Note: If this tutorial worked for you (and it should work), please leave a comment below. Thanks.
Before beginning, if the movie you’re looking to copy over is offered through a streaming service through the web, through Apple’s video services, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, or even YouTube, you may want to consider those options first, the reason being that video files are quite large and will take up a lot of space on the comparatively sparse capacity of the most common iPad 16GB and 32GB models. On the other hand, if you’re going on a road trip and don’t have a 3G/LTE iPad, you don’t subscribe to streaming services, or if the video you want to watch just isn’t available through streaming services, then copying it to the local iPad storage is an excellent solution.
- Mac or PC running iTunes
- Any compatible video file: mp4, mov, m4v, etc
- USB cable
- Free space on the iPad
The USB cable is technically optional because you can use Wi-Fi sync, but for any large movie or video file it will be much faster to plug the iPad into the computer through a USB cable.
We’re making the assumption that you already have a video or movie stored on a Mac or Windows PC that you just want copied to the iPad so that it can be watched on the go, we are not going to cover things like ripping your own DVD’s or BluRays for mobile access since the rights associated with digital video ownership is going to vary widely per movie and video and their respective agreements.
Copying Movies to the iPad
- Locate the movie stored on the computer hard drive through the file system and have it easily visible
- Open iTunes and show the sidebar if it isn’t visible already (Command+Option+S)
- Drag & drop the video file into the iPad shown in the sidebar to start the copy process
Getting Around Error Messages
Note that some MKV files in particular may have trouble, and if you run into problems playing MKV video on the iPad, take the time to convert the mkv video to m4v format. It’s easy to do and the conversion function is built directly into OS X, or you can check out our easy guide on converting movies to an iPad compatible format by using the free QuickTime app that is also bundled in every version of Mac OS X.
Accessing & Watching Movies on the iPad
- Locate the “Videos” app and open it
- Tap the movie name you wish to watch to start playing
- You’ll find the ability to play and pause the video, as well as a basic scrubber to scoot around within the video itself as it’s playing, and a zoom features that attempts to remove the letter boxing on widescreen videos.
Optional: Turn Off Syncing of Movies for Better File Management
There’s also a syncing feature that attempts to manage movie transfers for you, but it’s primarily aimed at movies you recorded on the iOS device itself rather than movies you want to copy over to the device. Because of this, if you’re looking to copy your own movies over to the iPad it really doesn’t work as you might expect, and it’s generally better for just keeping videos consistent across your iPad and a home computer with the help of iTunes. In fact, if you’re going to be copying a lot of movies back and forth from the iPad to a computer yourself, you’ll probably want to turn off the individual movie syncing feature so you can manage them yourself directly.
- With the iPad connected to the computer, select the device in iTunes and click the “Movies” tab
- Uncheck the box for “Sync Movies” to manage your own video transfers
One Last Thing: Consider Deleting the Videos After Watching
- Open Settings, choose “General”, then go to “Usage”
- Tap the “Video” app to delete video directly