The more you use an iPad the more it will slow down, no matter how old it is - and don't get us started on OS updates that slow it down even more. Fortunately speeding up an iPad is relatively easy; we've outlined some great, actionable tips, from clearing the cache to deleting unwanted apps, updating iOS/iPadOS and disabling background- and location services.
If you've got a slow iPhone, we can help you there, too.
Has Apple slowed down my iPad deliberately?
Let's get this argument out the way first of all. The answer is no. Apple has admitted that it deliberately slowed down older iPhones in order to avoid battery problems, but this does not apply to iPads.
Apple confirms in a support document that its power management feature is specific to iPhone and doesn't apply to any other Apple products.
Delete apps you no longer use
The first trick is to have a good software clear-out. Remove any apps that you no longer use. Apps take up storage space, and freeing up space makes it easier for iOS to operate.
Note that we're talking about deleting the apps from the device entirely, not just closing them down (by double-tapping the Home button - or doing a long swipe up on an iPad without a Home button - to open the multitasking bar, then swiping up on the app you want to close).
Deleting apps that you no longer use has a notable effect on iOS and, more recently, iPadOS - especially if you have limited storage available because it will free up space.
You can delete apps you no longer want or use by pressing and holding on the app icon until it starts to jump around. In iPadOS 13, you tap and hold then select Rearrange Icons to access the delete function. Then tap on the X in the top right of the icon to delete it.
If you're looking to delete multiple apps, there's a quicker and easier way than deleting each one individually. Tap Settings > General > iPad Storage. You'll see a graph of your usage, a couple of recommendations, then a list of apps organised by the amount of storage they take up.
Look for items that are taking up lots of space and which you can live without. Podcasts, GarageBand and Movies are likely suspects. It's probably also worth turning on Photo syncing on iCloud if you've got a large collection of photos and videos stored locally.
Tap an app to view a few more details, and then tap Delete App to remove the app and its documents and data - or use the newer Offload App option, which deletes the app but leaves the data behind. This is great for games which have large graphics files but small game saves that you'd like to keep.
Here's a guide on how to delete iPad apps.
Restart your iPad
Once you've removed apps you don't use from your iPad, you should restart it. The restart refreshes the memory and enables it to start from scratch.
To restart your iPad, hold down the Sleep/Wake button at the top until you see the Slide To Power Off control slider, and then swipe it to power down your iPad.
(If you've got a newer iPad Pro, the procedure is slightly different - you press and hold both the power button and one of the volume buttons until the power-off slider appears.)
Give it a few seconds, then press and hold the Sleep/Wake button again to wake it back up.
Stop Background App Refresh
Now that you've freed up some memory your iPad should already be working much faster. But if you're using an older iPad, such as an iPad mini or iPad Air 2, then you'll get even better results by turning off features you can manage without.
Start by stopping Background App Refresh. If you have this service selected in Settings your iPad will be working away in the background checking all your apps for updates. If you have a lot of active apps - social networking apps like Facebook are particularly notorious for this - they will be taking processing power from your iPad without you even having the app open in front of you.
Tap Settings > General > Background App Refresh and set Background App Refresh to Off.
You could leave it so that some of your apps use background app refresh and others don't, but we feel like you might as well turn the whole thing off.
Update to the latest version of iOS
In general, updating iOS can be a mixed bag in terms of speed. Newer versions of iOS introduce new and more efficient code, and patch known problems; but they also add new features which can actually slow down an older iOS device. And updating iOS is almost always a one-way process, so only do it if you're sure.
However, iOS 13, the most recent update, promises speed boosts, so that should be a safe bet - as long as your iPad is compatible.
In any case, if your iPad is unusably slow after trying all the other tips here, it's worth updating if you aren't already running the most recent version of iOS. Tap Settings > General > Software Update and check if there's a new version of iOS available.
Clear Safari's cache
Safari is one app where you might notice slowdown more than most. This can be caused by a full cache, which Safari has to search through.
Tap Settings > General > Clear History and Website Data to remove all of the Safari cache information.
This should speed up the Safari interface, although web pages may take slightly longer to load in the short term (as the cache fills back up).
We've got more tips about improving your browser's performance in a separate article: How to speed up Safari.
Find out if your web connection is slow
If Safari is still running slowly, the issue might not be with your iPad, but instead with your internet connection. It doesn't matter how fast your iPad is, if your connection to the internet is weak then it'll slow things down to a snail's pace.
Download a speed test app such as Ookla's Speedtest and run the test. The average broadband speed in the UK is around the 29mb/s mark, but it can be much higher (or lower) in some places.
If you find that your internet is extremely low, around the 1-4mb/s mark, that might explain why your iPad is running so slowly - especially in Safari and other apps that require an active internet connection.
The solution? Move closer to your Wi-Fi router, or look into Wi-Fi extenders to provide wider wireless coverage in the home.
Notifications can helpfully alert you when messages arrive on your iPad, but sometimes you don't really need a notification - for example, every time someone comments on a post on Facebook or when you get more lives in your favourite free-to-play game.
As with Background App Refresh, scanning for and providing notifications can slow down an older iPad.
Tap Settings > Notifications and, for each app, set Notifications to Off.
Turn off Location Services
While it can be handy for apps like Maps and Facebook to know your location, Location Services is liable to sit in the background sucking up battery power and reducing performance.
Tap Settings > Privacy > Location Services and set Location Services to Off. Tap Turn Off. Just be aware that doing so will remove the Find My function, and you won't be able to locate it from the Find My app in iOS 13.
Turn off Spotlight
Spotlight powers search on your iPad, making it quick to find something, but it has to index each item on your iPad that can occasionally slow things down.
Tap Settings > General > Spotlight Search and set all the Search Results items to Off.