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I have been using iPhone 3GS for almost 3 years now, and the phone has got pretty slow. I understand that there are many reasons for the phone getting slow, but I want to try to improve its performance, even if it is by a meagre amount, by formatting it completely and installing the latest iOS it can support, i.e. 6.x.x.

However, I don't want to lose important data like messages, contacts, notes, internet/network settings, etc. by doing a format and clean install. I have the latest iTunes installed, and would prefer iTunes for this process. I know how to update iOS using iTunes and restore from backup, but I am not sure about format + clean install AND then restore all the important data.

Can anyone please advice me how should I do this task?

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  1. Connect the device to iTunes and click Back Up Device.
  2. Once the backup is complete, click Restore iPhone and follow the instructions to restore iOS on your iPhone.
  3. Once this is complete, iTunes will prompt you to restore your backup which will restore all your data back to your device. All your data will be restored to your device except account passwords unless your backup is encrypted.
  • Sounds good. Thank you, I will try this right now. I have already backed up everything. Just one question: After restoring iPhone, can I set it up as a new device AND then restore from a backup instead of choosing to restore from the backup right away? – LoveEnigma Oct 7 '14 at 15:40
  • @LoveEnigma I believe you can, but I wouldn't know how to do that on iOS 6. – grg Oct 7 '14 at 18:40
  • Yes, I was able to do it. Actually, it was pretty simple. I followed your steps and then setup iPhone as a new phone and prevented it from syncing with iTunes. Since setting up as new phone did not improve its performance, I restored it using the last backup data, and the phone was just like before. Ultimately, I am where I was. :) Thanks for your help. – LoveEnigma Oct 8 '14 at 5:41
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@grgarside is correct. I will add a couple other notes.

I have used this iPhone 3GS since it was released 5 years ago, most of the time, I have not even used a case. It just keeps going. Just a couple of week ago, I decided that it was getting unacceptably slow and so I decided to do a full reset.

Most of your apps should restore just fine with this process. However, I had a few apps that could not be restored. iTunes had apparently downloaded newer versions of the apps that required iOS 7 or 8. I was able restore these apps by directly installing them via the iPhone's App Store. I don't believe that I lost any data doing this, although the affected Apps where things such as Weather apps and games that did not have much in the way of important data. If you have critical data in apps which you do not have access to via other iOS devices, iCloud, Dropbox, etc you may want to careful research that restoring for the specific app.

Doing a full restore did nicely speed up my iPhone and it recovered around 6GB of space on a 16GB phone which I cannot otherwise explain. This 6GB was classified in iTunes as being in "Apps" and "Other", but I don't know exactly what it was used for.

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    Thank you for the additional instructions, I will keep them in mind. I think I don't have any significant app data in my phone. And I have backed up everything. Sorry, but repeating my above question again, in case you have any idea: After restoring iPhone, can I set it up as a new device AND then restore from a backup instead of choosing to restore from the backup right away? – LoveEnigma Oct 7 '14 at 15:49
  • Rereading, I see that @grgarside did not include a step after the backup. On the iPhone to go to Settings -> General -> Reset -> Erase All Content and Settings and then do the restore. I recall that I did this, but I am not sure that it is strictly necessary. – Lee Joramo Oct 7 '14 at 17:17
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    Thanks, Lee. I just completed restoring my iPhone. I did not do the Reset you mentioned before restoring, but I did it afterwards - before restoring the backup. I am setting up the apps n all now. I am a bit dissapointed though, because the phone's performance hasn't improved at all. I mean it is still slow as before. By restoring the phone I just wanted to extend the phone's life and performance and defer the purchase of new phone, but I guess I will have to buy a new phone soon. Feeling so outdated! Unfortunately, I won't be able to afford an iPhone again, so will have to go with Android. – LoveEnigma Oct 7 '14 at 18:26
  • @Lee Erasing content and settings before restoring is superfluous as a restore will wipe any data anyway. – grg Oct 8 '14 at 5:59

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