Can I Upgrade an iPad?

By Anne Hirsh

You cannot upgrade an iPad's hardware, but you can upgrade its software and features in certain circumstances. The hardware includes the memory, storage, processor and screen, none of which is accessible for user modification. However, you can add hardware accessories and load software upgrades that improve your iPad experience.

Software Upgrades

As Apple releases updated versions of the iPad's iOS operating system, your iPad is upgraded with enhanced and new features. For example, the upgrade to iOS 4.2 introduced the multitasking feature for the original iPad and iPad 2. The highly anticipated iOS 5 upgrade brings improvements to Mail, Calendar and other familiar apps, while introducing a new Notification Center, Twitter integration and iMessage, Newstand and Reminders apps. For the first time, mobile devices running iOS 5 are PC free -- no computer is required to activate and set up an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.

Hardware Upgrades

The iPad is configured to work well with specific hardware, which is why any attempt to open the iPad and physically upgrade the hardware voids your warranty and may damage the iPad. You can add hardware for additional connectivity by using Apple's Camera Connection Kit, which adds an SD card slot and limited USB port to the iPad. This is designed specifically for connecting a camera to the iPad to transfer photos, but it will work with some keyboards and microphones, if you want to upgrade your iPad's input options. This port does not work with most external hard drives or any USB mouse.

Storage Upgrade

You can get more storage for your iPad by using online storage services or wireless storage devices. Apple's iCloud offers limited free storage to all users, and you can get cloud storage accounts from companies such as Dropbox, SugarSync and Box. Set up an account with a cloud service on your computer and then download the service's free app from the iPad App Store. You can access your documents, photos and other files as needed through the Internet without using up storage space on the iPad. For wireless storage, you can use the iPad with wireless-enabled external hard drives to transfer extra data onto and off your iPad as needed.


You cannot upgrade your iPad to a different model. For example, a Wi-Fi Only iPad cannot be upgraded to a Wi-Fi + 3G iPad. If you are considering an iPad purchase, keep this in mind if you think you may ever need 3G service in the future. Likewise, you cannot upgrade a first-generation iPad to an iPad 2. If you are considering an iPad purchase as the standard release date for new hardware approaches -- traditionally March or April for the iPad line -- wait to see if new models are announced before making your purchase.