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How Garmin Updates Work

        Tech | Travel Gadgets

How to Get Garmin Updates
Updating your Garmin requires less work than reading a map.
Updating your Garmin requires less work than reading a map.
© iStockphoto.com/Blue_Cutler

Installing Garmin updates is fairly simple. You can determine whether you have the latest software by accessing your device's settings (usually done by tapping on the wrench icon). You can compare your settings to the latest ones listed on Garmin's Web site.

The map updates are available in either a hard copy disc format or as an online download. If you choose to go with the hard copy option, you order the disc from Garmin, copy it to your computer and attach your Garmin to the computer to sync the devices.

If you'd rather not wait for your local letter carrier to bring you the newest map, you can download the map updates directly from Garmin's Web site. Before you do so, you'll want to make sure you have adequate space for the download on both your computer and your Garmin -- the update will first be copied to your computer and then to the device. And because this is such a sizable download, only high-speed Internet will do; DSL and dial-up fans should order the hard copy.

­To start the download, connect your Garmin to your computer with a USB cord. Then, you can click the update you want on Garmin's Web site (updates may differ slightly depending on which model of Garmin you own). The update has intuitive, step-by-step directions for launching the update. One thing to remember, though: When the menu provides you with a serial number, be sure to make note of it. You will be asked to enter it later in the update (a serial number is also provided with the disc). The serial number can only be used once, so unfortunately, you can't update numerous Garmins with one map update. Once the download begins, it may take several hours to complete. If your Garmin device needs any software updates, these will usually be installed as the map update is.

While most software updates are free, there's a fee for the map updates, which may run as much as several hundred dollars. However, depending on when you bought your GPS system, you may be eligible for a free upgrade; you can find out if you qualify by checking Garmin's Web site or contacting the customer service directly.

In 2009, Garmin announced a new program in which use­rs could receive regular map updates for as long as they owned the device for a single upfront fee. The program may make it easier for customers to have the latest information, but there are some users that have bristled at having pay any additional fees to maintain a previously purchased Garmin. However, the benefits to the updates can outweigh the costs. Find out more about benefits of Garmin updates on the next page.