How to Fix a Slow iPad

Improve your iPad's speed with these tips

Someone frustrated with their slow iPad, surrounded by pictures of turtles, sloth, molasses, and Slow signs

Lifewire / Ellen Lindner

Does your iPad run slowly or seem to bog down after a few hours? While this is more likely to happen with older iPads that don't have the processing power of the iPad Air and iPad Pro tablets, even the newest iPad can slow down. There are multiple reasons why an iPad may run slowly, including an app that has issues or a slow internet connection. Usually, these problems are easy to fix.

Instructions in this article refer specifically to iPads running iOS 12 or iOS 11, but much of the information also applies to earlier versions of the iOS.

Quit Your Current iPad App

One reason an iPad may start chugging along at a snail's pace is a problem with an app rather than the iPad. When you experience an app that is running slower than usual, it may seem logical to click the Home button to close the app and then relaunch it. However, clicking the Home button doesn't close the app. It suspends it and keeps it frozen in the background until you need it again. 

A few apps continue running in the background. These are usually apps that stream music such as Pandora, Spotify, or the Music app that comes with the iPad.

If your iPad is slow with only a single app, quit out of it to properly shut down the app and purge it from memory. This allows you to launch a fresh version of it.

You can lose unsaved work by quitting out of an app. If it is currently working at a task, wait until the app finishes the task before proceeding.

It is a good idea to close any apps that are playing music as well. It is unlikely they are causing a problem, but closing all the apps that run in the background ensures they aren't impacting anything.

How to Close All Recently Used iPad Apps

To close the apps, bring up the list of all apps that are suspended or running in the background:

  1. Double-press the Home button at the bottom of your iPad.

    iPad showing the Home button
  2. When you press it twice in quick succession, your most recently used apps are shown as thumbnail images across the screen. These apps are suspended or running in the background. You can navigate through this screen by swiping from left to right or right to left.

    Multitasking screen on iPad
  3. Press your finger lightly on one of the thumbnail images and swipe toward the top of the display without lifting your finger. This gesture resembles flicking the app off the iPad. The apps you flick off are closed, and any that are running in the background stop running and are closed.

    Flicking up an iPad app (Safari) to demonstrate forcing apps to quit in iOS

After you close all the apps, try the app that was running slowly to see if it responds better.

1:22

Why Won't My iPad Charge?

Restart a Slow iPad

Closing apps doesn't always do the trick. If you don't see any improvement in performance, restart the iPad. This flushes everything from temporary memory and gives your iPad a clean start. This does not permanently remove any of your personal data.

To restart the iPad:

  1. Hold the Top (or Side) button depending on the orientation of your iPad, until instructions appear telling you to slide a button to power off the iPad. (Apple formerly referred to this button as the Sleep/Wake button.)

    If you restart your iPad with Face ID, press and hold the Top button and either of the volume buttons to bring up the power off slider.

    Slide to power off interface in iOS on iPad
  2. When you slide the button, the tablet shuts down completely, and the iPad's screen goes dark. 

  3. Wait several seconds and then restart the iPad by holding down the Top or Side button again until the Apple logo appears on the screen and the iPad restarts.

Check Your iPad's Wi-Fi Connection

If a restart doesn't improve your iPad's performance, it might not be your iPad that is running slow. It might be your Wi-Fi network. You can check the internet speed of your Wi-Fi network by using an app such as Ookla's Speedtest. This app sends data to a remote server and then sends data back to the iPad, testing both upload and download speeds.

Check the speed from several locations. It could be that something is interfering with the wireless signal (such as a refrigerator positioned between the iPad and router) or that your iPad is too far away from the router.

If the speed increases as you move closer to your router, look into boosting your Wi-Fi range. This is common in large buildings, but even a house can have problems with the effective distance of its wireless router.

Run the Current Version of iOS

IOS is the operating system running on the iPad. It's always a good idea to run the latest operating system. Not only does this ensure that you have the most recent performance tweaks but also that you have the latest fixes for any security issues.

You can check the version of iOS you are running by going into your Settings app, tapping General settings and tapping Software Update. If you are new to the iPad or iOS, here's how to upgrade to the latest version of iOS.

Install an Ad Blocker

If you are primarily seeing a slowdown while browsing the web in the Safari browser but your internet speed isn't slow, it may be more a symptom of the pages you are browsing than of the iPad itself.

The more advertisements there are on a web page, the longer it takes to load. If any of those ads stall out, you are left waiting for the web page to pop up.

One solution to this is to install an ad blocker. These widgets enhance the Safari browser by disallowing ads to load on the web page. They make both for easier reading and faster loading. Many websites are supported by revenue from ads, so this is a balance you have to wrestle with.

Turn Off Background App Refresh

Turning off background app refresh can save battery life as well as keep your iPad lean and mean. Background App Refresh allows apps to refresh their content even when you aren't using them. In this way, Facebook might reach out and retrieve posts to your news feed or a news app may fetch the latest articles, so they'll be ready for you.

However, this uses some of your processing speed and internet bandwidth, so it could cause the iPad to run a little slower. This usually isn't the main cause, but if you often find the iPad running slow (and especially if the battery drains quickly), you should turn off Background App Refresh.

To turn off Background App Refresh:

  1. Go to your iPad's settings.

  2. Select General from the navigation menu at the left side of the screen and tap Background App Refresh.

    The General Settings screen showing the Background App Refresh option
  3. Tap the on/off slider next to Background App Refresh at the top of the screen until it is on the Off/white position to turn off background refresh for all apps.

    The Background App Refresh settings screen
  4. If you want to allow only a few apps to load in the background, leave the Background App Refresh on/off slider in the On/green position and turn off the sliders next to every app in the list except the ones you want to allow to load in the background.

    A selection of apps to allow background refresh on the iPad

If you're still experiencing slow speeds, there is one more thing you can do.

Clear Storage Space

If you are running desperately low on storage space, clearing up a little extra elbow room on the iPad can sometimes improve performance. This can be accomplished by deleting apps that you no longer use, especially games that you don't play anymore.

It's easy to see which apps are using the most space on your iPad in the Settings app. With that knowledge in hand, you can selectively delete the ones you don't use regularly to free up space. In iOS 11 and iOS 12, you can also instruct the iPad to automatically remove seldom-used apps to free up space (while maintaining your files and data for those apps.)

  1. Go to Settings.

  2. Select General from the navigation panel at the left of the screen and select iPad Storage.

    General settings showing iPad Storage option
  3. Optionally, tap Enable next to Offload Unused Apps to allow the iPad to automatically remove seldom-used apps from an iPad that is nearing its storage limits. Your data and files for removed apps are saved on the iPad.

    Offload Unused Apps option in iPad Storage screen
  4. Tap an app in the list of apps on the iPad Storage screen. Whether or not you enable Offload Unused Apps, you can select individual apps to remove from the iPad to immediately free up space. The apps are prioritized by those that take up the most space. Tap an app you want to remove from the iPad.

    List of apps and the amount of space they take up in iPad Storage settings
  5. View the size of the chosen app and the size of its documents and data. Delete either Offload App, which removes the app but maintains the documents and data, or Delete App, which deletes both the app and the data.

    Individual app information and options to delete
  6. Repeat this process of selecting individual apps and offloading or deleting them to free up space on your iPad.