What functionality of an iPad can I use with Ubuntu? I'm thinking about buying an iPad, but I only have Ubuntu PCs these days (no Windows, no Mac), and I'm nervous that it may be too reliant on the existence of iTunes. I'm less concerned about getting media onto and off it (and I have read that I can do this with libimobiledevice), but will I be able to activate it with iTunes? Does it need to be USB synced on a regular basis, or can I do most anything I want through the cloud (i.e. over wifi)?

Edit: In answer to jrgifford's question, in theory, I'd like to do everything I would want to do with it were I using Windows/Mac. But more specifically, I think I'd want to:

  • "Activate" it, if that's necessary
  • Copy music / video onto it
  • Install apps

How much of this can I do without a Windows/Mac PC? Is it necessary to activate it?

I don't think I'm that interested in backing it up (what would I back up?), but then again, maybe I'm confused as to how easy it is to get data on and off. Can I get a regular SFTP app for the iPad to copy data to my Ubuntu machine over wi-fi, for example?

  • Please explain exactly what you want to do? You need to activate it through iTunes, and you also should backup (Sync) regularly. But for the most part, (Buying Apps, updating podcasts, things like that) you don't need to have access to iTunes, just the internet. – jrg Dec 3 '10 at 11:56
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    i know you need a specific answer but you should know that someone had to say it: I'll be that someone: forgive me... Why not buying an android tablet? :) – Pitto Dec 6 '10 at 21:35

Since the thread is old, but the question is still important, here is an updated answer:

  1. Since iOS 5, you can update your iOS over-the-air (thanks to @Andrew Ferrier for the correction). If you want to do it via iTunes, as described above, you have to use iTunes on a real Windows / Mac box. For all other purposes (e.g. music library), iTunes on a windows virtual machine works fine.
  2. Ubuntu automatically mounts an ipad in two locations (inside ~/.gvfs). The first is iPad Documents. This allows you to see documents inside the apps that have been shared with iTunes. For example, all goodreader documents that get backed-up to iTunes will be available to you. Another example: if you save a pages document to iTunes from within the pages app, it will also be available here to sync, copy, or whatever you like.
  3. I can use my iPad as a wifi hotspot, which Ubuntu or anything else will be able to use. Required jailbreaking and installing MyWi.

In short, it works way, way better than I would have predicted.

  • 1. Has not been true for quite a while, as of iOS 5. iOS devices can be updated over-the-air. – Andrew Ferrier Jul 14 '12 at 11:47
  • Thanks for the comment - I didn't know that. I'll update what I wrote. – Kit Johnson Jul 16 '12 at 6:22

You cannot even boot an iPad until you connect it to iTunes. Personally, I installed iTunes on a WinXP VM at work (with permission) to activate it; activation this way works fine.

WARNING: Do not attempt to upgrade iOS on the iPad from iTunes running on WinXP in a VM - it will fail half way through the process and leave the iPad in a state of limbo which requires a non-virtual WinXP + iTunes to rectify.

  • You can install apps directly from the AppStore app on the iPad itself. This merely requires an iTunes account, which you must have in order to activate the iPad anyway.

  • I've not personally had any luck transferring music or videos to the iPad (using libmobiledevice1 on Ubuntu 9.10).

    • You can use the iPad as a mass storage device, but since iPad apps don't seem to have a concept of "file-system" they will never see them. Even the VLC app (no longer available) can only play videos which have been "shared" with it via iTunes.
  • I have not tried running iTunes in Wine myself, but Wine's website gave the Jan 27 2011 release a 'Gold' rating (cf. http://appdb.winehq.org/objectManager.php?sClass=application&iId=1347)

(Oh, and I typed this on my iPad, so I guess it can at least do some things right. Although there's no way to type a backtick AFAICT)

