How to Update the iPod Operating System

Any time Apple releases an iPod operating system update, you should install it. These software updates include bug fixes, support for new features and the latest versions of macOS and Windows, and other improvements. Even better, they're always free.

Apple doesn't release iPod OS updates as often as it does for the iPhone. That makes sense; fewer iPods are sold these days and new models come out less frequently, so there are fewer changes to make.

You can update iOS devices like the iPhone or iPad wirelessly over the Internet. Unfortunately, iPods don't work that way. The iPod operating system can only be updated using a computer.

iPods Covered By This Article

This article explains how to update the operating system on the following iPods:

A version of these instructions would apply to the iPod mini, too, but since that device is so old that likely almost no one is using it, we're not covering it here. Got an iPod touch you want to update? Check out our instructions for updating an iPod touch.

What You'll Need

  • One of the iPods listed above.
  • A Mac or a PC.
  • On a PC or a Mac running macOS 10.14 or earlier, the latest version of iTunes, installed on your computer (learn about updating iTunes here).
  • On a Mac running macOS 10.15 (Catalina) or higher, you don't need any additional software.
  • An iPod-compatible USB cable (one should have come with your iPod).

How to Update iPod Software

To update your iPod's operating system, follow these steps:

  1. Use the USB cable to connect your iPod to your computer. Depending on your settings, this may launch iTunes and/or sync your iPod.

    • On a PC or Mac running macOS 10.14, open iTunes.
    • On a Mac running macOS 10.15, open the Finder.
  2. Sync your iPod to the computer (if that didn't happen as part of step 1). This creates a backup of your data. You probably won't need this, but it's always a good idea to back up regularly! That way, if something goes wrong with the upgrade, you'll have a way to fix it.

  3. Click the iPod icon.

    • In iTunes, this is in the top left corner, just beneath the playback controls.
    • In Finder, it's in the left-hand sidebar, in the Devices section.
  4. In the center of the Summary screen, the box at the top includes some useful data.

    First, it shows what version of the operating system you're currently running. Then it says whether that version is the latest operating system or if there's a software update available.

    If a new version is available, click Update. If you think there's a new version, but it's not showing up here, click Check for Update.

  5. Depending on your computer and its settings, different pop-up windows may appear. They're likely to ask you to enter your computer's password (on a Mac) or confirm that you want to download and install the software. Follow the onscreen instructions.

  6. The operating system update is downloaded to your computer and then installed on your iPod. You shouldn't have to do anything except wait. How long it takes will depend on the speed on your Internet connection and your computer, and the size of the iPod update.

  7. After the update is installed, your iPod will automatically restart. When it's started up again, you'll have an iPod running the latest operating system.

Restoring iPod Before Updating Software

In some (not very common) cases, you may need to restore your iPod to factory settings before you can update its software. Restoring your iPod erases all of its data and settings and returns it to the state it was in when you first got it. After it's been restored, then you can update the operating system.

If you need to do this, sync your iPod with iTunes first to create a backup of all your data. Then perform the update. After that, read this article for step-by-step instructions on how to restore your iPod.

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