Why Can't I Upgrade My iPad?

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Are you having trouble upgrading to the latest version of iOS? Apple puts out a new version of the iPad's operating system each year. These updates include new features, bug fixes, and improved security. There are two common reasons why an iPad can't be updated to the latest version of the operating system: lack of storage space or an obsolete iPad. Unfortunately, the only way to fix an obsolete iPad is to buy a new one.

The Most Common Reason is Storage Space

Apple changed the way it updates the operating system with a recent release, allowing the upgrade to be made with a smaller amount of free storage space. But you still may need up to 2 GB of free space to swap out the operating system, so if you are running close to the edge in terms of space, you won't see the option to download. Instead, you'll see a link to your iPad's usage. This is Apple's not-so-friendly way of telling you to trim some of the apps, music, movies or photos from your iPad before upgrading.

Screenshot of an iPad that cannot upgrade due to a lack of storage space

Luckily, this is relatively easy to solve. Most of us have some apps or games that were neat months (or even years) ago, but we don't use anymore. You can delete an app by holding your finger on the app icon for several seconds until the app begins shaking and then tapping the 'x' button in the corner.

You can also move photos and videos to your PC. Videos can take up a surprisingly large amount of space. If you want to keep access to them on your iPad, you can copy them to a cloud storage solution like Dropbox. Or even upload photos to Flickr.

You May Also Need to Charge Your iPad to Upgrade

If your iPad is below 50% battery life, you will not be able to upgrade the iPad without plugging it into a power source. Connecting it to a computer is fine, but the best way to charge up the iPad is to use the AC adapter that came with the tablet and connect it directly to a wall outlet.

Screenshot of an iPad with 2% charge

The iPad now has the ability to upgrade during the night, which is a great option if you don't want to be out of commission while the iPad upgrades to the new operating system. Unfortunately, there is no way to choose this option. You must wait for the iPad to pop up the "new update is available" message and then choose the "Later" option.

Another Common Reason Is an Obsolete iPad

Each year, Apple releases a new lineup of iPads to go along with the new operating system. For most people, the new operating system is compatible with their existing iPad, so there is no need to upgrade the tablet itself. However, Apple has slowly stopped supporting older iPad models in order to include more advanced features.

  • The original iPad was the first to lose official support. The last version of iOS it supports is 5.1.1.
  • The iPad 2, iPad 3 and iPad Mini are stuck on iOS 9.3.5.
  • The iPad 4 does not support updates past iOS 10.3.3.

Why Can't the My iPad Run the Latest Version of iOS?

The iPad dropped supported for the original iPad because it only had 256 MB of RAM memory, This is the memory used to actually run the operating system and apps and shouldn't be confused with the 16 GB, 32 GB, 64 GB (etc.) used to store apps on the iPad. The memory restrictions with the original iPad would have made many of the more advanced features of the iPad such as the virtual touch pad and multitasking impossible.

Apple also moved the iPad from a 32-bit architecture to a 64-bit architecture with the iPad Air. This might seem like techno-language to most, but this basically makes the iPad much more efficient. This move led to the iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad 4 and iPad Mini no longer being compatible with the newest updates.

Unfortunately, there isn't anything to be done about this other than simply buying a new iPad. However, your iPad still should work and many apps will still work fine, you simply won't be able to get new features or newer apps. These iPads can also make a great tablet for kids.

And you can still get a little money for your iPad by selling it or even using a trade-in program. While it may not run the latest apps, most of these obsolete iPads can still download compatible apps from the app store and can browse the web, Facebook and keep track of emails as good as the next tablet.