What to Do If Your Apple Watch is Having Problems Getting Your Mac to Unlock


It’s amazing when the Auto Unlock feature of Apple Watch works properly. You open or approach your Mac while wearing your Apple Watch and, instead of having to type in your lengthy password, it will automatically log you in.

But what do you do if it’s not working? Here are some basic troubleshooting guidelines you may want to check first:

  • Your Mac may not be compatible: Remember, in order for Auto Unlock to work, you must have a 2013 Mac or newer model.
  • Your software may not be compatible: If you own an Apple Watch Series 0, 1, or 2, you’ll need watchOS 3 or later and macOS Sierra or later to use Auto Unlock; the Apple Watch Series 3 requires WatchOS 4 and macOS High Sierra or later.
  • You don’t have the two-factor authentication enabled for iCloud: Either you never enabled two-factor authentication, or you still have Apple’s older two-step verification procedure enabled instead.
  • Your Mac and Apple Watch may be signed into different iCloud accounts: Make sure your devices are both signed in with the same Apple ID.
  • Your Apple Watch or Mac don’t have a passcode enabled: Both devices should have a default passcode enabled to use Auto Unlock — otherwise, what are you unlocking?

If in case these quick fixes did not solve your issue with your Apple Watch and your Mac, you may proceed with some more troubleshooting options below.

OPTION 1: Disable Automatic Login

STEP 1: Click the Apple menu at the upper-left corner of your Mac’s Home screen.

STEP 2: Select System Preferences.

STEP 3: Click on Users & Groups.

STEP 4: Click the lock in order to make changes.

STEP 5: On the prompt, enter your system administrator password.

STEP 6: Next, click on Login Options.

STEP 7: Select Off from the Automatic login menu.

OPTION 2: Reset the Radios

Auto unlock requires Bluetooth 4.2 and Wi-Fi to be up and running on both your Apple Watch and Mac in order to work. If one or both radios have been turned off on one or both devices, or somehow stopped responding, Auto Unlock will likewise stop working. Cycling them can sometimes jump start everything back into action.

On your Apple Watch:

STEP 1: Swipe up from the watch’s face to bring up the control center.

STEP 2: Tap the Airplane Mode button to turn all the radios off. (It’ll turn yellow when they’re off.)

STEP 3: Tap the Airplane Mode button to turn all the radios back on. (It’ll go back to black and gray when they’re on.)

On your Mac:

STEP 1: Click on the Bluetooth icon in the menu bar.

STEP 2: Click on Turn Bluetooth Off.

STEP 3: Click on the Bluetooth icon in the menu bar again.

STEP 4: Click on Turn Bluetooth On.

STEP 5: Next, click on the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar.

STEP 6: Click on Turn Wi-Fi Off.

STEP 7: Click on the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar again.

STEP 8: Click on Turn Wi-Fi On.

STEP 9: Once you’re done, try auto unlock again and see if it works. Otherwise, proceed to the next step.

OPTION 3: Reboot All Devices

On your Apple Watch:

STEP 1: Press and hold the Digital Crown and Side button at the same time.

STEP 2: Keep holding them down until you see the Apple logo.

On your Mac:

STEP 1: Click on the Apple icon on the menu bar.

STEP 2: Select Restart.

STEP 3: Once you’ve rebooted, auto unlock will be temporarily disabled.

STEP 4: Enter your password to re-enable it. Then let your Mac sleep and then try auto unlock again. If it’s still not working, proceed to the next step.

OPTION 4: Check for Updates

On your iPhone:

STEP 1: Launch the Watch app on your iPhone.

STEP 2: Tap on the My Watch tab at the bottom.

STEP 3: Tap on General.

STEP 4: Tap on Software Update.

STEP 5: If there’s an update available, tap to install it.

On your Mac:

STEP 1: Launch the Mac App Store.

STEP 2: Click on the Updates tab at the upper-left side.

STEP 3: If there’s a macOS software update available, click to install it.

STEP 4: Once you’re done updating, try to use auto unlock again — after you’ve logged in following reboot to re-enable it and see if it works now. Otherwise, proceed to the next step.

OPTION 5: Re-pair Your Apple Watch

Re-pairing your Apple Watch is a huge pain, but if something has gone wrong with the connection between your iPhone and Apple Watch, secure information won’t be transmitted properly, and that will stop auto-unlock dead.

STEP 1: Launch the Watch app on your iPhone.

STEP 2: Tap on the My Watch tab at the bottom.

STEP 3: Tap on [Name]’s Apple Watch at the top.

STEP 4: Tap on the info (i) button on the right.

STEP 5: Tap on Unpair Apple Watch.

STEP 6: Once your Apple Watch has been unpaired, repeat the pairing process, restoring from your most recent backup.

NOTE: You’ll have to re-enable Auto Unlock in your Mac’s System Preferences again, but once that’s done, auto unlock should be working. Otherwise, proceed to the last option below.

OPTION 6: Contact Apple

Sometimes a problem really is a problem. Like any electronics, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios and the various connections to them can have problems. If you have AppleCare+, go to your local Apple Store and have it checked.

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