Setting up a new iPad: Restore or Set up as a new device

Q: Hello, I have numerous Apple devices and a new iPad. I am trying to set it up. Do I set it up as new iPad, restore it from iCloud or restore it from iTunes? Thanks.

– Elizabeth

A: You can actually do any of the above, but how to best approach this depends entirely on what you want to do and how you plan to use the iPad in relation to your other devices.

The short answer is that if the new iPad is replacing another iPad, you will most likely want to restore your data from either iCloud or iTunes, depending on which one you’ve been using to backup your old device. Note that in most cases restoring from iTunes in considerably faster as it runs directly from your computer over USB, but this does require that all of your apps and media content be stored in your iTunes library. Even if you’ve been using iCloud for your regular backups, you can still make a manual backup of your other device in iTunes and use that to restore from. See our Guide to Transferring your Content to a new iPhone, iPad or iPod touch for more information.

However, even if you’re adding an iPad to your device collection, or migrating from an iPod touch over to an iPad, there are still advantages to restoring from a previous backup. Restoring will get you up and running quickly with all of your standard apps, preferences, and related data, and you can then customize further from there by deleting apps you don’t want on the new device and adding any new apps that you do.

On the other hand, setting up your iPad as an entirely new device will give you a clean, out of the box configuration, but will require you to manually select and load your apps and content. Media content will likely need to be reloaded from iTunes, while you can either re-download your apps from the App Store or sync them over USB or Wi-Fi from your iTunes library.

In this case, most apps that you install will begin with a clean slate as well. Apps that use iCloud to sync your information or preferences will be able to retrieve that information from iCloud, provided you’re using the same iCloud account on the new iPad as on your other devices. Apps that provide their own cloud sync services will likely require you to sign in to their services and configure the app, after which the cloud-based data should appear on the new device.

If you’re using the same iCloud account on the new iPad, data such as e-mail, calendars, contacts, reminders, and bookmarks will be downloaded directly from your iCloud account over the air. The same applies to any other e-mail accounts; you’ll need to configure them on the new device manually, but once you have done so, the data should sync up with the new device.

The bottom line is that if you want your new iPad to basically start with the same baseline configuration as another iOS device, restoring from a backup is the best way to go. If you want to start clean and configure your apps “from scratch” then set it up as a new iPad instead and work from there. Note that neither approach is permanent; you could easily restore from an iTunes/iCloud backup and then later decide that you want to start over, wipe the device back to factory settings and set it up as new.

If you do choose to restore from a backup, whether to use iCloud or iTunes for this is mostly a matter of personal preference. We normally recommend using iTunes as it is much faster, but it may not be practical if you’re in a situation where you don’t have a computer readily available or you don’t already have your apps and media content in your iTunes library.

More information on all of these procedures can be found in our Guide to Transferring your Content to a new iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Note that this can be applied regardless of whether you’re switching entirely over to a new device or simply using a restore procedure to add a new device to your collection.

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