You cannot upgrade the hard drive on an Apple iPad because the device doesn't have a hard drive: It uses flash memory. Upgrading the iPad's built-in flash memory is impractical, as replacing it would be more likely to break the device than work. The short of it is you're stuck with the built-in memory on your iPad. However, that doesn't stop the device from working with alternative data storage options.
Hard Drives Not Accepted -- Only Flash Storage
The iPad trades economic storage capacity for a faster and smaller storage option by using flash memory. Similar to what you find in a computer solid-state drive, flash memory has a smaller footprint and a faster data recall rate because flash memory doesn't have to wait for a reader arm to seek data. Flash memory's smaller size allows devices to be thinner and more compact compared to HDD-sporting devices. Additionally, flash memory is much more durable than mechanical hard drives because flash memory doesn't feature any moving parts. Getting rid of moving parts makes sense for tablet devices, because iPads don't always rest on a stable platform during use.
Available Storage Capacity Options
Depending on the version, the iPad comes with 16GB, 32GB, 64GB or 128GB of built-in flash storage. The iPad Air and iPad Mini with Retina Display models offer all four storage options, whereas the older iPad with Retina Display and first generation iPad Mini only feature 16GB of local storage. The iPad does not support a built-in SD card reader for expansion, which limits on-the-go storage options. You can expand the storage options with a wireless media hub device; however, that means carrying around a secondary device with you.
Cloud Services for Compensation
Apple's iCloud service lets you store and access all your music, photos, documents and other media from any device with an active Internet connection. You can free up space on your iPad by streaming your media from iCloud instead of storing it locally on the device. However, iCloud only works when you have an active Internet connection. This means the iPad must have cellular service or be connected to Wi-Fi to use iCloud. Unless you have an unlimited data plan on your iPad, using iCloud on the go can be expensive.
Managing Storage Space With iTunes
Your computer can act like a media hub for your iPad with iTunes. You probably won't be listening to every song or watching every video in your library all the time, so you can store all your media content on your computer and enable manual management in iTunes to choose which media files reside on your iPad. You can move files to your iPad by either connecting via cable or over Wi-Fi. You can enable manual management by selecting the computer-connected iPad from the Library tree and checking the “Manually manage music and videos” option from the Summary tab. To add files to your iPad, select the iPad in iTunes, click the “On this Device” option and choose “Add to.” Drag and drop media into the sidebar to copy it to the iPad.
- PC Magazine: SSD vs. HDD: What's the Difference?
- Apple iPad: Compare
- Cnet: How to Add More Storage to an iOS Device
- Apple Support: iOS: Syncing Your Data With iTunes
- Apple iCloud: iCloud
- Apple iCloud: iCloud Is the Easiest Way to Manage Your Content. Because Now you Don't Have to.
- Apple Support: iOS: How to Transfer or Sync Content to Your Computer
- Apple Support: Managing Content Manually on iPhone, iPad, and iPod
- Photo Credit altrendo images/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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