With the iOS 4.2 launch closing in, iDevice owners must be well prepared when accepting the software update. Those who rock a clean device at all times only have to worry about backups. Those who like living on the edge by hacking their units must be twice as careful when downloading the iOS 4.2 IPSW file from Cupertino.

In September, Apple offered a sneak peek of iOS 4.2, confirming that the software update would arrive in November.

The release specifically targets the iPad with key new additions like multitasking, Game Center, application folders, mail application enhancements, iAds, and more.

iOS 4.2 is believed to alleviate a number of issues experienced by iPhone 3G users, as well as problems encountered by iPod touch owners running iOS 4.

With iOS 4.2 expected to arrive any day now, iOS customers need to ensure they know the standard procedure of updating their software.

For clean devices

For those who needn’t worry about losing a jailbreak / unlock, the steps are:

1- Get the latest version of iTunes to your computer; Download iTunes for Mac (Free)
Download iTunes for Windows (Free) x86 or x64

2- Launch iTunes and connect your device to your computer;

3- Select your device in the Source List on the left, under Devices;

4- Right click (Ctrl. click) your device and select “back up”

5- Allow iTunes to detect that iOS 4.2 is available for your “supported” device. If not, hit the “Check for Update” button.

6- Allow iTunes to perform the software update for your device. Alternately….

Owners of a supported device can download the iOS 4.2 update / restore IPSW file to their computer thus postponing the update for whenever they feel ready.

Direct download links from Apple’s servers will be available via the link below when the company officially releases the software (iOS 4.1 is the latest downloadable version at the time of this writing).

Download iOS 4 for iPhone and iPod touch (Free).

When you decide to update, you can launch iTunes with the device connected, select your device in the left pane of the iTunes window, click “Restore” with ALT (option key) held down, select the downloaded iOS 4.2 IPSW firmware bundle, and click “Choose.”

The installation process will begin, with the same rules being applied – do not disconnect until the update is finished.

For jailbreakers

Those who are eagerly anticipating the iOS 4.2 software update only to have it jailbroken the instant they’ve finished downloading it should listen to what the iPhone Dev Team has to say.

In a nutshell, the group of hackers responsible for PwnageTool confirmed in a recent blog update that all current devices on all iOS firmware versions can be jailbroken.

However, jailbreakers are advised to refrain themselves from updating with a stock iOS 4.2 IPSW until Cydia and PwnageTool are updated.

More information on this can be found here.

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