Apple unveiled a new version of iPadOS at WWDC in June 2023 and on September 22 it will become available to download.
The new version of the iPad operating system, known as iPadOS 17, will include a redesigned Lock Screen, interactive widgets, enhanced ways to work with PDFs and a new look Health app.
Sound appealing? The update is available to install on compatible iPads from September 22. We recommend you wait though as there will probably be a rush as everyone else downloads all the new software from Apple’s servers causing them to slow right down.
In this article, we explain everything you need to know about updating your iPad to a new version of iPadOS. That includes the simple process of grabbing a brand new version of iPadOS, and the slightly more complicated one of installing the beta.
We cover system requirements and what to do if you encounter problems (such as not having enough space or not being able to connect to Wi-Fi).
We also discuss whether it’s a good idea to install an iPadOS beta and what the difference between public and developer betas are.
Preparing for iPadOS 17
You should do a bit of iPad spring-cleaning before installing any software update: it’s very important that you back it up, because you don’t want to lose any important data, but you should also spend some time clearing some space so that you have enough storage for the new update.
We tend to store lots of movies and TV shows on our iPad, so if you need space these could be removed – if you downloaded them from Apple you should be able to download them again later on.
Another thing to do before you start the job of updating your iPad is to check that the new software will run on your iPad. The iPadOS 17 update runs on the following iPads:
- iPad Pro 12.9 (5th, 4th, 3rd and 2nd gen)
- iPad Pro 11 (3rd, 2nd and 1st gen)
- iPad Pro 10.5
- iPad (10th, 9th, 8th, 7th and 6th gen)
- iPad mini (5th and 6th gen)
- iPad Air (5th, 4th and 3rd gen)
This means that if your iPad is an iPad Pro from 2015 or 2016, or a 5th generation iPad from 2017, or older than any of them, it won’t be able to update to iPadOS 17.
How to update iPadOS 17
When iPadOS 17 arrives (or any subsequent iPadOS update) you will probably get an alert on your iPad telling you that the new version is ready to download. If not, you might have to go into Settings to get your iPad to actively seek it out.
- Plug your iPhone into a power supply – iPadOS 17 won’t install if you don’t plug into the mains.
- You’ll also need to be connected to Wi-Fi. While it is possible to install via a cellular connection it will use up a lot of data. We advise that you check it’s a safe network – we don’t recommend you do this over hotel Wi-Fi, for instance. We have some tips on how to download iPadOS if you don’t have Wi-Fi below.
- Go to Settings > General > Software Update and wait for the iPad to find the update. It’s possible that you’ll see the message ‘Your software is up to date.’ Sometimes there’s a bit of a wait until the software becomes available, but it’s also possible that iPadOS won’t run on your iPad so check above to see if it is compatible.
- Assuming you do see a new version available, tap Download and Install.
- Enter your passcode when prompted, and agree to the terms & conditions if required.
- Your device will download the update in the background. You’ll see an indication of how much time it is likely to take – in our experience, this is very far from the mark! Double it/triple it even! You can at least carry on with other things while the download happens. Once the download has finished you will receive a notification on your iPad.
- Now tap on Install Now. Your iPad will verify the update and turn off.
- The iPad will eventually turn back on and get on with the job of installing the update. Again, expect this step to take a while – especially if it’s on the night the software arrives!
- Alternatively, you can select Later. iPadOS will offer to update during the night – you just need to make sure the device is plugged in.
How to download iPadOS without Wi-Fi
If you want to install a new version of iPadOS but don’t have access to Wi-Fi – or if you don’t know if the Wi-Fi you have access to is secure because it’s at a hotel/restaurant – you might be wondering whether you can update iPadOS using cellular or mobile data.
Apple used to have a download cap that stopped downloads of more than 200MB over a data connection. This cap was lifted in iPadOS 13, so you can now download apps of any size. Go to Settings > App Store > App Downloads. You can choose from Ask If Over 200MB, Always Allow or Always Ask.
If you are thinking of downloading this way we warn that even ‘unlimited’ contracts aren’t always truly unlimited and the download is likely to be quite a few GB.
If your iPad doesn’t have a SIM you can still update over mobile or cellular data by connecting to your iPhone. Follow these steps:
- Create a Hotspot from your iPhone and connect to that from your iPad.
- Run through the options to download and install iPadOS.
Your iPad will proceed to download iPadOS using your data connection from your iPhone.
How to download iPadOS via a Mac (or PC)
Alternatively, if your Mac happens to be connected to the internet via Ethernet, or another way, you could download iPadOS using the Finder.
- Open the Finder on your Mac and plug in your iPad.
- Click on the icon that represents your iPad.
- Click on Update.
- Run through the options to download and install iPadOS.
Note that in older versions of macOS, or Windows, iTunes manages this process instead.
