An attempted upgrade to iOS 5 bricked my iPod Touch, forcing me to spend hours restoring the device. What steps should you take if this happens and how do you protect yourself before you update your iOS device?

The upgrade to iOS 5 started smoothly enough on my end as iTunes seemed to be chugging along updating my device. But about halfway through, an error message popped up, and the process was aborted. When I checked my iPod Touch all the data had been wiped out, and iTunes refused to recognize the device.

After plugging and unplugging my Touch and rebooting my PC, iTunes still wouldn't see the device. At that point, I had to jump into DFU (Device Firmware Update) mode. As a recovery method, that requires you to connect your device with iTunes open, turn it off, and then hold down the power button and the home button together until you see a screen displaying a USB cable and the iTunes icon. I had to do this a few times until it worked. Finally, I received a message telling me that iTunes detected my device and that I had to restore it before it could be used.

After a restoration job that took a few hours, my iPod Touch was back in business and fully loaded with iOS 5. The only drawback is that this type of restore typically leaves your icons disorganized and floating outside their original folders. I had to spend more time rebuilding my folders and moving the apps into their right homes.

And I'm far from the only one who ran into such problems. Apple's support forums have been filled with messages from people who also bricked their devices through the update.

For those of you who haven't yet updated your device to IOS 5, what precautions should you take?

You first want to back up your device. In iTunes right-click on your device and choose the "Back up" option. That will create a new and full backup of all your apps and other data.

Next, I've heard reports of people who've bumped into problems connecting their Apple device to a USB hub rather than to their computer. To be safe, plug your device directly into a USB port on your PC before you begin the update. I confess that I did have my iPod Touch connected through a USB hub, so that may have played a role in the update failure.

If you do end up bricking your device and iTunes won't recognize it, you'll want to follow the steps to put it into DFU mode, explained here in an Apple support document. That should force iTunes to again see the device and let you to restore your data from the recent backup. If for some reason that process doesn't kick off automatically, you can click on the Restore button in iTunes to recover your last backup.

Some people also avoid the potential problems of updating by downloading the iOS 5 update package directly, known as an IPSW file. This process and links to download the IPSW file for each device are outlined in this helpful article by Gizmodo.

Finally, if all else fails, you may need to schedule a visit with the Genius folks at your local Apple store. They should at least be able to restore your device to its factory state and possibly update it to iOS 5. After that's done, you can then restore your data from the backup that you hopefully made beforehand.

On the brigher side, I updated my iPad to iOS 5 today, and the process went off without a hitch. But this time I made sure to plug the device directly into a USB port on my PC.

Related Links:
iOS 5 upgraders reporting installation hiccups
Apple publishes guide on how to set up iCloud
How to install iOS 5
Apple iOS 5 review: Modest, but definitely worthwhile
Apple releases iOS 5