Updating Older Apple Watches Is Difficult but Not Impossible, Let Us Show You How

Updating Older Apple Watches Is Difficult but Not Impossible, Let Us Show You How

It’s important to update our devices. Doing so gives us new features and patches security concerns. So, why then, is it so damn difficult to update an Apple Watch?

Anyone who has an Apple Watch will know that you need to clear a certain amount of space for updates to be installed. This becomes a particularly tricky issue for older generations of smartwatches.

Why is it so difficult to update older Apple Watches?

To install an update on your Apple Watch you need a few things. Your watch must be connected to its charger; it must have at least 50% battery, and it needs to be within range of your iPhone – which must be connected to WiFi and have enough space to install the update.

That’s quite a list of chores for a simple update, but the hardest aspect, by far, is clearing the space needed.

If you are like me and have an Apple Watch Series 3, the WiFi version has only a measly 8GB of storage space. Most of this gets taken up by system software leaving you very little breathing room for app data, let alone space for updates.

So, when it comes to heftier updates like the watchOS 7.4 patch, things become infinitely more difficult.

How to clear space on your Apple Watch

If your Apple watch says it doesn’t have enough space to complete an update, you’re not the only one. Thankfully, Apple has a few suggestions for ways to clear some storage space.

If you have an Apple Watch Series 4 or later or an Apple Watch SE there’s are the steps Apple suggests:

  • Restart your Apple Watch and try downloading the update again
  • Remove music, photos and media apps. You can check how much storage you’ve cleared in Settings > General > Usage
  • Unpair and Update your Apple Watch

One of those steps should clear space on your Apple Watch but, as The Verge points out, if you have a Series 3 the process becomes stupidly difficult.

How to clear space on an Apple Watch Series 3

Basically, Apple suggests you skip straight to the last step with a Series 3 watch and try to unpair it, update it and then restore it.

This process is easy enough but will cost you time. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Keep your Apple Watch and iPhone close together as you unpair them.
  2. Open the Watch app on your iPhone.
  3. Go to the My Watch tab and tap your watch at the top of the screen.
  4. Tap the info button (looks like ‘!’) next to the watch that you want to unpair.
  5. Tap Unpair Apple Watch.
  6. For GPS + Cellular models, choose to keep your cellular plan.
  7. Tap again to confirm. You might need to enter your Apple ID password to disable Activation Lock.
  8. Next, set up your Apple Watch with your iPhone. When asked whether you want to set up as new or restore from a backup, choose to set up as new. Then follow the onscreen instructions to finish the setup.
  9. Finally, update your ‘new’ Apple Watch.
  10. Once the update has finally been installed you can do this process again and choose to restore from backup at step 8.

This process means that to do a simple update of your Apple Watch Series 3 you have to wipe it and set it up as a new watch. Then you can install the update. After that, if you want to get all your old data and settings back, you need to wipe it and unpair it again and then choose to restore it from a backup.


Quite frankly in 2021, while Apple is still selling new Apple Watch Series 3s, this lengthy update process is ridiculous. This drawn-out update process is enough to put anyone off updating their watch again.

But, keeping your Apple Watch up to date is important, particularly as this latest round of updates addresses some security flaws.

So, please go through the pain and update your watch. Then pray that Apple comes up with an easier system for future updates.

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