Updating to iOS5 with Multiple iPads Simultaneously

* Developed specifically for winners of the iPad RFPs in Chicago Public Schools

By default, updating to iOS5 (which we now have permission to do) has to be done on one device at a time.  Even if you are using a sync cart, iTunes won’t allow more than one iPad to be updating at a time.  With the method below (assuming you have a sync cart) you will be able to update as many devices as you want simultaneously using Xcode.  The only part that needs to be done one-by-one is restoring the settings from backup in iTunes, but that should be a relatively quick process.  Then syncing apps back onto the iPads can be done simultaneously in iTunes.

I’m not an expert.  This is a guide through what worked for me.  It is assumed that you are comfortable managing your iTunes library and syncing your iPads.  Some of these steps, particularly in the Restoring from Backup phase, may be different for you depending on how you’ve setup your iPads and iTunes library.  When it comes down to it, if something doesn’t seem right to you, don’t do it.

  1. Make sure you are using the Mac that you’ve been using to sync the iPads you’re working with, and that you are logged in to the same account on the Mac and Apple ID in iTunes that you use when you sync.  In other words, whatever Mac you’ve been using to sync your 6th graders’ iPads, use that same Mac to update the 6th graders’ iPads.  And so on.
  2. Back-up all iPads in iTunes.  This happens automatically when you sync, but if you want to be extra sure, right click on each device in iTunes and choose Back Up.  This is an important step because the update process wipes the iPad completely so you will need the backup to restore each student’s files and settings.
  3. Upgrade your Mac to OS X Lion (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id444303913).  This process will not work without it (and will only work on a Mac for that matter).
  4. Install Xcode 4.2.1, or upgrade if you have an earlier version (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id448457090).
  5. Download the iPad2 or iPad1 iOS5.0.1 Firmware file and save it somewhere memorable on your Mac.  If you’ve already downloaded it through iTunes, then you can copy and paste it from this directory ~/Library/iTunes/iPad Software Updates.  Otherwise you can just download it using one of these links and save it to your Mac:

Updating the Firmware
  1. Plug in your iPads / sync cart.  Shut down iTunes if it’s open.  Open Xcode.  You should be automatically taken to the Organizer window of Xcode when the iPads are plugged in.
  2. Click on Software Images in the upper left panel.  You may see the 5.0 software version listed there already.  If not, locate the firmware file you downloaded and drag and drop it into this window.  If you are updating both iPad 1s and iPad 2s, drag and drop both of the firmware files here. Xcode will choose the correct one when you update.
  3. You should see all your devices listed on the left.  Click on each one and push the “Use for Development” button in the main window.  I got an unknown error for each device at this point, but pushing OK allowed me to continue without issues.
  4. Once that process is complete, click on each device and click on the dropdown menu next to “Software Version” in the main panel.  Change it from 4.3.x to 5.0 and click “Restore iPad.”  Remember you should go through these steps with each iPad so they are updating at the same time.  This is the real time saver.
  5. Xcode will notify you when each update is complete.  I had a couple devices that took a longer time to complete than the others.  If you’ve renamed your iPads, don’t be alarmed when you see that they are all named iPad.  The names will be restored when we restore our settings.  In my case, each iPad was listed a second time on the left when it completed the update.  This was confusing at first because I still saw the devices listed as “Waiting for Device.”  Just look to make sure that the correct number of devices are listed as updated to iOS5 and then you’re safe to shut down Xcode.
  6. If you are updating additional carts of iPads you'll want to clear out the first list of iPads from Xcode.  Otherwise you will still see the first set listed when you go to update the second set.  To clear out the list quickly, paste the following command into the Terminal Program and hit enter:
/usr/libexec/PlistBuddy -c 'delete :DVTSavediPhoneDevices' ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.dt.Xcode.plist
Alternatively you can just remove each iPad from the list manually.

     Restoring from Backup
    1. Now open iTunes.  You may be prompted to upgrade iTunes if you were using a newer version of iTunes than comes preinstalled in OS X Lion.
    2. Click on the first iPad listed.  The radio button should already be checked for “Restore from the backup of: …”  For me the correct backup for each student was already selected.  I know this because our iPads were named by student names.  If your iPads all have the same name, but are assigned 1to1 for individual students, then you’re just going to have to have faith that the backup that iTunes selects is the correct backup for that iPad. Push Continue.
    3. You may be prompted to enter the password if the backup was encrypted.
    4. Once the restore is complete for the first device you can go on and restore the second device in the list. 
    5. The last step is to sync each device so that apps are transferred back onto it.  Depending on your iTunes settings, devices may begin to auto-sync once the restore is complete and they restart.  This can be happening in the background while you are restoring the rest of the devices from back up.  If it doesn’t happen automatically then you’ll need to manually sync your devices to get the apps back onto them.  As you know, this can be done simultaneously on multiple devices.

    First Use and iCloud Settings
    The next time you turn on your iPad you will be prompted with some settings options.  They’re all pretty self explanatory.  You’ll want to make some decisions about how you plan to use iCloud though.  One of the prompts is to sign into iCloud with your Apple ID.  Here are some scenarios for iCloud:
    1. Each student has an iCould account.  In this case you could enter those Apple IDs in now for each student.
    2. All students using the same iCloud account to sync files and use Find My iPad.  This doesn’t seem like a great idea to me since every file a student saved would get synced back to every other student’s iPad.  Also, iCloud will only support up to 100 devices using the same ID for Find My iPad.
    3. Each classroom has its own iCloud account and it is only used for Find My iPad, not for file sharing.  This is the way our school is going for now.  In this case you can add enter the iCloud credentials right away or tap Skip This Step to set it up later.
    Be sure to look through the iCloud settings and decide which features you want enabled / disabled.

    Setting up Wireless Syncing
    1. You don’t need to change any settings on the iPad to enable syncing over wifi.  As always, if you have restrictions set on the iPads to disable Installing and Deleting Apps you will not be able to sync until you disable the restrictions on each device.  I was really hoping there would be a way to override this with iOS5, but I haven’t found a way to do this so far.
    2. The settings you will need to change are in iTunes.  With your iPads still plugged in via USB you’ll need to change a setting on each iPad.  Toward the bottom of the Summary page under options check “Sync with this iPad over Wi-Fi.”
    3. The last setting is in iTunes preferences under Devices.  There is an option to “Prevent iPods, iPhones, and iPads from syncing automatically.”  If this box is checked iTunes will not auto-sync wirelessly, it will just show the available iPads and wait for you to push the sync button.  If this box is not checked, any time an iPad is plugged in to a power source, if the computer is on, it will begin syncing.  We use this option as an on/off switch.  I leave it set to prevent syncing.  When I’m ready to sync and the carts and iPads are plugged in I uncheck this box, restart iTunes, and the iPads begin syncing automatically.
    4. Another way to push Apps, Music and Books to your iPads is to enable Automatic Downloads.  With this feature enabled any app that is purchased on any one iPad or computer will automatically be downloaded onto every other device that is logged in with the same Apple ID.  This might be useful if you want to get new apps to your devices without completing a full sync.  This process will happen even if your computer is not on.  You need to enable automatic downloads both on the iPad (find the Store App under settings) and in iTunes (under Preferences -> Store).

    Happy Updating!
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