How to install iOS4 in (just) under 75 hours

1. Delete AppSniper.

That's saved you the first 50 hours of failure, at least.

I won't bore you with those initial two days of my iOS4-updating experience, because they're too painful for either you to listen to or me to relive. But after two previous abortive attempts of installing Apple's fancy new iPod firmware – when over 19 hours of "Backing up" remained stalled at about 3% progress, extrapolating to a total of 25 days for the task to complete – a tip from the ever-alert C Grannell saw me delete the aforenamed bargain-monitoring app, which appears to have a nasty habit of caching thousands and thousands of files in the iPod's backup folder, which choke the update process to death.

Cancelling the latest stalled attempt, I deleted AppSniper and set the update running once more before going to bed. I didn't have any high hopes when I got up, but was surprised to observe that in just six hours, the "Backing up" bar had progressed twice as far as it had ever done before in 18 hours. It was all the way to the "k" of "Backing", in fact, when previously it hadn't managed to get beyond the "a".

Of course, that was still hardly more than 5% of the length of the bar, but encouraged by the advance I left it to carry on. A mere half an hour later, I was sitting at the computer browsing the morning's newspaper sites and noticed the iPod chirping and burbling in that endearing way it has when it's up to something. I switched back from Firefox to iTunes and was astonished to see a dialogue box noting that the backup process was complete (evidently iTunes really gets into the swing of it after the first 5%), and it was moving on to updating the system software to the much-heralded iOS4.

Shortly afterwards it moved on to restoring settings, and then to re-syncing my several hundred apps. A mere two hours or so after I'd got up and noticed the slightly advanced progress bar, and barely eight hours after I'd started the update process, the "Sync In Progress" message disappeared and the iTunes tab on my taskbar flickered. It was done!

Well, sort of.

A brief investigation of the Touch itself showed that iOS4 in fact appeared to be in place, but about 30 seconds later the machine switched itself off. After a few minutes it came back on, with iTunes whining that it had been interrupted (by whom it didn't say) before it could complete the update, and would I like to continue? Well, duh.

So I said yes (just in case it was listening) and told it to "Continue Restore", which would later turn out to have been a big mistake. (Apparently, as we'll discover later, "Delete Backup" was the choice I actually wanted, although maybe it wasn't.) A few moments later, iTunes announced that regretfully it had been unable to locate the required file and that therefore UPDATE = FAIL.

(Which file that might have been was evidently trivial and unnecessary information that it didn't want me to worry my pretty little head about.)

I had a look at the iPod, though, (without disconnecting it – I've had Apple hardware long enough not to make the idiot mistake of unplugging stuff when it appears not to be doing anything but you can sense that it's actually plotting some imminent major event it's not telling you about) and oddly everything seemed to be in place.

All my apps were there, all in their right places on my extra app pages. Unfortunately, however, none of them would run, every one crashing after a couple of seconds of its splash screen. (Except the built-in ones like Notes and Safari for some reason, which worked fine and had all my old saved notes, bookmarks etc on them. I could also access the App Store and download new apps like iBooks, which worked with no problems.)

I Googled for "ipod touch update error [-34]" and eventually discovered (though not until I'd done the search including the square brackets) that the problem seemed to be that the iPod had previously had the "Convert higher bit rate songs to 128 kbps AAC" option selected to save a few GB of precious storage space. For some reason the update process hadn't bothered to note this, and was crashing because it didn't think there was enough room on the device for all my music at its native 192kbps (which, of course, there wasn't).

So an easy fix, right? Since iOS4 was running and all my apps were there, all I'd need to do would be re-tick the option and do a re-sync to get the music back and have everything all shipshape again. Easy. Except, of course, that iTunes PC is THE WORST PIECE OF SOFTWARE IN THE HISTORY OF ALL MANKIND, MORE EVIL THAN HITLER AND MORE INCOMPETENT THAN PAYPAL, AND VICE VERSA.

Being the horrible, whining, nannying pile of rancid paedophile's spleens that it is, iTunes wouldn't let me access any of the normal syncing functions, on the grounds that the update hadn't completed properly. The only choices available were to set the Touch up as a brand-new iPod (losing all my data, settings, pages and saved games and requiring perhaps two days of work to get everything back manually) or to try to restore from the same backup again, in the knowledge that it was going to take several hours and then fail.

