Apple unveiled a new version of iPadOS - the separate operating system that the iPad has had since 2019 - at WWDC last month. You can read about the upgrades in our guide to iPadOS 14's new features.

Sound appealing? The update won't officially launch until the autumn of 2020, but you can try a pre-release beta version before then - and, as luck would have it, the public beta is out now.

In this article we explain everything you need to know about updating your iPad to a new version of iPadOS. That includes the simple process of grabbing a new public version, and the slightly more difficult one of installing a beta (which is the only way you can get iPadOS 14 before the autumn).

We cover system requirements, the difference between public and developer betas, and what to do if you encounter problems (such as not having enough space or not being able to connect to Wi-Fi). We also discuss whether it's a good idea to install an iPadOS beta.

Should I install the iPadOS beta?

Running a beta is the only way to get hold of a version of iPadOS before it's officially launched, and that's a nice thing if you like to boast about having the latest features, and an essential thing if you're a developer and need to test your app with the new platform.

Just bear in mind that betas are not finished software. They are likely to contain bugs (looking for bugs is the main reason Apple allows the public to try the beta) and may not have all the features and interface elements that will appear in the final version.

We therefore advise caution in grabbing the iPadOS beta, and don't recommend installing it on your main iPad if you depend on it for work.

Developer vs public betas

Apple runs two iPadOS beta programmes, one for developers and one for the general public. (Both are now available.)

At any given time the developer beta will be more advanced: Apple rolls out each version to devs first, and to the public afterwards. If you are a developer, therefore, that's the version to go for.

If you're not a developer, you're only allowed to use the public beta.

Preparation and precautions

You should do a bit of iPad spring-cleaning before installing any software update: it's very important that you back it up, because you don't want to lose any important data, but you should also spend some time clearing some space so that you have enough storage for the new update.

We tend to store lots of movies and TV shows on our iPad, so if you need space these could be removed - if you downloaded them from iTunes or one of the other services you should be able to download them again later on.

How to install the iPadOS 14 beta

To install the iPadOS 14 public beta, follow these instructions.

  1. Click Sign Up on the Apple Beta page and register using your Apple ID details.
  2. Log in to the Beta Software Program.
  3. Click Enrol your iPadOS device. (If you signed up for a beta last year you may need to uninstall that profile and re-enrol.)
  4. Go to beta.apple.com/profile on your iPad.
  5. Download and install the configuration profile.
  6. The beta version will now be available in the Settings app, under General, Software Update.

If you're a developer (you'll need to be registered, which costs £79/$99 a year) you can install the developer beta by following these instructions:

  1. In Safari on your iPad, go to developer.apple.com and log in.
  2. Go to the Downloads section, scroll down to iPadOS 14 beta and tap Install Profile, then Accept.
  3. Open Settings. You should see Profile Downloaded at the top of the main screen - tap this. If you can't see it, go to General > Profile and tap on the iPadOS 14 beta profile there.
  4. Tap Install to install the beta profile.
  5. Read the developer consent form and give your consent.
  6. Restart your iPad.
  7. Now go to Settings > General > Software Update, where you should see the iPadOS 14 beta. Tap Download and Install.
  8. Wait for your iPad to download the update, then tap Install.

Your iPad will now be running the iPadOS 14 beta.

How to update iPadOS normally

So much for the beta versions, but the safer - some would say more sensible - approach is to wait a little longer and install the new version of iPadOS when it's officially launched.

When this happens, you'll probably get an alert on your iPad telling you that the new version is ready to download. If not, you might have to go into Settings to get your iPad to actively seek it out.

