Congratulations! You’ve braved the queues (or sat in waiting for the delivery) and got yourself a brand new iPad. But before you can start playing with your new device, you’ll probably want to set it up. Thanks to iOS’s step-by-step activation process, Apple has made it pretty simple to get started. However, just in case you need some extra help, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide for activating your new iPad, transferring data from your computer (or, if you had an iPad previously, from that), and some suggestions for exploring your device’s new features.

If you’re upgrading from an older iPad

You’re moving on up to the latest and greatest device in the iOS world, and to do so, you’re leaving your old iPad behind. Before you send it off on its last voyage, you have to decide whether you want to transfer its apps, data and settings to your new iPad. If you do, you’ll need to make a backup (via iTunes or, if your old iPad is running iOS 5, via iCloud) of your information.

Make a backup using iTunes
If you’re running iOS 4 or earlier on your iPad, or you want to make a backup quickly, an iTunes backup is the way to go. To update your backup (or to create a new one), connect your old device to the computer you normally sync it with via USB, open iTunes, Ctrl-click the device in the iTunes Source List, and select Back Up from the drop-down menu. You can also make a backup by pressing the Sync button.

This is the first screen you’ll see after buying a new iPad. To begin the activation process, slide the switch to the right

 

Make a backup using iCloud
If you’ve already upgraded to iOS 5 on your old iPad and you’ve set up iCloud on it, you can also take advantage of iCloud backups to save your data. Your device will automatically make an iCloud backup once a day while locked, plugged in and connected to a Wi?Fi network, but you can manually force a backup whenever you’re on Wi-Fi by opening the Settings app on your iPad. 

Navigate to iCloud > Storage & Backup, and make sure the iCloud Backup switch is toggled on. From there, tap on Back Up Now to start the process. (You should note that iCloud backups can sometimes take significantly longer than iTunes backups, so it may not be the best option if you’re in a hurry to set up your new device.)

If this is your first iPad (or you’re upgrading from another tablet)

Whether this is your first iPad, or you’re moving from an Android, BlackBerry or Windows tablet, it should be painless to transfer data to your new device. Here are some suggestions for moving over mail, contacts, calendars, music, videos and photos, as well as finding replacement apps for your currently used programs.

Mail, contacts, and calendars
If you’re using a Gmail or other POP or IMAP-based account for mail, it’s already syncing to a central server, and you should be able to add it to your new iPad with few issues. 

Apple’s iOS has automatic setup for those using Microsoft Exchange, Gmail, Yahoo, AOL or Hotmail; you’ll also be able to manually set up a POP or IMAP account for mail, LDAP or CardDAV for contacts, or CalDAV for calendars. 

If you haven’t got an email account but want one, you can also create an iCloud account from the Mail, Contacts, Calendars screen in the Settings app.

You can set up your new iPad as a new device, or restore it from a backup 

Music, videos, and photos our new iPad uses iTunes to sync any music, TV and movies from the program to your device; photos can also be synced from iPhoto, Aperture or a photos folder. 

To sync any music or video you have on your computer, add it to iTunes; to sync your photos, add them to iPhoto or Aperture (on a Mac) or place them in your Pictures folder (on a PC).

If you’ve purchased things from the iTunes Store before, you can redownload those for free after you set up your new iPad by going to the Purchased tab in the iTunes app.

If you’ve purchased content that hasn’t been copied to your computer (say, if you’re using Amazon Cloud Drive), you should be able to download it to your desktop system, or, at the very least, install an app on the iPad (like the Kindle app for book purchases) that lets you access the information.

Apps and miscellaneous If you’re moving from another tablet with a different operating system, you can’t port any of those apps to your iPad, unfortunately. On the up side, you may be able to find parallel versions on Apple’s App Store (for instance, if you’re using Dropbox on your smartphone or Android tablet, you can download the company’s iOS app and continue to access your Dropbox data). If you have apps with valuable information you don’t want to lose (notes apps, to-do lists and so on), you can poke around to see if there’s any way of exporting that information; otherwise, you’ll be out of luck.

Begin the iPad’s activation process

In the past, to activate an iPad (or any other iOS device), you had to tether it to your Mac or PC and launch iTunes; not so with the latest iPad. Instead, you can set things up directly on the device itself: no computer need ever be involved.

Your Apple ID is an email address – one you already use, or a new email you create on the spot

Once you’ve unboxed your iPad, turn it on by pressing the On/Off switch. A welcome screen greets you, displaying a Slide To Set Up slider in a variety of different languages. If you need quick access to your device’s IMEI or ICCID number without setting up the device, you can tap the information button (represented by a lowercase i) located directly above the slider.

Users with visual impairment can also take advantage of iOS’s VoiceOver screen-reading system during the setup process by triple-clicking the Home button.

To begin the activation process, slide the switch to the right, where you’re asked to pick your language, country, and if you’d like to enable Location Services. This allows Apple apps (and third-party ones) to access your location via Wi-Fi networks and your Global Positioning System (GPS) location.

Your iPad will check for any Wi-Fi networks in the area that you can connect to; unfortunately, if it doesn’t find any, you’ll have to set up your iPad via iTunes and the computer.

