While backing up your iPad is highly recommended, it's not mandatory. Backups are a separate process from updates, so you choose whether you want to back up your data each time you update it. For example, if you backed up your iPad only a few days before an update is announced, a backup may not be necessary. Provided you have enough room in the iPad's storage, you can download the update directly to your iPad and update it wirelessly. If there isn't enough free storage space for the update file, you need to delete some data or connect the iPad to iTunes to update it.

Updating Wirelessly

Step 1

Connect the iPad to a power source using the adapter that came with it. Confirm that you are within range of a reliable Wi-Fi network. Launch the "Settings" app and select "General," followed by "Software Update."

Step 2

Tap "Download and Install" link. This only appears if an update is available. A dialog box opens asking if you want to install the update immediately or later. If you select "Later," you can come back at any time after the update is downloaded.

Step 3

Tap "Install" on the Software Update screen to install the update. The iPad restarts by itself when the process is finished. The amount of time this takes depends on the purpose of the update. For most cases the update takes from 5 to 10 minutes.

Updating With iTunes

Step 1

Launch iTunes on your computer. If iTunes prompts you to update to the most recent version, do it before the iPad update. If you don't have iTunes, you can get it free at Apple's website.

Step 2

Connect the iPad to your computer using the cable that came with it. Click the "iPad" button in the upper right corner of the iTunes window.

Step 3

Click the "Summary" tab and then click the "Check for Update" button. As with a wireless update, you can opt to install the update immediately or just download it so you can update the iPad later. The update is downloaded to your computer, not to the iPad.

Step 4

Click the "Download and Update" button. The iPad restarts when the process is finished.

Step 5

Click the "Eject" button beside the iPad button after the update is complete.