iPad Tutorial: How to quickly update multiple iPads to a new version of the iOS

I’m indebted to my friend Fraser Speirs for this tip. You know how long it can take for the download and update of a single iPad or iPod touch. What if you have more than a few of these devices, perhaps dozens, that need updating to a new version of the iOS? Is there a way to save the time and bandwidth by skipping the download of the same iOS file (hundreds of MB) for each one? I’ll quote mostly from Fraser here and add a few comments and minor edits.

“It turns out that actually updating the iPad (or iPod touch) doesn’t take very long at all. Maybe 10 to 15 minutes per device. The trick, though, is to download the iOS update image once and keep it around on a USB stick or portable hard drive.”

You can also keep a copy on the one computer you use for syncing all the devices, assuming you’re making sets with identical configurations. But please, make a backup of the iOS file before you begin updating multiple devices. After you update the first iPad or iPod touch, a copy of the update file will be saved to your computer.

“iTunes saves the update image in ~/Library/iTunes/iPad Software Updates.”

For the iPod touch, this folder is ~/Library/iTunes/iPod Software Updates

1. Connect the device and let it back up.
2. Decline iTunes’ offer to download the update.
3. Hold down the Option key and click the Update button in iTunes. This presents you with a file chooser dialog box. Navigate to where you saved the update file and select it.
4. Wait for the update to complete.
5. Let the device restart and sync
6. Install any updated applications

“The slowest part of the process is downloading the updates for the apps (and there will be many of these in the coming weeks). Saving the iOS update on local storage will save a ton of time and bandwidth. You really don’t want to be downloading 115 * 500MB over a school DSL connection!”

Even doing a few dozen devices with that same update downloading each time can slow your network considerably. This method for updating multiple iOS devices will save valuable time and bandwidth.

You can find Fraser’s original post at:

Windows Users: The ALT key generally substitutes for Mac Option key. However, I believe the left Shift key works in this case. For the location of the update file on Windows computers, see this Apple support document. Look for the folder name iPad Software Updates


About Andy Brovey

Dr. Andy Brovey, The Portable Prof, teaches about digital tools through his work, websites and social media. In 2007, Apple Inc. recognized his work and named him an Apple Distinguished Educator. He started this iPad Academy website shortly after the first iPad went on sale. On his Freelance Teaching site you'll find the resources you need to teach like a smart entrepreneur.

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