How to Set Up Apple Watch

Get your Apple Watch up and running quickly with these tips

Got a new Apple Watch? Congratulations! It's fun and useful, but you can't just take it out of the box, put it on your wrist, and start using it. You need to set it up first. Learn how to set up and use your new Apple Watch with the step-by-step instructions here and get tips on using it and solving common problems.

This article applies to all Apple Watch models, including cellular models running watchOS 5 through watchOS 7. If your Apple Watch is already set up, but you need to connect it to a new iPhone, see How to Pair an Apple Watch With a New iPhone.

What You Need to Set Up an Apple Watch

Setting up an Apple Watch consists of two parts: Pairing the watch with your iPhone and then setting it up as a new watch or restoring the data from a previous Apple Watch.

Before you can set up an Apple Watch, you need:

How to Pair Your Apple Watch and iPhone

While the Apple Watch can do many things on its own, it gets much of its functionality from being connected to an iPhone in a process called pairing. Follow these steps to pair your Apple Watch with your iPhone.

  1. Turn on your Apple Watch by pressing and holding the side button on the Watch until the Apple logo appears. When the logo appears, release the button.

  2. Position the iPhone and Apple Watch close to each other. Pairing an Apple Watch to an iPhone uses Bluetooth, so the devices must be near each other for the connection to work.

  3. On your iPhone, open the Apple Watch app and tap Start Pairing.

  4. When the iPhone and Apple Watch detect each other, a swirling animation appears on the Apple Watch screen. A frame appears on the iPhone screen. Move the iPhone so that the Apple Watch appears in the frame on the iPhone. When the iPhone "locks" onto the Watch, you'll move automatically to the next step.

    In some rare cases, the iPhone and Apple Watch may not be able to connect in this manner. If you run into this issue, tap Pair Apple Watch Manually on the iPhone and follow the on-screen prompts to pair the devices.

  5. After pairing your iPhone and Apple Watch, choose one of two options. If you've had an Apple Watch in the past and want to use the data from your previous Watch, tap Restore from Backup. Otherwise, choose Set Up as New Apple Watch.

    Watch app on iPhone showing Pairing process

Continue to one of the next two sections, based on your choice in the last step: Set Up as New Apple Watch or Restore From Backup.

After Your iPhone and Apple Watch Are Paired, Choose One of Two Options

If you haven't had an Apple Watch before or don't want to restore from a backup, this is the option for you. You need to have followed the steps from the first section of this article and selected Set Up as New Apple Watch.

Here's what to do next:

  1. In the first few screens, agree to Apple's terms and conditions, wait for the Watch app to sign you in to your Apple ID account (if you're prompted to sign in, do so), and then tap OK on the Shared Settings screen.

    You might be prompted to log in to your Apple ID if you bought a used Apple Watch. In that case, the Watch might still be connected to the seller's Apple ID. If so, you won't be able to proceed until removing Activation Lock. Learn more about this in How to Unlock iCloud-Locked iPhones. The tips apply to Apple Watch, too.

  2. Create a passcode to secure your Apple Watch. To use a basic 4-digit code, tap Create a Passcode and enter your preferred code twice on the Apple Watch. To use a more complex and secure code, tap Add a Long Passcode and enter the code on the Watch. You can also choose Don't Add Passcode, but Apple advises against that.

  3. The Watch app on the iPhone then lets you know about the Heart Health features of the Apple Watch for models that support them. There's nothing to do on this screen other than tap Continue. All of the heart health features are used only on the Watch after set up.

    Watch app on iPhone showing Settings, Passcode setup, and Health information
  4. The Apple Watch supports Apple Pay for easy, secure wireless payments. If you already use Apple Pay on your iPhone, you'll need to reauthorize your card. If you don't use it yet, you can set it up in this step. Either choose Continue to set up Apple Pay or Set Up Later in the Apple Watch App.

    For more in-depth information about the Apple Watch and Apple Pay, check out How to Use Apple Pay on the Apple Watch.

  5. The next screen explains the safety features of the Apple Watch (the exact options differ based on the model, but they include Emergency SOS calls and fall detection).

