How to Set Up a New iPad

woman sketching on an iPad with Apple Pencil

Apple Inc.

If you've set up an iPhone in the past, you're going to find the processing of setting up an iPad pretty familiar. Even if this is your first Apple device running the iOS, don't worry. There are a lot of steps to go through, but this is a simple process. This article takes you step-by-step through setting up a new iPad.

These instructions apply to the following iPad models, running iOS 12 or higher:

Before you begin setting up your iPad, make sure you have an Apple ID. You'll need this to register your iPad, get music from the iTunes Store or Apple 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 create an Apple ID here.

Apple has changed its iPad setup process so that you can no longer get screenshots of the steps. Because of that, we don't have updated visuals to show for iOS 12. The text in this article refers to the step-by-step set-up process for an iPad running iOS 12. It just doesn't have images illustrating those steps.

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Begin iPad Set Up Process

To get started, turn on the iPad by holding down the on/off button at the top of the device, then swipe up from the bottom of the iPad's screen. Then select the language you want to use the iPad in and tap the name of the country where you plan to use the iPad.

If you have an iPhone or another iPad that you've already set up, that is running iOS 11 or higher, and is nearby, you can skip most set up steps. Simply bring the two devices near each other at this point and follow the onscreen instructions. This quick set-up tool can transfer basic information and settings from the other device to your new one. If you don't have one of these devices, tap Set Up Manually to continue.

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Configure Wi-Fi and Privacy Settings

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 includes information from Apple about how it handles data collection, data sharing, and privacy. Read more about that or continue to the next step.

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Set Up Face ID and Passcode

The next set-up steps involve enabling security features for your iPad. The first of these is Apple's Face ID facial recognition system. This is optional, but we recommend it. It's secure, it's fast, it's easy to use, and it makes your iPad safer. Follow the onscreen instructions to set it up.

After that, you'll be able to set a passcode. We see a passcode as an absolutely essential part of basic iPad use and security. This passcode appears whenever you try to wake up your iPad, keeping it safe from prying eyes. It's not required, but we strongly suggest it; it's especially valuable if your iPad is lost or stolen. Follow the onscreen instructions to create a passcode. The Passcode options button lets you create stronger or simpler passcodes to meet your preferences.

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Set Up as New or From Backup, Then Enter 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. You can also choose to Move data from Android, if you've used an Android device in the past. 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 (if you've used iCloud to backup your data).

At this point, you may be asked to to either set up an Apple ID and sign in with your existing Apple ID. You can skip this step, but we strongly recommend against it. You can use your iPad without an Apple ID, but there's not much worthwhile you can do.

If you've got other Apple devices, you may have set up Two Factor Authentication on your Apple ID to protect it. If so, you'll be asked to authorize using it now. To learn more, check out How to Use Two Factor Authentication.

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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Save Time with Express Settings

Next, Apple offers you a way to save time. It has bundled together a number of items into an Express Settings section that lets you use the recommended settings for a number of options with just one tap.

Express Settings includes turning on Siri, enabling Location Services (this is used to determine where your iPad is to recommend content based on your location), and sharing anonymized debugging data with Apple.

You can configure these options individually by tapping Customize Settings. For most people, though, that's probably not necessary. Save time and move on to the next step by tapping Accept (this is the option we recommend).

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Choose iOS Updates, Apple Pay, and iCloud Upgrade

Apple regularly releases updates to the iOS, the operating system that runs on the iOS. Installing these updates is important because they deliver useful new features, fix bugs, and close security holes. Apple lets you set your iPad to automatically install these updates when they come out and we recommend you do that. Tap Continue on the Keep Your iPad Up to Date screen, or Install Updates Manually.

Next, you can choose to set up Apple Pay, Apple's secure, contactless payment system. Since you probably won't bring your iPad to the grocery store, this isn't as useful as on the iPhone. Still, you can use Apple Pay on the web. Click Continue to set it up or Set Up Later in the Settings app.

After that, choose whether you want to upgrade your iCloud account. Every iCloud account comes with 5 GB of storage for free. If you want to backup your iPad to iCloud, though, you'll need a lot more than 5 GB. Choose to upgrade your account or skip it by tapping Not Now.

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Set Up Screen Time, Analytics, and True Tone Screen

The last three steps in setting up your iPad may seem minor, but at least two fo them are pretty important.

First, choose whether you want to set up Screen Time. This is a feature of the iOS that helps you track how, and how much, you use your iPad and other Apple devices. It can also let you set specific time limits on how much you can use certain apps. If you're setting up this iPad for a child, or just want to limit your use, Screen Time is pretty useful. Tap Continue to enable it or Set Up Later.

Next, you can choose whether you want to share data with app developers. This is anonymized data, but it contains information about things like app crashes to help developers improve their apps. Tap Don't Share to opt out or continue.

Lastly, you have the option to disable the True Tone screen. This option isn't available on all iPad models (they don't all have this type of screen). This screen lets you see what the iPad looks like with this setting turned off. We recommend keeping True Tone turned out, as it makes the iPad screen truly stunning.

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Complete Set Up

After that, a series of screens will demonstrate how to perform certain basic tasks, like going to the Homescreen, accessing the Dock, and using Siri. Move through those screens and then swipe up on the Welcome to iPad screen to get started using it.

Finally, you're at 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.