How I Got iOS 8.1 on my iPad 2 (and How You Can Too)

by Reads (40,445)

Got an hour or two? If so, you might want to use it to upgrade your iPad 2 to iOS 8.1.

I finally took the plunge and upgraded my lowly iPad 2 to the latest version of Apple’s OS. It was with fear and trepidation that I did so, but ultimately I’m glad I did it. Normally I would have downloaded the new update as soon as possible, but as my iPad got older and older I’ve waited longer and longer to do the updates.

Apple iPad 2 with iOS 8Plus, there were so many early horror stories of iPad users updating to iOS 8.0 and encountering bugs that turned their iPads into expensive bricks that waiting turned out to be the best idea.

I decided to play it safe because despite the device being 3 years old I use my 32 GB iPad 2 for both personal and work reasons. It’s been fine, even if it doesn’t have all the latest bells and whistles. In fact, a recent study by a Localytics shows that a lot of people have the same attitude as me — the iPad 2 made up 29% of Apple tablets still in use during the third quarter of 2014.

Update Nov. 17: Apple has released iOS 8.1.1, which  specifically targets the iPad 2.

In the official changelog, the company promises that  “This release includes bug fixes, increased stability and performance improvements for iPad 2 and iPhone 4s.”

Getting Started

First, I backed up my iPad, which was already running iOS 7. The backup itself was a chore because I haven’t performed one in a very long time. Now that I store most of my documents online and started using OneDrive for automatically backing up pictures from my iPhone (yes, I would prefer iCloud but it doesn’t offer enough free storage) I’m not as worried about losing all the data on my iPad. But just in case, I like being prepared.

Next, I had to check how much storage I had. Apple requires the device have at least 5.6 GB of available storage or it can’t be updated. That’s quite a chunk of space, but I managed by getting rid of some useless videos and apps.

Downloading and Installing

With sufficient space available, I was ready to go, so I went to Settings > General > Software Update.

1:08 pm: The iPad 2 starts downloading iOS 8.1.

2:31 pm: The software was finally downloaded and the iPad 2 updated.

To be fair, it always takes a long time to download and update a tablet’s OS. Also, I only had a wireless connection so it took longer than if I had been able to connect my iPad 2 with my MacBook Pro.
Once the download and update finished, I was excited to log in and finish the upgrade.

The tablet started with just the Apple logo on it – you know, the one with the black background and white apple. You see that when the device is going through a reset. No problem.

Next, the background switched. It was now white with a black Apple logo. Uh oh. Was something wrong? I crossed my fingers hoping this was normal.

Then thankfully the OS told me to slide and upgrade the iPad. I did it and tried to enter my password.

No go. It was completely frozen.

Finally the OS released itself after 30 seconds.

It was a long wait. My iPad was a brick, and I wondered why I thought upgrading was a good idea.

After this initial scare, it was smooth sailing. I went through the normal process of doing a regular login to set up the device. That only took five minutes. No big deal.

One thing I noticed immediately was that the animation seemed slow and jerky when I opened an app from the home screen. But after setting aside the tablet for some time, the animation smoothed itself out, However, it still happens randomly. If this bothers you, go to Settings > General > Accessibility and click on the Reduce Motion slider.

Overall, the upgrade worked out, and my iPad 2 is fine so far. While more and more users are keeping their old tablets, it’s safe to say iOS 8.1 gives the iPad 2 some new life so you don’t have to spring for a new device.

Just be aware that you won’t be able to take advantage of some features like Handoff because they require newer hardware. But be brave and go ahead and upgrade the OS anyway. You’ll still be able to use new offerings like iCloud Drive, the new designs for the Safari and Mail apps, and other enhancements.

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