How to set up your iPad

A step-by-step guide on how to set up a new iPad, for tablet veterans and first-time owners alike.

iPads are designed to be simple to use. However, the initial iPad set up process isn’t always the most straightforward.

You’ll need what’s called an Apple ID or iCloud account. But if you don’t have one, don’t worry. You can create one as part of this process, and we’ll show you how.

A man sitting at a kitchen table, using an iPadCredit: Exceptional

iPad setup summary

Project overview

Setting up an iPad isn’t overly complex, but there are a lot of steps to follow. Apple does make this easy with its on-screen instructions, but our guide will ensure your fully covered.

30 mins

If you already own an iPhone or an older iPad, you can miss out a bunch of steps too. We’re splitting this guide into three parts.

If this is your first ever iPad, go ahead and start from the beginning.

If you already have an iCloud account/Apple ID from another Apple device, you want section two for setting up a your iPad.

And if you still have your old iPad to hand, congrats, you get the easiest ride and can skip right to section 3. Let’s get started.


First time iPad owner

How to set up a new iPad for the first time

If the world of Apple’s tablet is new to you, this section will show you how to set up an iPad for the first time.

Step 1

Turn on your iPad and swipe up

A hand holding an iPad Air, displaying the hello screen as part of initial setupCredit: Exceptional
Once you’ve turned your iPad on, you’ll need to swipe up on the screen

The first thing youll see when you first turn on a new iPad is a welcome screen that cycles through a few different languages, saying hello. Just swipe up from the very bottom of the screen. It does not matter if another language is on-screen when you do.

Step 2

Language and location

A hand holding an iPad Air, displaying the region select screen as part of initial setupCredit: Exceptional
The first step to set up your iPad is to select the country you’re in

This swipe takes you to the actual language selection page, which comes in two parts. You first select your language, while the next screen lets you select your country or region. This affects things like the default currency youll see on the tablet, and how dates are presented.  

Step 3

Tap ‘Set Up Manually’

A hand holding an iPad Air, displaying the Quick Start screen as part of initial setupCredit: Exceptional
If you’ve previously had an iPad, you can use Quick Start

The next page is Quick Start. This is here largely for folks who already have an iPad, and can use that to speed-up setup. But we dont so tap the Set Up Manually link towards the bottom of the page.


Step 4

Connect your iPad to the internet

A hand holding an iPad Air, displaying the connect to Wi-Fi screen as part of initial setupCredit: Exceptional
Connect your iPad to a wi-fi network

You now need to connect the tablet to your home wi-fi, or any wi-fi network if you are not at home. The iPad will scan for hotspots automatically, so you should see your network appear on this page. You will, of course, need the wi-fi password for this part.

Step 5

No internet?

No access to your home internet? If you scroll down to the bottom of this wi-fi login page you will see a Connect to Mac or PC button. This uses Apple account credentials already stored on your computer to setup your iPad. Unlike Android tablets, there is no way to use an iPad without an account that you log into.  

Step 6

Apple’s Privacy Policy

A hand holding an iPad Air, displaying the data and privacy screen as part of initial setupCredit: Exceptional
You’ll need to accept this to set up your iPad

Managed to get your iPad connected to the internet? Youll now be shown Apples Privacy Policy, which you need to agree to in order to head to the next step.

Step 7

Set up Touch ID

A hand holding an iPad Air, displaying the Touch ID screen as part of initial setupCredit: Exceptional
You can enable touch ID during the iPad set up

This next part will change a little between different iPad models. We used an iPad Air for this demo, and it has a top-mounted fingerprint scanner.

We were asked to place a finger or thumb on the pad so the iPad could learnour fingerprint.

Its a good idea to think about which digit naturally heads to that pad first, and use that one. However, you can add additional fingers later on in the iPads Settings menu. 

Step 8

Second security layer

A hand holding an iPad Air, displaying the create a password screen as part of initial setupCredit: Exceptional
Adding a second level of security on your iPad is important

The next part establishes a second layer of security, your iPad passcode. This is what youll have to use if, for whatever reason, your iPad keeps failing to register your fingerprint or if you want someone else to be able to unlock your iPad. 

By default the iPad asks you to choose a 6-digit passcode. However, if you tap the Passcode Options link on this screen, you can switch to a 4-digit pin, a custom one or a passcode with both numbers and letters.

Avoid super-common pin codes such as 0000, 1234, 1111or 5678, particularly if you are likely to take your iPad out of the home. The iPad will let you know if it thinks your pin is too easy to guess.  

Step 9

To transfer, or not to transfer?

A hand holding an iPad Air, displaying the Apps & Data screen of the initial setup processCredit: Exceptional
If this is your first iPad, there won’t be anything to transfer

The next page offers a bunch of ways to get content from other devices to your new iPad. However, in this particular branch of the tutorial we want to setup a freshiPad for a first-time iPad owner, so hit the Dont Transfer Apps & Data button at the bottom of the screen.

Step 10

Apple ID

A hand holding an iPad Air, displaying Apple ID sign-up on screenCredit: Exceptional
You need an apple ID to set up an iPad

This part is important: we need to login to an Apple ID. This is the login you use to access, for example, Apple App Store apps and sorry folks its necessary if you want to use an iPad.

