Problems upgrading to iOS 5

Lex Friedman
14 October, 2011
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Any day there’s a major operating system update always contains some excitement, but yesterday’s iOS 5 release contained more surprises than some iPhone and iPad users might have hoped for. Based on reports from around the internet – Twitter messages, posts on Apple’s forums, email sent to Macworld – some users have run into difficulty getting Apple’s iOS update to install on their mobile devices.

It’s impossible, of course, to get a read on just how widespread iOS 5 installations problems were. Certainly, some Macworld editors were able to upgrade their iOS devices without much difficulty, particularly in the afternoon after the initial crush of iOS 5 updates subsided. Still, the volume of complaints about iOS 5 update issues seemed higher than what one might normally expect from a major software upgrade.

Macworld contributor Joel Mathis’s case seems typical of the problems other users were reporting yesterday: He downloaded the iOS 5 updates, aimed to install them on his iPhone and iPad, and at the restoring stage, iTunes repeatedly failed. “The iPad ‘Joel’s iPad’ could not be restored. An internal error occurred,” iTunes told him again and again. Mathis even went as far as completely resetting his iPad’s settings to see if that would help. It didn’t.

Some iOS device owners ran into messages like these when trying to install iOS 5 Thursday.

It’s not an isolated case: My mother saw the same error, as did I, with my iPod touch. When I mentioned the problem on Twitter, Macworld senior contributor Rob Griffiths pointed out at least eight other folks suffering from similar issues.

We’ve put in a call to Apple to see if the company was aware of issues people may be having with the iOS 5 upgrade; the company hasn’t responded to that request yet.

Apple certainly had a lot on its plate yesterday. In addition to releasing iOS 5, the company also released iCloud as well as three new iOS apps. It also updated several existing iOS and Mac apps, released Mac OS X 10.7.2 and Safari 5.1.1 and even updated the firmware for its Apple TV set-top box. That’s a lot of software to be pushing live at once, even for a company Apple’s size.

Thursday’s woes might conjure up memories for some iOS users of 2008’s iPhone 3G launch. In addition to introducing a new phone on July 11 of that year, Apple also rolled out a mobile operating system update and launched its rebranded MobileMe service. Activation delays marred the iPhone 3G launch, while MobileMe’s debut was marked by so many glitches, the company wound up offering subscribers a free 60-day extension to make up for the problems they encountered.

If you’ve run into problems installing iOS 5 – or if you’ve managed to upgrade to the new operating system without a problem – let us know about your experiences in the comments.


46 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. meinrosebud says:

    The only issue I seemed to have was that my 5 days of music did not sync properly. Another attempt tonight after work might help. Good luck to anyone else attempting this upgrade. It looks pretty nice.

  2. rob says:

    I have had issues upgrading a 3GS and iPad 1, both now with the addition of gb’s of ‘other’ data which is pushing me over capacity. Weird, so I went and bought a 4S. Hope the bug fixes soon though.

  3. Max says:

    I have the same issue as meinrosebud, music is in the device but won’t play. Also there was a weird quirk with custom ringtones, not all of them went in and I needed to remove them all and replace them, at which point they came back.

    The music problem has afflicted both by iPhone and my iPad and I believe it has something to do with the fact that I have iTunes set to “recode music to 128AAC” before syncing. Not sure why it’s an issue, but it takes aaaaagggggeeess to run through the conversion process, so I’m going to remove all music and put it back on, but overnight!

  4. John says:

    My attempt to update to ios5 was plagued with error issues and a dialogue box indicating i needed to restore my iphone. in attempting to do this, my iphone wouldn’t recover. it then went into a constant spinning wheel/Apple logo on and off and itunes wouldn’t recognise it. I subsequently logged a repair task with Apple and sent it back yesterday. My iphone 4 is lees than 12 months old and never had an issue prior to this. :-(

  5. Michael says:

    I upgraded and iPhone 4 and iPad yesterday afternoon at about 1 pm. I had no troubles whatsoever. Each device took about 25 minutes to do after the download [which only took 15 minutes]. I was also able to move my MobileMe over to iCloud in about 30 minutes after updating both my MacBook Pro and iMac to 10.7.2. The only issue I did encounter was last night when iCloud Mail went down. My email became very flaky. I was continually told my password was incorrect. After 2 hours of this I gave up and this morning everything seems to have settle down. No problems at all today. Except for the iCloud email issue – it was painfree!