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    Thanks for this answer; I've since bought an iPad and I use it with VMWare successfully. I ignored your advice and upgraded it with iTunes inside VMWare, and bricked it in exactly the way you described :( However, there is a way out of this: ivankuznetsov.com/2009/10/… – Andrew Ferrier Jul 10 '11 at 16:06
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    I was able to bypass this problem by setting a generic USB filter in VirtualBox. This was for an iPod Classic, not an iPad, though. It will grab any USB device, so unplug any drives, etc, you don't want the guest using. Delete the generic filter after the update and you are done. – Tom Brossman Oct 18 '11 at 6:40
  • #2 can be solved by jailbreaking and installing a file manager (I use iFile) which has a built-in video player and audio player, and then connecting to the device via Samba or SSH (both of which are available in Cydia and have good Linux clients). Unfortunately, I have not yet found a way to install any free codecs so things which come in WebM and Ogg format have to be converted - which includes the hour-long talks I sometimes download off of YouTube :(. – new123456 Jul 1 '13 at 14:50
  • "You cannot even boot an iPad until you connect it to iTunes"? This is not true, it just asks to connect to wifi first, and then works - optionally you could connect iTunes-store later. It would be helpful if you updated this for recent Ubuntu newer than 9.x. Thanks! – NoBugs Oct 21 '15 at 2:42

I have an iPad 2 and I only use Ubuntu. There are free apps with which I can download my media to my computer, and files that I need I can send to myself with my email.

You only need to connect your iPad with itunes once -- I do this in the Apple store. You can create your app-store acount in the iPad before that, or in the Apple store or in the itunes of someone else.

The only problem is that I don't have still music in the iPad.


You can ask them activate it in a shop where you're buying it from (better ask them before you and them your money), or at a friend's place, work or where-ever you might find an installed iTunes. You don't need an iTunes all the time, but it's handy to have for the eventual upgrades, backups and so on.

  • For music copying i'm not sure; i can copy to my jailbroken iPhone 3G with Banshee (just checked it for you, i'm always using Spotify anyway)
  • activation yes with iTunes
  • App installation goes fine directly over wifi or 3g, without iTunes

You will need an Apple ID for installing apps from App Store, and you use the same account for activation, and you can sign up for the account online from Apple's website.

As mentioned above, i have a jailbroken iPhone 3G. Ubuntu (11.04 Natty) mounts it (under ~/.gvfs) and i can access a selection of directories directly via Nautilus or other file management methods. Things might be difference for iPad.

On more thing, regarding the your literate question "What functionality of an iPad can I use with Ubuntu?" I'm using my iPhone as a 3G "dongle" via "tethering", it's great! I would assume an iPad could work as a ridicilous-size USB dongle too, but you might need to unlock it if you carrier tries to limit your tethering-options. Mine doesn't.

  • Just curios, how app installation over the air works on iPad/iPhone. If the app is uninstalled, does it require re-purchase to re-install or you can install and re-install it whenever you want? – sastanin May 20 '11 at 11:43

You can always use iTunes and Wine if you're that worried.

However, to answer each of your questions, I don't think it needs to be activated unless it's for 3g (if you get a 3g model, and if you do that, I think you need to do that in-store, so they can activate it for you).

Copying music works fine with Banshee and an iPod Touch, videos don't work very well because Banshee claims the iPod can't play mp4 videos (any mp4, not just certain ones). You may need to use iTunes for video, however, I haven't tried with Rythembox, so that might work.

Apps need to be installed through the App Store on your iPad. There is no backup for that unless you use iTunes.

I'm not sure on the data thing, again, I think it's an iTunes thing.

I do have to agree with Pitto, why not just get an Android Tablet, they're linux themselves and I think they'd integrate with Ubuntu better.


I bought my teenage daughter an ipad for christmas and i used virtualbox with an xp install to get it up and going before wrapping it


It should be noted, even though this thread is very old, that iOS5 now on I think all new iOS devices are running 5 now, do not need to ever be connected to iTunes.

  • Really!?! voted down!?! Why because because it's true? Or does it give you a saddy face? – NJones Oct 21 '11 at 0:51
  • Although that's mostly true, there are still a few things that require you to connect it to iTunes; for example, to create or delete photo albums. – Andrew Ferrier Feb 22 '12 at 21:08

The iPad is very dependent on itunes - you need to connect it to itunes when you first pull it out of the box or you can't do anything with it. For the most part, it is treated exactly like an ipod/iphone, so anything you can do with an ipod from ubuntu should be doable with an ipad.

relevant Ubuntu Community wiki documentation:

  • Not true as of iOS 8.3 – NoBugs Oct 21 '15 at 2:44

Good Reader plays mp3 (m4b did not work, I don't know about other formats) and it is easy to sync with ubuntu. The device is recognized and I copy music into the document folder of good reader and play in good reader on the Ipad.

Edit: AVPlayerHD is even better, this supported m4b and it is easy to copy files with file browser or via wifi.

It is to be questioned if this really is a solution, but it is a workaround at least.

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