    To enable Fall Detection, go to the Watch app on iPhone and select My Watch > Emergency SOS > turn on (green) the Fall Detection toggle.

    Your Watch inherits many settings from your iPhone. If you've already set up emergency contacts and health and activity goals, those settings are automatically added to your Watch. If not, you may be prompted to set them up before tapping Continue.

  6. If your Apple Watch supports cellular connectivity, you will see an additional screen to configure cellular service. Tap Set Up Cellular to access the set-up process for the phone company providing cellular service for your Watch. Follow the on-screen prompts until you return to a screen that says Cellular Is Ready. Tap Continue.

    Watch app on iPhone showing steps to setting up the Apple Watch
  7. You can install Apple Watch apps that give you mini-versions of iPhone apps right on your wrist. On this screen, choose to either Install All watch apps available on your iPhone or Choose Later.

    If you want to start using your Watch right away, it's better to install apps later. Installing apps on the Apple Watch can be slow. If you choose to install all available apps, you may have to wait a long time before your watch is ready.

  8. With all of your settings selected, your iPhone and Apple Watch begin to sync. How long this takes depends on how much content you're syncing, but expect it to take at least a few minutes. Check the progress wheel on both the iPhone and the Apple Watch for status.

    Apple Watch app showing app installation during initial setup
  9. A noise plays to let you know when the process is complete. While you wait, you can learn more about the Watch by swiping up and tapping tutorials.

  10. When the sound and vibration let you know that syncing is finished, tap the Watch's digital crown to start using it.

How to Set Up an Apple Watch With Restore From Backup

If you had an Apple Watch in the past and want to move the data from your previous Watch to your new model, this is the option for you. First, you need to have followed the steps from the first section of this article and selected Restore from Backup. Then, follow these steps, most of which are the same as setting up a new Apple Watch.

  1. When you tap Restore from Backup, the Watch app on the iPhone displays all the available backups. Tap the backup you want to restore on your new Apple Watch.

  2. The first few screens after choosing a backup are basic and go by quickly. Agree to Apple's terms and conditions, sign in to your Apple ID. (This should happen automatically, but sign in if you're prompted to do so.) Tap OK on the Shared Settings screen to continue.

  3. Next, create a passcode. Tap Create a Passcode to use a simple, 4-digit code to secure your Watch. Enter the code you want twice on the watch. Tap Add a Long Passcode to use a more complex code, or tap Don't Add Passcode to skip it entirely, but that's not a good security habit, and Apple doesn't recommend it.

  4. If your Apple Watch supports Heart Health features, the next screen details them. There's nothing to do here except read about the features and tap Continue.

  5. You can add Apple Pay to your watch if you want. Either tap Continue to set up Apple Pay or Set Up Later in the Apple Watch App to do it later.

  6. At this point, your iPhone and Apple Watch start syncing. This takes anywhere from a minute or two to much longer, depending on how much data is syncing. A wheel displays progress on both the iPhone and the Apple Watch.

  7. A noise plays and the watch vibrates to let you know that syncing is finished and that you can start using your Watch. Just press the digital crown.

Quick Apple Watch Guide: Using Your New Watch

Now that your Apple Watch is set up, it's time to learn how to use it. There's a lot to learn, of course, but here is some useful content for both beginners and experienced users.

A couple of runners looking at apple watch and iphone
Hero Images/Getty Images

Quick Apple Watch Guide: Troubleshooting Problems

Sometimes things go wrong with the Apple Watch and, when they do, you need to know how to fix them. Check out this collection of troubleshooting articles.

  • Restarting Apple Watch. Just like with the iPhone, sometimes problems can be fixed just by restarting the watch. Learn how in How to Restart Apple Watch.

  • Finding a lost Apple Watch. The same technology used for Find My iPhone helps you find a lost or stolen Apple Watch. Find out how in How to Find My Apple Watch.

  • Apple Watch won't turn on? If your Apple Watch won't turn on, you need the tips in How to Fix an Apple Watch That Won't Turn On.

  • Unpairing Apple Watch and iPhone. If you're upgrading to a new Watch model or need to take some advanced troubleshooting steps, you may need to unpair your Watch and iPhone. Find out how in How to Unpair Apple Watch and iPhone.

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