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How to update every Apple device (iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac, more)

From iOS 17 to MacOS Sonoma, updating your Apple devices will make them more secure and give you access to the latest features. Here's how.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
Tim Cook at the iPhone 15 event
Jason Hiner/ZDNET

After months of beta testing, Apple today is rolling out the latest software versions to the public, including iOS 17, iPadOS 17, TvOS 17, and WatchOS 10. MacOS Sonoma will be released on September 26.

Also: Everything Apple announced last week: iPhone 15 Pro, Watch Series 9, AirPods

Here's a quick, simple, and no-nonsense breakdown of how to update your Apple devices. But, before you start, it is recommended to be on a stable Wi-Fi connection to update, as some updates are not available over a cellular connection.

Also, make sure that all of your devices are on charge, or that you have a charger handy in case it is requested. Let's begin.

How to update all of your Apple devices

On iPhone or iPad

Jason Hiner/ZDNET
  1. Tap on Settings > General, then Software Update
  2. Tap on the update and follow the prompts

Also: iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 14 Pro: Which model should you upgrade to?

If you don't want to go through this manually, you can set up automatic updates:

  1. Tap Settings > General > Software Update
  2. Tap Automatic Updates, then toggle Download iOS Updates and Install iOS Updates 

On Apple Watch

Jason Hiner/ZDNET

From the iPhone

  1. Open the Apple Watch app
  2. Tap the My Watch tab, then General > Software Update
  3. Tap on the update and follow the prompts

From the Apple Watch

  1. Open the Settings app and tap General > Software Update
  2. Tap on the update and follow the prompts

On Mac

Jason Hiner/ZDNET
  1. Click on the Apple icon in the corner of your screen, then choose System Preferences
  2. From the System Preferences window, click Software Update
  3. Depending on whether it's a minor or major update, click on Update Now or Upgrade Now

Also: All the Mac news from WWDC 2023: Mac Pro, Mac Studio, and M2 Ultra

On Apple TV

Two Apple HomePods connected to a TCL TV
Jason Cipriani/ZDNET
  1. Open the Settings app on Apple TV and select System > Software Updates
  2. Select Update Software and follow the prompts


How will I know if there's an update available for my device?

There are many ways. The red dot on the Settings icon for the iPhone and iPad is the one most people are familiar with. Devices running watchOS, tvOS, and macOS will eventually notify you unless you carry out a manual update.

How long do updates take?

It depends. If it's a minor update (going from x.3 to x.4 say), then it can be over in a few minutes, but major updates (for example, going from version 16 to 17) can sometimes take an hour or more.

Why should I update?

As well as getting new features and bug fixes, you also get security updates that help to keep your device safe from hackers and other bad guys.  

Are there risks to updating a device?  

Updates are quite safe. Yes, there might be bugs that cause you irritation, but serious issues that cause a device to be bricked or unusable are extremely rare.  

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