15 minutes later, iTunes still hadn't even come up with an estimated time for the restore process, which was a shame because iTunes' estimated times for stuff are always hilarious and I was in need of a chuckle to relieve the stress. (The last one I'd seen, when I'd done a restore a couple of weeks previously, had said "Time remaining: About 11 minutes" for almost the entire 16 hours that it actually took.)

After a little while more, though, it finally started putting some numbers on the screen, steadily increasing until finally settling on "About 35 minutes", which chilled my soul to the core because in iTunes time "About 35 minutes" is in fact a period longer than the average Scottish person's entire life expectancy, and I'm already in my 40s.

I left it to its task and nipped out to take a Master's degree in Applied Quantum Mathematics. When I came back, I had the "iTunes was interrupted" error again, and once more had the opportunity to select "Delete Backup". But on checking the iPod just for laughs before taking such a frightening and counter-intuitive step, I found that all my apps were working perfectly this time. (Or at least, all the ones that are actually iOS4-compatible were, but that's another story.)

There were no music files and no videos, but I reckoned I could live with this and re-sync them manually, so decided to go with "Cancel" instead. I nervously clicked the button and the normal sync screen appeared, curiously with the  "Convert higher bit rate songs to 128 kbps AAC" option still ticked. WITHOUT ME TELLING IT TO, (I always have "automatically sync" unchecked) the iPod started to sync again.

Every instinct I possessed screamed at me to cancel, to yank the plug out, to smash my PC with a hammer before iTunes reverted my iPod to ZX Spectrum Basic or something. But I held my nerve for a minute or two, and sure enough, iTunes started to list all the music files it was "updating".

Crossing my fingers, and with the resampling process whizzing along at almost eight songs a minute, I decided to pop out again to row single-handed across the Atlantic and back. When I returned a few hours later (I'm an excellent rower, as anyone who's typing it rather than saying it out loud will tell you), it was finished.

Despite iTunes not at any point having claimed to have actually executed a successful upgrade, iOS4 was running, and all my apps (insofar as compatibility currently allows) and music and videos were intact and working properly, a mere 67 hours and 52 minutes after I started the upgrade process. ADMIRE MY PERSISTENCE.


So if you're thinking of upgrading to iOS4, here's WoSblog's advice:

1. Make sure any apps you use a lot are iOS4-compatible. It didn't even occur to me that there would be an issue, but a fairly substantial number don't run. So if they're important to you, hold off for compatibility updates before you take the plunge at all.

2. Delete AppSniper.

3. If you normally resample your music and don't think it'll fit on your device in its native format, sync your iPod/iPhone WITHOUT your music (ie uncheck whatever library or playlists you normally sync) before you start the update process. Then do the update, reselect your music and sync it back on. It might take a while to do the resampling, but only a fraction of the time you'll waste otherwise going through what I went through.

4. Don't have anything else planned that day.



UPDATE: Of course, it turned out that I hadn't quite succeeded at all. The fragmented nature of my upgrade clearly upset iTunes, and every time I subsequently plugged the iPod in, iTunes whined and nagged that it had been interrupted and needed to complete the restore process – even though all my apps and music and settings had, in fact, been successfully restored.

Not only that, it also exacted punishment, in the shape of some catastrophic battery dysfunction. Previously, the iPod would last around a week in sleep mode before the battery expired, but after the update it was struggling to manage 36 hours. I had a quick Google and tried switching off various things relating to email and some sort of Safari anti-fraud feature, but they made only a slight difference.

So eventually, with a sigh, I decided to shut iTunes up and completely restore/resync the iPod from scratch, this time  telling it to sync only the apps, and then putting the music back on separately after the upgrade and restore was finished.  This all added about another seven hours to the process, but this time iTunes was satisfied and gave me back my battery life.

I really hate Apple.


6 Responses to “How to install iOS4 in (just) under 75 hours”

  1. CdrJameson Says:

    Was it worth it?

  2. Irish Al Says:

    If and when Android starts getting a good game library Apple won't know what hit them.

  3. I bet Steve Jobs' grandchildren are terrified.

  4. Did you put AppSniper back on afterwards?

  5. I haven't yet, as currently it's stopped working (or more precisely, stopped updating) on my other iPod which is still running iOS3.1.3 or something like that.

  6. My iPhone kept freezing on the backup stage as well. I found a workaround though: Sync your iPhone/iPod as normal (this makes a backup). Then click restore, which does a fresh install of iOS4, and then when the devices boots up it will ask you if you want to restore from backup, at which point you pick your recent backup.  All done within around 40 minutes. Saved a lot of pain.

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