How to setup your new iPad with iCloud or iTunes

If you just got your new iPad, you're going to want to set it up and get it working just as quickly and effectively as possible. With iCloud you can do that right on your iPad, with no computer or cables involved. If you prefer the old-school approach, you can also set up your new iPad using iTunes on your Mac or Windows PC.

For most people, most of the time, we recommend iCloud, but we'll walk you through both of them below.

How to setup your new iPad

When you turn on your new iPad, you'll be greeted with a Lock screen that simply says "iPad". That's where we start.

Note: None of the default choices pre-checked for you. You can't simply keep hitting Next to speed through. You have to look at the choices and tap one to check it before the Next button will even activate. Apple is forcing you to pay more attention than is often required on the web or in apps.

  1. Swipe to unlock.iPad swipe to setup
  2. Choose your language. Your iPad will show you the most common languages for the area in which you bought it, but you can tap the downward arrow icon to see all the choices. Tap the blue Arrow button to continue.iPad setup language
  3. Choose you country or region. Again, your iPad will show you the region where you bought your iPad, but you can tap Show more...* for additional options. Tap the blue **Next button to continue.iPad setup country or region
  4. Choose whether you want to globally enable or disable location services. Location Services use GPS, cell-tower triangulation, and Wi-Fi router mapping to determine the approximate location of your iPad. This feature is used for turn-by-turn navigation (like Navigon, check-in games (like FourSquare), social networks (like Facebook), geo-tagging (like in the Camera app), and utilities (like Find my iPad, etc. Unless you have a particular need to globally disable it, you'll want to turn on the Location Services feature at this point. You can change your mind or selectively disable or enable these services later on in the Settings app (e.g., turn off your Camera app’s geo-tagging, but leave on TomTom’s turn-by-turn navigation). Tap the blue Next button to continue. iPad setup location
  5. Choose your Wi-Fi network. Even if you're on 3G or LTE, your iPad wants Wi-Fi because there may be a lot of data to move around and blasting through your data cap on setup is no fun. Enter your network password and tap the blue Next button to continue.iPad setup wi-fi network
  6. Wait for Apple to activate your iPad. This could take a few minutes.
  7. Choose if you want to setup your iPad as new, restore from iCloud backup, or restore from an iTunes backup on a PC. Tap the blue Next button to continue.Setup iPad iCloud or backup or iTunes

How to set up your new iPad as a new iPad (clean install)

To set up your iPad as new (basically like doing a first or clean install of your computer):

  1. Choose whether you want to sign in with your Apple ID or create a free Apple ID. If you're not sure what that is, and don't know if you already have one, it can be any of the following: iTunes Store account, , me.com email account, Apple developer account, FaceTime or iMessage accountiPad setup Apple ID
  2. If this is the first time you've ever used an Apple product or service or just want a new one, you can create an Apple ID.
  3. Enter your Apple ID to login. (Enter your full email address as the username.) Tap the blue Next button to continue. (If you change your mind, you can logout of iCloud, or login under a different account later.)Setup iPad login Apple ID
  4. Agree to the terms and conditions of service by tapping the blue Agree button on the bottom left.Setup iPad agree to terms and conditions
  5. Confirm your agreement by tapping the Agree button.Setup iPad agree to terms and conditions (again)
  6. Choose if you want Setup iCloud. If you're not sure, choose to setup iCloud. The basic service is free and makes your iPad infinitely more usable. Use iCloud.Setup iPad use iCloud
  7. Choose if you to use iCloud Backup. Again, you really, really do. It keeps all your data safely backed up and let you restore or easily switch to a new or additional iOS devices later. Use iCloud Backup.Setup iPad use iCloud backup
  8. Choose if you want to use Find my iPad. Also free, also incredibly useful to track down your iPad if you ever lose it or have it stolen. If in doubt, Use Find my iPad.Setup iPad use Find my iPad
  9. Choose if you want to automatically send Diagnostics to Apple. It's anonymous and helps make Apple make better products, but if you're uncomfortable with the idea, choose Don't send.Setup iPad send diagnostics
  10. Wait while iCloud is setup.
  11. Start using your iPad!Setup iPad thank you!

How to restore your new iPad from an iCloud backup

For the smoothest experience and longest battery life, we always recommend setting your new iPad up as new (see above). If you have an old iPad or other iOS device, and need access to your old data quickly, or dread the idea of starting from scratch again, you have the option of simply restoring your new iPad from a backup of your old device.

  1. Choose restore from iCloud backup.Restore from iCloud backup iPad
  2. Enter your Apple ID to login. (Enter your full email address as the username.) Tap the blue Next button to continue. (If you change your mind, you can logout of iCloud, or login under a different account later.)Setup iPad login Apple ID
  3. Agree to the terms and conditions of service by tapping the blue Agree button on the bottom left.Setup iPad agree to terms and conditions
  4. Confirm your agreement by tapping the Agree button.Setup iPad agree to terms and conditions (again)
  5. Choose your *backup**. You'll see your Latest iPad Backup listed, and this is usually the one you want to choose. You'll also see older backups, if available, and if no iPad backup is available, backups of your other iOS devices on the same iCloud account.Choose your iCloud backup

A progress bar will show you an approximation of how long it will take to download your backup. Once it's done, your iPad will reboot.

Once your iPad reboots, you'll be asked to re-enter all your passwords (as a security measure, iCloud will not restore passwords).

Once that's done, your iPad will start re-downloading all your apps. If iTunes in the Cloud is available in your country, it will also re-download iTunes music, movies, TV shows, and iBooks. will restart, all your settings nicely back where you left them, and iTunes will begin to re-download all the apps you had installed when the backup was made.

You will need to stay on Wi-Fi for any file larger than 50MB to re-download.

How to update the software on your new iPad

Depending on when you buy your new iPad, there may be software updates available. Small updates might simply fix bugs and improve performance (for example, iOS 5.0.1). Medium updates might add a few new features or support new devices (for example, iOS 5.1 released in March of 2012 with the new iPad). Large updates might add significant new features (for example, iOS 5, released in October 2011 with the iPhone 4S).

If a software update is available for your new iPad, a popup notification will let you know, and a red badge will appear at the top righthand corner of your Settings app. If you connect your iPad to iTunes on the Mac or Windows, iTunes will also popup a notification to let you know when there's a software update waiting.

iPad software update alert notification

Just like setting up your new iPad, you can either do software updates directly on your device, over-the-air (OTA) or by plugging into iTunes on your PC.

OTA on-device updates are faster and more convenient since your iPad will only download the changes and update in place, so once it's done and rebooted, you're good to go.

iTunes updates backup your iPad, download the entire software install from Apple (typically over 500MB), replace the entire operating system, then restore from backup.

More new iPad how-tos

Setting up your new iPad is only the beginning. You still need to get apps and games, books, TV shows, and movies, set up your email, get iMessage and FaceTime up and running, and much much more. iMore has tips, tricks, and how-tos for all of them.

Need help?

If you run into any problems or need any extra assistance, don't hesitate to ask. We've got a special, dedicated thread set up in our forums to deal with any issues you may have.