Why does my phone keep saying software update failed?

Software updates on phones provide important fixes, enhancements, and new features. They address bugs, improve performance and battery life, and deliver critical security patches against vulnerabilities or malware. Without regular software updates, phones can become unsafe, unstable, and limited in functionality over time. Updates keep your device supported by the manufacturer and operating smoothly.

There are compelling reasons to promptly install software updates on your phone when available. Ensuring your device runs the latest OS version improves overall user experience and protects against emerging cyberthreats. Updates also introduce new capabilities that weren’t originally available. Allowing critical updates to fail can leave your phone susceptible to hacks, data breaches, or performance degradation. Consistently applying updates demonstrates proper phone maintenance and care.

Common Causes

There are several common reasons why an iPhone software update may fail repeatedly. Some of the most frequent causes include:

Poor internet connection

Software updates require stable internet connectivity to download update files from Apple’s servers. Connecting over WiFi often provides faster and more reliable speeds compared to cellular data. Check that you have at least 2 bars of WiFi signal during the update process. Moving closer to the router or turning off other bandwidth-heavy activities can help. Updating over LTE/5G cellular data is also an option, but may be slower. Verify you have a strong cellular signal before attempting an update over mobile data.

Related article: 7 Ways to Fix ‘iPhone Software Update Failed’ Error

Insufficient storage space

Software updates require free space to download and install new files. Go to Settings > General > [Device Name] Storage to check available space. iOS updates typically need at least 2-3 GB free. Delete apps, photos, videos and music to free up storage as needed.

Apple support article: If your iPhone or iPad won’t update

Corrupted update files

Sometimes update files can become corrupted during download, preventing installation. Deleting the update and trying again often resolves this. Go to Settings > General > [Device Name] Storage, find the update files and tap Delete Update to remove. Then restart the update process.

Outdated OS version

Trying to install the latest update on a very outdated iOS version often fails. Check Settings > General > Software Update to see your current version. You may need to first upgrade to an interim version before installing the latest update.

Connection Issues

One of the most common reasons for a failed software update is having an unstable internet connection, whether on WiFi or mobile data. Being in a poor coverage area can interrupt the download and cause it to fail. According to Tenorshare, switching to a stronger WiFi or mobile data connection can help resolve connectivity issues.

Problems on the update server side can also prevent your device from properly downloading the latest software version. As Samsung suggests, it’s best to stop the update and try again later when connections are more stable if you keep getting a failed update notice (Samsung). The update servers may be overloaded or experiencing outages, so waiting a bit before retrying the update is recommended.

Having an unstable or poor internet connection is one of the main reasons for software update failures. Switching to better WiFi, mobile data, or simply trying again later can help resolve these connection-related issues.

Insufficient Storage Space

One of the most common reasons for a software update to fail is not having enough available storage space on your device. iOS updates can be quite large, often over 1 GB in size. In order to successfully download and install the update, there needs to be sufficient storage available.

According to Apple Support, “If there isn’t enough space to download and install an update, the software on your device will try to make space. It will remove only apps and data that aren’t critical to the system.” (Source). However, sometimes this automatic removal of apps and data is not enough to free up the space required for the update.

Therefore, before attempting to install a new iOS update, it is highly recommended to check your available storage space under Settings > General > iPhone Storage and delete any unnecessary apps, photos, or media to make room. A minimum of 1-2 GB of free space is ideal. If your device indicates storage is full, you will need to free up substantial space for the update download and installation to complete successfully.

Corrupted Files

One potential cause for a software update failure is corrupted update files. This can happen if the downloaded update package becomes corrupted or if the phone fails to fully download all required update files.[1] With a partial or corrupted download, the installation process will fail because the phone does not have the complete, intact update package.

Corrupted or incomplete downloads can be caused by various connectivity issues like a weak WiFi connection, switching between networks mid-download, limited storage space on the device, or background processes interrupting the download. Issues during the transmission of data may alter update files, introducing errors that lead to corruption.

To resolve this, try deleting the existing update download and starting fresh. Be sure you are on a strong, stable internet connection and have ample storage available. Let the download fully complete without interruptions before attempting installation again. This will provide the phone with undamaged, complete update files needed for a successful install.

Outdated OS

One of the most common reasons for software update failures is being multiple OS versions behind the latest release. For example, if you are still running iOS 13 and try to update directly to iOS 16, the update will likely fail. This is because each iOS update contains important bug fixes, security patches, and improvements that build off the previous software. Trying to skip over multiple updates in one jump puts too much strain on the system.

To successfully update, you first need to install each missed version incrementally. If your phone is on iOS 13, first update to iOS 14, then to iOS 15, and finally to iOS 16 to avoid update failures. This gradual updating allows your device and apps time to adjust to the changes with each version. As noted by Apple, large update jumps often result in installation issues due to the drastic software differences. Keep your OS relatively current and install updates incrementally to avoid the “software update failed” message.

Account and Billing Problems

One potential cause for Software Update Failed errors is when there are issues with the account or billing information associated with the iPhone. For example, Apple requires users to authenticate purchases and downloads by signing into an Apple ID account. If there are problems verifying the account, such as an invalid password or security questions, it can prevent installing updates successfully.

Likewise, if the cellular account or payment information has become out of date, the carrier may block access to data services needed to download new software versions. Unpaid device bills can also trigger blocks that would show the Software Update Failed message when trying to install iOS or carrier updates.

To troubleshoot account and billing issues, first go to Settings > [Your Name] and tap View Apple ID to sign in and check billing details. According to Apple Support, users can tap Purchase History to look for any recent problems reported. If unpaid bills are the culprit, contact the carrier to settle the balance or arrange a payment plan to restore update capabilities.

Third Party Apps

Some third party apps may block your phone from receiving software updates. As noted in this Reddit thread, certain apps can get installed without permission during an update attempt and end up blocking the update process. According to this Lifehacker article, it may be necessary to temporarily disable or uninstall some third party apps to allow the software update to proceed successfully.

If you notice an update failing repeatedly, try disabling or removing recently installed third party apps one by one and retry the update each time to identify any problematic apps. Once the update succeeds, you can reenable or reinstall those apps. Keeping third party apps and permissions limited can help minimize interference with future system updates.


If you continue to receive the “software update failed” error message, there are some troubleshooting steps you can try:

First, try updating your phone over a reliable WiFi connection instead of mobile data. Connect to a stable WiFi network and retry the update. Slow or unstable connections can cause download failures (Source).

Next, check that you have enough available storage space for the update file. Go to Settings > General > [Device name] Storage to verify. You may need to delete apps, photos or other files to free up space (Source).

If you still get the error, try deleting the update file and re-downloading it. Go to Settings > General > [Device name] Storage, find the update file and delete it. Then retry the download.

As a last resort, contact your carrier’s customer support. They may be able to assist with troubleshooting or push the update to your device manually.

Preventing Update Failures

There are several ways to help prevent software update failures on your phone:

Enable auto updates in your phone’s settings so you don’t have to remember to manually check and install updates. This will prompt your phone to install the latest software in the background when connected to power and WiFi (Samsung).

If you don’t want to enable auto updates, be sure to periodically check for and install any available software updates manually. This will keep your phone up to date with the latest features, security patches, and bug fixes (GuidingTech).

Maintain adequate free storage space on your phone. Software updates often require a few GBs to download and install, so having enough free space is key. Delete unused apps, photos, or files if needed (SlashGear).

Only update when connected to a stable, high-speed WiFi network. Software updates can fail if you have a poor internet connection with low bandwidth or frequent interruptions. Use a strong WiFi or cellular data connection to ensure the full update can download smoothly.