How to Restore an iPad to Factory Default Using iTunes

When you first open the box and pull out your iPad, you go through a series of steps and questions to set it up for first-time use. You can repeat this process later by restoring the iPad to factory default, which returns the iPad to the state it had when it left the factory. This process wipes all data and settings from the iPad before restoring it to its pristine condition, which makes it a great, although destructive, troubleshooting step.

Multiple ways exist to restore an iPad to factory default, including restoring it without even connecting it to iTunes. You can also restore it remotely, which is handy if you've managed to lock yourself out of your iPad. Here's how to do it with a computer running iTunes.

Before You Reset Your iPad

Perform a backup of your iPad. Your iPad should create a backup on iCloud when you leave it charging if it's connected to Wi-Fi at that time; if the device hasn't automatically created a backup recently, perform one manually before you reset the tablet. Here's how to check for your most recent backup:

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  2. Tap your name on the left side of the menu.

    Apple ID in Settings on an iPad
  3. Tap iCloud.

    iCloud in iPad settings
  4. The iCloud screen will show how much storage you have used and contains the various options for iCloud. Choose iCloud Backup to check for your most recent backup.

    iCloud Backup on iPad
  5. This screen shows the date and time of your last backup. Tap Back Up Now to ensure you have a recent backup.

    Manual backup on iPad
  6. Your iPad will automatically back itself up to iCloud.

Turn off Find My iPad before you can restore the iPad to factory default. Find My iPad keeps track of the iPad's location and allows you to lock the iPad remotely or play a sound to help locate it. The Find My iPad settings are in the Apple ID settings.

  1. Open Settings.

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  2. Tap the Apple ID/iCloud button at the top of the left-side menu.

    Apple ID in Settings on an iPad
  3. Tap iCloud.

    iCloud in iPad settings
  4. Tap Find My iPad.

    Find My iPad
  5. If Find My iPad is turned on (the on-off slider is green), tap it to turn it off. 

Restore an iPad to Factory Default Settings Using iTunes

Now that we have a recent backup and have turned off Find My iPad, we are ready to reset the iPad to factory default settings. Remember, this erases everything on the iPad and puts a fresh copy of the operating system, which makes it a great troubleshooting step for the iPad. The backup should restore all of your apps, music, movies, photos, and data.

  1. Connect the iPad to your PC or Mac using the cable that came with your tablet.

  2. Launch iTunes on your computer.

  3. Tap the iPad icon.

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  4. iTunes displays information about the device. The Restore iPad button is just below the operating system information. 

    Restore iPad with iTunes
  5. iTunes confirms that you want to restore it to the factory default settings. Tap Restore and Update. The process takes a few minutes, during which the iPad will reboot. If you are performing the restore as a troubleshooting step, you can now set up the iPad for use.

What's Next After Restoring the iPad?

Once your iPad is set back to its original state, you can restore the backup you made at the beginning of the process. You can do this either through iTunes or by pulling the backup from iCloud while you're going through the setup.

Restoring will reload your documents, apps, contacts, and related information. However, if you merely use your device for light entertainment and web browsing, you may find some value in starting from scratch. You can restore apps individually from the App Store.