Get started with the iPad and iPad mini

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Congratulations: You’ve unwrapped, purchased, or otherwise braved wait times to pick yourself up a brand-new iPad or iPad mini this holiday.

But before you get to playing with your new device, you’ll probably want to set it up. Thanks to iOS’s step-by-step activation process, Apple’s made it pretty simple to get started; but just in case you need some extra help, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to your new iPad, activating it, transferring data from an older tablet or your computer, and some suggestions for exploring its new features.

If you have an older tablet, transfer your data

You’ve moved to the latest and greatest in the iOS world, and to do so, you’re leaving your old device behind. But before you send it off with a fond farewell, you have to decide whether you want to transfer its data to your iPad or iPad mini. Here are the various ways to do so, depending on whether you’re moving from an old iPad, a different tablet, or you just want to move data from your computer.

Upgrade from an older iPad

If you’re upgrading from an older iPad or iPad mini, you can transfer all its apps, data, and settings to your new device. (To add your music and video, you’ll still have to sync your new device with iTunes.) But to do so, you’ll need to make a backup (via iTunes or, if you’re running iOS 5 or later, via iCloud) of your information. You can then restore that backup onto your new phone during the setup process.

Click Back Up Now to make a backup of your old iPad to iCloud or to your computer.

Make a backup using iTunes: If your old device is running iOS 4 or earlier, an iTunes backup is the way to go. To update your backup (or to create a new one) connect your old device to the computer you normally sync it with via USB, open iTunes, select the device from the Devices menu, and in the Summary field, click Back Up Now.

Make a backup using iCloud: If you’re running iOS 5 or later on your old device and you have an iCloud account, you can alternatively take advantage of iCloud Backups to save your data. Your device will automatically make an iCloud backup once a day while locked, plugged in, and connected to a Wi-Fi network, but you can manually force a backup whenever you’re on Wi-Fi by opening the Settings app on your device. Navigate to iCloud > Storage & Backup, and make sure the iCloud Backup switch is toggled on. From there, you just have to tap on Back Up Now to start the process. (You should note that iCloud backups can sometimes take significantly longer than iTunes backups, so it may not be the best option if you’re in a hurry to set up your new phone.)

Upgrade from another tablet

Moving from an Android or Windows tablet to the iPad Air or mini? Depending on how you’ve set your information up, it should be relatively painless to transfer it to your new device.

Mail, contacts, and calendars: If you’re using a Gmail account or other POP or IMAP-based account for mail on your smartphone, it’s already syncing to a central server, and you should be able to add that account to your new iPad with few issues. Apple’s iOS has automatic setup for those using Microsoft Exchange, Gmail, Yahoo, Aol, or Hotmail; you’ll also be able to manually set up a POP or IMAP account for mail, LDAP or CardDAV for contacts, or CalDAV for calendars. You can alternatively use Apple’s free iCloud service to set up a new email account.

Music, videos, and photos: Your new iPad uses iTunes to sync any local music, TV, movies, and photos from your computer to the device. If you’ve been syncing that information with your smartphone or tablet, it’s easy enough sync that data with your Apple device—you just have to know where the content is located on your old device and get it over to your computer. Once you’ve done that, add it to iTunes; to sync your photos, add them to iPhoto or Aperture (on a Mac) or place them in your Pictures folder (on a PC).

If you’ve purchased content through your old tablet that hasn’t been copied to your computer (say, if you’re using Amazon Cloud Drive), you should be able to download it to your desktop system, or, at the very least, install an app on the iPad (like the Kindle app for book purchases) that lets you access the information.

Apps and miscellany: Unfortunately, you can’t port any Windows or Android apps from your old device to your iPad. On the upside, you may be able to find parallel versions of those apps on Apple’s App Store (for instance, if you used Dropbox on your old tablet, you can download the company’s iOS app and continue to access your Dropbox data). If you have apps with valuable information you don’t want to lose (notes apps, to-do lists, etc), you can poke around to see if there’s any way of exporting that information; otherwise, you’ll be out of luck.

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