  6. Jeremy says:

    I;m based in Sydney, Australia & just tried to upgrade to the latest ios5 & when I tick the ‘Restore from iTunes Backup’ & click nect it just freezes at a screen saying ‘Connect to iTunes’? Please help as I can’t use my phone & don’t want to do a restore as I fear I’ll lose all my contacts. Cheers :)

  7. Andy says:

    Had a heart-attack when my iPhone got stuck alternating between the apple logo & the spinning gear. Eventually rang Apple Support who helped no questions asked despite the phne being out of warranty (& so they should have given the new OS was trying to kill my phone!). Kudos to the patient Apple Support chap who working through various solutions. In the end a force restore worked; plug the phone in, press both power & home button till the screen went black then release power (keep holding home) until the itunes icon appears on the phone screen. Since then been working a charm.

  8. Alex says:

    I tried many times to get the ios5 yesterday but failed it would come up with ‘cannot contact server…’ and ‘the device not eligible…’. Its annoying.

  9. Gav says:

    I had problems with IOS 5 last night – got the same message as in the article – several times – so I tried restarting/booting etc. I am using 10.6.8 on a MacBook with 3GS and iPad 2. My wife has iPhone 4. I tried again today and everything worked perfectly – all good -so the 3GS, 4 + iPad2 all now have IOS 5! Just waiting for the 4S to arrive in the next day or two :-) )

  10. Ozair Minhas says:

    My Iphone 3gs was updated an restored but when i started to activate the phone, it said invalid sim, then i changed my sim thrice but to no avail so my phone remains bricked. HELP NEEDED

  11. Mike says:

    Ipad 2 – synced completely and correctly and speedily to iTunes. Upgrading to iOS5 created a new backup screen which only ever reached about 1/8th of progress bar (at the speed of transfer probably would have taken a week to back up completely). Writing backup stopped and a screen message appeared stating:
    An error occurred while backing up this iPad (-35).
    Would you like to continue to update this iPad?
    Continuing will result in loss of all contents on this iPad.
    Cancel/Continue – I cancelled. Any ideas.

  12. David says:

    I upgraded my Iphone 4 last night. Download went brilliantly, installation went great, until it went to restore my data and asked me for a password. When Itunes backed up my data it decided to encrypt it. I dont know the password, Apple doesnt know the password, but they have admitted that this is a known fault and their engineers are trying to find a solution. So now, I have an Iphone for with a shiny new IOS 5 but no contacts, no photos and no emails etc. They are all locked up safely in a nice encrypted backup file that no one knows how to access…..any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

  13. Adrian says:

    I just updated to iOS5 on my 3GS with no problem what so ever, it actually made me love Apple products even more as it was so easy! Can’t wait till my 4S arrives! GO APPLE!

  14. Glynn says:

    Lost all my music, movies, apps, books pretty much everything on my iPad.
    It did a complete restore and had to start from scratch.
    Tried restoring, nothing works.
    Keep getting Error 1009 message.
    So far it has taken me 24 hours to get all software up to date and still don’t have a working iPad.
    Bought a 4S – too scared to plug in my 4 in case everything goes missing there.

    Has someone from Microsoft taken over at Apple?

  15. Cait Duncan says:

    I just downloaded iOS 5 on my ipad 2 and now it won’t open any of my apps, they keen crashing, I just want to read my book on kindle :(

  16. David says:

    Upgraded to IOS5 on my iphone3 – it’s still stuck at “Connect to iTunes” stage and there it stays – quite dead – except when I hit the sync putton on itunes – you see the wheel turning and then … nothing

    Gawd this is frustrating!!!!

  17. Steve says:

    My iphone 3g trying to update to ios5 …plug it in and newer version available ios5 you want to update yes …phone lights up and sync in progress for the 7 hours i was asleep…wake check phone still only 2 bars on the sync out of maybe 20 ….i’m guessin they have problems !! will keep watch on here for news ..:-)

  18. Peter T. says:

    Upgraded four (4) idevices without a problem – 2 x iPhone 3GS and 2 x iPads.