  1. Plug your iPhone into a power supply - iPadOS 14 won't install if you don't plug into the mains.
  2. You'll also need to be connected to Wi-Fi, not via 3G or 4G. Also, check it's a safe network. (We don't recommend you do this over hotel Wi-Fi, for instance.) We have some tips on how to download iPadOS if you don't have Wi-Fi.
  3. Go to Settings > General > Software Update and wait for the iPad to find the update. It's possible that you'll see the message 'Your software is up to date.' Sometimes there's a bit of a wait until the software becomes available, but it's also possible that iPadOS won't run on your iPad - the oldest device that can run it is the iPad Air 2.
  4. Assuming there is a new version available, tap Download and Install.
  5. Enter your passcode when prompted, and agree to the terms & conditions if required.
  6. Your device will download the update in the background. You'll see an indication of how much time it is likely to take - in our experience this is very far from the mark! Double it/triple it even! You can at least carry on with other things while the download happens. Once the download has finished you will receive a notification on your iPad.
  7. Now Tap Details on the Notification window. This will take you back to Settings > General > Software Update.
  8. Tap Install Now. (Again, expect this step to take a while - especially if it's on the night the software arrives!)
  9. Alternatively, you can select Later. iOS will offer to update during the night - you just need to make sure the device is plugged in.

How to download iPadOS without Wi-Fi

If you want to install a new version of iPadOS but don't have access to Wi-Fi - or if you don't know if the Wi-Fi you have access to is secure because it's at a hotel/restaurant - you might be wondering whether you can update iPadOS using cellular or mobile data.

Unfortunately you can't install a full-version update of iPadOS using cellular data - Apple limits downloads to 200MB, which is understandable as even 'unlimited' contracts aren't always truly unlimited. But there is a workaround.

To update iPadOS using mobile data (or cellular data) follow these steps:

  1. Create a Hotspot from your iPhone and connect to that from your iPad.
  2. Run through the options to download and install iPadOS.

Your iPad will proceed to download iPadOS using your data connection from your iPhone.

How to download iPadOS via iTunes

Alternatively, if your Mac happens to be connected to the internet via Ethernet, or another way, you could download iPadOS using iTunes. Note that if you're running macOS Catalina or later, the Finder will manage this instead.

  1. Open iTunes on your iMac and plug in your iPad.
  2. Click on the icon in iTunes that represents your iPad.
  3. Click on Check for Updates.
  4. Run through the options to download and install iPadOS.

Why won't my iPad update?

You may be wondering why your iPad isn't showing the update as available. There are a few reasons why this might be the case.

  • You might just be too eager - is the update you want out yet? Even then it sometimes takes a few hours to roll out to some devices.
  • Your iPad might be too old to run the new version of iPadOS. The oldest qualifying device for iPadOS 14, for example, is the 2014 iPad Air 2.
  • You might not be connected to Wi-Fi - as we said above, you need Wi-Fi, but there are workarounds.
  • You might not be plugged in - this is required, just in case you run out of battery halfway through.

If those points don't apply to you, try installing via iTunes as we detailed above.

How to upgrade iPadOS from a beta version

If you previously tried out a beta version of iPadOS ahead of its full release, you should note that in order to get upcoming non-beta iPadOS releases you will need to remove the Apple configuration profile from your device.

You can do this by going to Settings > General > Profile and selecting iPadOS Beta Software Profile, then choosing Delete Profile and entering your passcode to confirm the change. From now on you will receive official updates (rather than beta updates) as normal.

How to get an old version of iOS/iPadOS

Here's what to do if you change your mind later and want to try to downgrade to an older version of iPadOS or even iOS 12, which came before iPadOS 13. (Note, however, that downgrading is really tricky, so we can't guarantee you'll be able to revert.)

  1. On your Mac open the Finder.
  2. Go to Library then find the iTunes folder. If you can't see this, hold down the Option/Alt key in Finder and selecting Go > Library.
  3. Select the Software Updates folder for your iPad if it's there. (It won't be if you have never downloaded an iOS update on your Mac, but you can rectify that by opening iTunes, plugging in your iPad and running through the steps to download iOS 12 on your Mac).
  4. Alternatively, launch your web browser and go to IPSW.me and find the right one for your device.

And if your iPad doesn't run the version of iPadOS you're after, you might want to check our roundup of the Best iPad deals so you can save money while bagging yourself a new iPad.