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How to update an Apple Watch

Here's how to update an Apple Watch, either directly or via an iPhone. We also have some tips in case it does not update.
February 7, 2021

It’s important to update your Apple Watch not just to get the latest features, but to get crucial bug fixes and security updates. You’ll be glad to hear, then, that updating an Apple Watch is straightforward. It only involves a bit of preparation, and you might not need to look at your iPhone at all.

Before you update

In all cases, you’ll want to take a few steps before you install an update.

  1. Make sure your iPhone is using the latest version of iOS (Settings > General > Software Update).
  2. Charge your Apple Watch to at least 50%.
  3. Connect your iPhone to Wi-Fi.
  4. Keep your iPhone close to your Apple Watch during the update process.
  5. Give yourself time. The largest updates can take up to an hour.

Update an Apple Watch from an iPhone

apple watch update iphone screenshots

Your Apple Watch will normally alert you when a new update is available, and you can tap “Update Tonight” if you aren’t in a hurry to upgrade. Be sure to leave the watch charging if you choose this route and you should wake up to a fully-updated Apple Watch. Told you it was easy!

If you would like an update right away, you can follow a few simple steps on your iPhone.

  1. Open the Watch app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap the My Watch tab.
  3. Tap General > Software Update.
  4. If an update is available, the app will give you the option to download and install it. You may need to enter your iPhone or Apple Watch passcodes.
  5. The update starts when a progress wheel appears on your Apple Watch, and ends with a restart (it may go to the alarm clock view or a blank screen).

Update directly from an Apple Watch

apple watch update

If your Apple Watch is running at least watchOS 6, you can update directly from the device itself when connected to Wi-Fi. The process is just as quick.

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap General > Software Update.
  3. If a software update is available, tap Install and follow the instructions.
  4. Place the watch on its charger while the update is in progress.
  5. The update starts when a progress wheel appears on the watch screen, and ends when the watch restarts (you’ll see an alarm clock view or blank screen).

If your Apple Watch won’t update

There may be situations where an available update won’t install. Don’t worry if that happens, though, just follow these troubleshooting steps:

  1. Check that your Apple Watch is connecting properly to the charger.
  2. Restart your Apple Watch (press and hold the side button until you can slide the Power Off toggle, then press and hold the side button once the watch is off).
  3. Restart your iPhone (on the iPhone X and later, press and hold the sleep/wake and volume down buttons until “Slide to Power Off” appears, then press and hold the sleep/wake button to turn it back on).
  4. Try the Apple Watch update again.
  5. If the update still fails, you can retry the update by visiting Software Update in the Watch app, deleting the update file and downloading it again.