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How to Update to iOS 4 for the iPod Touch

Updated on June 23, 2010

Apple recently released the latest version of it's software, now called iOS4. Everyone (or most people) in the media have been focusing on how the iOS4 works on the iPhone, how all the iPhone users are getting an update to iOS4, and all the workings of the iPhone when running iOS4. But for people who don't own an iPhone, but do own an iPod Touch, they have sort of been left in the dust. Many places have been focusing so exclusively on the new iPhone and the new operating system that runs on it, that they have failed to recognize that this new operating system from Apple will also run on the iPod Touch, another Apple product that has lately been all but forgotten and overshadowed by new iPhones, leaked Apple phones, and the iOS4 running on those iPhones. While the iPod Touch is certainly the lesser of the two, it certainly deserves credit as being an amazing media player. Also, it is owned by millions of people, so they would probably want to update their iPods, if only they knew that they could. This article will help you to update your iPod Touch to iOS4.

What iPod Touch Products Will Work?

There's good and bad news in this department. First of all, if you own an iPod Touch First Generation, the news is all bad for you - you can't update to iOS4. The news gets better from here though, although there are a few minor disappointments. The iPod Touch 2G (Second Generation) does have an update to iOS4, however, you will not be able to run multitasking or background wallpapers, or connect a Bluetooth keyboard. If you own an iPod Touch 3G (Third Generation), you can also update to iOS4. But again, there are restrictions. If you own the 8GB version (aka, the cheapest version), you have the same restrictions as the iPod Touch 2G. But if you own the 32GB or 64GB version, you have full access to all of iOS4's new goodies.

Updating Through Itunes

The easiest way to update your iPod Touch to iOS4 is to run the update through iTunes. To do this, plug your iPod into the syncing cable and open iTunes. The first thing that you need to make sure of is that iTunes is updated to the latest version (iTunes 9.2). You can do this by clicking "Help" > "Check For Updates" and then allowing it to download the latest version of iTunes. Once that is complete, reopen iTunes and click on your iPod in the left hand side.

On that screen, click the button that says "Check for Update." This is the issue: iOS4 has been released. However, not everyone who clicks the button is getting the update. For whatever reason, Apple hasn't been pushing the update to iPod Touches that much, although some people have reported getting the update. If you are getting a message that says "3.0 is the current version," like the image below, then you will need to update the manual way. Skip to the next section if you get that message.

If you don't get that message, iTunes will then download and update your iPod Touch to the latest iOS4 version. Remember that if you have a first generation iPod, this will not work. Once the installation completes, you can unplug the iPod Touch from your computer and bask in iOS4 glory.

Updating to iOS4 the Manual Way

If you got the error message telling you your version was already current, then you may want to wait a few days and try it later. If you decide you want it right now, there is semi-bad news. Currently, I only know of a way to update your iPod Touch by restoring it. This means that it will essentially erase all of your music and applications. You will then have to redownload everything that was once on your iPod. Personally, I use my Droid for everything these days, so I was okay with doing a restore and having everything erased since I didn't carry much on it. But if you're also okay with that, you can proceed.

You will want to TRY the update path first. For me, it didn't work and I had to restore. But it may work for you. To do this, download the appropriate file below, depending on your iPod by right clicking and saving it to your computer.

Once the file downloads (it may take a while, it's a big file), open iTunes back up and go back to the update page like I showed you before. Then, instead of clicking "Update," hold down SHIFT and then click update (if you're on a Mac, hold down OPTION and click update. Then, a window will appear asking you which file to use to update your iPod. Find the file you downloaded and select it.

Now, here is the error message I received:

Because of that, I had to actually restore the iPod to the newer version. That is what erased all my apps and music. So, if you absolutely want iOS4, you can try these next steps and get it, but your data will be gone (I haven't tried doing a backup and then recovering from it, and I'm not sure how well that would work since you're doing a backup on version 3, then updating to version 4 and trying to restore it.)

Hold down SHIFT (or OPTION if you're using a Mac) and click "Restore" this time. The window will appear again, and you should select the update file you downloaded from above. Now, your iPod will update to version iOS4, but you will lose all your data.


iOS4 is an interesting and well-designed operating system for the iPod Touches. You can now have multitasking, Bluetooth keyboards, application folders, and much more (assuming you're using the right generation). If you want to update without losing your files, I recommend waiting until iTunes will download the update for you. But, since I know some people love living on the bleeding edge (like me), I included the directions for getting the update right now. Good luck, and happy iOS4 using!

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