Ultimate Guide to setup 300+ iPads with MDM. Configurator – iTunes – Meraki MDM

Here is a guide to setup 300+ iPads to be used by students. I'll be using Meraki MDM to set the Restrictions, Configurator to load WiFi, Meraki Profile and Supervise and iTunes to load the Apps.

You should have a basic understanding of MDM software, Apple Configurator and iTunes to use this guide so beware.


First we need to wipe all the iPads from the previous year. I do this with our cart which holds 30 iPads so we are doing this 30 at a time but that really only equals @ 10 run throughs but get some help. So, fire up Configurator and Unsupervise and ReSupervise all devices then UnSupervise, again just so we know they are clean and can still connect to our Base Station Mac that will be the Supervising Overlord. This Takes a while so in between batches we'll get Meraki ready to receive our new devices.

I wiped out all our devices from the Meraki database so as to start fresh. In Meraki we want to change the Default Tag that is applied to all new devices. I simply use “Student”, this will allow us to later set all our Restrictions to all devices with that Tag.

To setup a Profile, From Meraki Dashboard, go to MDM – Profiles – +Add New. Create the Profile and Tag. No need to set up the Settings of the Profile, that can be done later and changed whenever you want, even after the profile is deployed. Save.


From Meraki Dashboard, go to Configure – General – Scroll down to Enrollment Settings. Remove any Tag already in there and put in Student or the name of whatever profile you want the iPads to default to. Save.

Next we need the URL of the Meraki Enrollment for Apple Configurator. From MDM Dashboard, go to MDM – Add Devices – Scroll down to Apple Comfigurator and copy the URL from there.


We're done with Meraki for a while.

Open up Configurator and get it set. I have one profile set to just install wifi settings. It is necessary to have a wifi connection in order to install the MDM profile.

Skip the apps tab and open Setup.

Just check everything. You can change anything you want later, after the MDM profile is installed. For the MDM profile to be applied you will click on Configure Settings. Put in the Enrollment URL you copied from before. Save.

Now, supervise one iPad with your current setup.

Once the device reboots you'll be taken to the welcome screen slide to open.

You will be presented with the wifi setup. Give it a few seconds and it will auto connect because of the wifi profile I setup before in Configurator. Touch Next. Now, as long as the wifi is working, you can touch Apply Configuration. This is referencing the URL you put in earlier. The next screen will be the Get Started screen and the iPad is ready for customizing.

Plug the iPad in to iTunes and install all the apps you want to use for all the students. Put everything in folders or just arrange them the way you like.

In iTunes, open preferences – devices – and delete all the backups you have.

Now create a new backup of your configured iPad and unplug it and close iTunes. Do not encrypt the backup.

Open up Configurator and Supervise your first batch. Once completed, close Configurator and unplug all the iPads but leave them in the cart.

Open iTunes and plug in the first iPad. You will be greeted by a restore screen in iTunes. Because you only have one backup, you can just hit Continue. Be ready to unplug the iPad in a few seconds.

The iPad will do a quick restore, once the progress bar disappears unplug the iPad. Click OK on the next dialogue box.

Plug in your next iPad and repeat. This will be time consuming but it pays off. If you try to keep the devices plugged in while restoring you will soon find that the computer can't handle it and you will wait a very long time between processes.

Once you plug in the last one and restore, you can leave it. Plug all your iPads back in and go get lunch AND dinner. All the iPads will continue to restore all the apps from the first backup and if your like us your pushing @ 300 GB over USB 2.0. If you get an error that an app could not install, it will have an “!” Next to it in the iTunes drop down list. Just select it and hit sync. It will install the missing app to that device.

Once complete, close iTunes, leave them plugged in and open Configurator. Open supervised and Refresh all the devices plugged in via USB.

Unplug and put in the next batch and repeat from Supervise to restore to refresh for all your devices.

At any time you can configure your Mobile Profile in Meraki.

Open Meraki Dashboard. MDM – Settings – select the profile you setup with the default tag and configure away. You can watch as the App Store magically disappears. I don't recommend removing the App Store until you have all the iPads ready to go, it should not matter but just in case, leave it on until your really ready to hand them out.

Anyway, These iPads are ready to hand out to students. Make sure they name them so you can find them in Meraki in the event you need to change something on a particular iPad.

That's it for now.

Stay tuned, next i'll show you how to set a global proxy on all your iPads to block just about anything you want, anywhere they go, for just a few dollars, total!

Meraki is a free service and you can read my other blog entries on it for more info.

Please comment if you have more info on this or have a question.




