How to Update Your iPad

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iPad Pro with Apple Pencil and side view

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There are two major ways to update your iPad’s operating system. Soon to be called iPadOS, Apple’s tablet OS can be updated either via iTunes or via the cloud (over the air or OTA). If you’re interested in trying out the new beta iPadOS, you can do that, as well. Instructions follow. 

Before you start any update process, make sure you’ve backed up your iPad, either to iCloud or to your Mac or PC via iTunes. The last thing you want is to lose your data if an update goes south.

Next, you’ll want to update your iPad software. The easiest way to keep your iPad updated is to allow it to update automatically. 

Update iOS on iPad Via the Cloud

  1. Launch Settings on your iPad.

    Settings app icon on iPad
  2. Tap General, then Software Updates, then Automatic Updates.

    Automatic Updates toggle OFF
  3. Turn on Automatic Updates.

    Automatic Updates toggle ON
  4. Now your iPad will install any updates to iPadOS (or iOS) automatically. Your iPad will notify you before it does so, too.

  5. To see which version of iPadOS or iOS your iPad is currently running, tap Settings > General > Software Update.

    iOS info in iPad Settings app

Update Your iPad Software Manually

If you don’t want to let your iPad take care of the whole process, you can update your iPad manually, too. 

  1. Launch Settings on your iPad

  2. Tap General, then Software Update, then Automatic Updates

  3. Turn off Automatic Updates.

  4. Go back to Settings > General and tap Software Update. You’ll see the current iOS (or iPadOS) version there, and a note as to whether there is an update available. 

  5. Tap Update, let it download, then Install Now to make it happen.

    Install Now button in Software updates

Update iOS on iPad via iTunes Sync

Using iTunes to sync your iPad and update the software is fairly easy as well.

  1. Connect your iPad to your Mac or PC via a Lightning (or, for later models, a USB-C cable). That’s the white cable you use to charge your iPad.

    iPad connected to a Mac computer using a USB-C Charge Cable
     Apple Inc
  2. Launch iTunes on your Mac or PC.

  3. Click the tiny iPad icon in the upper left corner of your iTunes window.

    iPad icon in iTunes
  4. Check the Automatically sync when this iPad is connected checkbox. You can choose other options here, too.

  5. When you're done, tap the Apply button to save your sync setting. If your iPad doesn’t start syncing right away, you can click the Sync button. 

    Apply button in iTunes

You only need to do this once; your iPad will notify you when it needs an update.

Update iOS on iPad via iTunes Manually

If you don’t want to just let your Mac or PC manage your updates or you sync via iCloud, you can trigger an update manually.

  1. Connect your iPad via Lightning cable and launch iTunes.

  2. Click the little iPad icon.

  3. Select the Check for Update button. 

    Check for Update button in iTunes
  4. Choose Download and Update.

  5. Enter your passcode if asked.

How to Install the iPad OS 13 Beta

iPadOS 13 is the upcoming OS for Apple’s iPad devices. It’s based on iOS, but has extra features for Apple’s tablets, like new Apple Pencil functionality, better multitasking features, and a desktop-class Safari web browser. 

If you want to install iPadOS now, before it’s released officially, you’ll need to install the iPadOS 13 beta. Be warned, however, that even Apple doesn’t encourage you to install this if you use your iPad for anything important. Be sure to back up your iPad first, as well, in case you need to put it all back they way you had it. 

If you want to try out the new iPadOS 13 features, though, here’s how you do it. 

Install iPadOS 13 Beta With Your iPad

This is by far the easiest way. 

  1. Launch Safari on your iPad and go to beta.apple.com/profile. Download the configuration profile there.

    We do not recommend installing profiles from sources you don't know and trust.

    Download profile button on the web
  2. Open Settings, go to General, then Profile. Tap the iOS 13 & iPadOS 13 Beta Software Profile. Follow the onscreen instructions to allow installation.

    iOS 13 & iPadOS 13 Beta Software Profile button in iOS Settings on iPad
  3. Once installed, your Software Update will keep you up to date with the latest beta version. To uninstall, simply tap Remove Profile

    Remove profile button in iOS Settings on iPad

Install iPadOS 13 Beta With iTunes

This is a bit more complex than installing directly to your iPad, but if you’re feeling like giving it a try, here’s how to do it with a Mac and iTunes.

  1. Head over to https://beta.apple.com/sp/betaprogram/redemption#ipados and choose the Download Profile button. Wait for the mobileconfig file to download to your computer. 

  2. Launch iTunes and connect your iPad to your Mac.

  3. Click the little iPad icon in iTunes. 

  4. Hold down the Option key on your keyboard, and click Check for Update. This will open a dialog that lets you choose the file you downloaded above. 

    mobileconfig file on macOS for iTunes
  5. Click Open and let iTunes do its thing.