During WWDC 2023, Apple announced its entire lineup of 2023 operating system updates, including iPadOS 17, bringing over many of the fun lock screen features from last year’s iOS 16 release for the iPhone to the larger canvas, plus a new Health app and a better way of working with PDFs and Notes.
As usual, the final release of iPadOS 17 won’t arrive until this fall, but Apple has made its first developer beta available this week for those who would like to take an early sneak peek — and are willing to risk the instability, poor battery life, and other potential glitches that go with a “beta one.”
There’s some good news this year for those who are eager to check out iPadOS 17, as Apple is making its developer betas freely available to anyone who wants them. In the past, getting legitimate access to Apple’s early developer betas required you to be a member of the $99 per year Apple Developer Program. Although Apple rolled out a free public beta program a few years ago, public betas for major iPadOS releases don’t typically arrive before July, so those who wanted free access to the beta were left waiting.
Thankfully, that’s changed with this year’s iPadOS 17 beta cycle. While paid members of the Apple Developer Program still get a few other perks, developer betas are no longer restricted to that tier — now anybody can register their Apple ID for a free developer account to get access to them.
A word of caution, though: These are still early developer betas that could be filled with all sorts of bugs. Even though Apple is no longer charging for access, it still makes it clear that these betas are intended for “devices dedicated for iPadOS 17 beta software development.” They shouldn’t be installed on your primary device unless you’re willing to live with potential problems. Also, keep in mind that Apple’s warranty doesn’t cover devices running betas, so if you do have a problem with your iPad, you’ll have to wipe it and revert back to iPadOS 16 before you can bring it in for service.
Nevertheless, if you have a spare iPad lying around that’s compatible with iPadOS 17, or you’re willing to throw caution to the wind and install it on your main iPad, here’s how to go about it.
Back up your iPad
If you plan to install iPadOS 17 on your primary device, then you’ll definitely want to make sure you have a good backup before you begin. This is a good idea for any major iPadOS update, but it’s essential in the case of an early developer beta. Remember that these betas are for developers to use on devices dedicated to testing their apps, so Apple doesn’t expect that you’ll be using it on a device that has anything important on it.
You can find the instructions on how to do this in our article on how to back up an iPad.
In addition to the potential for data loss, you’ll also need an iPadOS 16 backup in case you want to go back. Whether the iPadOS 17 beta isn’t working out or you just need to take your iPad in for service, restoring to an older version of iPadOS requires that you wipe your device entirely, which means you’ll need to have a backup to fall back on if you don’t want to start from scratch — and you can’t restore a backup made from a newer version of iPadOS onto an iPad running an older version.
This means it’s also a very good idea to make an extra backup to your Mac or PC, just in case. iPadOS will back up your iPad to iCloud automatically every 24 hours, and it retains only the three most recent backups. That means that your iPadOS 16 backup will be gone before long; the backup on your computer will stay there until you erase it over overwrite it with another backup, giving you a restore point should you find yourself needing to return to iPadOS 16 further down the road.
Register your Apple ID to receive the betas
Even though Apple is now distributing the iPadOS 17 developer betas more freely, you’ll still need to register your Apple ID to receive them. Apple wants to make sure you have some idea of what you’re getting yourself into and have you agree to a standard set of terms and conditions before it gives you access to the betas.
Fortunately, the process for this is very straightforward, and you can use your existing Apple ID. You can also skip this step if you’ve signed up for the public Apple Beta Software Program in the past. Apple wants to make sure you’ve opted in to receive the betas in some meaningful way, but it doesn’t seem to care which way you’ve done it — folks who have previously joined the public beta program are also eligible to download the developer betas.
Step 1: Visit the Apple Developer Program website at developer.apple.com.
Step 2: Select Account from the menu at the top.
Step 3: On the next screen, sign in with your Apple ID and password.
Step 4: Respond to any other normal prompts during the sign-in process. When you reach the Apple Developer Agreement page, read it, and check the box beside “By checking this box I confirm that I have read and agree to be bound by the Agreement above.”
Step 5: Choose the blue Submit button at the bottom.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll be taken to an account home page with an option to enroll in the Apple Developer Program. You don’t need to do this — just close your browser and continue with the next steps.
Enable and install the iPadOS 17 beta on your iPad
Thankfully, Apple has made the process of installing betas substantially simpler than it was in the past. You’ll no longer need to mess with downloading and installing configuration profiles. Instead, as long as your Apple ID is registered for one of Apple’s beta programs, a new option appears in your Settings app to allow you to choose the beta you’d like to install.
Note that you will need to be running iPadOS 16.5 or later for this option to show up, as this is a rather recent change. Once your iPad is up to date, here’s how to enable and install the iPadOS 17 beta:
Step 1: Open the Settings app on your iPad.
Step 2: Select General.
Step 3: Select Software Update.
Step 4: Select Beta Updates. As noted above, this option will only appear if the Apple ID you’re using on your iPad has been registered for the developer or public beta programs.
The next screen will show a list of betas that your Apple ID is eligible to download. You may see both developer and public betas here if you’ve registered for both programs.
Step 5: Choose iPadOS 17 Developer Beta.
Step 6: Select Back. You’ll be returned to the main software update screen, and the iPadOS 17 Developer Beta should appear after a second or two.
Step 7: Select Download and Install to begin installing the iPadOS 17 beta.
It may take up to an hour or more to download and prepare the iPadOS 17 beta and then install it on your iPad. Once that process completes, your device will restart and take you through the usual series of welcome and setup screens.
Once you’ve opted into the iPadOS 17 developer betas under Software Update, you’ll remain on track to get future iPadOS 17 beta updates when they show up. You can check for the latest betas by returning to Software Update, where you can download and install them as they become available.
You can also switch the Beta Updates setting in Software Update to Off if you want to stop receiving future iPadOS 17 beta updates. This won’t revert your iPad back to iOS 16 — you’ll have to wipe it and restore from a Mac or PC if you want to do that — but it will leave you with whatever iPadOS 17 beta is currently installed, skipping future updates until the final release arrives in the fall. Since betas generally improve things as they get closer to the final release, we don’t recommend switching these off unless you find out that a new beta has a severe problem and you want to temporarily skip that release.