How to Update Your Apple Watch

Keep your Apple Watch up-to-date and ready to go

A woman holding a an iPhone while wearing an Apple Watch.

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Apple releases updates to the Apple Watch's operating system, called watchOS, just as often as it updates the iOS on iPhone and iPad. Updating the Apple Watch is just as important, but the process is a bit trickier.

Why Update Your Apple Watch?

Updating your Apple Watch to the latest version of watchOS is crucial because — just like with the iPhone, iPad, and Mac — every new version of the OS delivers important new features, improves the usability of the watch, and fixes bugs. Some cool Apple Watch apps also require certain versions of the OS and if you're not running that version, you won't be able to run the app.

With all of those reasons, and since updates to watchOS are free, there's no reason to delay installing an update whenever one's available.

Do This Before Updating Your Apple Watch

To prepare to update your Apple Watch OS, do the following:

  • Check for update. Check for the update on your iPhone. Open the Apple Watch app, then tap General > Software Update. If there's an update available, download it.
  • Update Your iPhone. Updates to the Apple Watch are synced to the Watch from the iPhone it's paired to. Your iPhone may need to be running the latest version of the iOS to update the Apple Watch. Learn how to install iOS updates here.
  • Put Watch on Charger. The Apple Watch can only be updated when it's being charged, so place your Watch on its charger.
  • Charge Watch At Least 50%. The Watch needs to have at least 50% battery charge in order to be updated, so you may need to wait a few minutes for the battery to top up.
  • Connect iPhone to Wi-Fi. The Apple Watch gets its apps and OS updates synced to it from your iPhone. Make sure your iPhone is connected to Wi-Fi (the same network as the Watch) to download the update to the Watch.
  • Keep Phone Near Watch. Because the update is sent wirelessly from the iPhone to the Watch, the two devices need to be physically near each other to perform the update.

While most versions of the watchOS run on all Apple Watch models, that's not completely true, especially for the first-generation Apple Watch. Check the compatibility between your Apple Watch model and the version of the OS you want to install before starting the process.

How to Update Your Apple Watch

With all of those requirements met, it's time to start installing the OS update. Here's how:

  1. On your iPhone, tap the Apple Watch app to open it.

  2. Tap General.

  3. Tap Software Update.

  4. The software update you downloaded in step 1 of the last section will be here. When the download is complete, tap Install.

  5. The iPhone will begin installing the watchOS update on the Watch. This can be pretty slow. Expect it to take at least a few minutes and as long as an hour, depending on the size of the update. A wheel appears on the Apple Watch to show the update's progress.

    Even though the update can take a long time, don't take your Watch off the charger, quit the Apple Watch app, or restart your Apple Watch or iPhone until the update is complete. Doing any of those things will prevent the update from completing.

  6. When the update has completed the Apple Watch will restart.

Troubleshooting Apple Watch Update Problems

If you've followed all of these steps and are running into problems updating your Apple Watch, try these troubleshooting tips:

  • Make Sure Watch Is On Charger. The Watch needs to be situated correctly on the charger, and needs to be charging, for the update to work. If the update isn't working, make sure the Watch is correctly connected to the charger.
  • Make Sure You're Using the Right iPhone. If the update won't install, make sure the iPhone you're using to install the update is actually paired to the Apple Watch you're updating. You can do this in the Apple Watch app. Make sure the name and information about the paired Watch matches the one you're updating.
  • Restart Apple Watch. If the update won't complete, you'll need to restart the Apple Watch. Learn how by reading How to Reset Your Apple Watch.
  • Restart iPhone. You may also want to try restarting the iPhone if restarting the Watch didn't help. Get instructions in How to Reset Any Model of iPhone.
  • Delete watchOS Update File and Try Again. If the update doesn't even start, you should download the update again. To do this, first delete the current update file by going to the Apple Watch app > General > Usage > Software Update > Delete > Delete. Then download the update again using the steps from earlier in this article.
  • Re-pair the Watch and iPhone. The update can only install if your iPhone and Watch are paired to each other. If they've lost their connection, you may need to unpair them and then re-pair them.