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Is your iPad running slow? Maybe it’s sat in a drawer somewhere, gathering dust? It’s time to find the charger and bring that aging tablet back to life.
Though you can’t run any diagnostics on an iPad to find out if there’s anything seriously wrong with it, you can attempt to bring it back to life anyway. Today we’ll try and help you get a few more years out of your old tablet.
iPhone running slowly too? These tips will work on your smartphone as well!
1. Create Some Free Space
If you’re still getting some use out of that old iPad (which iPad do you have?), the first task you’ll want to accomplish is freeing up some storage. iOS and its applications require some amount of free space to perform at their best. If your tablet is nearly at capacity, this may cause performance issues.
Head to Settings > General > [iPad] Storage and wait for iOS to list your currently installed applications. To the right of each application’s name you’ll see the amount of space it’s using. If you see one you don’t use, tap its entry and hit Delete App to free up space. You’ll lose any and all data associated with that application, of course.
If you’re using iOS 11 or later, you can also tap Offload App. This will delete the application files, but retain your own personal documents and data. You’ll get your data back when you reinstall it, though be aware that if the app disappears from the App Store your data will be irretrievable.
Clean Up Your iPad Photos
Now launch the Photos app. On the Albums tab, choose Videos to see any videos you have saved on your iPad. Videos take up considerably more space than images, so deleting videos is a great way to regain space in a relatively short period of time. Hit the Trash icon in the bottom-right corner of the screen to delete a video.
If browsing the web feels slow, you might want to delete your Safari cache too. Head to Settings > Safari and tap Clear History and Website Data. This will remove your history and saved website data, which creates more free space.
2. Tweak a Few Settings
Speeding up the day-to-day tasks and general UI elements can help your iPad feel new again. Fortunately, there are a few settings you can change to make it run a little smoother. The first is to limit what your iPad does in the background.
Head to Settings > General > Background App Refresh. This feature allows apps to periodically “wake up” in the background to collect new information. You can turn it off entirely, or enable it for only a select few apps.
Notifications can also slow down your iPad, particularly if you receive a lot of them. They also consume a decent amount of battery life, since your tablet must wake up, fetch data, turn on the screen, and possibly sound an alert every time it receives a push request. Limit or disable them under Settings > Notifications.
One of the best tweaks for speeding up your tablet’s interface is to enable Reduce Motion under Settings > General > Accessibility. This removes the “zooming” effect when you tap on an app icon, replacing it with a faster fade animation instead. It also turns off iOS transparency effects, which takes a strain off the GPU.
If you use your iPad’s search box to launch apps and find documents, head to Settings > Siri & Search and turn off Suggestions in Search and Suggestions in Look Up. This will yield faster local results, though you’ll miss out on any online queries.
3. Update and Reinstall iOS
This is a good place to start if you haven’t touched your iPad for a while, and it’s fallen behind on its updates. Once you’ve dusted it off and given it a good charge, connect to a Mac or PC running iTunes and back it up if you have anything worth saving. Now select your device, open the Summary tab, and hit Update.
This will download the latest version of iOS and install it on your iPad. Once the process is complete, disconnect your iPad from iTunes and use it for a bit. If you have a lot of pictures on your iPad, it might be incredibly slow while the Photos app indexes your images.
It shouldn’t take more than a few days to find out if an iOS update helped or not. If you’re still finding it a bit slow, consider a complete iOS reinstall. Connect to iTunes, select your iPad, head to Summary, then Restore. You’ll lose everything on your iPad, so make sure you back up and restore if you have data worth saving.
When your tablet reboots for the last time, it’ll be like new. You’ll likely want to enable a few of the tweaks we mentioned above, and take care not to download too much too soon and ruin all your hard work.
4. Replace the iPad Battery
If your iPad is tragically slow and you’d rather fix it than buy another one, try changing the battery. Apple’s battery fiasco taught us that devices may perform at sub-par levels when iOS detects a problem with the battery. This is meant to prevent the battery from draining too quickly.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any diagnostic tools you can run on your iPad to learn about what’s going on inside it. That means a battery replacement is a bit of a gamble. You won’t know if switching it out was worth the cost until you complete the work. The good news is that you can do it yourself, with kits costing $30-$45.
Unfortunately, the procedure is not easy. Fixing your own iPad is a lot like fixing your own iPhone. You can buy spares and kits that include weird-shaped screwdrivers and other tools you need for relatively little cost. Despite the difficulty, there are some excellent guides available to help you out. Head to iFixit and find your model to explore the possibilities, then read our iOS battery guide.
If you don’t want to do the work yourself, you can take your iPad to Apple who will charge you a hefty fee ($199+) to replace the battery. You could save some money by going to a third party and asking them to do it instead, though they’ll likely use cheaper parts.
Know the Limitations of Your iPad
Hardware ages while software marches forward. Generations of iOS upgrades will render even the fastest devices useless eventually. The original iPad Air and iPhone 5s are still supported in the latest version of iOS, and they were both released in 2013. Five years of support is impressive, but it’s also going to take a toll on performance.
Web technologies are also evolving constantly. An iPad from 2013 won’t be the most pleasant web browsing device in 2018. Knowing the limitations of your technology can help you get the most out of it without raising your blood pressure.
If you need some ideas, there are plenty of great uses for an old iPad:
- Local media playback, whether it’s your Apple Music subscription or movies sideloaded to VLC.
- Streaming from Netflix, or catching up TV services, YouTube, or Twitch.
- Recipe and shopping list management in the kitchen.
- Reading books, graphic novels, or displaying sheet music and tabs for musical instruments.
- Entertaining children.
If you get to the end of the list and you still have little to no use for your tablet, why not factory reset and donate it to someone who will get more use out of it? You can then follow our iPad buying guide to find your next tablet.