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How to fix an iPhone SE that won’t update iOS, failed to update software? [Troubleshooting Guide]

Apple typically releases periodic updates for iOS devices’ system to remain stable, highly optimized, and as bug-free as possible. Users of iOS devices are given with two options to download and install new software updates available. You may choose to update your device wirelessly (over-the-air) or download the update through iTunes.

The first method requires a stable connection to the Internet (through Wi-Fi) while the latter requires you to have a computer that has the latest version of iTunes software installed. Updating process using both methods is easy and simple. But even so, there are still some people who are having trouble getting an iOS update installed on their iOS device through either methods. Just like what some iPhone SE owners have encountered when attempting to get the latest iOS 11 software installed on their respective devices. Some couldn’t get to complete the update installation while others just couldn’t download the update at all.

If you’re one of those who are wondering what went wrong and why your iPhone SE cannot update iOS, then you may utilize this content to find out the underlying causes and fix the problem for good. A few helpful workarounds are also elaborated in the later part of this post, so as to help you troubleshoot the main issue and finally, get your device software up-to-date.

Common factors that can cause errors to occur while updating iPhone software

Sometimes an update may fail to download or install due to random software glitches. Often times, the glitch can be rectified by a reboot on the device. After the reboot, the next update attempt will most likely go through already.

Another possible reason why your device won’t update is because of low memory. The internal storage space available may no longer be sufficient for the update file to be allocated and so the device couldn’t get to install the update. Usually you will be prompted with relevant alerts or message prompts informing you about the current memory status so be sure to read and review the message.

Network connectivity is also another factor to consider especially when attempting to get the update an OTA or over-the-air update for your iPhone SE. This method requires an active and stable connection to the Internet via Wi-Fi. There is also a possibility that the update server is unavailable at the moment thus your iPhone is unable to reach it. As a result the downloading process takes a long time or the update does not complete at all.

Meanwhile, if you’re using iTunes to update your iPhone SE and couldn’t go through, then the problem is more likely isolated to iTunes. Again, you will be prompted with error messages and codes that will likewise give you hint on what went wrong and what needs to be done as remedy.

Generally, the underlying factors are related to the software. This denotes that the problem can be resolved using necessary workarounds.

Possible solutions and workarounds

Highlighted below are recommended workarounds and generic solutions to various types update problems and errors in iOS devices like your iPhone SE. Consider these among your options when attempting to fix the problem on your end. Be sure to test your device after completing each method to determine whether or not the problem has been resolved. Proceed to the next applicable solution if necessary.

Reboot your iPhone SE (soft reset)

Give it another try and reboot your iPhone again. You may have done it already but try doing it again. If you’re trying to get the update wirelessly and the process gets halted by some software glitches, then you may need to reboot your device up to three times. Doing so can also clear up some space of your iPhone’s internal storage. For starters, here’s how to reboot (soft reset) your iPhone SE:

  1. Press and hold the Power button for a few seconds until the Slide to Power Off screen appears.
  2. Drag the slider to power off your device completely.
  3. Wait for about 30 seconds.
  4. Press and hold the Power button again until the Apple logo appears.

Your iPhone then reboots. Try updating iOS afterwards and see if you’re now able to do so.

In the case where your iPhone SE becomes unresponsive on your previous update attempt, you can do a force restart instead.

  • To force your iPhone SE to restart, press and hold the Power and Home buttons simultaneously for about 20 seconds then release both buttons when you see the Apple logo flashing on the screen.

Both methods are considered safe because they won’t affect any data stored on your iPhone SE.

Check your iPhone’s memory and clear up some space if necessary

Again, insufficient memory space is also another factor to consider. If you think you’ve already stored up a lot of contents, which might have already used up your device’s internal storage then you need to do some cleaning up by removing all unnecessary contents.

  • To get started, check your iPhone’s memory by heading to Settings-> General-> Storage & iCloud Usage-> then tap Manage Storage. If your iPhone is already running in iOS 11, go to Settings-> General-> iPhone Storage.

