How do I set up a new iPad? I just don't know where to start.
Want to know how to set up a new iPad? We're here to help. In the video above, we unbox and set up a new iPad Air 1 - but the process is pretty much the same for any iPad Air, iPad mini or iPad Pro model. Read on for more details of the whole iPad setup process, including:
- How to insert the Nano-SIM card into the iPad and start up your new iPad Pro, iPad Air (1 or 2), or iPad mini (2 or 4, or even one of the older discontinued models)
- Step-by-step walkthrough to set up an iPad from opening the box to download your first apps
- Discover how to set up your iPad correctly - and which optional features (Siri, iCloud etc) you should activate
If you've just bought or been given a new iPad (whether it's an iPad Pro, iPad Air 1 or iPad Air 2, or an iPad mini 1, iPad mini 2, iPad mini 3 or iPad mini 4), and want to know how to set up the iPad and get started, you've come to the right place. Apple makes it as easy as possible to set up and start using its iOS products, which should fill newcomers with confidence; but a little straight-talking guidance never goes amiss. That's what we'll try to provide in this article.
This guide will take you carefully through the process of setting up and getting your iPad started. Here's how to get your iPad up and running.
iPad setup guide: 1. Unbox and switch on the iPad
The first thing to do is to take the iPad out of its box. This is always our favourite part of getting a new Apple product. The company is known for the simple and attractive quality of its product packaging, and its understanding of the importance of first impressions.
Press and hold the Sleep/Wake button (it's located at the top right of the iPad as its screen faces you) and it should wake up. Most iPads ship with around 90 percent charge still in them, so it shouldn't need charging at this point...
iPad setup guide: 2. Power up (if necessary)
...but there will always be exceptions.
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 cable to the adaptor (using the USB connection end) and to the iPad (using the Lightning end). Plug it into the wall and give it 10 minutes.
iPad setup guide: 3. Insert the SIM card (if you've got a cellular iPad model)
If you've bought a Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad model you may need to install the Nano-SIM card.
To do this you'll need to open up the iPad's SIM tray, which is located on the righthand edge - you're looking for a half-inch-long thin rounded rectangle with a hole at one end. You can use the SIM card ejector tool provided by Apple, or a paperclip; either way you gently insert the tool into the hole until the tray lifts outwards a little, and then pull it out with your fingers. Insert the SIM and put the SIM tray back into the iPad.
For more detail and pictures, see our longer walkthrough How to put a SIM card into a new iPad.
If you asked Apple to help you set up the iPad when you bought it they may have already installed the SIM card for you.
iPad setup guide: 4. 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 servers to request and send setup information.
Choose your Wi-Fi network from the list 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 can continue using the 3G/4G connection, which will work. But we suggest waiting until you're on a good Wi-Fi network first. This is likely to be faster and more reliable, and if you choose to download some apps after setting up they may use up a lot of your data allowance.
iPad setup guide: 5. Location, Location, Location Services
Tap Enable Location Services to use Location Services. This is the suite of features that use 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.
iPad setup guide: 6. Create a Passcode and Touch ID
You'll be asked to enter a four- or six-digit passcode. This is used to log on to the iPad along with Touch ID.
By default the iPad will propose a six-digit passcode when setting it up as a new device (if you set it up from a backup and used to have a four-digit code, it'll happily let you stick with that). If you'd rather make do with four digits, tap Passcode Options and select the relevant option. You can also switch to an alphanumeric code (a regular password with letters and numbers) or select Don't Add Passcode.
Whether you go for four, six or alphanumeric, we recommend that you set up a passcode of some kind. It offers basic protection for your personal data, deters identity theft and makes your device harder for a thief to use. A passcode isn't high-end security but it helps, and tapping in a few numbers each time you start up the iPad, or use a single touch of a fingertip on the Touch ID scanner if you've got an iPad Pro, iPad Air 2 or iPad mini 3 or 4, is a small inconvenience that we believe is heavily outweighed by the benefits.
After the passcode is done you'll be asked to set up Touch ID, if your iPad has the relevant scanner. Pick a single finger or thumb and tap it lightly against the Home button (without pushing it) as requested. You can add further fingerprints later.
iPad setup guide: 7. 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 four options:
- Set Up as New iPad
- Restore from iCloud Backup
- Restore from iTunes Backup
- Move Data From Android
The iCloud backup works fine, and these days more people are using iCloud to back up their devices. But we still find the iTunes Backup a little faster.
If you have an Android tablet and want to move your data over to iCloud, select Move Data From Android and follow the on-screen instructions.
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.
Restore from iCloud/iTunes
If you tap Restore from iCloud/iTunes you'll need to enter your Apple ID and Password. When it's 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 Create a Free Apple ID and go through the setup process. You'll need to enter your birthday, name, address and various other details.
iPad setup guide: 8. Apple ID
Your Apple ID is used to make purchases from the App Store and iTunes, and to log into iCloud services. You may already have one, in which case enter the Apple ID and Password fields and tap Return.
If not, tap Don't have an Apple ID or forgot it, and Create A Free Apple ID. Enter your details to get an Apple ID.
iPad setup guide: 9. Terms and conditions
Tap Agree next to the Terms and Conditions. You can read them if you want (in fact strictly speaking we ought to instruct you to do so), but you have to agree to them to use your iPad, and they are quite long. Tap Agree again on the pop-up window.
iPad setup guide: 10. Set up Siri
Siri is iOS's onboard voice assistant; it's much maligned but has improved a great deal since it started and can be very useful. With Siri you can issue voice commands to your iPad, such as "remind me to mow the lawn" or ask questions such as "what's the capital of Bulgaria".
What you might not know is that your voice recordings aren't interpreted on the iPad itself: they are sent to Apple to be machine-analysed (very quickly, so you won't particularly notice the delay, but it does mean you need to be online). And some people are more comfortable with that than others. Tap Turn On Siri to set up Siri, or Turn On Siri Later if you want more time to consider it.
iPad setup guide: 11. Diagnostics
You'll be asked if you want to help Apple improve its products by agreeing to diagnostics. If so, details of app crashes and the like will be sent to Apple for analysis by its engineers. It's a public-spirited thing to do, and may help problems you face to be solved more quickly, but it's not compulsory.
Apple encourages iPad users to send it diagnostic information whenever their devices go wrong, but whether you choose to do so is up to you. 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.
iPad setup guide: 12. Use iCloud
Tap Use iCloud if you want to link your Apple ID to an iCloud account and start storing things on Apple's servers. iCloud is a pretty useful thing to have around, so tap Use iCloud unless you really don't want Apple to have access to any of your data.
See: How to set up iCloud
iPad setup guide: 13. 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 or erase it. It's pretty useful, so we'd recommend that you tap Find My iPad - but as ever it's your decision.
Read more: How to use Find My iPhone
iPad setup guide: 14. 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 addresses you don't want to use (this removes the blue ticks) and then tap Next.
iPad setup guide: 15. Welcome to your iPad!
And that's it. You're now good to go. Tap the Get Started screen to start using your iPad.
iPad setup guide: 16. The next steps
Where next? You probably want to start downloading apps. And we have some advice on that front.
Macworld poll: How often do you update your iPad?
You're all set with your new iPad, but we're interested to hear if this was your first iPad, or if you're a regular updater. (Of course, if you were setting up the iPad for work or for a friend or relative, you might have never owned an iPad!)
Let us know your habits by taking part in our poll, and see what the rest of our readers had to say: