Breathe New Life Into Your Old iPad With These Tips

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Own an iPad 2? Or maybe even a first generation iPad? Your device is barely 3-4 years old, and yet at times it feels like complete junk. I know all about it, I own one too.

This is not an accident. The companies who make these devices want them to be short lived. What better way to make money than have us buy a new iPad even year or two? But unless your iPad is really broken or totally shot, you don’t have to get a new one. If you feel that your iPad is not what it used to be, a few simple actions may restore some of its original zest.

The tips below are not a guarantee. They will not turn your old iPad into a new device. For some iPads, they may not have any effect at all. But if you manage to breathe some life into your trusty old iPad and carry on for a while longer, you’ve not only saved some money, you’ve kept yourself out of the endless consumer loop for just a bit longer.

Upgrading (Or Not Upgrading) iOS

upgrade-ios

There are many opinions on this matter. Some say you should keep to the latest version of iOS at all times, others say you should not upgrade old devices. No answer is right all of the time — there are too many variables to take into account, and each iPad is different. There’s one thing I know for sure, though: my first generation iPad has never been the same since upgrading to iOS 5. I wish I had never upgraded.

While new versions of iOS add polish and useful features, they’re not really meant for old devices. The first iPad can’t go beyond iOS 5, and was better off with iOS 4. The iPad 2 just might be better off with iOS 5, or if you’ve already upgraded, with iOS 6. If you own an older iPad, upgrading to iOS 7 might not be the best thing for your device. Yes, you’ll have to give up some nice new features, but it’s worth it to keep your iPad in a better working condition.

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Apple’s official line is that you should always update, and this is much of the time down to software. Developers will always write with the latest version of iOS in mind, and while many retain backwards compatibility with iOS 5 and 6, priority is given to newer revisions.

This goes for iPhones as well, by the way. Own an iPhone 4? iOS 7 may not be the best choice for you.

Freeing Up Room: Delete Unused Apps & Photos

If your iPad is full to the brim with apps and photos, or even if you just have a bunch of apps you never use, it may be time for some spring cleaning. While an extra app or two is not going to make much of a difference, many of us have loads of apps lying around which we just never use.

A good way to start is by going to Settings > General > Usage, and checking how much free space you have on your iPad. Here you can also see which apps take up the most amount of space on your iPad — these may be ones you don’t actually use. You can delete large apps from this screen by tapping the app, or if you want to delete other apps, just uninstall them the good old way by tapp.

delete-apps

If your device is really full, getting rid of a boatload of photos may help too. If you keep those on your device, you should have them backed up elsewhere anyway. If you don’t, transfer your photos to your PC or Mac via iCloud or using the Dropbox app, and delete them from your device.

If you get rid of many apps this way, there should be a noticeable difference in your iPad’s performance.

Give PhoneClean A Try

There are things on your iPad you can’t delete manually. Others, such as you browser’s cache, are just a hassle to get to all the time. PhoneClean is one of those apps that promises to clean up your iDevice, and surprisingly enough, it actually works!

I’ve given PhoneClean 2 a thorough testing on my old iPad, and managed to free up more than 1GB without deleting a single app. This is a great way to ensure your iPad is not getting slowed down by unnecessary junk, and is also a good way to free up some space without having to give up any of your precious apps.

phoneclean

The amount of space you can free with PhoneClean will vary from device to device, naturally, but getting rid of junk is always useful. This trick will work on old iPhones too, and can even benefit your newer iDevices.

Disable Spotlight Search

How many times a day do you use Spotlight Search? How many times have you used Spotlight Search since you’ve owned your iPad? If you’re anything like me, you can count the number on two hands or less. Spotlight Search is a great feature, but most of the time, it just isn’t necessary. If you keep your apps in relatively good order, and don’t have hundreds of them, there’s a good chance you rarely use Spotlight Search. So now what?

In order for Spotlight Search to work, it has to keep indexing all the content on your device. This includes your apps, emails, notes, music, messages, reminders, and pretty much everything else. If you rarely use the feature anyway, why not save some resources and stop this indexing?

spotlight

To do this, go to Settings > General > Spotlight Search, and uncheck all the items on the list. If you actually use Spotlight Search for certain things, such as finding buried apps, you can leave the indexing on just for those items, and uncheck all the rest. This will still save some resources, and could benefit your iPad.

Give Your Home Button Another Chance

We now come to one of the most controversial tips in iOS history: the old Home button fix. Many old iPads (and iPhones) suffer from a shady Home button. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and your entire iPad experience is just not the same. Is there a fix?

home-button

There might be. While many call this trick “recalibrating the Home button”, that’s not what this is about. I’ve never found a definite answer as to why this trick works, but the bottom line is that it does manage to fix many problematic Home buttons.

In a nutshell, you need to launch a pre-installed iOS app, press and hold the power button until the shut down prompt appears, and then press and hold your Home button until the app force closes. It sometimes takes several cycles of this to get results, but it does get results for many. Is it the pressing and holding of the Home button the does the trick? Is it something else? I don’t really know. All I know is that it’s harmless and worth a try.

Get detailed instructions and more info about this method in the full Home button fix post, along with another trick you can try if this doesn’t work. The comments to this post are also filled with useful tips, such as cleaning out the Home button with alcohol and a Q-tip.

Repurpose It

car-ipad

If nothing works, and you can’t get your iPad to behave well enough for your regular needs, don’t throw it away. Aside from giving it away to a child or a friend, there are many things you can do with it.

If you have lots of photos, you can turn your iPad into a dedicated media album, or even a business portfolio. You can mount it in your car, use it as a recipe book, or even as a remote control.

Another way to go is to trade your old iPad for money, or simply sell it on Craiglist, and use that to buy a new iPad. If you own a really old iPad, you may not get a lot of money for it, though, but you can make sure you sell it to someone who will use it or its parts, and not just throw it away.

What Works For You?

Do you own an old iPad or iPhone? What have you managed to do to keep it in good working order? Is it worth the effort, or do you just go for a newer model when the older one starts to go off? Share your experiences in the comments.

Image credit: yum9me, Johan Larsson

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Comments (26)
  • shanos

    The problem as I see it is apples insistence that everyone be on the latest version of Ios, even if by running it there devices will become slow and barely usable (e.g ipad 1 with ios=fail).
    My ipad 1 64gb runs slow as a pig with no legs and whilst I have tried to roll back the firmware it always fails, my wife has an ipad4 I am not letting her update to ios7 as I don’t want all the issues that her mum is having (even with latest update still can’t send an email)
    So whilst there is fragmentation on android I see that as a benefit not a problem, if a phone does not have the hardware to upgrade the os users stick with the one that works (or they head over to xda and find a version of the os that has been made as good as it can be by people dedicated to breathing life in to older handsets).
    I have been a long time mac user (started with 8500av an 5300ce), but find myself using Android as it works and if it doesn’t work people like those on xda make it work, this coupled with lower monthly line rental and no upfront handset costs, makes it a no brained for me.

  • William Kinnaird

    BTW, I stumbled on your web page when I was trying to find out if it would be possible to use my iPad as a second display (for video editing or teaching). My heart started racing when I heard of Air Display, and that it can support up to four iPads. I was excitedly envisaging computer workshops in the village with my Mac screen mirrored on our three iPads. Then I was brought crashing down to earth when I saw that Air Display requires iOS 6 :(

  • William Kinnaird

    Hey, I work in Africa, in a remote village with a very poor people, trying to help them with their language and education. I was given three iPad 1s a few months ago, and these have been the greatest things I’ve every had. One of them, my wife and I use ourselves most of the time. The other two we give out to our African co-workers overnight to show people the pictures and video we’ve taken in their community over the past 20 years, for example, and for them to watch all kinds of videos we’ve downloaded from YouTube etc, just to let people see what the rest of the world is like (no TV or internet available in the village – I’m in town at the moment). We intend to use them in the local schools as well, but we only have at most three available – for almost three thousand kids! SOOOOO, if any of you are thinking of upgrading, don’t chuck your old iPad in the trash. Throw it our way – even if it’s a first generation model. Wouldn’t mind having an iPad 2 myself, as I’d like to use AirDisplay and Microsoft Photosynth etc, without getting the “this app cannot be run on your iPad” message. Just thought I’d drop a hint…… Willie Kinnaird

  • Roger

    My son uses iOS7 on his iPad 3. He says it works fine. I’ve watched him, and it looks O.K. to me.

    I have seen some comments that a few users find it lags a bit. Who know how full their iPads are or what they have running on them.

  • Kathleen D.

    What about the iPad 3? Do you think that is updatable to iOS7? I know technically it is but I wonder if anyone has and how they feel it works on it.

    I too appreciate the the Spotlight Search info. My iPhone 4 doesn’t have enough room for me to upgrade the iOS to 7. I’m due for an phone upgrade anyway but I’m still disappointed I’m not able to upgrade the iOS.

    • Yaara L

      I think the iPad 3 should be OK, it’s still pretty new. I don’t own one myself, though, so it’s only a matter of opinion.

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.