How to Setup the iPad Air or iPad Air 2

One of the most coveted tech items is usually the Apple iPad Air or iPad Air 2. They’re arguably the two best tablets money can buy. If you just received one as a gift, or bought one yourself and don’t know what to do next, we’ll show new iPad Air or iPad Air 2 owners how to set one up for the most enjoyment. Following these tips will help new owners become more efficient with their excellent new iPad Air or iPad Air 2.



The tips in this setup guide include important settings to configure, apps to install, accessories to get and customization tips. The process will take fifteen to thirty minutes, depending on how many of these steps you follow.

Initial Setup of Your iPad Air or iPad Air 2

The iPad Air usually comes with the battery partially charged, so go ahead and start it up by turning on the iPad using the power button on the top right edge (when the iPad sits in portrait mode and the Home button’s below the screen). Charge it to 100%, either while performing these steps or soon after following this guide.


The iPad boots to the “Hello” screen. Swipe towards the right and then follow the onscreen instructions. To learn more, see the Apple guide found on Apple’s support pages and check out the screenshots in the image gallery below.


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Follow our guides and how to posts below on setting up various features on the iPad. Here’s a video showing how to find a lost iPad:

The other guides are as follows:


ipad air home screen

Once you follow the above setup guides or Apple’s support page, the iPad Air or iPad Air 2 will show the user the above Home Screen.

Change Key Settings

ios 8 settings icon

Before going any further, change some key settings. Do this by opening the Settings app found on the Home Screen. It looks like a gray icon with gears on it (see above). We’ll go down the list of the settings found listed along the left side of the Settings.

ios 8 settings changes on ipad air or ipad air 2


The key settings to change including the following:

  1. Connect to Wi-Fi if you didn’t already.
  2. On LTE iPads change the Personal Hotspot password.
  3. Turn off Notifications for certain apps. For example, I don’t use the built-in iOS 8 Calendar app, so I turn the notifications off for that app.
  4. Turn off the Control Center access from the lock screen to keep people from accessing Control Center features. For more on Control Center see our guide which applies to iOS 7 but is still relevant for iOS 8.
  5. Set up Do Not Disturb schedules so that the iPad won’t annoy anyone during the night or while at work. Tap on Scheduled on the Do Not Disturb screen and set the time frame by tapping on the times.
  6. Customize the following under the General Settings:
    • Siri – change the voice, the Hey Siri prompt used to turn on Siri in hands free mode when the iPad’s connected to power, and more.
    • Spotlight Search – change what the iPad searches for when the user uses it and change the order of what’s listed. See our post on Spotlight Search for more information.
    • Turn on or off Multitasking Gestures – see our guide for more information.
    • Auto-Lock time – the default 2 minutes turns off the screen too quickly for some so lengthen in here.
    • Change Keyboards – uses can use third-party keyboards in iOS 8.
    • Add Keyboard Shortcuts – keyboard shortcuts work like shorthand. For example, I set up my email address to get inserted when I type the first few letters.
  7. Set a new Wallpaper background.
  8. Change the default notification Sounds.
  9. If you didn’t during initial setup, add a Passcode and create a Touch ID (iPad Air 2 only) profile with your fingerprints.
  10. Change settings for the iTunes & App Stores (see below)
    • Make sure your proper Apple ID email address shows up at the top of the iTunes & App Store settings page on the right.
    • Turn on or off automatic downloads for things like Music, Apps, Books and Updates. Some people turn off automatic updates off because sometimes a newly updated app will remove features or break working features and people want to wait to update their apps till they know the new version works properly.
    • Decide whether to download these kinds of things on Cellular or just on Wi-Fi. We recommend setting it to off so they only download on Wi-Fi.
  11. Change app settings – the pre-installed Apple apps put some of their settings in the Settings app. Look through settings for things like Safari, Maps, and more.
itunes and app stores settings on ios 8

Change the iTunes & App Stores settings.

Update to the Latest Version of iOS 8

One of the other things to do right after the initial setup is to get the latest version of iOS 8 installed. As of this writing, that’s iOS 8.1.2. Make sure the iPad’s still connected to Wi-Fi, and the battery shows at least 50% charge, then open the Settings app.

Here's how long the iOS 8.1 upgrade takes.

Here’s how long the iOS 8.1 upgrade takes.


Tap on General and then Software Update. The iPad searches the Apple servers for an update. If it finds one, it will show it and the user can download it and install it. The iPad will reboot during the update process. You can do other things, like get used the iOS 8 user interface, while the update downloads. The iPad will show a pop up that asks the user to let it restart to apply the update. Let it apply and take a break for about 15 minutes while it updates. It will restart when it’s finished updating.

Add Email, Contacts and Calendar

add email calendar and contacts in ios

Users will want to add their personal email account, contacts and calendar appointments. Do this from Settings. Slide the left column down till it shows Mail, Contacts, Calendars. If you already set up iCloud, then that account will already show up under the Accounts section on the right. Add a new one by tapping Add Account.

add account screen

Tap on the name of the service you use for email, contacts and calendar.

