Factory Reset iPad? (Steps, Backup to iCloud iTunes Finder)

I decided to sell one of my iPads as it was an older model and I didn’t use it anymore. Being concerned about security, I wanted to make sure all of my data on the iPad was permanently deleted by doing a factory reset on my iPad.

So, how do I do a factory reset on an iPad? Performing a factory reset on an iPad involves navigating to the “Settings” app, then choosing “General”, and then “Reset”. From here, select “Erase All Content and Settings”. A warning prompt will appear, and if you choose to continue, you will need to enter your Apple ID and password to disable “Find My iPad” and completely erase the device. This procedure brings the iPad back to its original state when it was first purchased, deleting all data, settings, and applications.

The factory reset procedure is a feature built into iOS devices to restore the unit to its initial condition. This action is often necessary when troubleshooting major issues, preparing the device for resale, or erasing personal information to protect privacy.

When selecting ‘Erase All Content and Settings’, the device will be wiped clean of any data stored on it, such as photos, music, documents, and apps. From my own experience, it’s not just about erasing files but also about protecting your digital identity. I once forgot to do this step before selling an old iPad and had to rush back to retrieve it from the buyer to ensure all my personal configurations were removed. The factory reset essentially clears all personalized settings, returning the device to its pure, untouched state, just like when you first unbox it.

I knew that performing a factory reset was a significant action that could not be undone and I had already backed up the relevant data on the iPad before running the factory reset commands. If concerned about keeping the data, then before initiating the process, it is crucial to ensure you have backed up any important data on the device.

Before you undertake a factory reset, it’s vital to back up any data you don’t want to lose. I learned this the hard way when I accidentally lost a treasured photo album by rushing into a factory reset. After that incident, I made sure to familiarize myself with all the options for backup. When I decided to restore my data onto a newer iPad model, I compared Apple’s three primary methods:

  • iCloud: Convenient for wireless backup but requires sufficient cloud storage space.
  • Finder (MacOS): Ideal for Mac users, allowing a secure local backup.
  • iTunes (Microsoft Windows®): A reliable option for Windows users, though it feels a bit dated.

Choosing the right method depends on your specific needs, and my preference now leans towards iCloud due to its ease of use.

iCloud backups are stored in the cloud and can be performed directly from your device, while iTunes backups are stored on your computer and require that you connect your iPad to your computer. After performing a factory reset, you can choose to set up your iPad as a new device, or you can restore it from the backup you created earlier. This can help you get back up and running quickly, with all your apps, data, and settings restored to how they were before the reset.

Also, remember that you need your Apple ID and password to disable “Find My iPad”. This security feature is designed to prevent unauthorized users from wiping your device in case it gets lost or stolen. If the factory reset is completed, you will need to set up your iPad as new or restore it from a previous backup during the initial setup process.

When performing a factory reset on my iPad, the device was returned to its original factory state. This meant any personal data stored on the device, including my contacts, messages, photos, and apps, were completely erased. Any configurations I had set, such as Wi-Fi settings, privacy preferences, or device restrictions, were also be removed. Essentially, my iPad became as it was when I first took it out of the box.

The need for a factory reset isn’t just a technical necessity; it’s a decision tied to various personal circumstances. In my case, I decided to sell my iPad, but I’ve also used factory resets to overcome stubborn software glitches.

What’s vital to remember, as I found out, is that a factory reset is like a digital shredder, ensuring that your personal data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Whether you’re selling, gifting, or troubleshooting your device, it’s more than a reset; it’s a safeguard for your digital life.

A factory reset is also often employed as a last-ditch effort to solve persistent or severe software issues that cannot be resolved by other troubleshooting methods. In such cases, a factory reset can often help by eliminating any software glitches, clearing out problematic apps, and essentially giving the device a fresh start.

iCloud backup

iCloud backup, with its wireless and automatic functionality, is a marvel of modern technology. I recall the relief I felt when I discovered this process, knowing that my data was secure without the need for tangled cables or complicated procedures. Here’s how I’ve done it countless times:

  1. I ensure my iPad is connected to a Wi-Fi network, a gateway to the cloud.
  2. I navigate to the “Settings”—the control hub of my device.
  3. Tapping my name, I access the Apple ID screen—a personal space in the Apple ecosystem.
  4. Selecting “iCloud”, I’m greeted with various options.
  5. Scrolling down, I find the “iCloud Backup” option, ready to safeguard my data.
  6. If it’s not already active, I toggle on “iCloud Backup”—a simple flip that holds so much power.
  7. Finally, I tap “Back Up Now”, initiating a process that silently works its magic, keeping my memories and information safe and accessible.

Remember, for iCloud Backup to work automatically in the future, your iPad must be connected to Wi-Fi, locked, and connected to a power source. Also, ensure you have enough space in your iCloud account to store the backup. Apple provides 5GB of iCloud storage for free, but you may need to purchase additional storage if your iPad’s data exceeds this limit.

