If you are new to the iPad, the process can be a little daunting depending upon your experience level. For those just getting started, we present our iPad Beginner’s Guide, helping new users get started with the iPad.

iPad Guide

First off, congratulations on getting your first iPad and finding our iPad New User’s Guide. We’ll help you get started with your iPad, moving through the basics to more advanced topics. If you have questions, our iPad forums offers a great way to get help from over 133,000 members. Not a member, join today for free.

Prepare your computer
Whether you have a Mac or PC, you’ll need to connect your iPad to your computer to activate your iPad. This is done with Apple’s iTunes software. You can download it directly from Apple at http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/. If you have iTunes installed, you should check and make sure that you are running the latest version. At the time of writing this guide, the current version is 10.2.1. Your new iPad requires iTunes version 10.1 or later.

  • On a Mac, open iTunes and select iTunes > About iTunes.
  • On a PC, open iTunes and select Help > About iTunes.

To set-up your iPad, you’ll also need to meet the minimum system requirements:

  • Mac OS X version 10.5.8 or later
  • Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP Home/Professional with Service Pack 3 or later.

Connect your iPad to your Mac or PC using the USB cable that came with your iPad. Located at the bottom of the iPad is the dock connector and the other end of the cable connects to a USB port on your computer. It is important that you connect it to your computer, since that is where you’ll manage what content gets transferred to your iPad.

iPad multiconnector

What’s an Apple ID?
You can use an Apple ID for everything you do with Apple. Shop the iTunes Store, log in to iChat or MobileMe, buy from the Apple Online Store, make a reservation at an Apple Retail Store, and access Apple.com support.
If you don’t currently have an Apple ID, you can set one up an Apple ID at Apple.

Apple ID
Don’t worry, it’s free. You can also create one in the next step, “Connecting your iPad for the first time.

Connecting your iPad for the first time
The first time you connect your device, it should launch iTunes and you’ll be greeted with a quick and relatively painless registration process. If you don’t currently have an Apple ID, the iPad set-up process will enable you to create one.

Update Software on your iPad
The first time you connect to your Mac or PC, you’ll likely be alerted of a software update that’s available. Version 4.3.1 is the latest and greatest version of software for your iPad. Unless you plan on jailbreaking, it’s highly recommended that you update your iPad’s software to 4.3.1. During this process, the software will download within iTunes and update your iPad. When it finishes updating, your iPad will restart. This is normal, so no need to panic.

Definition: Jailbreak or jailbreaking allows you to run code, applications that are not sanctioned by Apple. For more information, please check out our What and Why of Jailbreaking Guide.

Syncing With iTunes
If you haven’t guessed it by now, iTunes is the gateway between your computer and your new iPad. It will allow you to sync contacts, calendars, music, videos, iBooks, applications, photos and more. Each time you connect your iPad to your computer, it will sync information. Syncing means that items you add to your iPad will sync back to your Mac/PC. Let’s say you download a new app directly from your iPad, the next time it connects to iTunes, it will be added to your iTunes library. Depending on what items you choose to sync, iTunes will make sure what’s on your computer is exactly what’s on your iPad.

What can iTunes sync?

  • Music
  • Movies
  • TV Shows
  • Apps and games from the AppStore
  • Videos and Music Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Books
  • Photos
  • Contacts, Calendars, notes
  • Email account settings
  • Bookmarks

The easiest way to set up syncing with iTunes is to allow it to sync all of the above. Both the first generation iPad along with the iPad 2 comes in two versions, 16GB and 32GB. Music and videos will usually take up the most storage space on your iPad. If you open iTunes, the bottom of the window will let you know the size of your libraries. You’ll want to leave sufficient space on your iPad for apps, games, podcasts, movies and more. If you have 3-4 GB between the size of your music library and the size of your iPad, you should be fine. At any time, you can always change what gets synced with your iPad. If you need to free up space on your iPad, then maybe you decide not to sync that Right Said Fred album you bought in the eighties. In the sample below, only the artists with a checkbox would sync. In this case, that Right Said Fred song that somehow made it’s way into my library, will be the only song that will sync to your iPad. It’s a great way to free up space, but clearly it could impact access to your favorite songs or artists.

iPad sync music

How can I tell how much free storage I have on my iPad and what’s taking up storage space?
With your iPad connected to iTunes, select the iPad in the left hand column. You’ll see a capacity indicator at the bottom of the app. There you’ll be able to see how much free space you have and what’s taking up your storage.

iPad storage

How do I change what iTunes syncs with my iPad?
With your iPad connected to iTunes, select the iPad in the left hand column. Just below the information bar are eight tabs. Each tab allows you to customize what you sync between your computer and your iPad.

iPad sync options

  • Info: Here you can choose to sync your Contacts, Calendars, Mail accounts and Bookmarks.
  • Apps: Your iPad comes with a group of Apple apps. Those cannot be removed from your iPad. You can however change which apps get synced with your iPad. This comes in handy should you download an app that you no longer find useful. Deleting an app from the iPad does not mean you lose the app forever. As long as you’ve synced with iTunes, it will remain on your computer. iTunes provides a number of ways to sort your apps making it easy to find and set up your sync preferences.
  • Music: Outside of videos, music can take up plenty of space on your iPad. If you find yourself looking to free up space, set your sync preferences to “Selected playlists, artists, albums, and genres. This will require you to check the box next playlists and artists you’d like to sync with your iPad. Smart lists such as “Recently added” can be created and synced to make sure you sync music that you’ve recently added to your library. In the right panel, you can select your favorite artists.
  • Movies: Not unlike Music, movies can take up plenty of space. If you want to carry along that copy of Top Gun with you at all times, we don’t blame you. If you decide it’s time to leave Cruise at home, you can customize movies that sync with your iPad using this tab.
  • TV Shows: Similarly, you can select shows that you’d like to sync with your iPad. iTunes includes some great options that limits the shows you sync with your iPad. For example, you can set iTunes to sync just unwatched shows or the last three episodes. Again, this can be a space saver, but if done correctly won’t put you in jeopardy of missing the last episode of The Housewives of Beverly Hills.
  • Podcasts: Ok, plug time here. You’re reading this guide, so we’re hoping that if you’re new to Podcasts, you’ll subscribe to everythingiCafe: the show. iTunes will automatically download our latest broadcast and sync it to your iPad.
  • Photos: If you are a photo hound, this section will allow you to select events you might leave out of the syncing process. Remember that you can always make changes down the road. If you are visiting family out of state, you can easily add a few photo events that you’d like to sync to share with family.

We could spend days going through all the vast options available to you when it comes to syncing your content with your iPad, but we’ll save that for future guides. Just remember that you can always make changes if you start to reach the upper limits of your iPads capacity or stop syncing items that you might not find very useful on your new iPad.
When your iPad has finished syncing, iTunes will indicate, “iPad Sync is complete. OK to disconnect” in the information window.

iPad Sync complete

You can safely disconnect the dock connector and have some fun with your new iPad. Stay tuned for our continuing series on how to use your iPad. We hope you found this useful. If you have questions, our iPad forums are filled with experts and it’s completely free to join.