17 thoughts on “Ultimate Guide to setup 300+ iPads with MDM. Configurator – iTunes – Meraki MDM

  1. Thanks so much for all the valuable information. I have one question… I did what you suggested, once the progress bar disappears unplug the iPad. Click OK on the next dialogue box. However, after unplugged the iPad did not have all the apps that were on the backup. Should I have let it sync and kept it plugged in?
    Thanks again for your help and for sharing your knowledge.

    • In my case, I’m trying to do 30 at a time. So, I let it restore from back up, unplug it and then move to the next one and do the same until all 30 are restored. Then, without closing iTunes, plug them all in and at this point they will sync, therefor install the apps. I do it this way because once the apps start installing, the computer starts using a lot of resources and does not function well. If you try to restore the backup and leave the device plugged in, it will start the sync after it reboots automatically. You will notice, after about 5-10 devices are syncing apps that the backup restore takes a very long time and will actually end up taking you longer because of the wait time.
      When you restore from backup, your actually just sending a small .xml file over to the iPad that contains the configuration information. That information is applied after the device reboots the first time. That’s why it only takes 5 seconds to restore from the backup. The actual loading of the apps occurs after the device reboots and it syncs and realizes its missing some apps it should have according to the data from the .xml file so, it installs them.
      Hope that helps…

    • I find much of your advice quite helpful. I’m wondering why you choose not to use Configurator to install your apps? Also, what is your opinion on Apple’s DEP program?

      • Using Configurator is a nightmare. Search Configurator from schoolipads.com, I have many articles on why I don’t use it to distribute apps. The main reason is that it can steal your apps. Once you load the app list in to Configurator, that’s where they will stay. You can never get them back and if something goes wrong, they’re gone forever.
        If I decided to use Configurator for just some of the apps then I would double the install time.

        The DEP Program requires you to have purchased all your devices direct from Apple. With stores offering iPads at $50 less than Apple this can really add up with a site as large as ours. We have 300+ iPads. If I replace one or have one donated, that is not purchased direct from Apple, it can not be configured the same way as the others. Big problem…

  2. Why Not enroll in VPP program. This way you can send your apps via meraki using manage distribution. Apps will come down via apps store. You can retrieve you assign/ pull paid licenses from ipad using just meraki.

  3. Pingback: Another take on iPads and MDM | saihaynes

  4. Hi,

    You say “Don’t encrypt the backup”, however it seems iTunes is forcing me to, saying that “this iPad requires backup files to be encrypted. Enter a password to protect your backup”.

    Is an encryption-free backup necessary?

    Thanks, Gav

  5. Hi,

    You say “don’t encrypt the backup”, yet when I ask iTunes to perform the backup it’s insisting I need to encrypt it (it looks like this is a newish-thing?).

    Is an encryption-free backup necessary?

    Thanks, Gav

    • Yes, I think something did change and I can use encrypted backups now as a restore. This is actually better as it allows some settings like wifi to be restored to iPads. Also, use a simple password like one letter or number so your not having to type it out if you choose not to save the password.

      • Brilliant Dan,

        I ploughed on anyway and it seems to work, though for some reason when restoring the backup the Meraki settings are temporarily removed, which is sorted by turning the iPad off and on.

        Thanks for such a fantastic, in depth write up. You’ve solved the many headaches I was having getting these things going. And thanks for responding to a comment on an old post too. :)

  6. Hi, this post is really informative, and looks like something we could use, the only problem I may have is that we have the iPads (30) but we don’t have a Mac, we only have windows laptops. So as I understand it we could do the iTunes part, and the Meraki part, but we would be stuck as we don’t have configurator. If we borrowed a Mac to perform this function would this work or is there an alternative for Windows? I’m wanting to configure 30 iPads for a primary school; standard apps and shared iCloud storage, any further comments?

    • If you only have 30 iPads. I would just configure one the way I like and make a backup. Erase and reset the others one by one and then restore them all from the backup. You could even restore from the iCloud backup and skip iTunes all together. However, turn off iCloud backup on all so you don’t overwrite your Original configuration.

  7. This is a great article, and I wanted to thank you so much for making it.
    I did have a question in regards to what happens to each of the iTunes accounts after we transfer them all to one school account. Currently we have nearly sixty iPads that are owned by our school, and we couldn’t put more than ten on each account individually so we made multiple accounts based on grade and teacher (we are a small school). Will all of the data from those iPads be lost when they are transferred to one uniform system? We do not currently use Meraki, so we are using a lot of different iCloud accounts instead, which isn’t efficient; but we don’t want to lose all of our data from each account if that makes sense.
    Thank you!

    • I really don’t know or don’t understand how you are trying to setup. We are switching to each student using their own Apple ID. We kind of do that now but just use our one account to load the apps then have the student log in so iCloud can backup their data.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s