How to download iPadOS on an Apple tablet

Here's how to download iPadOS on your favorite Apple tablet

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iPadOS represents a bit of a shift for Apple, as it continues to differentiate how the operating system on the iPad works, feels, and functions. Now, the public beta of iPadOS is available, bringing with it a number of great features, including mouse support, a revamped home screen, and more.

There are plenty of features to check out, but to see them for yourself you’ll need to update your iPad. Here’s how to download iPadOS.

Have an iPhone and want to install iOS 13? Check out our guide on how to download and install iOS 13.

Compatible devices

Before installing iPadOS, you’ll need to make sure your iPad is compatible with the new operating system. Apple is known for supporting devices for a long time, but some older models won’t get the update, so it’s worth checking the list below to see if your iPad will get support.

  • iPad Air 2 and 3
  • iPad Mini 4 and 5
  • iPad (6th and 7th generations)
  • 9.7-inch iPad Pro
  • 10.5-inch iPad Pro
  • 11-inch iPad Pro
  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro

Registering for the iPadOS public beta

While a full consumer version of iPadOS will roll out to iPad owners in the fall, only the public beta is available now. That means there are bugs and glitches: You shouldn’t install the iPadOS on a primary device you will rely on every day. You should also always back up your data before installing new software.

You can register for iPadOS at the Apple Beta Software Program website by hitting the Sign Up button. There’s other information you might find helpful at the Beta Software Program website too — you’ll get information on what using beta software means and some of the features on offer in iPadOS.

Back up your iPad

Backup iPhone

Before downloading and installing the iPadOS beta, you’ll want to back up your data. This is always important, but it’s extra crucial when installing beta software. If you have a backup, it’ll make your life easier when trying to roll back to a previous version.

There are two ways to back up your iPad — using iCloud, or through iTunes.

Backing up using iCloud

Backing up your iPad using iCloud is the easiest method. Here’s how to do it for yourself.

  • Make sure you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network.
  • Open the Settings app, press your name, then tap iCloud.
  • Scroll down to iCloud Backup, then tap Back Up Now.

If you’re unsure as to whether the backup is complete, you can head to Settings, then tap iCloud > iCloud Storage > Manage Storage, then tap on the device on the list.

Backing up on a Mac running MacOS Catalina

MacOS Catalina no longer has iTunes, so backing up your device on a Mac is a little different than it used to be. If you’re running MacOS Catalina, you’ll instead use the Finder app. Here’s how it’s done.

  • Connect your iPad to your Mac.
  • Follow the onscreen instructions — you may need to enter a PIN code or tap Trust This Computer.
  • Open the Finder app and select your iPad in the sidebar.
  • Press the General tab, then tap Back Up Now to manually back up your iPad.

Backing up on a Mac or PC with iTunes

If you have a Mac with Mojave or older, or a PC with iTunes, then you’ll use iTunes to back up your iPad. Here’s how to do it.

  • Make sure you have the latest version of iTunes, then connect your iPad.
  • Follow the onscreen instructions — you may need to enter a PIN code or tap Trust This Computer.
  • Open iTunes and select your iPad.
  • Press the Back Up Now button to save your data.

Downloading and installing iPadOS

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Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

If you signed up for the beta at the beginning of this process, the easiest way to download the update is over the air. Here’s how to do so.

  • On your iPad, navigate to the Apple Beta Software Program website using the Safari web browser, and tap “Sign In.” Use your Apple ID to sign in, and agree to the terms and conditions.
  • Tap the “Enroll Your Devices” link and head to the iPadOS tab.
  • Scroll down to the Install Profile section and press the “Download Profile” link.
  • Once the download has completed, head to Settings, after which you should see a message saying the profile can be installed. Tap it and install the profile. Your iPad will restart.
  • Once the device has restarted, head to Settings > General > Software Update.
  • Your iPad will check for updates and you should get a notification telling you that iPadOS is ready to install. Tap Download and Install.
  • It may take a few minutes to download and install the update, and you won’t be able to use your iPad during the update process.

Rolling back from iPadOS to iOS 12

Did you download and install iPadOS but are not happy with the pre-release bugs and issues? Thankfully, you can go back to iOS 12. Remember those backups we created before we started? Those will come in handy here. Here’s how to roll back from iPadOS to iOS 12.

  • To downgrade to iOS 12, you’ll need to put your iPad into recovery mode.
  • On an iPad with Face ID, hold the top button and either volume button until you see the Recovery Mode icon. On an iPad with a Home button, hold the side or top button until you see it.
  • Plug your iPad into your computer using the cable that came with it.
  • On the iTunes popup, click the Restore button.
  • Click Restore and Update to confirm.
  • An iOS 12 updater should appear. Press Next.
  • Click Agree to accept the Terms and Conditions.
  • Once the updater is finished, you’ll have a clean install of iOS 12 on your device. You’ll need to restore from your iCloud or iTunes backups to get your data back.
  • Follow the instructions below depending on the type of backup you made.

Restore from an iCloud backup

Here’s how to restore your device from an iCloud backup from before you updated to iOS 12.

  • On the Apps & Data screen, tap Restore from iCloud Backup and sign into iCloud.
  • Tap Choose Backup and choose the backup you made before installing iPadOS.
  • Make sure you select the right backup — if you’ve had your device for more than a day, you may have another backup from when you were already on iPadOS.

Restore from an iTunes backup

Did you made an iTunes backup instead? Here’s how to restore from an iTunes backup.

  • Tap Restore from iTunes Backup on the Apps & Data screen.
  • Open iTunes on your computer, make sure your device is connected through a cable, then tap Trust This Computer.
  • Select your device in iTunes, then press Summary and hit the Restore Backup button.
  • Pick the backup from when your device was still running iOS 12.
  • Keep your iPad connected to your computer until after it finishes syncing.

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