Restoring old data to a new iPad

If you’re upgrading from an older iPad, you’ve hopefully made a backup of that information, either via iCloud or iTunes. Choose one of these options to copy that information to your new device.

Restore from iCloud backup 
If you have an iCloud account and have backed up an older iPad model using iCloud’s Backup feature, then you can use this backup to restore your device (though you’ll need to be on a Wi-Fi network to do so). 

To restore, you’ll need to sign into your iCloud account and agree to Apple’s terms and conditions. Next, choose which backup file you’d like to use and tap the blue Restore button in the top-right corner of the screen. (Depending on the speed of your Wi-Fi connection, this process can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.)

Restore from an iTunes backup If you tap Restore From iTunes Backup, you’re taken to the Connect To iTunes screen. Connect your iPad to your computer and open iTunes. After clicking on your device in the Source list, you’ll see the Set Up Your iPad screen, which asks if you’d like to set it up as a new iPad or restore from a specific backup. Select the correct backup, and then click the Continue button to proceed. This process is significantly faster than restoring from iCloud because you’re transferring data over USB, not over Wi-Fi.

Once you choose either option, your device will activate and begin the restore process.

Setting up as a brand-new iPad

Don’t have a backup of an older device, or don’t want to use one? It’s easy to start fresh. The first thing you need to decide is whether to supply an Apple ID (or create one, if you don’t have one). You use your Apple ID to buy music from iTunes, apps from the App Store, books from the iBookstore, and for iCloud.

What’s an Apple ID? If you’ve ever purchased a new album or rented a movie from the iTunes Store, you’ll have signed up for an Apple ID – it’s usually your primary email address. Your login information for Apple’s MobileMe or iCloud service should also work when signing in.

Use your current Apple ID 
If you already have an Apple ID, tap the Sign In With An Apple ID button and enter your username (usually your email address) and password. Apple will then spend a few moments linking your device to your Apple ID.

Sign up for a new Apple ID If you haven’t got an Apple ID, it’s easy enough to create one by tapping the Create A Free Apple ID button. You’ll need to enter your birthday, name, your email address (or create a new iCloud email address), a password, a security question (in case you forget your password), and whether you’d like to receive email updates from Apple.

If you want to keep your iPad in sync with your computer and other iOS devices, back it up remotely, and find it when it’s been lost, you should enable iCloud

No Apple ID for me If you’d rather not set up an Apple ID, you can tap the Skip This Step link in the lower-right corner of the screen. You can always add or create one from the Settings app later, but note that you won’t be able to buy anything on the iTunes Store or set up iCloud until you do.

If you’ve chosen to set up or register an Apple ID, you can also enable iCloud on your device. iCloud is an umbrella term that’s used to describe Apple’s collection of sync services, and allows you to sync your photos, apps, contacts, calendars, and mail across multiple devices. (Check out Macworld’s Getting Started with iCloud primer, at macw.us/GT9S3Z.)

Choose to set up iCloud, and you’ll first be asked whether you’d like to enable iCloud backups for your device. If you do so, you can have your iPad back up all essential settings to your iCloud account; if you ever need to restore, you can do so over Wi-Fi without an additional computer. 

You can also elect to have your iPad back up to your computer using iTunes. Additionally, you’ll be asked whether you’d like to opt into iCloud’s Find My iPhone service. This will enable location monitoring for your iPad, allowing you to find it using your Apple ID and the free Find My iPhone app from another iOS device, or by logging into your iCloud account online, should it go missing.

Once you finish the setup process, you’ll be asked if you’d like to send Apple anonymous diagnostics and usage information (similar to a desktop crash report). After that, your iPad will be all set and ready for you to begin using.

Some quick setup tips

Those of you who have purchased an iOS device before know the drill, but for those first-timers, here are a few quick pointers for getting acquainted with your device.

Tweak your settings Most of the underlying system information for your new iPad – network settings, Mail, sounds, messages, restrictions, wallpaper and so on – is kept in the Settings app. As such, it’s a good place to start when you’re first getting acquainted with your device.

Get a data plan If you purchased an iPad with a mobile connection and plan on using it to browse the internet, you need to sign up for a data plan. You can do so by launching the Settings app and tapping Cellular Data.

Search for interesting third-party apps via the App Store

Set up iTunes sync If you didn’t restore from an iOS backup, you won’t have any music, video, podcasts, photos or books on your iPad. You can remedy that by connecting to your iTunes library. Just plug your device into your computer via its USB cable. Once you’ve completed this initial sync, you can also set up wireless local syncing; check out bit.ly/GWwdj8 for more information.

Explore the App Store Your iPad comes with a bunch of cool built-in apps, but you may want to look to third-party programs for more interesting fare. 

The App Store, which you can access on your device or via iTunes on your computer, features more than 200,000 downloadable apps customised for your iPad, and more than 350,000 other apps designed to run on an iPhone but will work on your iPad, too.

Tap the blue App Store icon on your home screen. The store is divided into six sections: Featured, Apple’s special picks; Genius, personalised recommendations; Categories, all iPad apps, sorted by label; Top Charts, the top-purchased and downloaded iPad apps; Purchased, all apps you’ve bought with your Apple ID; and Updates, any third-party updates and patches will show up here for you to download. Featured and Top Charts are great places to start.