New updates to your Apple Watch promise to bring more features, better performance, and improved stability. But sometimes, updating to the latest version of watchOS is easier said than done, especially if an error occurs during the installation.
Your Apple Watch might say it’s unable to install new updates for a lot of different reasons. There could be software problems, connection problems, or simply not enough battery life. Whatever the cause, you can fix it using the simple troubleshooting tips below.
- 1 Fix 1. Make sure your Apple Watch works with watchOS
- 2 Fix 2. Update the software on your iPhone
- 3 Fix 3. Test the connection from Apple Watch to iPhone
- 4 Fix 4. Test your Internet connection
- 5 Fix 5. Connect your Apple Watch to the charger
- 6 Fix 6. Remove Beta profiles from your devices
- 7 Fix 7. Quit the Watch app and restart both devices
- 8 Fix 8. Check that Apple’s systems are online
- 9 Fix 9. Remove the passcode from your devices
- 10 Fix 10. Download a new version of the software update
- 11 Fix 11. Unpair your Apple Watch and try again
- 12 Fix 12. Wait for next update from Apple
- 13 Keep plenty of free space for future watchOS updates
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Fix 1. Make sure your Apple Watch works with watchOS
Apple releases major updates to watchOS every year. Since newer updates need more processing power, sometimes they don’t work with older Apple Watch models.
Maybe you can’t update your Apple Watch because it isn’t compatible with the latest update.
That said, the latest version of watchOS works with all except the original Apple Watch, sometimes called the Apple Watch Series 0. So unless you’re still rocking that first Apple Watch, you should be fine.
Take a look at Apple’s website to find out which Apple Watch you have.
Fix 2. Update the software on your iPhone
Your Apple Watch downloads new software updates using a connected iPhone. If your iPhone isn’t updated to the latest software either, your Apple Watch may be unable to install the latest watchOS updates as a result.
Connect your iPhone to Wi-Fi and go to Settings > General > Software Update to install new iOS updates. Don’t try to update your Apple Watch until your iPhone is also up to date.
Unfortunately, this means you can’t install the latest software on your Apple Watch unless you also install the latest software on your iPhone.
Fix 3. Test the connection from Apple Watch to iPhone
Since your Apple Watch downloads and installs watchOS updates using your iPhone, you need to make sure that both devices are connected to one another. There are a couple of different ways to check this.
On your Apple Watch, swipe up to open the Control Center. A green iPhone icon in the top-left means your Apple Watch is connected to its paired iPhone.
You can also test this connection using the Ping action from the Control Center. If your devices are connected to one another, this should cause your iPhone to make a sound.
If your iPhone and Apple Watch aren’t connected to one another:
- Turn on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on your iPhone
- Turn on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on your Apple Watch
- Disable Airplane mode on your iPhone and Apple Watch
Fix 4. Test your Internet connection
Even with your iPhone and Apple Watch connected to each other, your Apple Watch is unable to download watchOS updates if your iPhone doesn’t have an Internet connection.
On your iPhone, load a webpage or stream a YouTube video to test the Internet. If you can’t get online, make sure your iPhone is using the correct Wi-Fi network or restart your router.
You may need to troubleshoot other Wi-Fi problems on your iPhone as well.
Fix 5. Connect your Apple Watch to the charger
Your Apple Watch needs enough power to be able to install watchOS updates. In fact, you might need to leave your Apple Watch connected to the charger for the entire duration of the update.
It’s probably a good idea to plug your iPhone into power at the same time. Otherwise, if your iPhone dies, your Apple Watch may be unable to complete the update.
Just make sure your Apple Watch and iPhone are still in range of one another while they’re charging.
Fix 6. Remove Beta profiles from your devices
If you ever tried installing beta software on your Apple Watch or iPhone, make sure you removed the beta profiles before installing a new update. You should try this whether you’re currently using beta software or not.
On your iPhone, go to Settings > General > Profile. Select the iOS beta profile, if there is one, and tap Remove Profile.
