How to set up and optimize your brand-new iPad

Find out how to set up your new iPad as a veteran or first-time iDevice owner. Then get our advice on the best apps and tricks for optimizing your new tablet.

Sharon Profis Vice President of Content, CNET Studios
As the Vice President of CNET Studios, Sharon leads the video, social, editorial design, and branded content teams. Before this role, Sharon led content development and launched new verticals for CNET, including Wellness, Money, and How To. A tech expert herself, she's reviewed and covered countless products, hosted hundreds of videos, and appeared on shows like Good Morning America, CBS Mornings, and the Today Show. An industry expert, Sharon is a recurring Best of Beauty Awards judge for Allure. Sharon is an avid chef and hosts the cooking segment 'Farm to Fork' on PBS nationwide. She's developed and published hundreds of recipes.
  • Webby Award ("How To, Explainer, and DIY Video"); Folio Changemaker Award, 2020
Sharon Profis
4 min read


Whether you're a first-time iPad owner, or transitioning from a previous version of the tablet, the first thing you'll want to accomplish is getting all your data on your shiny new device.

Current iPad owners

If you already own a first- or second-generation iPad, the process for transitioning to your new device is easy, but will vary depending on how you use your iPad. This video will walk you through it.

Watch this: Transfer data to a new iPad

1. Back up your old iPad. If you usually back up your iPad by connecting it to your computer or syncing over Wi-Fi, do that first. Otherwise, if you have less than 5GB of original content (photos and app data) on your current iPad, you can use iCloud (which is the fastest method.) Here's how:

    Connect to Wi-Fi and head to Settings > iCloud. This is where you decide what data will be taken to your new device. To be safe, turn all of them on. Now tap Storage and Backup > Manage Storage, and select your device from the list.
    Here's where you adjust what app data (not the apps themselves, but the content within them) goes to your new iPad. When you're done, go back to Storage & Backup and tap "Back up now."

If you choose the iCloud option, don't worry about any purchased videos, music, or apps--all of those items are also backed up and do not count against your iCloud storage.

2. Restore data to your new iPad. With your data backed up, grab your new iPad. As you're guided through the setup, you'll be presented with three options: set up as new iPad, restore from iCloud, or restore from iTunes back up. Select the appropriate restore option, depending on how you backed up your data.

Be patient while your apps, photos, settings, music, contacts, and videos are restored onto your new device. If you restored from iCloud, you may choose to sync your iPad with your computer to transfer any ripped music or movies you own.

If you plan to sell or give away your old iPad, wipe it. Head to Settings > General > Reset > Erase all data and settings to completely wipe your device.

Current iPhone owners

If you currently own an iPhone, but this is your first iPad, you can restore some settings and content from your iPhone onto your new iPad. Follow the same steps as outlined above for backing up your iPhone.

As you follow the setup process that appears when you first power on your new iPad, you'll be asked how you want to set it up. Do not set it up "as a new iPad." Instead, choose the appropriate restore option. So, if you backed up your iPhone with iCloud, restore it from iCloud. You'll then have the option to restore your iPad from your most recent iPhone backup.

Note that only iPad-compatible content (music, videos, apps, and data like contacts) will be restored. Be sure to dive into your iPad's settings and adjust them to your preference.

If you restored it from an iCloud backup, you may choose to sync your iPad with your computer to transfer any ripped music or movies you own.

First-time iPad and iDevice owners

Welcome to the world of iDevices. Since this is your first iPad, you'll be starting off with a clean slate, and the set up process will be slightly different for you.

When you power on your device, you'll be guided through a series of setup options. At one point you'll be asked how you want to set up your iPad--choose the option to "Set up as new iPad."

Next you'll be asked to sign in with your Apple ID. If you already have one, use it. But if you don't, now you'll have to create a new one. This is the ID you'll use to make purchases, manage your account, and use iCloud.

Screenshot by Sharon Vaknin/CNET

Should I use iCloud?
After setting up your Apple ID, you'll be asked if you want to use iCloud. This is the service that keeps your iDevices in sync and wirelessly backs up your data. Fellow editor Dong Ngo has an excellent explainer about how iCloud works, and the pros and cons of using the service.

iCloud is beneficial in many ways: you can back up your data on the go, keep your devices synced up, and it's free. Each user is allotted 5GB of free iCloud storage, which will actually go a long way. Here's why, in Apple's words: "Your purchased music, movies, apps, books, and TV shows, as well as your Photo Stream, don't count against your free storage. Since your mail, documents, Camera Roll, account information, settings, and other app data don't use as much space, you'll find that 5GB goes a long way."

If you choose to enable iCloud, maximize its use with our guide to managing your iCloud storage.

Get to know your iPad's features
From setting up e-mail to mirroring your iPad on your TV, and configuring the Notification Center, we have you covered. Bookmark this complete guide to doing all of those things and much more as you settle into your iPad and get to know its features.

Check out these apps first
There are hundreds of thousands of apps to choose from, so where do you start? Since your iPad's Retina Display is unique, head to the apps optimized for its resolution first.

iPhoto is now available for iPad and iPhone. Apple

Optimizing your iPad

Once your iPad is restored, it's time to optimize it and learn the ropes. Here are some of our best guides for making the most of your new device.