  19. Emma N says:

    I updated my 3Gs to iOS 5 last night, my phone keeps freezing up on the start up. I’ve tried to restore to the most recent backup but it keeps freezing. The only backup that works is from 5 months ago so I have lost all recent photos, app data and messages :( I’ve tried a force restore so I will see how that goes. I’ve been trying to fix this problem for 12 hours now :(

  20. Emma N says:

    force restore did not work – looks like i will be using data that is 5 months old :(

  21. phoneticirony says:


    to update, or not to update
    that is the question.
    Whether tis nobler in Apples mind
    To suffer the errors of software update problems
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them?
    To die, to sleep, no more
    And by a sleep to say we end the battery life and the thousand natural shocks that electricity is heir to
    Tis a consummation, devoutly to be wished.
    To die, to sleep, to sleep per chance to dream, ay, there’s the rub.
    For in the sleep of death, what messages may come?
    When our phones have shuffled off this mortal coil.
    Must give us pause.
    there’s the respect, that makes calamity of so long contract.
    for who would bare the whips scorns of Apple?
    the programmers wrong
    the consumers contumely
    the pangs of despised love
    the laws delay
    the insolence of office
    and the spurns that patient merit of Apple takes, when they themselves might their quietus make.
    with and iPhone 4, who would Apple bare?
    to grunt and swear over a ‘simple’ update
    but that the dread of nothing after death.
    the undiscovered software, from whose phone, no travelers returns. puzzles the will and makes us rather bare the old programs we have, than fly to others that we know not of.
    thus conscience does make cowards of us all.
    and thus, the native hue of resolution, is sicklied over with a pale cast of thought and enterprises of great pith and moment.
    with this regard, their currents turn awry!
    and lose the name of action!

  22. Stan says:

    iPhone4 upgraded without any issues

  23. Don Crago says:

    I updated my iPad 1 and all went well until I discovered al my books missing. When reloading them from Calibre some books will not load with their covers. My iPhone 4 updated without a problem but then I don’t have books on the iPhone.

  24. adhie says:

    for anybody who have problem because music, video, app do not sync properly please do restore it again, and input again with the data back up. i did it and success.

    i hope this help you guys.

  25. Gus says:

    finally i manage to upgrade successfully but with a cost of deleting all my data (i forgot to back it up). It happen when i got repeat error msg 91 or 19 when syncro my ipad so i have to do clean install. there are several apps missing and can’t be retrieve and now my apple store behave weird, sometime i can’t open the application inside the appstore. now i’m thinking to downgrade to previous ios4 and do the upgrade or maybe apple will soon release their bug fix.

  26. Abe Q says:

    I’ve been struggling as well with my music

    coz it stopped playing quite a bit of my songs.

    Also the photo size is much larger

  27. davo says:

    iOS5 upgrade to iPad1 deleted sent items folder, which were important emails. can these be restored from time machine? if so, how?

  28. Angela says:

    I updated my 3GS and now it has 11.6 G of “other” and now I am over capacity and can’t put any music on it. Please help if you have any ideas.

  29. James says:

    I haven’t been able to play music since upgrading to iOS5. It plays one song then stops. Shows the pause button as if it is playing, and I can ffwd to the next track, but it never gets beyond 0.00 seconds of the track.

  30. alainb says:

    I get the following error message:
    “an error occurred while restoring this ipad (-36)”
    None of my Apps are working, music has disappeared as well as all my pictures!!! Tried 5x but always get the same error message.

  31. Macworld Australia Staff says:

    Have tried restoring from DFU mode? That worked for me.

  32. Atul Kukadia says:

    I tried to upgrade my iPad n iPhone for iOS5, every time getting the same error. It downloads 7 to 8 min and then display the message – Network time out. I got a 100mbps speed net and running very well. Please let me know if anyone knows the reason.

  33. karl v says:

    I tried the upgrade to ios5 and it crashed twice and finally started getting somewhere until it wanted to restore from backup my settings and wants a password. i did not set a password and cant proceed – what to do? anyone?

  34. Luis says:

    My sent messages folder disappeared, how can I recover important messages?. Please help, best regards!

  35. Ashlee says:

    I get to the point where iTunes wants to restore from my backup – i get asked for a password. I have NEVER had a password set whenever i’ve had to restore from backups before… i now have absolutely no access to any of my work contacts, e-mails or notes…

    Apps i could re-download… if my contacts are gone for good I will be seriously upset – i was told this would be a straightforward process…. im now going on 3 hours of entering every password i can ever remember having in the history of passwords….

    not good enough.

    is there a resolution for this yet?

  36. Michael says:

    “I upgraded my Iphone 4 last night. Download went brilliantly, installation went great, until it went to restore my data and asked me for a password. When Itunes backed up my data it decided to encrypt it. I dont know the password, Apple doesnt know the password, but they have admitted that this is a known fault and their engineers are trying to find a solution. So now, I have an Iphone for with a shiny new IOS 5 but no contacts, no photos and no emails etc. They are all locked up safely in a nice encrypted backup file that no one knows how to access…..any ideas would be greatly appreciated.”

