iPad Cart Guide – Managing Maintaining – App Distribution in iTunes

iPad Cart Management – How it’s done right.

Here I’ll show you how I maintain an iPad cart. It has 23 iPads in it. At one point I had them setup using only Apple Configurator as Apple suggests but I have found that after having to borrow iPads from the cart for other reasons and replacing them with iPads that were not originally part of the cart and the terrible way Configurator handles app licenses, I had to start using a combination of iTunes and Configurator. iTunes to load the software and Configurator to name them. Normally, you would only use Apple Configurator and install the app through it using a spreadsheet downloaded from your VPP account. See my post, VPP Apple Configurator & Multiple Carts or Locations | SchooliPads.

NOTE: I‘m using a Mac with iTunes 11.0.2 and Configurator 1.2.1. This process should work for Windows but without Configurator, the fast wipe and naming of the iPads will have to be done individually.

This seems complicated the first time but after you do it once or twice it kinda makes sense, so here we go.

Part 1:

We’ll start with 23 iPads, run through Configurator to install the latest version of iOS and clean out any user info by choosing Latest from the drop down and checking Erase before installing. Don’t Restore Backup (these backups are different from the ones in iTunes), do not install any apps or mobile profiles. (Installing mobile profiles without Supervising the device requires you to touch each device to install it). Once finished, unplug all the devices and close Configurator.

Next, open up iTunes & plug in one iPad . Use iTunes and Set up as new iPad. Name the iPad something generic but for that cart or set of users, (it doesn’t look like it but you can highlight the name circled below to rename), choose Automatically Backup to This computer & Encrypt local backup (pick an easy pass, I chose “a” and remember in keychain), (Encrypt will allow the password for wifi and restrictions to carry over along with some other stuff), check Open iTunes when this iPad is connected & *Sync with this iPad over Wi-Fi. Go over to the Apps tab and click Install on the apps you want, (they will need to be locally downloaded on the computer) and the checkbox, “Automatically install new apps” and click apply (bottom right).

Click install and check the box for Automatically install new apps.

Once finished, unplug the iPad and set it up for use, like you would hand it to a student. Input wifi info, skip the Apple ID setting… Start using iPad. Arrange your installed apps if you want. Make a math folder, iWork folder, etc… Turn off keyboard clicks. Enable restrictions if you want.

Plug the iPad back in. Sync and backup the iPad. Just to be sure you can click Backup Now, again.

Here’s the tricky part. Unplug the iPad and plug in a new one fresh from the Configurator wipe. You will have the option to restore come up in iTunes. Choose your backup from the list, mine is “Cart A Image”, (you can delete old backups from iTunes Prefrences – Devices, so you only have the one in the list). Click continue, you will be asked for the backup password but its stored in your keychain so it’s already filled in and you just need to click “Ok”, the iPad will restore in a few seconds and then give you a message saying that the iPad has been restored and will reboot.

Unplug now and plug the next one in.

UNPLUG THE iPad NOW before it has the chance to fully boot and be recognized by iTunes, then do the same thing for the next one and the same for the next one and so on. Once all of your iPads have been taken to this point you can go ahead and plug them all in for the Big Sync. All of your iPads will start syncing trying to make themselves look like your first iPad including installing any missing apps, which is all of them. This will really tax your computer, your pushing gigs of data from one hard drive through one USB port to multiple devices. So, go to lunch, it’s going to be a while depending on how many and the size of your apps. My sync of 23 iPads with about 1/3 of the 16 GB used took around 55 minutes.

During Big Sync make sure you see the right number of devices.

Part 2:

Check one of your newly synced iPads and make sure everything looks ok. Your wifi should be connected and apps in folders… If you did that… If you messed up anywhere or skipped a step, start over.

Everything OK? Good, unplug all the devices. Using printed labels, number the iPads 1-23, this is important for charging and syncing. When plugged in you will see the number of iPads plugged in and it’s name in the drop down, from iTunes. If they are numbered you will know which one is not there.

Close iTunes and open up Configurator again.

Pick a new name for your iPads. I’ll use “iPad Cart Lab 1”. Check the box “Number sequentially starting at 1” – Supervision Off, iOS No Change, Don’t restore backup and click prepare at the bottom.

Plug in iPad 1, give it a sec and it will rename. Now, go ahead and plug in iPad 2, walla! “iPad Cart Lab 2” is born. Continue through your stack or cart or table… Just let it finish renaming before you move to the next, you can unplug the ones you’ve named and set them aside if you need to just don’t plug it back in until you stop Configurator.

Wait for the green check before plugging in the next one.

Ok, they’re all named so you can click Stop at the bottom of Configurator and close it.

Lets open iTunes again. All your iPads will sync and backup but each with their new name. I can see I have 23 iPads connected and a drop down of all of them by name BUT I missed one plugging them in I and I can see from the list it’s iPad #5 because the battery icon is missing, telling me its not charging. It’s still listed because we chose Sync over wifi. *This a personal choice so I can install apps even if the iPad is in a students hands or remove it because Johnny keeps playing games, so that’s up to you.

Scroll to see all your iPads by name and see which if any are not plugged in.

If this helped you we would love to hear about it. Please, comment.

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13 thoughts on “iPad Cart Guide – Managing Maintaining – App Distribution in iTunes

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  4. So you take 1 iPad and set it up in iTunes by syncing apps over, then backup and restore this onto 22 more iPads. Do you purchase an app 23 times or just once?

    • Yes, that’s how I do it. We purchase the 23 licenses, per Apple’s TOS, in the event apple changes the way the software works we will be able to use configuratior to load the apps but as of now the 22 other licenses are not needed to preform this type of restore from iTunes.

  5. Thanks for the tips. Much of it looks like Zi can follow the advice for our school as well. But one question…
    If you don’t choose to supervise the iPads, you miss out on a great many customization values. Do you still recommend this approach after Apple’s latest enhancements?

  6. Thank you for maintaining this blog. I am a new STC in our school and am having to learn some systems without anyone’s guidance.

    However, I was a graphic designer for 30 years, so using a MAC is second nature.

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