Set Up and Configure Your New iPad

There’s a new iPad, still in the box, sitting on the coffee table. What to do next? Here’s everything you need to know about setting up a new iPad from boot up through configuration to installing your first app.


If you’re reading this, you’re likely already on a PC or a Mac. I’m going to step you through some articles that will show you how to set up your new iPad, so you’ll probably want to be close to this computer during the process.


When the first iPads shipped in 2010, users were required to connect it to a Mac or PC running iTunes. iTunes took care of the iPad registration and configuration. From iTunes, you would set up your preferences for what items to load and keep synced with your iPad, for example, music.

With the advent of iOS 5.0 last year, an iPad is a stand alone device that can be configured out of the box, so long as you have a Wi-Fi connection in your house (or business). (Your new iPad will have iOS 5.1) So the first thing you’ll want to do is know the name of your Wi-Fi hot spot and the password. You’ll need to recognize the name because someone else may have set it up, and the iPad, when it boots up, will show you the names of all the hotspots it sees, including, possibly, all your neighbors. You want your own, of course.

The next thing you’ll want to do is find a convenient power outlet where you can sit down with the iPad. Perhaps near the computer where you’re reading this. iPads have a hefty battery, and your new one likely has considerable charge out of the box. But just to be safe, during all this initial set up, you should have plenty of juice available.

Boot up

On the top right of the iPad, as you face it, is a small, rectangular button. Hold it down for a second or two and let go. In a few seconds you’ll see the Apple logo on the screen as the operating system boots up. Then, the iPad will walk you through the set up process, and that, with plenty of screen shots, is summarized by TMO’s Jeff Gamet in: “iOS 5: New iPhone, iPad Setup.” Take a minute to review Mr. Gamet’s article so you know what decisions you’ll be faced with.

iPad first boot -1

The first thing you’ll see

In more detail, the sequence is:

  • Welcome, select language
  • Select country or region
  • Location services
  • Log on to Wi-Fi Network
  • Set up as new iPad or restore
  • Sign into iCloud (optional)
  • Agree to the Apple license
  • Backup options
  • Enable “Find my iPad”
  • Dictation option
  • Send diagnostics to Apple
  • Register the device
  • Start Using iPad

I recommend leaving location services disabled until you become more familiar with the iPad. You can turn it on later when you’re ready.  However, if you later select the option to “Find my iPad,” location services must be on.

Next, you’ll connect to the Wi-Fi network. You’ll need that to continue working with the iPad, register it, download apps, etc.

A few pages after that, an Apple ID entry comes up. You’ll need that to register your iPad with Apple and also make purchases. You needn’t worry about registering an Apple ID. You don’t have to also give Apple a credit card number unless you want to make purchases. (And you will.) Apple has 200 million customers with credit card numbers on file, and Apple is fanatical about security. No one has ever had their card number compromised — so far as we know. If you’d like to read about the Apple ID first, here’s Apple’s FAQ.

Apple ID

An Apple ID is safe and essential.

The final button, of course, is “Start Using iPad.” There you’ll see the home page of apps that come pre-installed with the iPad.

iPad home

AT&T & Verizon Data Connection

If you’ve purchased at iPad with 4G/LTE capability, you made a decision about whether it’s to be used with AT&T or Verizon. That’s an irreversible decision, at the carrier’s request. So the next thing you may want to do is enable that data capability. This communication mode, as you’ll recall, is used when you’re not within range of a Wi-Fi hot spot. (The iPad will always try to communicate, by default, first via Wi-Fi. If it cannot, it will fall back to 3G/4G/LTE.)

Here are the Apple Knowledge Base articles you’ll need.

You can pay by the month for these plans and cancel at anytime. Start with the least expensive plan until you know how much data you might use. If you generally stay near a Wi-Fi hot spot, you may not use much at all.

What’s Next?

What you do next depends on your preferences with the iPad. On the home page, you’ll see icons for Apple’s App Store and iTunes where you can buy applications (“apps”) and music, movies and TV shows respectively.

iTunes & App Store

When you download an app, you’ll enter your Apple ID, and the icon will pop up on your iPad with a progress indicator.  When the blue bar disappears, the app has finished downloading. (See below.) You can touch and hold the app icon until it jiggles, then drag it where you want it. Touch the home button at the bottom to finish.

App download

If you want to focus first on the new apps that showcase the new iPad’s high-resolution display, here’s a TMO article that introduces them.

Here’s a good summary article of the more general apps you may want to consider for your new iPad.

If you want to start buying (or loading) e-books onto the iPad, you’ll want to download Apple’s iBooks app and likely Amazon’s Kindle app. I’ve introduced you to these apps with links in iTunes. But once you recognize them, you’ll want to go there on the iPad directly with the “App Store” app shown in the screen shot above.

To Infinity and Beyond

There’s a world of things you can do with your new iPad now. Watch movies on Netflix (if you have an account), access TV shows with many of the free network apps, buy and play music, read the news, buy books, check the weather, preview the night sky, and so on.

Finally, Macworld has published a very nice Superguide to the iPad 2 that you can read in the iBooks app. Almost all of it will apply to your new iPad. It’s available for download in Apple’s iBookstore, the online store that you’ll use with the iBooks app.

Stay tuned to The Mac Observer.  We’re constantly publishing news, how-tos and tips that will help you get the most from your iPad. We also archive everything for future reference.

If you have questions, feel free to post them in the comments below.


Teaser image credit: Apple, Inc.