Finder backup

Starting with macOS Catalina (10.15), iTunes has been replaced by separate apps (Music, TV, Podcast, and Finder). If you’re using a Mac with Catalina or later, the backup process for your iPad will involve Finder instead of iTunes. The steps remain largely the same; you just use Finder in place of iTunes.

Backing up your iPad using Finder on a Mac running macOS Catalina or later is an intuitive process. Here are the steps:

  1. Connect your iPad to your Mac using the appropriate USB cable.
  2. Open a Finder window.
  3. In the sidebar on the left, under “Locations”, your iPad should appear. Click on it.
  4. In the main Finder window, you should now see details about your iPad. If not, click on “General” in the button bar.
  5. From the “Backups” part, choose “Back up all of the data on your iPad to this Mac”. To save Health and Activity data, you will need to encrypt the backup. You can do this by checking the box “Encrypt local backup”, and then set a password you can remember.
  6. Click “Back Up Now” to begin the backup process.

The duration of the backup process will depend on the amount of data on your iPad. These backups are stored locally on your Mac.

iTunes backup

On a Windows® based device and devices with macOS versions earlier than Catalina, backing up an iPad using iTunes is a fairly straightforward process. Here are the steps:

  1. First, ensure that you have the latest version of iTunes installed on your computer.
  2. Connect your iPad to your computer using the device’s USB cable.
  3. Open iTunes and select the iPad icon that appears in the upper-left corner of the iTunes window.
  4. Under the “Summary” tab, you will see a section labeled “Backups”.
  5. Select “This computer” and then click “Back Up Now”.

If preserving Health and Activity data from your iPad is important to you, encryption of your backup is required. This can be accomplished by ticking the “Encrypt [device] backup” checkbox and setting a memorable password.

The backup process will start, and the duration will depend on the amount of data on your iPad. It’s worth noting that these backups are stored locally on the computer used, rather than in the cloud.

Reset an iPad without the passcode?

If you’re locked out of your iPad and you don’t remember the passcode, you’ll have to perform a factory reset using iTunes or Finder (for macOS Catalina and later) or use the Recovery Mode. Please note that this process will delete all data on the iPad.

To reset an iPad to factory settings without a passcode can be done, but it requires either using a computer (Mac or PC) with iTunes (or Finder on macOS Catalina or later) or Recovery Mode. Here are the steps if you are using a Mac or PC computer:

  1. Confirm that your computer is running the most recent version of iTunes (for macOS Catalina 10.15 or later, use Finder in place of iTunes). If you don’t have iTunes installed, you can download it from the official Apple website.
  2. Link your iPad to your computer via a USB cable.
  3. Open up iTunes or Finder.
  4. While your device remains connected, you’ll need to force it to restart. The steps vary depending on the iPad model:
    • For iPads with Face ID: Give a short press to the Volume Up button. Next, do a short press on the Volume Down button. Following this, continue to press the Power button until the device starts to reboot.
    • For iPads featuring a Home button: Simultaneously continue pressing both the Home and the Top (or Side) buttons. Maintain this until the recovery mode screen becomes visible.
  5. A dialog box will appear in iTunes or Finder stating there’s a problem with your device that requires an update or restoration. Opt for ‘Restore’.
  6. iTunes or Finder will start to download software for your iPad. If the process exceeds 15 minutes, your iPad will leave recovery mode and you’ll have to start again with steps 4 and 5.
  7. Once the operation is complete, you can commence the setup of your iPad as a new device.

Here are the steps if you are using Recovery Mode:

  1. Connect your iPad to your computer.
  2. Initiate Recovery Mode on your iPad (refer to step 4 from the previous instructions).
  3. In iTunes or Finder, select ‘Restore’. This action will erase your iPad along with its passcode.
Home (A) + Top button (B) or Home (A) + Side buttons (C). For older iPads – Step 4 above for older iPads

Please note that this process will erase everything on your iPad, including the passcode. Also, if Find My iPad is enabled, you’ll need to enter your Apple ID and password after the reset to use your iPad.


In conclusion, performing a factory reset on an iPad, which involves erasing all content and settings, effectively brings the device back to its original, out-of-the-box state. This action, built into iOS devices, is a valuable tool for troubleshooting issues, preparing the device for resale, or simply to safeguard personal information.

Before undertaking this significant action, it’s imperative to back up any valuable data, as the process is irreversible and wipes all stored data and personalized configurations. Fortunately, Apple offers several backup methods, including iCloud, Finder, and iTunes. After resetting, one can set up the iPad as new or restore it from a previously made backup. Additionally, the Apple ID and password are necessary to disable the “Find My iPad” feature, adding a layer of security against unauthorized users.

Whether prompted by the need to sell the device, or to resolve persistent software glitches, a factory reset can provide an effective solution, albeit one that should be approached with full awareness of its data-erasing implications.

Bal Kang

Bal Kang is a technology expert based in the UK, with experience across a number of technology areas from phones, tablets, computers to gaming.

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