Apple lists common account types like:

  • iCloud
  • Exchange
  • Google
  • Yahoo
  • AOL
  • Outlook

Tap the service that your email, contact and/or calendar information comes from.

The Other category lets the user insert their setup details manually. If you need to use this on an Exchange account, get the information from your service provider to enter here.

email account login details

Enter your name, email address, password and optionally an account description.

As an example, we’ll setup a Google account. Enter your name, as you want it to appear when you send an email to someone. Then enter the Google email address, password and a description like “Gmail account,” or for Google Apps accounts enter something like “Work Gmail.” Then tap on Next.

account sync settings

The iPad will verify the proper information with Google servers and offer to sync the various types of information available. With a Google account that includes Mail, Contacts, Calendars and Notes. Notes refers to the Apple iOS Notes app. I use iCloud for notes sync, so I turn it off here by tapping the green slider switch. Tap Save to finish.

The other types of accounts work similarly to these steps.

Set up Personal Hotspot on LTE iPads

personal hotspot on ipad air

Users of an LTE version of the iPad Air or iPad Air 2 may want to set up Personal Hotspot. This turns the iPad into a Wi-Fi access point so users can get online with their computer or another device.

Find Personal Hotspot in Settings. Tap it and then tap on the Wi-Fi Password to change it to something more memorable. Tap on Done and then tap on the toggle switch next to Personal Hotspot at the top of the screen. Now other devices can find the iPad and use its LTE connection to get online.

Connect the iPad Air or iPad Air 2 to a Computer

Early in the process connect the iPad Air or iPad Air 2 to the computer that you plan to use to back it up and sync things to and from the iPad. This works best on a Mac, but it also works on Windows. We’ll show users how to do this on a Mac, but it works almost the same on the Windows version of iTunes.

itunes ipad air setup

Start up iTunes and sign in using the same Apple ID used in the setup of the iPad Air. The above screen will show up in iTunes. It offers two options.

  1. Set up as a new iPad
  2. Restore from this backup:

The first option won’t change settings on the iPad. It will back the iPad Air up in its current state. The second option finds a previous backup and saves that to the iPad with all the settings and apps applied. There’s a drop down box that shows a list of available backups if iTunes finds a previous iPad backup.

Use the first option, unless you’re upgrading from a previous iPad with apps and settings configured the way you want the new one setup. Click Continue after selecting between the two options, if available. Then click on Get Started on the next screen.

itunes ipad air settings page

People who own another iOS device can now start to install apps they already own. Click on Apps from the left column. Do the same for other media like Music, Movies or TV Shows. For apps, find the app to install in the list and click on the Install button in the center column. For other media, click on the media item and then click on the Sync check box at the top of the iTunes screen (see below). Select each item, or click on the check box that reads Automatically include X movies where X stands for the items from the drop down box.

itunes movie sync screen

Photos will sync from iPhoto or Aperture on the Mac or from a Windows photo library. Music will let the user sync from their music library, unless they have Music Match turned on. Read our post on the service to learn more about Music Match. Users can also sync their contacts and calendars with local calendar and contact apps, depending on what’s installed and what platform they’re using. Windows users will need Microsoft Outlook.

If you installed apps, then organize them using iTunes. It’s easier on the computer than on the iPad. Click on the Apps item from the left hand column and notice the images that look like the Home Screens on the iPad Air or iPad Air 2 (see below). Double click one of the screens and it expands. Now, click and hold on an app icon and drag it on top of another icon to create a folder with those two icons. Type in the white box to give the folder a name. Keep dragging icons into a folder and then drag the folders around on the screen to arrange them. Drag them between screens to move them.

itunes app organization

After installing some apps users can organize the apps on the screen from within iTunes.

To arrange apps layout on the iPad, tap and hold on an icon till they all start dancing. Now tap and hold and drag the icon on top of another one to form a folder. Keep dragging icons into the folder with a finger. Rename the folder by typing in the folder title box. Drag the icons around the screen the same way you dragged them into a folder. The Dock at the bottom has room for two more icons. Drag most used icons there. For example, I put the Settings app and the App Store app on my dock.

Setup iCloud

icloud icon

Setting up iCloud on a Mac is pretty easy. Make sure iCloud’s turned on in Settings on the iPad and do the same for the Mac in Settings.

Windows users will need to get do a few more things to configure their Windows PC to work with iCloud. Apple put together a great guide for setting iCloud up on a Windows PC. Here’s what you’ll need to make it work.

  • An Apple ID.
  • For calendar, contacts and mail syncing between the computer and the iPad, install Microsoft Outlook 2007 or later.
  • To use iCloud drive to sync files between the iPad and the Windows PC make sure that you have iCloud Drive (link for our guide to using iCloud for Windows) setup on your iCloud account.

The user can sync content like photos, files, contacts, calendars and email between their Mac or their Windows PC.

Install Apps from the App Store

itunes 8 app store icon

Many new iPad Air owners don’t already own any iOS apps. It’s easiest to install them from the App Store on the iPad Air or iPad Air 2. The App Store icon looks like a letter A inside a white circle on a blue background (see above).

