If you purchased your iPad in the Apple Store, you may have already activated it with a Specialist by your side. But if you've received your new gadget as a gift, or you opted not to activate immediately, here's a guide on how to do so.
Once you've unboxed your iPad, turn it on by pressing the On/Off switch. A welcome screen greets you, displaying a Slide To Set Up slider in a variety of different languages. (If you need quick access to your device's IMEI or ICCID number without setting up the device, you can tap the information button [represented by a lowercase i] located directly above the slider.)
Users with visual impairment can also take advantage of iOS's VoiceOver screen-reading system during the setup process by triple-clicking the Home button.
To begin the activation process, slide the switch to the right, where you're asked to pick your language, country, and if you'd like to enable Location Services. This allows Apple apps (and third-party apps) to access your location via Wi-Fi networks and your Global Positioning System (GPS) location.
Your iPad will check for any Wi-Fi networks in the area that you can connect to; unfortunately, if it doesn't find any, you'll have to set up your iPad via iTunes and the computer.
Restoring old data to a new iPad
If you're upgrading from an older iPad, you've hopefully made a backup of that information, either via iCloud or iTunes. Choose one of these options to copy that information to your new device.
Restore from iCloud backup: If you have an iCloud account and have backed up a previous iPad incarnation using iCloud's Backup feature, you can use this backup to restore your device (though you'll need to be on a Wi-Fi network to do so). To restore, sign in to your iCloud account, agree to Apple's terms and conditions, and then choose which backup file you'd like to use and tap the blue Restore button in the top right corner of the screen. (Depending on the speed of your Wi-Fi connection, this process can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.)
Restore from iTunes backup: If you tap Restore From iTunes Backup, you're brought to the Connect To iTunes screen. Connect your iPad to your computer and open iTunes; after clicking on your device in the Source list, you see the Set Up Your iPad screen, which asks if you'd like to set it up as a new iPad or restore from a specific backup. Choose the correct backup, and then click the Continue button to proceed. This process is significantly faster than restoring from iCloud because you're transferring data over USB, not over Wi-Fi.
Once you choose either option, your device will activate and begin the restore process.
Setting up as a brand-new iPad
Don't have a backup of an older device, or don't want to use one? It's easy to start fresh. The first thing you need to decide is whether to supply an Apple ID (or create one, if you don't have one). You use your Apple ID to buy music from iTunes, apps from the App Store, books from the iBookstore, and for iCloud.
What's an Apple ID?: If you've ever purchased something from the iTunes Store, you'll have signed up for an Apple ID--it's usually your primary email address. Your login information for Apple's MobileMe or iCloud service should also work when signing in.
Use your current Apple ID: Already have an Apple ID? Tap the Sign In With An Apple ID button and enter your username (usually your email address) and password. Apple will then spend a few moments linking your device to your Apple ID.
Sign up for a new Apple ID: If you don't have an Apple ID, it's easy enough to create one by tapping the Create A Free Apple ID button. You'll need to enter your birthday, name, your email address (or create a new iCloud email address), a password, a security question (in case you forget your password), and whether you'd like to receive email updates from Apple.
No Apple ID for me: If you'd rather not set up an Apple ID, you can tap the Skip This Step link in the lower right corner. You can always add or create one from the Settings app later, but note that you won't be able to buy anything on the iTunes Store or set up iCloud until you do.
If you've chosen to set up or register an Apple ID, you can also enable iCloud on your device. iCloud is an umbrella term for Apple's collection of sync services, and allows you to sync your photos, apps, contacts, calendars, and mail across multiple devices. (You can read more about iCloud in our Getting Started with iCloud primer.)
Choose to set up iCloud, and you'll first be asked whether you'd like to enable iCloud backups for your device. If you do so, you can have your iPad back up all essential settings to your iCloud account; if you ever need to restore, you can do so over Wi-Fi without an additional computer. You can also elect to have your iPad back up to your computer using iTunes. Additionally, you'll be asked whether you'd like to opt in to iCloud's Find My iPhone service. This will enable location monitoring for your iPad, allowing you to find it using your Apple ID and the Find My iPhone app from another iOS device, or by logging into your iCloud account online, should it go missing.
One of the iPad's nice features is Apple's personal voice assistant, Siri. If you want to take advantage of Siri, you can enable it here. Then, once you finish the setup process, you're asked if you'd like to send Apple anonymous diagnostics and usage information (similar to a desktop crash report). After you answer that question, your iPad will be all set and ready for you to begin using.
Get started with your iPad or iPad mini
Those of you who have purchased an iOS device before know the drill, but for those first-timers, here are a few quick pointers for getting acquainted with your device.
Learn how to tap, drag, and multitask: If you've never used an iOS device before, check out our primer on Multi-Touch gestures and using the multitasking bar.
Tweak your settings: Most of the underlying system information for your new iPad--network settings, Mail, sounds, messages, restrictions, wallpaper, and more--is kept in the Settings app. As such, it's a good place to start when you're first getting acquainted with your device.
Get a data plan: If you purchased an iPad with a cellular connection and plan on using it to browse the internet, you need to sign up for a data plan. You can do so by launching the Settings app and tapping Cellular Data.
Set up iTunes sync: If you didn't restore from an iOS backup, you won't have any music, video, podcasts, photos, or books on your iPad. You can remedy that by connecting to your iTunes library: Just plug your device into your computer via its included USB cable. (Once you've completed this initial sync, you can also set up wireless local syncing; check out our guide for more information.)
Explore the App Store: Your iPad comes with a bunch of cool built-in apps, but you may want to reach to third-party programs for more interesting fare. The App Store, which you can access on your device or via iTunes on your computer, features more than 250,000 downloadable apps customized for your iPad, and more than 750,000 other apps meant to run on an iPhone but that can work on your iPad, too.
Talk to Siri: If you chose to set up Siri on your iPad during the activation process, you're just one Home button press away from having your first conversation. Siri can help you book appointments, find restaurants, look up the weather, talk sports, and occasionally whip out snarky quips about robotic AI. To start, press and hold your Home button; the Siri interface will appear, along with a few suggested phrases to get going.
Read more about your iPad Want to learn more about your iPad and its apps, get third-party program suggestions, and get some great troubleshooting tips? Check out Macworld's iPad Starter Guide and iPad Mini Starter Guide: They're both ebooks available on the iBookstore, Kindle Store, and Nook Store, and as a PDF.
What to do with your old device
Now that you've managed to transfer your old information, set up your new iPad, and start using it, it's time to figure out what you'd like to do with your old device. If you're interested in selling, recycling, or passing it along to a friend or family member, Macworld senior writer Lex Friedman whipped up a handy guide that contains the steps you'll need to take.
This story, "Get started with the iPad and iPad mini" was originally published by Macworld.