Image source: Garmin

How to update software, maps on Garmin Forerunner, Fenix & other devices

It is typically a good idea to install the latest software and maps update to your Garmin Forerunner, Fenix or other smartwatch or fitness tracker. This often contains new info, critical bug fixes, security updates, along with additional functionality. In this article we explain how to update your Garmin. We also provide relevant links which will allow you to access the latest change-log files.

Jump to

How to know if your Garmin watch needs updating?
Why install the firmware update?
How to update software through Garmin Connect
How to update software through Garmin Express
How to update without a computer
How to install Garmin Beta software on your watch

How to know if your Garmin watch needs updating?

What is the latest available firmware version?

Unlike some other companies Garmin does not charge users to access their data. The purchase of a device also includes a lifetime of free software updates. Having said that, at some point the company will stop issuing upgraded software. For a new watch or fitness tracker, you can expect 2, perhaps 3 years of updates. So if you have an older device, the updates will stop at some point. Like all companies, Garmin does this to make its latest crop of devices more attractive.

It should go without saying – downloading maps and updates requires you have a Garmin account set up. If your watch or fitness tracker is up and running and syncing to Garmin Connect, than you have already done this. If not, open an account and register your device, then go through the initial pairing process.

First find out what is the latest version of the software that is available for your device. Garmin publishes info on all its firmware releases along with a detailed change-logs. It is good to read through this to understand what new functionality will be available on your watch or fitness tracker once you refresh the software.

The info can be found on Garmin’s website. For example, the page for Vivoactive software updates can be found on this link. If you have a Fenix 6, head over to this page. Unfortunately it can be a bit tricky locating the page. You will actually need to do a Google search.

How to install Garmin firmware updates, there’s more than one way to do it

Let’s say you have a Forerunner 935. To access info on the latest system software version you’ll need to do a Google search for the term “Garmin forerunner 935 updates”. That will give you a link to the Garmin site. Click through to the page and you’ll find that version 14.10 is the latest software (at the time of writing this article). It was released on August 17th 2019 and brought improved pairing experience with ANT+/BLE sensors, bug fixes for golf and more.

Here are a few more links to get you started.

There’s a separate Maps and Map Updates page. Choose your device. Some maps are free, some require a payment. Many GPS units offer free map updates, including Golf course maps, maps for cycling, maps for outdoor GPS, Marine charts, Aviation and Avionics.

Is your Garmin up to date?

The next step is to determine whether your watch or fitness tracker up to date. You’ve checked for the latest available software version on Garmin’s website, but is this firmware on your device?

For wearables with a screen you can do this by going to Settings>About. To use the Garmin Forerunner 935 as an example, again. Long press the middle button. This will take you through to a menu. Navigate down until you see Settings. Open this and choose About. On this page you’ll see your unit device and below it will be the software version installed on the watch.

Why install the latest software update?

Software (commonly refered to as firmware) is the programming which is sits on your watch. It contains all the clever stuff so functions like the brain of the device on your wrist.

As mentioned above, software updates are useful as they sometimes bring additional functionality. Even more importantly, they provide bug fixes and patch any security flaws. These happen from time to time. In most cases we suggest installing the latest firmware version that is available. However, sometimes you may want to exercise caution.

Check the forums

There have been instances where instead of squashing bugs, firmware updates introduced new ones. Garmin is not too guilty of that, but other brands (which will go unnamed..) are. This is why companies often opt for progressive rollouts. That type of strategy allows them to monitor whether users are experiencing any issues with the new software.

You might, therefore, want to check Garmin forums to see what experience others have had with firmware updates. They can be found on this link. It is also a good place to post issues you might be experiencing with your watch, as other forum users who’ve had similar problems might offer solutions.

The forums are organized into different groups. There are also separate areas of each device so its easy to find what you are looking for.

How to install Garmin firmware updates, why it’s important

How to update through Garmin Connect

Updates are typically installed automatically through the iOS or Android Garmin Connect App. There is nothing for you to do as it will be done for you. Usually, a new release might take up to a week before it is pushed to your watch or fitness tracker.

Ideally you should be notified when there is a new update available and given the option whether to install or not. It is good to ensure you have a good internet connection when doing this. Unfortunately some watches will by default perform automatic software updates without prompting you.

You may be able to stop these automatic software updates on some devices. This can typically be found on the settings page of the device. Go to Settings>System>Software update and you should see Auto Update with an on/off option. Make your preference.

Unlike firmware updates, there are some things which will not be installed automatically. This includes data files on the latest Maps or Golf courses. To push this to your device you’ll need to install Garmin Express.

How to update through Garmin Express

Garmin Express software can install any available updates for you. This is an application that manages your device from a PC or Mac laptop or desktop computer. To install it on your machine head over to this page. Choose whether you want to download the Windows computer or Mac computer version, run it and follow the prompts and installation instructions.

The progress bar will give you an indicator on how much you need to wait for the installation to complete. You’ll need to have your Garmin account details with you and enter them when prompted.

How to install Garmin firmware updates, there’s more than one way to do it

In addition to installing the latest firmware update, Garmin express also updates your maps, marine charts, installs golf course updates and more. Just make sure not to disconnect your device from the computer in the middle of the update process.

Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and smartwatches

Connecting your Garmin device via a USB cable to the computer through Garmin Express will also sync any data. It might be a good option if you are having problems with the smartphone app or your phone is not around. It is a good alternative to be aware of.

How to update Garmin maps & software without a computer

You may not be aware that on some devices, you can update the maps and software without the need of a computer. This is done by connecting your device to a Wi-Fi network – so the device needs to be WiFi enabled. It is not possible to do this with Bluetooth only devices.

This route allows you to keep your device up-to-date whenever you have access to the internet. It is a good idea to rest your Garmin on the charger when you are doing this as software updates can take a while to complete. These are typically large files that need to be downloaded and installed.

  • First you’ll need to ensure you are connected to a Wi-Fi network. If not go to the device settings and connect.
  • Once the internet connection is established, the device will automatically search for updates.
  • To check whether there is anything to install head over to Settings>Updates. If an “Update Available” message appears under Map or Software you can do an installation.
  • Simply choose between Install All, or Map>Install All or Software>Install all.
  • Then follow the instructions to complete the process.

How to install Garmin Beta software to your watch

Optionally, you can also enter the Beta program. Typically, Garmin will release a software update in Beta form. It will give it a couple of weeks to assess whether there are any critical bugs before proceeding to a public release.

Of course, this does carry some risk. There’s no guarantee your watch or fitness tracker will work perfectly with a Beta software release. But if you are feeling adventurous, you should know that the steps for installing Beta software are a bit different. Here they are:

  1. Download the beta software for your Garmin – this can be found on on the Garmin forums. Typically, the top of the device forum will have a link to download any beta installations.
  2. The file will be zipped. Extract the software once you have downloaded it.
  3. Plug your Garmin watch into a USB port on your computer. It will appear as a drive.
  4. Open the File Explorer (Finder) on your Mac or PC.
  5. With some Garmin devices – this will not work through Finder. In these cases in order to gain access to Garmin device files and folders you’ll need to download Android File Transfer. Install the software to your Mac, connect the watch, select MTP protocol on the watch if requested. Wait a bit and it will show up.
  6. Copy the gupdate.gcd file into the Garmin folder on the newly opened drive.
  7. Disconnect your watch from the Mac or PC.
  8. If all is well, the watch should automatically recognise the update.
  9. Select install and follow the prompts to complete.

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Ivan Jovin

Ivan has been a tech journalist for over 7 years now, covering all kinds of technology issues. He is the guy who gets to dive deep into the latest wearable tech news.

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