The App Store includes five tabs across the bottom of the screen.

  • Featured – apps chosen by the Apple App Store staff to highlight.
  • Top Charts – the most popular apps, downloaded the most.
  • Explore – collections of apps grouped by category and popular apps from people who live nearby, if the user allows the App Store to use their location.
  • Purchased – apps the user already owns.
  • Updates – apps installed with updates when available.

At the top of each page there’s a search box (#3 below). Look for apps by name or type by typing the search string in the box. There’s also a Categories link at the top of most pages (#1 below). Tap it to show a drop down box with a list of app categories. A third link at the top of most pages shows Wish List apps (#2 below). These are apps that the user adds to their wish list, but doesn’t buy right away.

app store interface

The App Store user-interface includes tabs across the bottom and a search box (#3) at the top. There’s also the Categories (#1) list and the Wish List (#2).

Add to the wish list by tapping on an app in the store. The app screen pops up. Tap on the share button in the upper right corner. There’s a button that reads Add to Wish List with a magic wand icon on the button (see below).

add apps to wish list

Tap on the share button in the upper right corner of any app’s screen and then tap on the Add to Wish List button.

We can’t list all the apps a person should install, but to get started consider the following recommendations:

pixelmator for ipad color correction tools

Pixelmator for iPad

We also really like Adobe’s new iPad apps for creative types and the new photo editor Pixelmator (see above) for touching up photos.

Setup iPad Air or iPad Air 2 for Making Calls or Sending Texts

Thanks to iOS 8, the iPad Air and iPad Air 2 will let users connect their iPhone to the device so they can make and receive phone calls and send text messages. Apple calls this Continuity. Setting it up works a lot like setting up the feature on a Mac, which users can do by following our guide for sending and receiving text messages in OS X Yosemite.

facetime settings on ipad air

Sign into the same iCloud account on both the iPad and the iPhone. Both devices need iOS 8 to work. Connect to the same Wi-Fi network when you’d like to send/receive calls or text from the iPad connected to the iPhone. On the iPad open Settings and (#1 above) find FaceTime on the left. Turn it on by (#2) tapping the green slider switch at the top of the right column. Also turn on (#3) iPhone Cellular Calls. Make sure both the iPhone and iPad show the same Apple ID email address (#4). Check to see that the right caller ID information shows up (#5). This will include email address and iPhone phone numbers connected with the Apple ID shown in #4 above.

Use an iPad Air or iPad Air 2 Case

Belkin CODE Ultimate iPad Air Keyboard Case Review -  7

The iPad design looks like a beautiful piece of engineering, but it still needs a case to protect it from drops and dings. Case makers offer thousands of options, but they all come down to a few styles:

  • Folio Style Cases – makes the iPad look like a folio planner or notebook that opens. Make sure the case fits snugly with the iPad Air or iPad Air 2 and comes with the magnetic feature that wakes the screen when the user opens the cover of the folio case (see second image below).
  • Bumper or Snap On Case – This kind of case only protects the back and edges of the case. People who don’t carry their iPad out of their home or office, or who always put it in a computer bag, can get one of these. They’re usually cheaper.
  • Slip or Sleeve Cases – the iPad slides into the sleeve or slip.
  • Keyboard Cases – this kind of case includes a keyboard that connects via Bluetooth, or in some rare cases via the Lightning connector (see above).
  • Apple Smart Cover – the Apple Smart Cover snaps onto the iPad Air or iPad Air 2 using magnets along the left edge of the device and wakes the iPad screen up when the user lifts the cover (see below). Many manufacturers make similarly designed cases for less and occasionally the third-party versions cost more.
  • Stand Cases – many of the other cases in this list also include the ability to prop the iPad up to use it for work or entertainment in stand mode like the brown and iPad Air Smart Covers in the image below.

iPad Air Smart Case

Cases can cost as little as a $10 to $20 and as much as $200. We recommend avoiding the cheapest cases which seldom last, but also avoid very expensive cases which aren’t worth the money unless they offers some special feature or look amazing (see below). Most of our favorite cases cost between $30 and $50 or $70-$100.

nodus collection access case for ipad air

The Nodus Collection Access case for iPad Air is a good example of a high quality folio style case.

The Nodus Collection Access Case for iPad Air or iPad Air 2 looks amazing and feels great to the touch ($155). People who want an elegant leather folio style case should pay a little extra because this folio style case looks beautiful. They also offer a version for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Inside the front cover there’s a small pocket for papers. Instead of snapping on or sliding into a part that grabs the edges, the case comes with some super sticky adhesive that doesn’t lose its stick. If it does, just wash it and let it dry slightly before putting the iPad back in the case. It doesn’t include the magnets to wake the screen, but it looks so good we’ll forgive that one flaw.


Our favorite slip or sleeve style cases come from Waterfield Designs. They make beautiful cases crafted from high quality materials. Take a look at the Ultimate iPad SleeveCase for $59.