Apple Watch on a Blue Background Hero
Apple

If you have an Apple Watch, it’s not always obvious if you’re running the latest version of Apple’s watchOS operating system. Here’s how to check for updates—and how to perform the update if available.

Apple Watch Updates Are Tied to iPhone Updates

Before you can update your Apple Watch, you’ll need to update your iPhone to the latest version of iOS. That’s because watchOS updates are currently tied to iOS updates, and you can’t get them separately. If your iPhone isn’t running the latest iOS release, you won’t see the latest watchOS updates on either your Apple Watch or within the Watch app on your iPhone.

RELATED: How to Update Your iPhone to the Latest iOS Version

Usually, You’ll See Updates Automatically

As long as your iPhone is updated fully and Apple Watch is connected to the internet (via Wi-Fi or cellular), your Apple Watch will usually alert you when a new update becomes available with a screen that looks similar to this:

Apple Watch showing an available update.

If you tap this screen and select the “Update Tonight” option while the Watch is on your wrist, your Apple Watch will tell you that it will attempt to automatically install the update later tonight. For your Watch to update at night, it must be on its charger and connected to Wi-Fi. The installation will begin when the Apple Watch’s battery is 50% or higher.

Tip: The update waits for a 50% or greater charge to ensure that the Watch doesn’t accidentally lose power during an update, which could permanently mess up the Watch’s built-in software.

If you’d like to update now, open Settings on your Watch, and then tap “Software Update.” Next, tap “Download and Install” or “Install,” and place your Apple Watch on its charger. When the update is fully downloaded and the Watch’s battery reaches 50% or higher, the installation will automatically begin.

RELATED: How to Update Your Apple Watch

How to Check for watchOS Updates on Your Apple Watch

To manually check for watchOS updates on your Apple Watch, activate your Watch and open the Settings app, which looks like a gray gear.

Tap "Settings" on Apple Watch.

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When Settings opens, tap “General,” and then select “Software Update.”

In Apple Watch Settings, tap "Software Update."

If your Apple Watch is fully up to date, you’ll see an “Apple Watch is up to date” message on the screen.

An Apple Watch screen showing "Apple Watch is up to date."

Otherwise, if a watchOS update is available, you’ll see the update’s version number listed, along with a brief description of the new features or bug fixes in the release.

When an update is an available, you'll see it in Settings > General > Software Update on your Apple Watch.

To install the update, scroll down and tap “Download and Install” or “Install,” and place the Watch on its charger. After downloading the update (if it hasn’t downloaded already), the Apple Watch will wait until its battery is at 50% or higher to install the update. Once it reaches that mark, the install will begin.

How to Check for Apple Watch Updates on Your iPhone

If you’d like to check for Apple Watch system updates using your iPhone, first, locate and launch the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. Once it’s loaded, tap the Watch that you’d like to check for updates on. Then, scroll down and tap “General,” and then select “Software Update.”

In the Apple Watch app, tap "Software Update."

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The Watch app will check for updates, and if it’s fully up to date, you’ll see a “Your Apple Watch is up to date” message. In that case, you’re done, and you can exit the Watch app.

However, if there’s a watchOS update available, you’ll see it listed, along with information about the features of the latest release.

When an update is an available, you'll see it in General > Software Update in the Apple Watch app.

If you’d like to install the update now, place your Apple Watch on a charger near your iPhone. Tap “Download and Install” (if the update hasn’t been downloaded yet) or “Install” (if it has been downloaded). If necessary, enter your passcode. The installation will begin when the battery in the Apple Watch is at 50% or higher.

That’s it. Enjoy the new watchOS release!

RELATED: How to Update Your Apple Watch

Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is an Associate Editor for How-To Geek. For over 15 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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