How to set up your new iPad the right way

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Apple Smart Keyboard Folio for the 2020 iPad Pro
Let's get your new iPad up and running.
Photo: Apple

Congratulations — you got a new iPad! Whether it’s a high-tech marvel of a new iPad Pro, the super-speedy iPad Air, or a pocketable iPad mini, you’ll want to set up your new device with the least amount of fuss.

We’re here to help you do just that with a ton of little tips and tweaks that will make sure you’re off and using that new iPad as quickly as possible. From backing up your old iPad (if you had one already) to getting up and running with a brand-new iPad from scratch, we’ve got you covered.

Initial setup

Automatic Setup for iPad

Automatic setup works if both your devices are running the latest version of iOS. Automatic Setup lets you copy across your Apple ID and home Wi-Fi setting from another device, just by bringing them close together.

If your old iPad (or iPhone) is already running iOS 11 or later, you can put them next to each other, follow the prompts, and avoid having to type in your Apple ID and Wi-Fi passwords. This makes the initial setup much smoother.

Automatic Setup will also transfer all your apps and other data, making your setup process as easy as can be. You won’t have to download any apps manually; they will just be there, ready to use, once your new iPad is up and running. Want to start from scratch instead? Read on!

Starting from scratch

You’ll be pleased to hear you don’t even need a Mac to set up a new iPad anymore. Simply pull it out of the box, strip all the plastic protective coating from the iPad, and turn it on.

Three screens to get set up with.
Three screens to get set up with.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Follow the setup screens, one by one, to get everything all squared away. Choose your language, then your country or region. You’ll next be prompted to choose your Wi-Fi network and enter the password for it. Enable location services with a tap, and then set up Face ID or Touch ID.

Next, you’ll enter a passcode, which is now a six-digit number by default. If you want to use a shorter four-digit one, or a password/phrase, tap on Passcode options at the bottom of the screen. Otherwise, type in your six digits and then do it again to confirm.

Choose Set Up as New iPad, unless you're restoring.
Choose Set Up as New iPad, unless you’re restoring.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

If you backed up your old iPad to iCloud or iTunes, choose one of those Restore options on the Apps & Data screen. Choose Set Up as New iPad if you’re starting from ground zero, or Move Data from Android if you’re coming over from the dark side (and good for you!).

Trust but verify.
Trust but verify.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Choosing Set Up as New iPad will get you to an Apple ID screen. Enter in your Apple ID and password here. If you’ve got Two-Step Authentication set up on your Apple ID, you’ll need to verify your identity with a trusted device. Apple will send a verification code to one of your other devices, and you’ll just need to enter that code into the iPad’s screen. Once entered, agree to the Terms and Conditions to continue.

Add your card in here.
Add your card in here.

Next, you’ll have the option to set up Apple Pay. If you have an Apple Pay card set up in iCloud, tapping the Next button in the upper right corner of your iPad screen will have the following Add Card screen populated with your default Apple Pay credit card. Simply enter the Security Code where prompted. If you don’t have Apple Pay set up yet, simply enter a card in the fields provided, or tap Set Up Later in Settings.

Siri setup is just a tap away.
Siri setup is just a tap away.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Siri is next, and you can enable Apple’s personal digital assistant with a tap on the Turn On Siri screen, or you can opt to Turn On Siri Later near the bottom. You can also send Diagnostics to Apple to help improve its services; I usually send them along to Apple, but some privacy enthusiasts would rather not. It’s your call. The same goes for sharing App Analytics with App Developers.

Tweaking your iPad experience

Your new iPad screen, fresh and unsullied.
Your new iPad screen, fresh and unsullied.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Once you get to your iPad’s Home screen, you’ll see all the apps included with your new iPad, including Messages, Mail, Reminders, and News. Tap and hold on any icon and they’ll all start to wiggle. You can tap and drag them around your Home screen now to order them in the way you’re most happy with, or even off the right edge of the screen to put the icons on a second (or third, or fourth) page.

Taking a trip to the App Store will be next, where you’ll be able to tap the Purchased tab at the bottom and download any apps you already own for free to your new iPad. Many of the apps you’ve purchased for your iPhone have a corresponding iPad app, and will show up in the Purchased tab. Simply tap on the little cloud with the down arrow on it to get it to your new device.

Your purchased apps can be found in the App Store.
Your purchased apps can be found in the App Store.
Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Learn how to multitask with your new iPad, including the new Split View, Slide Over, and Picture in Picture features. If you were lucky enough to get an iPad Pro, check out our list of the best creative apps to put on it right here.

Happy iPad ownership! Now you should be up and running with all the basics you need to start your new iPad life.