This post stems from a question by Mike, a reader. You have an old iPad (original, iPad 2 etc.) and over the years, it has become slow, the touch has lost its sensitivity, the apps often load pathetically slowly/get stuck and a bucket-load of other problems crop up. How do you get rid of this?

Cleaning up your iPad can speed it up to a large extent. The most immediate benefits that I have experienced is an enhanced battery performance, a faster, responsive iPad and a better experience overall.

Shaun wrote a post about turning your iPhone into a new device by cleaning up and using a few apps. That’s a good post to start but let’s take a closer look at a few things that you can do to your iPad 1, iPad 2 to get them up to speed.

How to Speed up Old iPad

Here’s what we’ll be dealing with:

1). Clearing out data: Resetting stuff
2). Upgrading to New iOS? Is it Worth?
3). Updating Apps vs. Using “Better” Apps
4). Rely on Stock apps
5). Jailbreak & More
6). The Physical Part: Cleaning, Dry-recharge cycle

1.Clearing Out the Data (How to Reformat an iPad)

One of the very first things that you should be doing is clearing out all the stuff. Data gets accumulated over long periods of usage and even if you backup/sync, data just gets accumulated. Most apps store data on the iPhone locally so there’s a lot of usage. Apps like Camera, Photo Booth, Safari, Mail are going to be the top priority.

Of course, you want to keep your data so it’s best to “curate” – erase data that’s not required. Sometimes, you think you need a particular data but you don’t touch it for years. So the key is to be very strict in what you want to keep.

Remove stuff that you don’t want from each of the app that’s storing data. You can find out the usage by heading over to Settings → General → Usage.

Once you erase everything else, you can take backups via iTunes/iCloud. iCloud is a better solution, if you ask me, but if you’re comfortable with an iTunes backup, use that.

Then, once everything is backed up, head to Settings → General → Reset and reset all things. Remember, you’re going to remove everything – erase all data – and setting up the iPad as new.

The biggest benefit is your iPad is cleared of all the data. You should instantly notice faster processing.

2.Upgrading to New iOS

Older iPads running on new iOS versions is not new. This thing happens with iPhones and iPods too. However, there’s a point beyond which the gadgets don’t run well on certain iOS versions. For instance, iOS 7, the latest version to be released sometime in September, won’t run on iPhone 3GS or the iPad Original. The iPad 2 will support iOS 7 but it won’t run as smoothly as it used to run iOS 5 or 6. The reasons are obvious.

Apple tells every device owner to run the latest iOS that they’ve released. This is in general interest, yes, but from my experience, I’ve seen that there’s a peak for every device due to physical limitations. So an iPad Original or the iPad 2 run iOS 5 and 6 much safer and better. If you’ve not upgraded to the latest, sometimes, it’s okay and better to run a lower version. As such, running a lower version is not going to cause any problem.

So when you decide to Restore via iTunes, decide if you want to upgrade or run the same version the iPad has been running.

In order to install a particular version of the iOS firmware, all you do is:

  • Download the correct firmware from here.
  • Now, connect your iPad to the PC. Open iTunes.
  • Hold Shift and click Restore.
  • Select the IPSW you downloaded.

Sometimes errors crop up when you try to downgrade and Apple doesn’t allow that. There are ways to bypass them.

3.Updating Apps vs. Using “Better” Apps

New, updated apps are larger in size than their older ones. That’s the usual norm because mostly, new features are “added.” Unfortunately, this doesn’t fit well for large apps running on older iOS devices like the iPad 2.

To overcome this problem, there’s just one thing you can do: look for a suitable alternative that’s lesser in size. Yes, that’s a slow and tedious process in several cases. Unlike Android – where you can install older versions of apps from an APK file – you cannot re-install an older version of an app using an IPA file on the iPhone unless you’re a geek deep into jailbreaking and cracked app installation.

The iPad 2 is built to run large apps but over time, this doesn’t go down well with subsequent updates increasing the base-size of the app. That’s why:

  • You can either refrain from updating an app if you think it’s already occupying quite a lot of the space.
  • You can find alternatives that are minimal in style.

4.Rely on Stock apps

Speaking of apps, as much as possible, rely on stock apps that come bundled with iOS. This way, you’re saving a lot of space and you’re using the resources as envisioned by Apple’s iOS engineers themselves.

Arguably, this isn’t a “fix” but then again, we’re talking about the optimal methods to speed up your iPad. If you’re using a separate reminders app that’s 15MB and stores a lot of data, may be you should try switching back to the stock Reminders app on your iPad. Ditto with things like Weather, Notes, Calendar, Mail. Mail, especially. And browsers of course.

5.Jailbreak & More

Jailbreak is funny. Sometimes, an outdated tweak throws things in a mess and the iPad/iOS Device becomes slow, unresponsive or downright non-functional. But of course, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t jailbreak or use tweaks.

If you’ve got an old iPad that’s slow or unresponsive, jailbreak tweaks might be one of the causes. Outdated ones, I mean. Make sure the tweaks you use are up-to-date. Contrasting to the apps from App Store, outdated tweaks often cause a lot of problems. So it’s better to update them occasionally. Also, find out what tweaks you don’t use and remove them.

6.The Physical Part: Cleaning, Dry-recharge cycle

Physical cleaning of the iPad can play a vital role in making sure the buttons – especially the home button – works fine. You can use a semi-wet cloth to wipe the dust off the iPad and we’ve also talked about using WD-40 to clean the Home button. (some experts recommend NOT using it or any other water-displacing spray).

As for the battery, you should – once in a month – allow the iPad battery to dry up completely. And then let it charge to full capacity (while not using it in the meantime). To do this faster, as the iPad battery dries out, turn ON the Airplane mode. Then, charge it to 100% – it usually takes much lesser time now. Once done, you can switch off the Airplane mode and use the iPad normally.

There are of course several limitations. Time takes its toll on the iPad and there are certain things you can’t change. For instance, the touch sensitivity may or may not revert back to normal after you’ve restored the iPad. If it’s a physical issue, there’s basically nothing you can do. However, if it’s just a software glitch, a simple reset sets things right.

Hope this helps.