Once a year Apple releases a major new version of watchOS, the operating system software that runs on all Apple Watch models; there are also smaller point upgrades from time to time in between. These updates are free, and can add new features to your watch, improve its speed and fix bugs and glitches.

The newest version is watchOS 5. It adds a bunch of fitness features such as competitions in the Activity app, auto-detection of workouts and some new workout types; there's also a fun new app called Walkie-Talkie, and Podcasts is coming to the Apple Watch.

If you'd like to install the latest version of watchOS on your Apple Watch, you've come to the right place. In this article we show how to update an Apple Watch so it's running watchOS 5.

If you're wondering if this is a good idea, read Should I update my Apple Watch to watchOS 5?

Which Apple Watches can run watchOS 5?

The original Apple Watch misses out, but the Series 1, 2 and 3 will all be able to install watchOS 5. The Series 4 will come with watchOS 5 preinstalled.

You'll also need an iPhone 5s or later running iOS 12.

How to update your Apple Watch

A watchOS update mostly takes place on the watch's associated iPhone rather than on the watch itself. Grab your iPhone and open the Apple Watch app. Make sure you're in the My Watch tab along the bottom menu and then tap General.

How to update watchOS on Apple Watch

There may well be a little orange '1' next to the Software Update option, indicating that an update is ready (there'll be a red '1' next to the My Watch tab too); however, you may have to get the app to check for updates before you see this. Either way, tap Software Update and the app will run a check, then show you the details of the new version of watchOS that's available to install.

Tap install and accept the terms & conditions.

In order to install this new version your iPhone and Apple Watch will need to be in Bluetooth range, the watch must be connected to its charger and on at least 50 percent power and, as with all OS updates, you need to be on Wi-Fi.

The update can take a while but do not be tempted to take the watch off its charger before it's finished. We have done this in the past and it has disrupted the update process so badly that we have had to throw ourselves on Apple's mercy and get the watch replaced.

watchOS betas

Unlike iOS and macOS, Apple doesn't release public betas of watchOS, so the only people who can get hold of a version of watchOS ahead of its official launch are developers signed up to the developer beta programme. If that applies to you, and you want the bragging rights of trying out upcoming watch updates ahead of everyone else, try our article demonstrating how to install a watchOS beta.