Updating Your BMW Software in 2020: When To Do It and How

BimmerTech
Oct 19, 2020

Technology moves quickly; every year there comes a wave of new phones and laptops packing the latest features, and dropping features that used to be commonplace. Keeping a car — which could still be in production a decade after launch — up-to-date with the shifting tech landscape doesn’t come easy.

To make sure your vehicle doesn’t slip behind everything else you’re using, BMW regularly releases new software updates, improving multimedia support and compatibility with a wide range of popular mobile devices.

The big questions are: what’s up with these updates? How do you find out about them? What is the latest bmw software version? How do you know if they are for your model BMW? And more importantly, can you install the updates on your own or do you have to go to your dealer?

PLEASE NOTE: BimmerTech is not able to offer support for software updates provided by BMW or any other company. For more help updating your BMW's software, please contact your BMW dealer directly.

 BMW software update in 2020

ECU or ConnectedDrive software updates 

Let’s give you a quick rundown on how it works. There are basically two kinds of BMW software updates.

    1. ECU software updates address system-wide issues and features, upgrading any of your bimmer car’s electronic control modules (ECUs) that require it. To make sure you are getting exactly the update you need, BMW computers will first check the hardware number on each of your ECUs. For this reason, these major software updates can only be completed by BMW dealers or shops equipped with special programming equipment (like BimmerTech). Unless something is not working correctly or you need the update in order to fix the car or get newer equipment to work, you won’t need this kind of upgrade. In fact, BMW recommends against it unless absolutely necessary, and we agree due to potential complications and risks.

    2. More common, though, is a ConnectedDrive software update, or media software update. This may cover things like multimedia, Bluetooth, Internet connectivity, or mobile compatibility with the latest version of Apple iOS or Samsung/Android system. Any owner can install this kind of update themselves as long as their car features a Combox, which works with iDrive and enhances many technology features in your BMW. Newer NBT and later iDrive systems have Combox functionality built-in, making things even easier. But even older models can be retrofitted with iDrive (at Bimmer-Tech.net) and Combox (check out the BimmerTech Combox Retrofit Kit), adding greater multimedia capabilities.

subscription_banner

How to perform a BMW iDrive software update 

When it comes to updating your car's ECU software, most people are looking at getting more from the iDrive infotainment system. At BimmerTech, we offer iDrive software updates for a range of situations. What's more, our innovative remote process means you won't even need to leave home. Just connect with our expert technician over the internet, and all the hard work will be done for you. Our MINI/BMW iDrive software update lets you individually update the software of your iDrive, letting you solve compatibility or other issues.

Please note that iDrive software updates of this kind are not advised unless necessary to solve specific problems, and are not required as part of routine maintenance of your vehicle. With that in mind, be sure to get in touch with us before ordering to discuss whether an iDrive software update is suitable for your needs.

BMW software version

How do I know if my BMW needs an iDrive software update?

Updating your iDrive software is only required in a limited range of situations. For example, if you want to activate a specific feature (like full-screen mode for Apple CarPlay), but it isn't supported by your vehicle's current software version, updating your software could be the answer. It may also be the solution when running into compatibility issues with third-party hardware that isn't designed to work with older iDrive software versions.

Without a clear goal in mind or a specific problem that needs fixing, your BMW will almost never need a software update.

How long does a BMW iDrive software update take? 

Updating your BMW iDrive software only takes around an hour.

During that time, however, your vehicle will need to be connected to a 15A (minimum) battery charger, with the ignition on. Without a charger, you run the risk of having your car cut out during the session, particularly if your battery isn't already fully charged. If your BMW switches off before the update is complete, it could cause critical errors to your vehicle's electronics.

Updating your ConnectedDrive software 

If your vehicle came with a newer iDrive system from the factory, or is an older vehicle with a factory-installed Combox, you can search for the latest ConnectedDrive software version for your vehicle on BMW’s software update website.

subscription_banner

After entering your VIN, BMW will check its records to see which software is already installed in your car. If there is a newer version, you’ll be able to download it straight from BMW’s website, ready to transfer to a formatted USB flash drive. Inserting the flash drive into the USB port will let you install the software update. You’ll then immediately be able to connect a wider variety of devices to your BMW and start enjoying more multimedia features in your car, without having to take a trip to the dealer.

If there isn’t a more recent version of the software available for your car, BMW’s software update website will tell you so. In that case, a simple software update isn’t going to be enough to add any features you’re missing. BimmerTech offers BMW remote coding to improve connectivity with your smartphone and third-party apps, with coding options including Enhanced Bluetooth, BMW Apps and Apple CarPlay. Like updating your software, BMW coding can be as simple as plugging a flash drive into the USB port in your vehicle.

SmartView HD

BimmerTech’s range of multimedia products for BMW also includes a hardware Apple CarPlay retrofit as well as our SmartView HD ATV4 and SmartView HD Flex, offering Apple TV and smartphone mirroring support respectively.

subscription_banner

Updating a retrofit iDrive or combox

You will only be able to download and install a software update file from BMW if your Combox or compatible iDrive is factory installed. If you installed the BimmerTech Combox Retrofit Kit or BimmerTech NBT Navigation Retrofit Kit, BMW’s records will still reflect that your car doesn’t have the new hardware, and therefore, won’t show that you qualify for the software update. In that case, all you do is get in touch with us and we’ll get you the official BMW update.

Whether you get the update directly from BMW or us, installing the software update is no more complicated than updating your navigation's map. Simply put the file on a thumb drive or other USB memory stick, plug it into the armrest USB port and go to the Settings menu in iDrive. Locate the Software Update option in the menu and follow the instructions on the screen.

Pretty straight-forward. But there’s one final question: what if you add a Combox or NBT Navigation using a BimmerTech upgrade kit and BMW introduces an essential main software update sometime down the road? No worries. Just remove the Combox/NBT before taking your BMW to your dealer for the update. Then reinstall it when you get it back. If it needs recoding as sometimes happens, just contact our tech team and we’ll get it going again in no time.

Apple fans will also be excited about being able to Retrofit Carplay into an older BMW if they decide on retrofitting NBT EVO with ID5/ID6 into their BMW.

The bottom line is, iDrive and Combox Media functionality can really make driving and using your BMW infinitely more enjoyable. So if you have the chance to upgrade, we say go for it. And, of course, we’re here to help if you want to do those upgrades yourself. Have questions or still need some guidance? Just get in touch!

PLEASE NOTE: BimmerTech is not able to offer support for software updates provided by BMW or any other company. For more help updating your BMW's software, please contact your BMW dealer directly. The information contained in this post is purely advisory.

Comments
Rate this product
[[comment.name]]
[[comment.text]]
BimmerTech
[[comment.reviewresponse]]