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How to Update a Sat Nav Guide + Video

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Our guide to updating your Sat Nav will ensure it never lets you down.

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Upgrade Your GPS Sat Nav


Sat navs are incredibly handy bits of kit, guiding us to our destinations with clear instructions and even a quick visual should you need it. But what happens when a new road is built that could get you there quicker? Or if new housing estate you're trying to navigate to is still just a field on your old sat nav?

Thanks to the constantly changing infrastructure around us, we may need to update our sat navs every now and again so we aren't sent down a road that doesn't exist anymore or straight past that new motorway junction. Here's a quick guide to get yours up to date.

What is a sat nav update?


Sat nav updates don't change the sat nav physically, but update the software that's installed on these mini computers. A bit like your phone or computer, sat navs use an operating system provides users with an interface for choosing their route, as well as the clever bits like calculating distances and connecting with the satellites that make them work in the first place. It's this software that changes when a new update is installed.

If there's a change in the road layout or a route improves, then the maps stored on your sat nav may suddenly end up being out of date. If this is the case, the sat nav manufacturer will change the map stored within the latest software package and make it available for their customers.

When should I update my sat nav?


As a general rule of thumb, it's a good idea to run an update your sat nav once every three to six months. Even if you don't travel far with your sat nav, it's still a good idea to update it as road layouts change quickly and you don't want to be adding time onto your journey for no reason.

The other big reasons to update your sat nav are software improvements and bugfixes for the sat nav itself. Just like the updates on your phone, sat nav updated often bring new handy features or solve common problems, so a quick plug into the computer or connection to the Wi-Fi could end up improving your sat nav.

sat navs

Types of sat nav update available


  • Map Updates - Map updates need to be downloaded from the manufacturer's website. These will bring you up to speed with new road layouts, routes and destinations.
  • Additional Maps - Your manufacturer may have extra maps that you can buy from them. Sorted by country or continent, these are brilliant if you're heading abroad.
  • Software Updates - These free operational updates keep your machine working as it should.

How do I update my sat nav?


Before you start, you'll need to make sure your sat nav is registered on the manufacturer's website. You'll probably need to input your device's serial number, along with your name and address, so make sure you have these to hand

Once you're all registered, you'll need to browse your manufacturer's website for updates. TomTom and Garmin require you to download programs to your PC or Mac, and these will periodically look for updates and alert you when a new one's available. Once an update has been found and you've downloaded it, you'll need to connect your sat nav to your computer. Depending on how big the update is, this can take anything from a few minutes to an hour.

Some of our sat nav models now feature Wi-Fi connectivity and automatic updates. If you have this feature, then all you'll need to do is connect your sat nav to your home Wi-Fi network and the sat nav will do the rest. In some cases, you may need to select updates via Wi-Fi from your sat nav settings menu. If you aren't sure if your sat nav is ready for Wi-Fi connectivity, then remember you can still plug it into your computer to get updates.

Your sat nav should come with instructions on how to update your model, so if you get stuck it's a wise idea to dig the manual out!

What will happen if I don't update my sat nav?


Nothing serious. If you forget to update your sat nav, it may prompt you to hunt down new maps, but this is a reminder more than anything else. You'll still be able to use it, it just means there's a slight chance you might end up somewhere you didn't plan to!

If your still using a sat nav that's showing its age, then it may be time for an upgrade. Newer sat nav models are packed with loads of incredible new features, plus they're more likely to have automatic updates as standard, so you don't have to spend time sat at the computer. Start with our sat nav buyer's guide to find the right one for you.