Apple Watch Not Unlocking Your Mac? How to Fix the Problem

Get back into your Mac—fast

Unlocking your Mac just by holding your Apple Watch near it is one of the many cool benefits of the Apple ecosystem. But it's not so cool when it doesn't work. This article explains how the unlocking feature works and how to fix it when your Apple Watch won't unlock your Mac.

How Does Apple Watch Unlock Mac?

When this feature—called Auto Unlock—is working correctly, it's like magic. Sit down at your Mac while wearing Apple Watch and the Mac unlocks, just like you entered your password!

Auto Unlock takes advantage of Apple devices sharing information between them, plus some standard networking features.

For Auto Unlock to work, you need to be signed into iCloud using the same Apple ID on both your Apple Watch and Mac. You also need Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled on both devices. When you've done that, and an Apple Watch and Mac detect they're near each other, they check what Apple ID each is using for iCloud. If they match, the Mac unlocks.

What Do I Do If My Apple Watch Won't Unlock My Mac?

If Auto Unlock isn't working and your Apple Watch won't unlock your Mac, try these steps—in this order—to fix it.

  1. Wear your Apple Watch close to your Mac. Auto Unlock works only at very short distances, and only when you're wearing the Watch. You can't unlock your Mac from across the room when holding the Watch, for example. Make sure the Watch is on your wrist and then lean in closer to your Mac.

  2. Did you just restart? If you just restarted your computer, Auto Unlock won't work right away. You'll have to manually enter your Mac password to unlock it. Once you've passed this security check, Auto Unlock should work next time.

  3. Do you meet Auto Unlock requirements? Make sure your Apple Watch and Mac meet all of the requirements for Auto Unlock, including running watchOS 3 or newer, and macOS High Sierra (10.13) or newer, among other things.

  4. Make sure Auto Unlock is set up. To use Auto Unlock, you need to enable it. Do that on your Mac by going to Apple menu > System Preferences > Security & Privacy > click the lock icon > enter your Mac password > check the box next to Use your Apple Watch to unlock apps and your Mac > enter your Mac password.

  5. Make sure the Mac has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on. Auto Unlock requires both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are turned on. If it's not working, make sure they're both on. Check the menu bar in the top right corner, click each icon, and ensure they're enabled.

  6. Reset Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on both devices. Sometimes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth just need a quick reset to fix a bug. On a Mac, click each icon in the top right corner and click Turn [name] Off. Wait a few seconds and then turn them back on. On the Apple Watch, swipe up on the watch face to open Control Center. Tap the airplane icon to go into Airplane Mode. Wait a few seconds and then tap it again to turn it off.

  7. Sign into iCloud with the same Apple ID on the Mac and Apple Watch. Check what Apple ID account you're using on the Mac by going to Apple menu > System Preferences > Apple ID. The Apple Watch uses the same Apple ID as the iPhone it's paired to. Check on the iPhone at Settings > [your name].

  8. Enable Two Factor Authentication for your Apple ID. According to Apple, Auto Unlock requires Two Factor Authentication be turned on for your Apple ID.

  9. Set a passcode on the Apple Watch to unlock your Apple Watch. If your Watch can unlock your Mac, it's important your Watch is secure and it's really you using it. That's why Auto Unlock requires a passcode on your Watch. If you don't already have one set up, do it on the Watch app on your iPhone. Go to Passcode > Turn Passcode On > set the passcode you prefer.

  10. Disable Auto Unlock and restart. If nothing's worked so far, try disabling Auto Unlock on your Mac at Apple menu > System Preferences > Security & Privacy > click the lock icon > enter your Mac password > uncheck the box next to Use your Apple Watch to unlock apps and your Mac. Next, restart your Mac and then enable Auto Unlock again.

  11. Restart Apple Watch. Restarting the Mac didn't work? Try restarting your Apple Watch next.

  12. Turn off screen sharing or internet sharing on the Mac. If screen sharing or internet sharing are running on your Mac, you won't be able to Auto Unlock—presumably for privacy and security. If either is on, turn it off in Apple menu > System Preferences > Sharing.

  13. Update operating system on both devices. An outdated operating system can cause all sorts of problems. Resolve those problems, and fix bugs, by updating the Apple Watch operating system and updating the macOS.

  14. Get help from Apple. Nothing worked so far? It's time to bring in the experts at Apple. Make an appointment for help at your nearest Apple Store or contact Apple online for help.

FAQ
  • Why is my Apple Watch unlocking when unworn?

    If your Apple Watch unlocks without any prompting, you likely set up automatic unlocking whenever you access your iPhone. Go to the Watch app on your iPhone > select Passcode and look at the toggle next to Unlock with iPhone. You can also access your Apple Watch settings for this feature from Settings > Passcode.

  • Why is my Apple Watch not unlocking when I unlock my iPhone?

    Check that Unlock with iPhone is on from the Watch app or your watch's settings, and make sure the devices are within 33 feet of each other. Also, check wrist detection from Settings > Passcode > Wrist Detection. If this Apple Watch lock setting is off, your watch won't automatically unlock.

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