How to Fix Apple Watch Stuck on Preparing

Apple Watch updates usually go smoothly. Sometimes, however, they may get stuck. A common problem is that the Apple Watch displays a message saying “Preparing…” with a progress bar but the watch does not complete the update process.

watchOS Software Update screen saying preparing

When the screen says “Preparing” generally means, as the message implies, your watch is preparing the watchOS update file for download from Apple’s servers and then installation.

Please note that the update process may take several minutes. Be patient, the important thing is to wait. It may even take up to one hour. You may even think that the progress bar is moving too slow.

Only follow the steps below when your watch is clearly stuck on the “Preparing…” screen. You can tell if a watchOS update is running or stuck by pressing any of the buttons on the watch. If you see a message saying something like “update is in progress”, then your update is going as expected. Or alternatively, if the progress bar on the update screen hasn’t moved for at least one hour, then your update is stuck.

Is your watch stuck on Preparing?

If you are having this issue, please follow the steps below until you have fixed the problem.

1. Check these first:

  • Ensure that your paired iPhone has the latest version of the iOS software. You can update your device by going to Settings > General > Software Update.
  • Make sure that your Apple Watch and iOS device are close to each other.
  • Ensure that your watch is connected to its charger and has at least a 50 percent charge.
  • Make sure that your watch is not in Airplane Mode.

2. Restart:

  1. Restart your watch: Press and hold the side button until you see the power-off slider. Drag the slider. Wait for your watch to turn off. Then press and hold the side button again to turn on your watch.
  2. Restart your iPhone:
    • iPhone X, 11, 12, or later: Press hold the volume up (or down) and the side buttons together until the power-off slider appears. Then drag the slider. Wait for your iPhone to turn off. Then press and hold the side button again until you see the Apple logo.
    • Other iPhone models: Press and hold the power (side or top) button until the power-off slider appears. Then drag the slider. Wait for your device to turn off. Then press the power button again to turn it on.
  3. Now try to update again.

3. Delete the update file:

Delete the watchOS update file and then try again. Here is how:

  • On your paired iPhone, go to General > Usage > Software Update. Delete the file.
  • After deleting the file, try to update your watch again.

4. Unpair and pair

If you are still having this update problem, try this:

  • Ensure that your watch and phone are nearby.
  • On your paired iPhone, open the Watch app and tap All Watches, select your watch and tap the (i) info icon. Then tap Unpair Apple Watch. If asked, select to keep your cellular plan (GPS models). And follow the onscreen instructions. You will need to enter your Apple ID and password. Your iPhone will create a backup of your watch automatically.
  • After unpairing is done, now we will need to set up your Apple Watch again. Simply hold your watch close to your phone and then follow the onscreen instructions. During the pairing process, you will be asked “set up as new” or “restore from a backup”. It is important you choose to set up as new. When you are done setting your watch up, then now update your watch. This time, you should be able to update your device. See this article if you are unable to pair.
  • After updating your Apple Watch, you can restore your watch from your backup. Simply follow the same steps (unpair and repair) and this time select “Restore from Backup”.

See also:

Dr. Serhat Kurt worked as a Senior Technology Director. He holds a doctoral degree (or doctorate) from the University of Illinois at Urbana / Champaign and a master’s degree from Purdue University. Here is his LinkedIn profile.

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