How to Restore an iPad to Factory Default Using iTunes

If your iPad isn't working right, it might be easier to start over

Screenshot

Lifewire / Daniel Nations 

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 its pristine condition, which makes it a great, although destructive, troubleshooting step.

There are multiple ways to restore an iPad to factory default, including methods 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. But the most straightforward way is to connect it to a computer.

These instructions apply to iTunes 10.4 and later.

Before You Reset Your iPad

You should take a few steps before you restore your iPad to ensure you don't lose any data.

First, perform a backup of your iPad. Your iPad should create a backup on iCloud when it's plugged in and has access to Wi-Fi. 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:

  1. The iPad Settings app
  2. Tap the Apple ID / iCloud button.

    Apple ID in Settings on an iPad
  3. In the Apple ID settings, 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. In the Backup settings, look for the button labeled Back Up Now. Just below it is the last backup date and time. If it isn't within the last day, tap the Back Up Now button to ensure you have a recent backup.

    Manual backup on iPad
  6. Your iPad will back up, and you'll be ready to continue restoring it.

You should also 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 in the Apple ID settings.

  1. In the iCloud menu in your iPad's Settings app, scroll down and tap Find My iPad to bring up the settings.

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

    Turn on Find My iPad
  3. Now, you can continue restoring your iPad.

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 a Lightning or 30-pin cable (whichever the tablet came with).

  2. Launch iTunes on your computer.

  3. Click the iPad icon in the upper-left corner of the window.

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

    Restore iPad with iTunes
  5. 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, but if you just performed this action, you don't need another one.

  6. iTunes confirms that you really want to restore it to the factory default settings. Choose Restore and Update. The process takes a few minutes, during which the iPad will reboot. When it's 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.

What's Next After Restoring the iPad?

You're free to restore your backup to the iPad, which 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. Any apps you had previously purchased may be restored, individually, from the App Store.