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 means the status of the iPad when it left the factory. This process wipes all data and settings from the iPad before restoring it to factory default, which makes it a great troubleshooting step.

There are multiple ways to restore an iPad to factory default, including restoring it without even connecting it to iTunes. You can also restore it from remote using Find My iPad, which is handy if you've managed to lock yourself out of your iPad. We'll concentrate on restoring it the old-fashioned way by using iTunes.

Before You Reset Your iPad:

The first thing you will want to do before restoring your iPad is make sure you have a recent backup of your iPad. Your iPad should create a backup on iCloud when you leave it charging so long as it is connected to Wi-Fi at that time. Here's how to check for your most recent backup:

  1. Open Settings on your iPad by launching the Settings app.
  2. Tap the Apple ID / iCloud button. This is the very top option on the left-side menu and should display your name.
  3. In the Apple ID settings, tap iCloud.
  4. The iCloud screen will show how much storage you have used and contains the various options for iCloud. Choose iCloud Backup to check on your most recent backup.
  1. In the Backup settings, you should see a button labeled Back Up Now. Just below this button is the last backup date and time. If it is not within the last day, you should tap the Back Up Now button to ensure you have a recent backup.

You will also need to 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 also located within the Apple ID settings.

  1. First, Launch the Settings app if you don't still have it open.
  2. Tap the Apple ID/ iCloud button at the top of the left-side menu.
  3. Choose iCloud from the Apple ID settings screen.
  4. Scroll down and tap Find My iPad to bring up the settings.
  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 Lightning or 30-pin cable that came with your iPad.
  2. Launch iTunes on your computer. (It may automatically open when you plug your iPad into your PC or Mac.)
  3. The iPad will show up under the devices tab on the left side of the screen. This verifies the iPad is being recognized.
  1. This is the tricky part. You will need to select the device to see the settings, but you can't select it from the menu. Instead, look above that left-side menu where you see a pair of buttons with greater than (<) and less than (>) signs. To the right of that is a drop down that allows you to select Music, Movies, etc. And to the right of that should be a device button. It looks like a very small iPad. Tap this button to select the iPad.
  2. You should see information about the iPad's capacity and the current version of the operating system. The Restore iPad button is just below the operating system information. 
  1. iTunes may prompt you to back up your iPad. If you have not already ensured that you have a recent backup, it's a good idea to do this now.
  2. iTunes will confirm that you really want to restore it to the factory default settings. Choose "Restore and Update".
  3. The process will take a few minutes during which the iPad will reboot. Once it is finished, the iPad will appear the same as when you first received it. The data has been erased and it is no longer tied to your iTunes account. 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?

You'll have a few choices during the setup process. The biggest is whether or not to restore the iPad using the backup performed to iCloud. Why wouldn't you choose to use a backup? Your contacts, calendar information and similar information are saved to iCloud. You can also download any previously purchased apps for free. 

If you have documents you have created and/or stored on the iPad, you definitely will want to restore from a backup. But if you have mainly used the iPad for web browsing, email, Facebook and streaming from Netflix and you feel like your iPad has become cluttered, you could effectively start over with a clean iPad by not choosing to restore from a backup.