While I love using my iPad mainly for watching videos, I still find the process of transferring files to iPad completely counter intuitive. First, Apple is so choosy about formatting everything that they don’t even have an official tool to convert your files to iPad format.
Instead, you will have to convert everything yourself using third party tools like HandBrake. Secondly, iCloud Drive is a great way to download content to iPad, but it’s a feature that many users don’t know about.
In this article, I will show you several different ways to transfer data from computer to iPad. If you need to transfer a very large file, such as a movie, you must use the iTunes direct connection method. The iCloud Drive method is best for smaller files such as documents and pictures. You should also check out my post on how to transfer files between PCs, tablets and smartphones.
Direct iTunes Transfer
If you have a video, music, or document in the correct format that Apple supports, you can use iTunes to transfer that data from your computer to iPad using a direct cable connection. This is by far the fastest method and is recommended if you have large files (> 100 MB).
Connect iPad to your computer and open iTunes. You should see a small iPad icon in the navigation bar.
Click on it and your iPad’s settings screen will open. Under On My Device, choose the type of content you want to stream to iPad: music, movies, TV shows, books, audiobooks, or ringtones.
Now, just drag the file you want to transfer to the right side of your screen in iTunes and drop it there. The file should automatically sync with your device. If it doesn’t, just click the Synchronize button.
On iPad, open the appropriate content app. For example, open Music for any music files, Videos for any videos, iBooks for any books or audiobooks, etc.
Above, I synced an MP4 video file to my iPad and I had to open the Videos app to watch the video. After you sync your own videos, you will see a new tab called Home Videos. Click on that and you will see all your non-iCloud videos listed. As for documents, you can only sync PDF files, so you need to convert everything to that format first.
The second best option is to use iCloud Drive, which has recently appeared in Apple products. Before iCloud Drive, iTunes or using a third-party cloud service like Dropbox or OneDrive was the best option.
You can use iCloud Drive on your iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Windows PC. To get started, you must have an iCloud account and must sign in to all of your devices using that account. Once you’ve signed in everywhere, you can turn on iCloud Drive.
On a Mac, go to System Preferences and click iCloud.
Make sure iCloud Drive is checked. If you go to Finder, you should see an iCloud Drive option in the left menu. If not, you can click Finder, then Settings, and then choose iCloud Drive from the list.
Now you can click iCloud Drive in Finder and it will show you a list of default folders like Numbers, Keynote, Pages, etc. You can also create your own folders here and add any type of files to your drive.
Just drag and drop files here and they’ll be uploaded to iCloud. Note that you have 5GB of free space and you need to pay extra to get more iCloud storage. On iPad, you must have iCloud Drive turned on to see all your files. Go to Settings, then iCloud and click on iCloud Drive.
Make sure iCloud Drive is on (green), displayed on the home screen and everything else too. If you do not want content to sync using cellular data, disable this option.
Now, when you open the iCloud Drive app, you will see all the files added using your computer.
Even though you can upload anything to iCloud, that doesn’t mean you will necessarily be able to view it on your iPad or other Apple device. Only correct format content can be viewed on the device. If you have a lot of iCloud storage and a fast internet connection, you can use iCloud Drive to transfer large files if you want.
If you have an iPhone 5 or later, a 4th generation iPad or later, a 5th generation iPod or later, or a newer Mac running Yosemite or later, you can use AirDrop to transfer files between Apple devices. AirDrop will only work between Apple devices, but it works really well when you can use it.
I have often used it to transfer files from my Mac directly to my iPhone and iPad wirelessly like the iTunes method above. It’s definitely faster than using iCloud Drive, but still slightly slower than using a direct cable connection.
To turn on AirDrop, swipe up from the bottom of the screen to open Control Center.
Tap on AirDrop and you will see another screen where you can choose who you want to share with. You can choose “Contacts Only” or “All”.
Finally, you use the Share option in apps like Photos, Safari, and more, and you’ll see a section called AirDrop. When AirDrop is enabled in the same way on another Apple device, you will be able to stream data directly over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
This is a pretty good option if you already have Apple devices, especially a new Mac. Share quickly and easily.
Apart from these two Apple-specific options, you can also download files to your iPad in other ways. Apart from iCloud, there are many other apps that allow you to sync data between your computer and a mobile device such as iPad.
Dropbox, OneDrive, Box, Google Drive, and more are great for uploading files to your iPad as well as viewing them. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to comment. Enjoy!