Watch our video as we unbox and set up a new iPad Air. Many thanks to Square Group for the loan! 

  • How to insert the Nano-SIM and start your new iPad Air

  • Step-by-step walkthrough to set up an iPad Air

  • Discover how to set up your iPad correctly 

How do I set up the iPad Air is a question many Macworld readers ask. Apple makes it as easy as possible to set up and start using iOS products, which should fill newcomers with confidence; but a little straight talking guidance never goes amiss.

We’ve got a new iPad Air on launch day, and this guide will take you exactly through the process of setting up and getting your iPad started. Here’s how to get your iPad up and running.

Update: Apple has updated the iPad Air and iPad Mini : Read our iPad Air 2 first look review here and our iPad mini 3 first look review here.

1. Unbox and switch on the iPad Air

The first thing to do is to take the iPad Air out of its box. This is always our favourite part of getting a new products. Press and hold the Sleep/Wake button (in the top left of the iPad) and it should wake up. Most iPads ship with around 90 per cent charge still in them, so it should turn on. If you have a Wi-Fi and Cellular model you may need to install the Nano-SIM card. You can use the SIM Card Ejector tool provided by Apple, or a paperclip. If you asked Apple to help you set up the iPad when you bought it they may have already installed the SIM card.

Set up the iPad Air

2. Power up if needed

If the iPad is low on power and doesn’t wake up when you hold the Sleep/Wake button you may need to charge it. Take the Apple Power Adapter out of the box and attach the Lightning connection to the adaptor (using the USB connection) and the Lightning end into the iPad. Plug it in to the wall and give it a couple of minutes.

See also

iPad Air launch: healthy queues at Regent Street

iPad mini 2 vs iPad Air

iPad Air and iPad mini 2: what’s the big deal?

Power up the iPad Air 

3. Say hello and slide to start

Slide your finger across the screen to get started. The first thing you need to do is to join a wireless network so the iPad can connect to Apple’s server to request and send setup information.

Choose a Wifi network from the list that you can join, and then enter the password. Click Join.

If you haven’t got access to a Wi-Fi network and have a Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad you continue using the 3G/4G connection, which will work. But we suggest waiting until you’re on a good Wi-Fi network first. The is likely to be faster and more reliable.

See: Apple Airport Extreme Review

iPad Air Hello

4. Location, Location, Location Services

Tap Enable Location Services to use Location Services. This is the part of the iPad that uses the GPS and Wi-Fi/Cellular triangulation to detect your location. You don’t have to do this but lots of Apps, including Maps, won’t function correctly without Location Services enabled.

5. New or Restore?

You can either set up the iPad as a New iPad, or Restore it from an older iPad backup (which in effect copies everything from an old iPad to a new one).

You have three options

  • Set Up as New iPad

  • Restore from iCloud Backup

  • Restore from iTunes Backup.

The iCloud backup works fine, and these days more people are using iCloud to bak up their devices. But we still find the iTunes Backup is a little faster.

Either way make sure you have your old iPad backed up recently to either iCloud or iTunes.

Backup in iCloud. If you’re going the iCloud route, then tap on the old iPad and choose Settings > iCloud > Storage and Backup and look at the bottom where it says “Last Backup” and tap Back Up Now.

Backup in iTunes. If you’re going to go the iTunes route, connect your old iPad to your Mac / PC and open iTunes. Click on the iPad icon in the top-right, and look for Latest Backup. If it’s a while ago click Back Up Now.

See: Backup, Wipe and Restore your iPad

Restore from iCloud / iTunes

If you tap Restore from iCloud / iTunes you’ll need to enter your Apple ID and Password. When it is finished you should see a screen saying Update Complete.

If you tap Set up as New

If you tap set up as New you’ll be taken to the Apple ID screen. Tap Sign In With your Apple ID and enter your Apple ID and Password.

If you haven’t got an Apple ID yet (seriously?) or want to start with a new Apple ID tap on Create a Free Apple ID and go through the setup process. You’ll need to enter your birthday, name, address and various other details.

6 Terms and conditions

Tap Agree next to the Terms and Conditions. You can read them if you want, but you have to agree to them to use your iPad. Tap agree again on the pop-up window.

See: Apple updates terms and conditions

iPad Air Terms and Conditions

7 Use iCloud

Tap Use iCloud if you want to link your Apple ID to an iCloud account and start storing things on Apple’s server. iCloud is a pretty useful thing to have around, so tap Use iCloud unless you really don’t want Apple to have handle any of your data.

See: How to setup iCloud

8 Find My iPad

Tap Find My iPad to start using Apple’s Find My iPad service. This is great if you ever lose an iPad, you can locate it on Apple Maps, send a message to the person who has it, lock it and erase it. It’s pretty useful so tap Find My iPad.

See: How to use Find My iPhone

9 iMessage and Facetime

You will now see a list of email address that people can use to contact you using iMessage and FaceTime. Tap the email addreses you don’t want to use (this removes the blue ticks) and tap Next

10 Create a passcode

Apple is far more insistent on adding passcodes to devices these days. You’ll be asked to Create a Passcode. Tap in four digits and repeat it just to make sure. You can tap Don’t Add Passcode but Apple warns you that you won’t be able to use iCloud Keychain if you do.

See: How to use Touch ID on an iPhone 5s and How to use iCloud Keychain

11 Siri?

Tap Use Siri. No really! Siri is great. The reason Apple asks is that your voice as to be sent to its servers for Siri to work. If you're paranoid you can tap Don’t Use Siri, but we think you’re missing out.

See: New Siri features in iOS 7

12 Welcome to your iPad

Tap Automatically Send or Don’t Send to give Apple your diagnostics. We usually tap Automatically Send just to help Apple out, but it’s up to you. And that’s it. You’re now good to go. Tap the Get Started screen to start using your iPad.

Welcome to your iPad