review