So you have a video on your computer that you want to watch on your iPad. There are various ways you can transfer that video, and we’ll explain everything you need to know in order to do it.
There are a couple of pitfalls to watch out for, but whatever video you have, by the time you’ve read this you’ll be able to watch it on your tablet screen wherever you are, with or without an internet connection.
Copy videos to iPad using iTunes
The simplest method for most people is to use iTunes, Apple’s music software that’s available for Macs and PCs. We’ll focus on Windows computers here, but the process is very similar if you have a Mac.
TIP: This method is free and is simple as long as your video is compatible with your iPad. It will play common formats including MP4, MOV and M4V, but if your video isn't supported you can convert it for free.
If you don’t already have iTunes on your computer you’ll need to download it from the Microsoft Store – an app that’s built into Windows 10 – and sign in to iTunes with your Apple ID.
Once that’s done, connect your iPad to a USB port on your computer using the cable that you normally use to charge it – a Lightning cable. (If your iPad is newer, it may use a USB-C cable.)
If this is the first time you’ve used iTunes or the first time you’ve connected your iPad to your computer, you’ll see a prompt asking if you want to allow access. Approve this, then on your iPad screen, tap ‘Trust this computer’ and tap in your passcode.
Look for the icon to appear, as arrowed below, which represents the device you’ve connected – an iPad or iPhone.
Click on it, and you may be shown a prompt to download and update to the latest version of iPadOS, but you don’t need to do this to transfer videos.
Instead, click on Films in the bottom menu on the left, and assuming you haven’t copied any other videos to your iPad, you’ll just see a blank pane.
My preferred way to import videos is to open File Explorer in Windows (the shortcut is to hold down the Windows key on your keyboard and press E).
Navigate to the folder where your video is located – it may be in This PC > Videos, but it could be in your Downloads folder if you downloaded it from the internet.
When you’ve found the video, click and drag it onto the blank pane in iTunes as shown below. Let go of the mouse button and the video will be transferred to your iPad: a blue circle shows the progress.
Here’s the pitfall: if the video isn’t compatible with your iPad, you’ll see a message like the one below explaining that it won’t be copied because it can’t be played.
If this happens, you can either try one of the other methods below, or convert the video into a format that can be played by your iPad.
To do this:
1. Click the < symbol to go to your iTunes library.
2. Click File, Add File to Library…
3. Browse to the video using the window that opens, click on it to select it, then click Open
4. The video will be added to iTunes. Use the drop-down menu to choose Films (Movies in the US).
5. Click on Home Videos (highlighted in blue below).
6. Click on the video you just added and it will have a blue border around it
7. Click File > Convert and then click on “Create iPad or Apple TV version” (choose the iPhone option if you’re copying the video to an iPhone)
8. You should see the new version of the video appear in your Home Videos list (or iTunes may crash and quit, as it did on my PC). If it was successfully converted, you can transfer it to your iPad by dragging it from the list onto your iPad as shown below.
If you’re unable to use iTunes to convert the video into the right format, you can find out how to do it with other software in our separate guide to converting videos.
How to play a transferred video on your iPad
Once the video has been copied from your computer to the tablet, here’s how to watch it.
Open the TV app (arrowed); this replaces the older Videos app that you might be looking for and failing to find.
Under the Library section, tap Home Videos and you should see the video. Simply tap on it and then tap Play.
How to transfer video to an iPad without iTunes
If you don't want to use iTunes, or if your video isn't in a format that iTunes can play, then you may prefer to use a third-party app to copy videos from your computer.
There are many apps which can do this. Our favourite is WALTR 2.
One is WALTR 2. It isn't free at US$39.95, but it is very, very good. The simple drag-and-drop interface belies the many things it does when it transfers files to your iPad or iPhone.
When you drop a video onto it, it will analyse it and try to find metadata (including a cover image) and then convert it into a playable format - if necessary - before sending it your iOS device.
Videos are placed into the correct folder so they appear in the native Videos app: all without iTunes. There's also the option to use Wi-Fi to transfer files, but the fastest way is to use a Lightning cable.
If you don't want to pay for WALTR 2, there are free apps which can play videos in just about any format, but they do tend to require you to copy files via iTunes.
There are various apps, including the free VLC Player. Unfortunately, many such apps have had to remove codecs following legal requests and no longer support surround-sound audio (AC-3 and others).
This means that any video with surround sound will play without any sound. You'd have to convert your video in a suitable application and make sure 0the surround sound is converted to stereo.
PlayerXtreme Media Player (no iTunes)
One free app which has always had consistently excellent reviews is PlayerXtreme Media Player by Xtreme Media Works. This lets you transfer videos by Wi-Fi, but for speed and reliability, we'd recommend using a USB cable.
Check out our wider guide to playing any video format on an iPad to find out about some other options. Obviously, install whichever app you're going to use before following the guide below.
First, connect your iPad to a computer with a the latest version of iTunes. As explained above, grant access if requested on both your computer and iPad. Your iPad should appear to the right of the < > arrows near the top. Click on the icon that appears there and then click on File Sharing in the menu on the left.
In the File Sharing section, click on the appropriate video app - in this case, PlayerXtreme.
Click the Add File... button and navigate to the video you want to put on your iPad. Select one or more and click Open at the bottom of the dialogue box. Don't forget to select any subtitle files which go with the videos.
The films will start copying to your iPad – a progress bar is shown in the pane at the top of iTunes.
Once they’re transferred, you can disconnect your iPad, launch PlayerXtreme and the videos will be there, ready to watch.
Bear in mind that playing video formats which aren’t natively supported by iOS will use up the battery faster unless the app can use hardware acceleration (which PlayerXtreme can).
Use a video downloader app
If you don’t want to have to connect your iPad to a computer running iTunes, there are other ways to get films onto your iPad. One is to install a video downloader app. Using the app’s built-in web browser you can head to YouTube or another video streaming site and find a video you want to watch.
When it starts playing, a pop-up window should appear giving you the option to download or save the video. You might have to type in a name for it, or it might automatically take the name from the web page.
These apps tend to disappear from the App Store quickly because of Apple's policies on potential copyright violation, so we can't link to any specific ones.
However, you can check our separate guide which explains how to download YouTube videos to an iPhone or iPad.
Download from Netflix or Amazon Prime Video
If you have a Netflix or Amazon Prime subscription, you can now also download content from both of those services. If you want to try it out, we have dedicated guides to downloading videos from Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.
Download catch-up TV
Plenty of TV channels have their own apps, and some let you download shows too.
BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and the All 4 app (Chanel 4) all allow you to download TV shows (including films) to your iPad. iPlayer and gives you 30 days to watch stuff you download, while you're limited to 7 days with ITV Hub and, when it comes to All 4, it's dependent on when the show was originally broadcast.
Neither My5 nor UKTV Play allow you to download shows at the time of writing, but this could change in future.