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How to take complete control over iOS and iPadOS updates

iPhone 14 and iPhone14 Plus next to each other.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

When Apple releases a software update for the iPhone or iPad, the default option when you visit the install page in the Settings app is to download and install the update, on demand. 

However, there’s a simple — yet very hidden — trick to viewing more installation options that give you complete control over when the update is downloaded and installed. 

You can use this shortcut to tell your Apple device to only download the update, or to download it now and install it later; both of which are in addition to the standard download and install option. 

Here’s what you need to do.

How to find your iPhone’s hidden update menu

To start, you’ll go to the software update screen like you normally would to install an update. You can get there by going to Settings > General > Software Update.

iPhone update settings

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

To view the hidden options, instead of tapping on Download and Install, long-press on it until you see a pop-up at the bottom of the screen. 

You can choose the option to download the update but not actually install it by selecting Download Only. This is a handy option for those who maybe don’t have a reliable or fast Wi-Fi connection at home, but can’t install an update during the middle of the day — so you’d download the update while at the office, or maybe a coffee shop, for example, then install it at a more convenient time. 

Also: No more dead zones: The best Wi-Fi extenders

The other option is Download and Install Tonight, which should do exactly what it says. Download the update immediately, but instead of installing it as soon as it’s finished downloading, your iPhone or iPad will wait to install the update while you’re sleeping. (It’s a good idea to charge your phone that night so the installation can proceed without issues.) 

If you selected the delayed option, you’ll be asked to enter your PIN code to preapprove the installation.

iPhone Download Only and Download and Install Tonight options

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Should I install iOS updates as soon as they’re released?

Honestly, this is up to you. Some people like to wait a few days after an update is released to make sure there aren’t any major bugs or issues. However, many updates like the recently released iOS 16.3.1 include security fixes for exploits, and those are the types of updates you should install right away. 

Also: How to update your iPhone, iPad, and Mac now (and keep them that way)

I tend to install updates as soon as they’re available. It’s been years since Apple has had a major issue with a release. 

Why didn’t the update install overnight?

I’ve had this happen to me a couple of times. I’ve selected to have an update installed that night while I slept, only to wake up to have the update still pending. 

The main reason? Because I also forgot to connect that device to the charger overnight or I didn’t have a Wi-Fi connection. So, if you run into the same issue, make sure your device is charging and is connected to Wi-Fi.

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