    This is exactly my problem, and seems to be pretty wide spread. Lost contacts, photos, app games saved progress, pretty much everything backup is supposed to back up. Im pissed beyond all. hundreds of contacts and pictures lost and pieces of my personal life gone because of a simple bug Apple apparently missed.

    For all of you with the same problem: It appears through my research that itunes is grabbing (or generating) a random password pulled from either your CPU or device itself (email name, password, facebook pw, Windows login pw, Bank app pw, itunes pw, etc)and automatically applying it and encypting your backup without your knowledge. Passwords can even be older versions of your passwords that you have changed long ago. Others even report random number generating as the passwords (Ex. 1234, 0000, etc) where they have guessed it and it worked.

    The fix as of now: People are either spending hours/days trying to guess the password (some successful) or using Elmsoft (i think is the name) password decrypter for phones (RIM, iPhone devices)which only some have used sucessfully.

    This is a fantastically problematic bug, and very strange, almost as if it was purposely manufactured by a hacker or something.

  37. Dave says:

    Tried to down load at home said it would take 51+ hours !!! Went to the apple store in Perth and it downloaded no dramas. My son was pissed as it wiped all his game saves but later that night when we synced the iPod touch it all came back. My iPhone said it had a problem and needed to synch from a previous backup. iPad went ok and wife’s iPhone worked ok (thank god). Was pissed with the drams with my phone and my sons touch, but after reading some of the comments here I am no longer pissed just feeling lucky.

  38. Cheryl says:

    I downloaded the IOS 5 and all my music is there but all the album art and music titles are not synced and some songs won’t play and other songs come up but then are immediately skipped. Very frustrated! Not so much now since I know others are having similar issues. What should I do, re – download again?

  39. Casey says:

    I had resume download issue in itunes in win XP.
    I had downloaded 125mb only to have an error pop up saying that there was a problem contacting the server. The download then restarted from scratch. How friggin annoying when you have a limited dowload capacity. And the fact I could update my ipod touch and not use the same update with my ipad. Had I known this I would probably not have bothered purchasing a ipod touch.

  40. Vivienne says:

    My iPad is only a couple of day old. I decided to upgrade to ios5 so I could use the find my iPhone app.

    Thank God I didn’t really have any data on there yet, as it lost everything! I followed the steps – backed up prior to the upgrade, but it lost it anyway. I lost a few days of writing in my diary.

    I’m still having problems – I can’t get the photos to sync – everytime I try, iTunes crashes.

    I’m very disappointed – I trusted Apple to provide a decent product, and didn’t do any research prior to upgrading.

  41. Nina says:

    I have tried several times to upload iso5 but I keep getting this message “An error occurred while backing up this iphone (-5000)” and the message that if I hit continue it will wipe all my phones content its very alarming!!! Will wait till there is some solution?

  42. gumby says:

    my 32gig iphone4 had 18 gigs on it when I upped to ios5.
    Suddenly the yellow “other” bar went from .2 gig up to 11.6 gigs and no one can tell me what it is, but now I cannot update any apps or anything as it tells me I have no room on my phone left…also when playing music, it plays one song then stops and i have to get out, restart and then it will play another song or two, but it is showing wrong album covers…

  43. Manon says:

    I have tried several times too, to upload iso5 but I keep getting the same message “an error occurred while backing up this iPod (-35). Would you like to continue to update this iPod? Continuing will result in the loss of all contents on this iPod”, so I hit cancel, since I don’t want to lose everything. This is very alarming and frustrating!!! What should I do? Re–download again? Please help!!!!

  44. jan says:

    had my iphone 3gs for almost 1 year now.. did a lot of jailbreak with no problems at all until the other day… for the first time, after phone was battery drained, it just stuck in a yellow screen!! tried several resets & finally plugged it in mac & worked fine.. today it happened again… i am not at all happy that everytime my batt drains, i have to do a couple of resets again & again…

  45. Sally says:


    My new Iphone 5 keeps freezing has anyone had this issue

  46. Sharls says:

    I have just tried to upgrade to iOS 5 (bit slow on the uptake!) from a very old phone. I had 4.3.5 software on it. When I did the “upgrade”, it downgraded my phone to 4.2.1 and now keeps saying that this is the latest update. I have had no problem reloading all my data back onto the phone but some things now don’t work because they need newer software to operate.

    Can anyone help? Thanks a million!

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