On your Apple Watch, go to Settings > General > Profile. Select the watchOS beta profile, if there is one, and tap Delete Profile.
If you still want to use beta software on your iPhone or Apple Watch, enroll your devices in the Apple Beta Software Program again after updating.
Fix 7. Quit the Watch app and restart both devices
Have you tried turning it off and on again? This quick tip fixes countless software issues, including problems where your Apple Watch is unable to install the latest update.
On your iPhone, swipe up from the bottom of the screen (or double-click the Home button) to view your open apps. Slide the Watch app off the top of the screen to close it.
After closing the Watch app, hold the Sleep/Wake button with either Volume button and slide to power off your iPhone. If that doesn’t work, force restart your iPhone instead.
Then hold the Side button on your Apple Watch to turn it off as well.
Wait at least 30 seconds before restarting each device and trying to update watchOS again.
Fix 8. Check that Apple’s systems are online
If Apple recently released a major software update, you might find the servers are too busy for you to install it on your Apple Watch. This happens because too many people try to download and install new updates at the same time.
Visit Apple’s website to check the status of different services. You should see an alert notifying you if there are any problems at the moment. If that’s the case, just sit tight and wait for Apple to fix it.
Fix 9. Remove the passcode from your devices
Some users found that the passcode on their Apple Watch or on their iPhone was interfering with the watchOS update. This is the result of a bug in Apple’s software, but you can bypass it by turning off your passcode.
If you do this, make sure you keep a close eye on your devices while they’re unprotected. And don’t forget to turn your passcode on again after the update completes!
To disable the passcode on your iPhone, go to Settings > Face ID & Passcode (or Touch ID & Passcode on older devices). Enter your device passcode, then scroll down and tap Turn Passcode Off.
To disable the passcode on your Apple Watch, go to Settings > Passcode on your watch. Enter your Apple Watch passcode, then tap Turn Passcode Off.
Fix 10. Download a new version of the software update
If you already downloaded the new watchOS update, but your Apple Watch still can’t install it, there might be a problem with the downloaded file. You can fix it by deleting the update and downloading it again from Apple’s servers.
Open the Watch app on your iPhone and go to the My Watch tab. Then go to General > Usage > Software Update and tap the option to Delete the update.
Next time you try to update your Apple Watch, it’ll download a new copy of the watchOS update from Apple. Hopefully, this one will actually work.
Fix 11. Unpair your Apple Watch and try again
When you unpair your Apple Watch, it backs up all the watch data to your iPhone then erases the watch to keep your data protected. This might resolve software issues that stopped yoru watchOS update installing correctly.
Open the Watch app on your iPhone and go to the My Watch tab. Tap the i button next to your watch and select Unpair Apple Watch. Enter your Apple ID password to disable Activation Lock and confirm you want to unpair.
When you pair your Apple Watch and iPhone again, you can restore the backup to recover your data. And hopefully this time you can also update watchOS.
Fix 12. Wait for next update from Apple
You might be unable to install watchOS updates on your Apple Watch because of a software bug. This bug might be in the current version of watchOS, the version you’re trying to install, or the version of iOS on your iPhone.
When you can’t get past a software bug, the only option is to wait for Apple to fix it in a new update. Then try installing that update instead. Sometimes this takes a couple of weeks, so stay patient and keep checking for new updates.
Hopefully, it doesn’t take too long for a better update to come along.
Keep plenty of free space for future watchOS updates
Even if you have enough free space on your Apple Watch or iPhone to download a new software update, that doesn’t mean you have enough space to actually install it.
Sometimes, software updates need additional free space for the installation to unpack folders or store extra file copies. Make sure you free up space on your Apple Watch now so you’ve got room for future updates.
Dan is a freelance writer based in South West England.
He spent two years supervising repairs as a Genius Admin for Apple Retail and uses that knowledge to keep our troubleshooting guides up to date.
Long before that, Dan turned to Apple products from a musical background. Having owned iPods for years, he bought a MacBook to learn sound recording and production. It was using those skills that he gained a first-class Bachelor of Science in Sound Technology.