Troubleshoot your Apple iPad

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One of the most useful things about the iPad software is that whenever it syncs with its host computer, the entire system is backed up. If the system is acting weird, try returning to the last synchronized data.

Plug the iPad's USB cable into the host computer, and the iTunes software should automatically start. Click on the iPad on the left side of the computer's screen and then select the Summary tab.

After clicking on the Restore icon, you're ready to reload your iPad with data. Use "Restore from the last backup" so that all your music, videos and apps will return during your next synchronization.

If that doesn't work, click on "Set up as new iPad" to start from scratch -- although you will lose anything you've done or bought since your iPad came from the store.

The whole process will take anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour, but you'll notice that the app icons are now arranged alphabetically (rather than in the order they were installed).

Black screen

If your iPad's screen goes black after about five minutes of inactivity and no amount of screen tapping gets it back, it's probably not broken -- just sleeping to save power so that the battery lasts longer. Some users find this annoying, but it's easy to change.

Go to the Settings page's Auto-Lock screen and adjust how long you want the screen to stay on before it goes blank -- the choices are 2, 5, 10 or 15 minutes. If you like, you can turn this feature off altogether for an always-on system (although this will, of course, decrease your battery life).

Useful tips

Lock down

Are you afraid that the contents of your iPad might fall into the wrong hands if it's stolen or lost? You're not alone.

As a simple security measure, you can set a passcode that must be entered in order to unlock the machine.

Go to the Settings page, open the Passcode Lock section, and tap Turn Passcode On at the top of the page. Type in the four-digit code you want to use, type it in again, and you're set. The downside is that you'll need to enter the passcode every time you wake up your iPad -- but at least your data will be more secure.

To be doubly safe, you can turn on the Erase Data switch (located on the same page) so that the system will erase its entire contents after 10 unsuccessful attempts to enter the passcode. Just make sure you have a good backup on your host computer to rebuild your iPad if its contents do get erased.

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