How to Set Up iPad

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Begin iPad Set Up Process

setting up an iPad, step 1
Choose Your iPad's country.

If you've set up an iPod or iPhone in the past, you're going to find that the iPad set up process is familiar. Even if this is your first Apple device running the iOS, don't worry. Though there are a lot of steps, this is a simple process.

These instructions apply to the following iPad models, running iOS 7 or higher:

Before you begin setting up your iPad, make sure you have an iTunes account. You'll need this to register your iPad, buy music, use iCloud, set up services like FaceTime and iMessage, and to get the apps that will make the iPad so much fun. If you don't already have one, learn how to set up an iTunes account.

To get started, swipe left to right across the iPad's screen and then tap on the region where you plan to use the iPad (this is involved in setting the default language for your iPad, so it makes sense to choose the country you live in and the language you speak).

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Configure Wi-Fi and Location Services

setting up iPad, step 2
Joining Wi-Fi and Configuring Location Services.

Next, connect your iPad to your Wi-Fi network. You need to do this in order to activate the device with Apple. This is a required step that you can't skip if you want to use your iPad. If you don't have a Wi-Fi network to connect to, plug in the USB cable that came with your iPad into the bottom of the device and into your computer.

Your iPad will display a message about contacting Apple for activation and, when it's done, will move you on to the next step.

That step is to choose whether you'll use Location Services or not. Location Services is a feature of the iPad that lets it know where you are geographically. This is useful for apps that make use of your location (for instance, to recommend you a nearby restaurant or give you showtimes at your nearest movie theater) and for Find My iPad (more on that in Step 4). Turning on Location Services isn't required, but it's so useful, I strongly recommend it.

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Set Up New or From Backup and Enter Apple ID

setting up iPad, step 3
Choose Your Backup or Apple ID.

At this point, you can choose to set up your iPad as a completely new device or, if you've had a previous iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, you can install a backup of that device's settings and content on the iPad. If you choose to restore from backup, you can always change settings later.

If you want to restore from a backup, choose whether you want to use an iTunes backup (if you synced your previous device to your computer, you'll probably want this) or an iCloud backup (best if you've used iCloud to backup your data).

At this point, you need to either set up an Apple ID and sign in with your existing account. You can skip this step, but I strongly recommend against it. You can use your iPad without an Apple ID, but there's not much worthwhile you can do. Make your choice and proceed.

Next, a Terms and Conditions screen will appear. This covers all the legal details that Apple provides about the iPad. You have to agree to these terms to continue, so tap Agree and then Agree again in the pop-up box.

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Set Up iCloud and Find My iPad

setting up iPad, step 4
Setting up iCloud and Find My iPad.

The next step in setting up your iPad is to choose whether or not you want to use iCloud. ICloud is a free online service from Apple that provides a number of benefits, including the ability to backup data to the cloud, syncing contacts and calendars, storing purchased music, and much more. As with other settings, iCloud is optional, but if you have more than one iOS device or computer, using it will make life a lot easier. I recommend it. Set it up using your Apple ID as your username and password.

At this stage, Apple gives you the option to set up Find My iPad, a free service that lets you locate a lost or stolen iPad over the Internet. I strongly recommend doing it at this point; Find My iPad can be a big help in recovering your iPad should something happen.

If you choose not to set it up now, you can do so later.

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Set Up iMessage, FaceTime, and Add a Passcode

setting up iPad, step 5
Setting up iMessage, FaceTime, and Passcode.

Your next steps in setting up your iPad include enabling a pair of communications tools and deciding whether to secure your iPad with a passcode.

The first of these options is iMessage. This feature of the iOS lets you send and receive text messages when connected to the Internet. Text messages to other iMessage users are free.

FaceTime is Apple's famous video calling technology. In iOS 7, FaceTime added voice calls, so even though the iPad doesn't have a phone, as long as you're connected to the Internet, you can use FaceTime to make calls.

On this screen, you'll choose what email address and phone number people can use to reach you via iMessage and FaceTime. Generally speaking, it makes sense to use the same email address as you use for your Apple ID.

After that, you'll be able to set a four-digit passcode. This passcode appears whenever you try to wake up your iPad, keeping it safe from prying eyes. It's not required, but I strongly suggest it; it's especially valuable if your iPad is lost or stolen.

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Set Up iCloud Keychain and Siri

setting up iPad, step 6
Setting up iCloud Keychain and Siri.

One of the cool new features of iOS 7 is iCloud Keychain, a tool that saves all of your usernames and passwords (and, if you want, credit card numbers) in your iCloud account so they can be accessed on any iCloud-compatible device that you're signed into. The feature protects your username/password, so it can't be seen, but can still be used. ICloud Keychain is a great feature if you have a lot of online accounts or work regularly across multiple devices.

On this screen, you can choose how to authorize your iPad for iCloud Keychain (via a passcode from another of your iCloud-compatible devices or directly from iCloud if this is your only iOS/iCloud device) or to skip this step. Again, not a requirement, but I recommend it. It makes life easier.

After that, you can choose whether you want to use Apple's voice-activated digital assistant, Siri. I don't find Siri that useful, but some people do and it's a pretty cool technology.

On the next screens you'll be asked to share diagnostic information about your iPad with Apple and to register your iPad. These are both optional. Sharing diagnostic information helps Apple learn about things that go wrong with your iPad and improve all iPads. It doesn't collect any personal information about you.

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Complete Set Up

setting up iPad, step 7
Time to Get Started.

Finally, the good stuff. At this stage, you can decide what music, movies, apps, and other content you want to sync from your computer to the iPad. To learn how to sync particular types of content to the iPad, read these articles:

When you're done changing these settings, click the Apply button in the bottom right of iTunes to save the changes and sync the content.