Apple's iOS 5 is supposed to take the hassle out of updates and backups by handling it all automatically through iCloud. But to get iOS 5, you've still got to go through iTunes, and if something goes wrong, the update may erase your apps and data in the process.
This happened to me when updating my first-generation iPad from iOS 4.3 to iOS 5. After installing the new software and unplugging the iPad from my PC, most of my apps were gone--along with all my music, photos, and other data. If the furious Twitter chatter today is any indication, I'm not alone. Check a sample of the outrage:
Fortunately, you don't have to go back to the App Store to your apps back. iTunes should be able to restore those apps and any other lost data. Here's how:
- Plug your device back into your PC and open up iTunes.
- Click on the device name (iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch) in the left-hand column.
- Click on "Sync" or "Apply" in the bottom-right corner of the screen (see screenshot below). iTunes should begin restoring any data you had on the device.
- Be patient. Syncing can take a very, very long time.
- After restoring, iTunes may ask if you want to transfer purchased items back to iTunes. You must click "Transfer," or else those items will be deleted from your device.
If all else fails, you can click on the "Summary" tab under your device settings in iTunes, then click "restore." You'll see a dialog box that allows you to pick from a previous restore point. Choose a date prior to installing iOS5 (do not click "set up as new"). This will take you back to the way things were. Then, you can install iOS 5 afresh.
If You Are Just Starting the Process: Back Up!
If you haven't updated to iOS 5 yet, make sure you sync your device first by clicking on the device in the left-hand column of iTunes, then hitting the "Sync" button in the bottom right corner. That way, no matter what happens during installation, you'll still have everything backed up.
Once again, be patient. Lots of people are trying to download and install iOS5 now, and if you unplug your device too soon, it may only cost you more time undoing mistakes. I'm saying this from experience.