How to Update Apple Watch to the Latest Software

Keep your watchOS up to date

To get the most out of your Apple Watch, you need to be running the latest version of the watchOS operating system. Unlike on the iPhone and iPad, installing OS updates on the Apple Watch can be a little tricky. Here's what you need to know.

Why Update Apple Watch Software?

Updating your Apple Watch to the latest version of watchOS is crucial. Every new version delivers important new features, improves the usability of the Watch, and fixes bugs. Some cool Apple Watch apps and features also require certain versions of the OS. If you're not running that version, you won't be able to use them.

Apple Watch and iPhone after setup
TraceyAPhotos / iStock Editorial / Getty Images Plus

What to Do Before You Update Apple Watch Software

Before you update your Apple Watch OS, you need to do the following:

  • Connect Your iPhone to Wi-Fi. Updates to Apple Watch apps and OS are synced to it from your iPhone. Make sure your iPhone is connected to Wi-Fi, the same network as the Watch.
  • Update Your iPhone OS. Make sure your iPhone is running the latest version of the iOS before updating the Apple Watch. Learn how to install iOS updates here.
  • Put Watch on Charger. The Apple Watch can only be updated when it's on its charger.
  • Charge Watch At Least 50%. The Watch needs to be charged at least 50% to update, so you may need to wait a few minutes for the battery to top up.
  • Keep Phone Near Watch. Because Watch software updates wirelessly from the iPhone, the devices need to be near each other.

How to Update Apple Watch OS Directly on Apple Watch

If you're running watchOS 6 or higher on your Apple Watch, you can install the OS updates directly on the Watch, without using your iPhone. Here's what you need to do:

  1. Place Apple Watch on the charger.

  2. On the Watch, tap the Settings app.

  3. Tap General.

  4. Tap Software Update.

    Screenshots of updating software on Apple Watch
  5. Follow the onscreen instructions.

How to Update Apple Watch to the Latest Software Using iPhone

If you prefer to update Apple Watch using your iPhone, you can do that, too. Make sure you've met the four requirements from the beginning of the article and then follow these steps:

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

    Screenshot of iPhone homescreen with Apple Watch app
  2. Tap General.

    Screenshot of Apple Watch app
  3. Tap Software Update.

    Screenshot of settings to update Apple Watch

    If you turn on Automatic Updates on this screen, you can skip these steps in the future. Your iPhone will download the update and install it automatically when you charge your Watch.

  4. Tap Download and Install.

    Screenshot of Apple Watch OS update screen
  5. Updating watchOS from the iPhone can be pretty slow. Expect it to take at least a few minutes and as long as an hour. A ring on the Apple Watch shows 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 finishes. Doing any of those things stops the update and could cause problems.

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

Troubleshooting Apple Watch Software Update Problems

If you have 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 to be charging, for the update to work.
  • Make Sure You're Using the Right iPhone. Make sure the iPhone you're using to install the update is paired to the Apple Watch you're updating. You can do this in the Apple Watch app. Check that 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 or reset the Apple Watch.
  • Restart iPhone. You may also want to try restarting the iPhone if restarting the Watch didn't help.
  • Delete watchOS Update File and Try Again. If the Apple Watch update doesn't even start, download it again. To do this, first delete the current update file by going on your iPhone to the Apple Watch app > General > Usage > Software Update > Delete > Delete. Then restart the update process using the steps from the last section.
  • 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 pair them again.