How to Update iPhone on Computer

Get the newest OS for your iPhone

What to Know

  • Connect your iPhone to your computer via Wi-Fi or USB.
  • Open Finder (macOS 10.15 and up), iTunes (macOS 10.14 and earlier; Windows), and click on the iPhone icon.
  • Click Check for Update and follow the onscreen prompts.

Updating your OS right on your iPhone isn't the only way to get the latest version of the iOS. You can also update your iPhone using your computer. This article explains how to update iOS on your iPhone with your Mac or Windows computer.

Can I Update My iPhone Through My Computer?

While the easiest way to update your iPhone is to download and install the OS update directly on the device, you can use your computer to perform the update. This way was how we installed all iOS updates before 2011's iOS 5 when Apple added the over-the-air update feature.

There's not a solid reason to update your iPhone through your computer. It won't save you data (you'd need Wi-Fi with your computer) or battery life (in most cases, your iPhone needs to be plugged into power or the computer to do the update). The only time you may want to do this is if you don't have enough free storage space to install the iOS update (but Apple has ways to make that less of an issue, too).

You can use your computer to update your iPhone, whether you have a Mac or a Windows PC. Precisely what program you use differs based on your operating system.

How Do I Update My iPhone Without iTunes on My Computer?

When using your computer to update your iPhone, the software you need depends on what operating system your computer runs:

  • Macs running macOS 10.15 (Catalina) and higher: Use Finder.
  • Macs running macOS 10.14 (Mojave) and lower: Use iTunes.
  • PCs running Windows: Use iTunes.

As you can see, iTunes isn't required for Macs running the latest versions of the macOS (that's because, on those OSes, Apple has discontinued iTunes and replaced it with other programs). For all other computers, iTunes is the only way to update your iPhone. Luckily, iTunes is a free download (and, as mentioned earlier, if you don't want to use iTunes, you can update your iPhone right on the device, no computer needed).

To use your computer to update your iPhone, follow these steps (these screenshots use Finder on macOS 101.5, but the steps apply to all options):

  1. Connect your iPhone to your computer using Wi-Fi or a USB cable.

  2. Open Finder or iTunes, depending on what OS you use.

    Screenshot of the iPhone management screen in the Finder
  3. Click the iPhone icon (in the left-hand sidebar under Locations in Finder, just under the playback controls in iTunes).

  4. On the main iPhone management screen, click Check for Update.

  5. If there's an update available, follow the onscreen prompts to download and install it. It will include agreeing to terms, possibly entering your iPhone's passcode, and waiting for the update to install. How long this takes depends on the speed of your internet connection and the size of the update.

    Screenshot of downloading an iOS update in the Finder
  6. After the update is installed, your iPhone will restart and you may see an onscreen message that the update has completed. You're now running the latest version of the iOS!

    Screenshot of an iOS successfully installed in the Finder

Why Can't I Update My iPhone on My Computer? 

If you can't update your iPhone using your computer, try these fixes:

  • Check Internet Connection: Is your computer connected to the internet? Check the state of your connection since you can't download anything if you're not online.
  • Update OS and iTunes: You need the latest version of your computer's operating system and iTunes to install iOS updates. Learn how to update macOS, update Windows, and update iTunes and then try again.
  • Check iPhone Compatibility: The update could fail because your iPhone isn't compatible with the version of the iOS you're trying to install. Check the list of compatible models.
  • Check Computer Settings: Some settings on your computer could be preventing the update from downloading or installing. These can include the date and time—Apple verifies that its software updates are legitimate before they install them and date and time settings are part of that—or security software, like a firewall, that could be blocking the connection to Apple's servers.
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