How to Fix an iPad That Won't Update

Kick-start a stubborn app into downloading

Most of us have experienced it: An app on your iPad won't update, or software gets stuck in the middle of the download. Here are a few causes of this problem and tips for fixing these issues.

These fixes can be used on an iPad with iPadOS 13 or iOS 12.

Causes of iPad Not Updating

Most of the time, when software on an iPad won't update, the culprit is an authentication problem. The Apple App Store may be having a hard time figuring out who you are. Or, the iPad may be downloading another update or app simultaneously, and your app is waiting in line. On rare occasions, the iPad forgets about the app.

iPad Air 2
Justin Sullivan / Staff Editorial / Getty Images 

How to Fix an iPad That Won't Update

The following solutions have been shown to fix software update issues on iPad:

  1. Restart the iPad. The first step in troubleshooting most problems is to restart the device. Restarting the device can fix many technical problems, including software updates that fail or time out.

  2. Restart the app that won't update. Sometimes, a download times out. You can tell the iPad to start downloading an app again by opening the app again. When you tap an app that's in the waiting-to-download stage, the iPad tries to download it.

  3. Delete the app that won't update, and then download it again. If an app won't update, delete it and then download it again. Don't attempt this fix if the problem app saves the 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 that it's safe to delete and re-download these apps. However, if you have any doubts, don't delete the app.

    You may need to sign in to the app when the download is complete.

  4. Download a different app. If the iPad times out in the middle of the authentication process, it can't authenticate with the App Store again, which in turn freezes all downloads to your iPad. The easiest way to solve this problem is to download a new app and force the iPad to authenticate again. Choose a free app and install it on the iPad. When the installation is complete, locate the app or update that was stuck and see if it downloads again.

  5. Sign out and then sign in to your Apple ID. If going through the authentication process by downloading an app doesn't work, sometimes signing out and then signing in to your Apple ID does the trick. To sign out of your Apple ID, on your iPad, tap Settings, tap your username, then tap Sign Out. Follow the prompts to sign out of your Apple ID. To sign in to your Apple ID again, tap Settings, tap Sign in to your iPad, then type your Apple ID and password.

  6. Restart the Wi-Fi router. If your router isn't connecting properly to the internet, your iPad can't download updates. Most routers have a built-in firewall and manage multiple devices, which can cause the router to get mixed up. After turning off the router, be sure to leave it off for a full minute before turning it back on. When all the router lights come back on, connect your iPad to the Wi-Fi network, then tap the app to see if the download process starts.

  7. Reset all settings. Resetting iPad settings is different from resetting the iPad to factory defaults. The process doesn't completely wipe your iPad. It deletes network settings, the keyboard dictionary, the Home screen layout, location settings, privacy settings, and Apple Pay cards. A settings reset should not affect your apps, documents, music, movies, passwords, or data.

    Before resetting the device settings, back up your iPad.

  8. Reset the iPad. If clearing the settings doesn't work, it may be time to take drastic action and reset the iPad to its factory default settings. You can then restore the iPad from the backup you created.

Think about whether the app you're trying to update is worth this nuclear option. You may be better off deleting the app and moving on. If you decide to reset your iPad, back it up to iCloud so that you can then restore your data and apps.