How to Fix iPad 1 that won’t Update to iOS 5.0

I know the iPad 1 isn’t the latest and greatest tablet, but I still have one and it still works great. iTunes has been telling me the software on the iPad is the current version, so I assumed I had the current version until last night when I got a warning that I needed iOS 4.3 to install a game. This seemed really bizarre to me because iOS 5 has been out for months at this point, but sure enough, my iPad 1 was stuck on iOS 4.2. iTunes continued to tell state, ‘Your iPad software is up to date.’ iTunes wouldn’t even let me restore my iPad 1 to factory settings.

Troubleshooting an iPad 1 Restore

I tried all the suggested fixes. I made sure iTunes was the latest version. I unplugged all other connected USB devices. I verified that my firewall and antivirus software weren’t blocking anything. I even double checked to see if the operating system was on the latest version. I even rebooted the computer. Just to be on the safe side, I completely powered down the iPad and powered it back on. Nothing worked to update my iPad 1 to iOS 5.

Restoring an iPad from DFU Mode

Finally I resorted to something that I hoped would be foolproof. There’s a mode for the iPad called DFU, which stands for Device Firmware Update. It’s a mode used by developers, but is also popular for jailbreaking iOS devices. It’s designed to allow you to override the current software on the device. I’ve never done an iPad jailbreak, but I did want to get a new version of iOS on my iPad.

To enter DFU mode, you need to connect your iPad to your computer. Then hold down the power button and home button simultaneously. After about 10 seconds, the screen should go dark. On your computer, iTunes should warn you that your iPad is in Device Firmware Update mode. At this point, iTunes won’t recognize your iPad by the name you gave it. iTunes also won’t know what version of iOS 5 you have installed. You have a blank slate to work with.

Clicking the Restore button in iTunes while in this mode should initiate a clean install of the latest version of iOS. The process takes a few minutes and goes faster depending on the speed of your internet connection.

After Restoring an iPad from DFU Mode

Once the restore is complete, your iPad will have the latest version of iOS. At this point you can recover all your iPad settings from your most recent backup (definitely make a backup before you start the restore process). I was surprised to find that beyond the basics, restoring my settings from backup even kept the recently opened pages in Safari.

You will need to walk through some configuration settings on the iPad, like turning on (or disabling) location settings, configuring your iTunes Store account, and enabling (or ignoring) iCloud. This process should also work if you have an iPad 2 that won’t update, but I haven’t had to try it on an iPad 2.

About the Author

Jake Ludington
Jake Ludington is a video content strategist and marketing operations professional with a passion for big data and cloud computing. You can find him blogging about everything from enterprise computing to his favorite apps to operationalizing your online video publishing.

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