How to Fix an iPad That Won't Update

Kickstart a stubbon app into downloading

The iPad Air 2

Justin Sullivan / Staff Editorial / Getty Images

Do you have an app or an update on your iPad that refuses to download or is stuck in the middle of the download?

Most of the time the culprit is an authentication problem. The App Store may be having a hard time figuring out who you are, or there may be another app that the iPad is trying to download, and the app is waiting in line. On rare occasions, the iPad forgets about the app. If you are having trouble, try these troubleshooting steps.

Information in this article applies to iPads running iOS 12, iOS11, or iOS 10, except as noted.

Tap the App As If to Launch It

How does the iPad forget about an app or update? Sometimes, a download stalls out due to a poor connection, so make sure you have a good connection to the internet. You can tell the iPad to start downloading an app again by trying to launch the app. When you tap on an app that is in the waiting-to-download stage, the iPad tries to download it.

Delete the App and Download It Again

If an app won't update, delete it and download it again. Don't do this if the app saves information you want to keep, such as a note-taking app or a drawing app. Many of these apps save your data to iCloud, which means it is safe to delete and redownload the app, but if you have any doubts, don't delete the app.

If the app doesn't save information at all or if the information is saved to iCloud or apps like Evernote, delete the app and redownload it from the App Store. You may need to sign in to the app again after it downloads.

Download a Different App

It's possible for the iPad to hang in the middle of the authentication process. This can keep the device from trying to authenticate with the iTunes Store again, which in turn freezes all downloads to your iPad. The easiest way to solve this situation is to download a new app, which forces the iPad to authenticate again. Pick out a free app and install it on the iPad. After it installs, locate the original app or update that was stuck to see if it starts downloading.

Restart the iPad

After checking the most common reasons for an app not to update or download completely, it is time to go with the most popular troubleshooting step: reboot the device. It is not enough to suspend the iPad and wake it up again.

To give the iPad a full refresh, power off the device by holding down the Sleep/Wake button, renamed the Top (or Side) button in iOS 12, for several seconds and following the instructions on the screen. In the most recent iPads, you hold both the Top button and either of the volume buttons until a power-off slider appears. Drag the slider to turn the iPad off. After it is fully powered down, you can boot it back up by pressing the Top button again. This process gives the iPad a clean start and solves many problems.

Sign Out of Your Apple ID

If going through the authentication process by downloading an app doesn't work, sometimes logging out and logging back in does the trick. To sign out of your Apple ID:

  1. Open the iPad's Settings and tap iTunes & App Stores in the left panel.

    iPad Settings showing iTunes & App Store option
  2. Tap the field that displays your Apple ID.

    iTunes & App Stores settings
  3. Tap Sign Out in the pop-up window.

    Apple ID Sign Out menu option

After you sign out, sign back in with your Apple ID in the same iTunes & App Stores screen and try relaunching the update or app.

Restart Your Wi-Fi router

While rare, it is possible for your router to be the root of the problem. Because it has a built-in firewall and manages multiple devices, it can get mixed up at times. Power down the router and leave it off for a full minute before turning the router back on.

It normally takes a router a few minutes to power on and reconnect to the internet again. When all the router lights come back on, connect with your iPad and touch the app to see if the download process starts.

During this process, you are without internet access. If there are others in the house that are using the internet, you should warn them.

Reset All Settings

The next solution is to reset the iPad's settings. This won't completely wipe your iPad, but because it clears settings, you lose any settings you previously customized. You need to sign back in to websites that ordinarily remember your account settings. Other than clearing out your settings, this process leaves all your apps, documents, music, movies, and data alone.

To reset the iPad settings:

  1. Go to the iPad's settings and choose General in the left panel.

  2. Scroll all the way down in the General screen and tap Reset.

    General settings screen showing the Reset option
  3. Select Reset All Settings.

    Reset All Settings choice in the iPad Settings app
  4. Enter your passcode and confirm the reset process.

This is one of the most common cures for an app that is stuck during an update or an app that won't download completely, but because it can change any custom settings back to default, this step is saved for next-to-last.

Restore Your iPad to Factory Settings

If clearing out the settings doesn't work, it is time to take drastic action. The last trick is to restore the iOS device and install a backup. This wipes out your apps, data, and music, so don't take this step if you haven't made a backup recently.

Think about whether the app you are trying to update is worth this nuclear option. You may be better off to delete the app and move on.

The basic process is like getting a new iPad or iPhone. After it is wiped, you go through the same process you went through when you first got the device, including signing into iCloud and choosing whether or not to restore from a backup. The end result is you load a backup and don't lose any of your apps, music, movies or data.

To restore your device to its factory settings and install a backup, go to the same screen you used to reset the settings: Settings > General > Reset, only this time, select Erase All Content and Settings.

Follow the instructions to set up your iPad and use a backup to repopulate the device with your data. This can be a lengthy process depending on how much data you back up and how large your iPad's storage capacity is.