You wont have one of these if you have never owned an Apple product before. If that’s the case, follow these steps to set up your Apple ID;

  1. Tap Forgot Password or Dont Have An Apple ID
  2. Fill in your name and date of birth
  3. Next, choose an email address to link to your Apple ID. This is much like when you create a login for an online retailer or other service an old Hotmail or Gmail address will work fine, but you will need to be able to access it. Dont choose an account you have lost access to.
    Alternatively, you can get a new iCloud email address, if you want to keep your Apple stuff completely separate.
    iCloud is then same for Apples cloudservices, the databanks on which Apple stores your emails, any photos you choose to upload and so on. If you choose do to this youll also need to input your phone number. This gives Apple another way to verify you identity if, for example, you forget your password. Apple will then send a code to your phone that youll type into your iPad this is effectively to make sure you didnt get your phone number wrong.
  4. Whatever route you take, you now need to choose a password for your Apple ID. This may be stating the obvious, but do not use the same password as the one used to log into the email address account you used.

Step 11

Make This Your New iPad

A hand holding an iPad Air, displaying Make this your new ipad screenCredit: Exceptional
There’s just a few more options to choose from before your iPad is set up

We are almost there. You should now see a Make This Your New iPadscreen. Part of this simply acts as a summary of choices you have already made, such as the decision not to transfer data over from an existing iPad.

But if you tap Customise Settings there are a few more bits to check out. We recommend enabling Location services, for the best tablet experience. And in the Appearance page you can choose whether to make the default colour of the interface — the background, if you will — white or black.

Apple calls the two looks Light and Dark. Light is the classic version and we recommend starting off with that. You can switch between them later in the iPads Settings menu.

Step 12

Apple iCloud+

A hand holding an iPad Air, displaying the Apple iCloud+ signup screenCredit: Exceptional
If you want more storage, you’ll need to sign up to Cloud+

At this point you are also given the option to sign up to Apple iCloud+, a paid subscription service that offers 50GB to 2TB of online storage for your photos and other data.

However, we recommend leaving this for now as you get 5GB of free storage as standard.  

Step 13

You’re all set up

A hand holding an iPad Air, displaying the home screenCredit: Exceptional
This is an iPad which has been set up

After tapping through these pages you should find yourself on your iPads home screen all set up, ready to start your iPad experience proper. We recommend heading to the app store for a browse.

First iPad, but have an Apple ID

Setting up your iPad when you already have an Apple ID

For those of you who already own another Apple device (an iPhone or Mac) and already have an Apple ID, setting up your iPad is a slighter quicker process.

  1. If you already have an Apple ID, the process is the same up to step 10 above. However, instead of creating an Apple ID, just use the login details you already use on, for example, your iPhone.  
  2. Know your password? Once you input these details, Apple will typically ping another of your devices. In our case this was a MacBook Air. The laptop told us there had been an attempt to login, and asked us to confirm this was legit. You’ll then be given a passcode to enter on your iPad.
  3. After this point you can continue with the method above at step 11.

Previous iPad owner

How to set up your new iPad

If you’re upgrading your old iPad to a newer model, this section tells you how to set up a new iPad from an old iPad.

An iPad Air and iPhone lying on a white surface, showing the setup process for the iPad.Credit: Exceptional
If you’re owned an iPad previously the set up process is simpler
  1. Already own an iPad or iPhone? Follow the first three steps in our initial tutorial. You’ll now see a screen that asks you to bring the iPhone or iPad you own close to your new iPad.  
  2. Make sure your older iPhone/iPad is upgraded to at least iOS 11, and has its Bluetooth connection turned on. To do this swipe down from the very top-right of the home screen. This should bring up a control panel pane that includes a Bluetooth control. It looks like an angular “B” character with some added lines sticking out of its back. It should look as though it has been selected. It not, give it a quick tap. 
  3. When your new iPhone recognises your old iPad or iPhone, a prompt will appear on that device’s screen. 
  4. You’ll be asked to scan a swirling ball on your new iPad screen using the other device’s camera. Just point the rear camera at your new iPad’s screen. 
  5. If the camera recognises that without a hitch, you’ll be taken to a page that lets you choose how to transfer data over from your old iPad.  
  6. Here you want to select either Restore from iCloud Backup or Transfer Directly from iPad. Or, if you want to start from fresh and just wanted to avoid plugging in your iCloud info, tap Don’t Transfer Apps & Data. You’re now at step 11 in our initial tutorial.  

All set up? Try this

Explore your iPad

Now your iPad is set up, there’s a wealth of things you can do with it. We can help get you started with these three ideas.

Andrew Williams

Written by Andrew Williams he/him


Andrew Williams is a contributor to Saga Exceptional. Andrew has been a technology journalist for more than a decade, writing thousands of articles on consumer advice, how tech is made and how it affects our lives.

He has covered cameras and fitness tech, mobile phones, laptops, gaming and more. Andrew has written for many of largest tech publications including Wired, TechRadar, What Hi-Fi, T3, Stuff, Forbes and others.

When not writing about the latest tech, Andrew likes to head out for a run, often with a fitness tracker on test. And he picks up a paint brush when a tech detox is in order.

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