Why won’t my iPad update?
You may be wondering why your iPad isn’t showing the update as available. There are a few reasons why this might be the case.
- You might just be too eager – is the update you want out yet? Even then it sometimes takes a few hours to roll out to some devices.
- Your iPad might be too old to run the new version of iPadOS. Take a look at: Which version of iPadOS can I run?
- You might not be connected to Wi-Fi.
- You might not be plugged in – this is required, just in case you run out of battery halfway through.
If those points don’t apply to you, try installing via the Finder or iTunes as we detailed above.
Should I install the iPadOS beta?
Running a beta is the only way to get hold of a version of iPadOS before it’s officially launched, and that’s a nice thing if you like to boast about having the latest features, and an essential thing if you’re a developer and need to test your app with the new platform.
Just bear in mind that betas are not finished software. They are likely to contain bugs (looking for bugs is the main reason Apple allows the public to try the beta) and may not have all the features and interface elements that will appear in the final version.
We therefore advise caution in grabbing the iPadOS beta, and don’t recommend installing it on your main iPad if you depend on it for work.
Developer vs public betas
Apple runs two iPadOS beta programs, one for developers and one for those who sign up as public testers. Read this for more information: How to become an Apple beta tester.
At any given time the developer beta will be more advanced: Apple rolls out each version to devs first, and to the public afterwards. If you are a developer, therefore, that’s the version to go for.
It used to be that the developer beta was only available to developers who paid money to Apple to join the developer program, but now the company has made it possible to download the developer beta while only being registered as a developer, no payment required.
How to install the iPadOS beta
It used to be necessary to install a profile on your iPad in order to receive the beta, but since iOS 16.4 this has been unnecessary. Now, as long as you are registered, you can download the beta versions from the Software Update page.
To install the iPadOS 17 public beta, follow these instructions.
- If you aren’t already registered for the public beta, click Sign up on the Apple Beta page and register using your Apple ID details.
- Log in to the Beta Software Program.
- Click Enrol your iPadOS device. (If you signed up for a beta last year you may need to uninstall that profile and re-enrol.)
- Now if you open Settings > General > Software Update on your iPad you should see the beta version of iPadOS.
To install the iPadOS 17 developer beta, follow these instructions.
If you’re a developer it used to be necessary to pay £79/$99 a year in order to get access to the beta, but Apple has now removed that requirement and you only need a free developer account. It also used to be necessary to install a profile on your iPad to receive the beta, but this is no longer necessary.
- If you don’t already have a developer account you can get one if you sign into Xcode or on the Apple Developer App. Just tap on Account and sign in using your usual Apple ID.
- Open Settings > General > Software Update.
- Tap in Beta Updates. You should now see the iPadOS developer beta as an install option here.
- Select the Developer Beta.
- Tap back and you will see the Beta Update ready to install.
- Tap on Download and Install to install the Developer Beta on your iPad.
- Wait for your iPad to download the update, then tap Install.
If you want to revert back to a pre-beta version read: How to remove an iOS beta from your iPhone – the method is the same.
How to upgrade to iPadOS 17 from a beta version
If you previously tried out a beta version of iPadOS ahead of its full release, you should note that in order to get upcoming non-beta iPadOS releases you will need to follow these steps:
- Go to Settings > General > Software Updates.
- Tap on Beta.
- In the Beta Updates section choose Off.
If you want to try out the beta again just go back to this page and choose the relevant beta version.
How to go back to the old version of iPadOS
Here’s what to do if you change your mind later and want to try to downgrade to an older version of iPadOS. (Note, however, that downgrading is really tricky, so we can’t guarantee you’ll be able to revert.)
- Download the correct version of iPadOS for your iPad from IPSW.me. It needs to still be signed by Apple, which these days is a very narrow window indeed. It should start downloading to your Downloads folder.
- On your Mac, open the Finder.
- Plug in your iPad.
- You will need to turn off Find My on your device. Go to Settings and click on your ID information. Tap Find My > Find My iPad and switch the slider to off. Enter your Apple ID password.
- On your Mac in the Finder, hold down the Option/Alt key and click on Restore iPa. This should allow you to select the version of iPadOS you wish to install on the iPad from your downloads folder, locate it and click on Open.
- A message will appear saying which version of iPadOS you will install. Click to confirm this and wait while your iPad is restored.
- Once your iPad boots up you can choose to restore it from a backup, but beware that if this backup is since the version of iPadOS was updated you will recover that version of iPadOS. You may be lucky enough to find an older version of your backup – tap on the devices to see what version of iPadOS they are in. You can back up using a different device’s backup, but some data may not sync.
And if your iPad doesn’t run the version of iPadOS you’re after, you might want to check our roundup of the Best iPad deals so you can save money while bagging yourself a new iPad.