If necessary, you can move some of your critical data to your other storage media like iCloud or iTunes backup. After clearing up some space of your iPhone’s internal storage, give your iPhone another reboot then try to update iOS afterwards.

Check your Internet connection

Make sure that your Internet is stable and that you’re currently connected to your wireless network. If you’re facing some problems with network connectivity, then you need to fix it first so you can proceed with updating iOS wirelessly. If you can’t verify the update or can’t reach the update server, try to update your iPhone SE again using another network or update your iPhone SE with iTunes instead. A quick possible solution for you to try in case you would need to deal with network connectivity issues is rebooting the modem or wireless router. This process is also referred to as power cycle by most internet support people. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Locate the Power button on your wireless router or modem then press that button until the device powers off completely.
  2. When it is turned off, unplug it from the power source and then leave it unplugged for at least 30 seconds.
  3. After the elapsed time, plug it back in then press the Power button again to turn it back on.
  4. Wait until all the lights become stable.
  5. Then reboot your iPhone SE.
  6. Verify and ensure that your iPhone is connected to the correct Wi-Fi network. You may consider heading back to your iPhone Settings-> Wi-Fi menu to check on it. Once verified that the network in use is correct and connected, try to update iOS wirelessly again.

Note: If you see any red light on your modem or router, that is a possible indication that the device is not getting any signal or access to the internet. You may need to contact your Internet service provider in this case for further assistance in troubleshooting network connectivity issues on your end.

Remove and download the iOS update again

If you’ve already downloaded the update file but couldn’t finish installing it, try removing the update file from your device and then download it again. Here’s how:

  1. Navigate to your iPhone Settings-> General-> iPhone Storage menu.
  2. Locate the iOS update in the list of apps.
  3. Tap the iOS update.
  4. Then tap the option to Delete Update.
  5. Go to Settings-> General-> Software Update menu again.
  6. Re-download the latest iOS update for your iPhone.

If that’s still not working, then try the next method.

Update your iPhone SE through iTunes

It’s possible that the network or update server is currently unavailable in this case. To update with iTunes, you will need to use a computer that runs a later or latest operating system and has the latest version of iTunes software installed. Once you’ve got all that ready, you can proceed with these steps:

  1. Connect your iPhone SE to the computer using the supplied USB cable or Lightning cable.
  2. Open iTunes on the computer.
  3. Then select your iPhone SE in iTunes devices.
  4. Click the Summary section.
  5. Click the option to Download and Update.
  6. If prompted, enter your passcode.
  7. Wait until the update is downloaded and installed successfully on your device.

If you are getting an error message while updating your iPhone with iTunes, read and review the message as it often tells you of what went wrong and how to fix it. It also contains an iTunes error code for you to use and refer to when finding solutions.

Restore your iPhone in iTunes

You can consider this as your last resort should all else failed to fix the problem and that you still cannot update your device. Just note though that this will erase all your contents and settings from your iPhone so make sure your phone is backed up before restoring. Once everything is backed up and ready, follow these steps:

  1. Connect your iPhone to the computer using your Lightning cable.
  2. Then open iTunes on your computer.
  3. Select your iPhone SE from the list of iTunes devices.
  4. Click the Restore button on the right side of the screen.
  5. If prompted, confirm that you want to restore your device.
  6. Wait for iTunes to download the latest version of iOS for your iPhone, erase everything, then install the updated version of iOS.

Once iTunes has successfully done all that, the problem is fixed. You now have your iPhone SE restored and running the latest version of iOS. You just have to get your information and settings re-applied so that requires a little more effort for the setup.

What to do if your iPhone SE still won’t update?

If you’ve tried all prior methods and still end up being unable to update iOS on your iPhone SE, contact Apple Support and escalate the problem at hand. You can also ask them to check on their end if Apple servers are currently experiencing downtime due to server overload. It’s possible that the server is congested due to a significant number of people trying to connect to Apple servers to download and install update simultaneously. This is often the case when a major update is rolled out officially.

I hope that this troubleshooting guide can help you fix problems with your iPhone SE.

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