Apple Watch reset: How to unpair, restore factory settings and pair to a new iPhone

Learn to start again with your Apple Watch – whether you have your old iPhone or not
How to reset Apple Watch
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Despite being a remarkably consistent beast, you'll no doubt have to reset the Apple Watch at some point during your time with it.

And whether it's the new Series 7, or an older Apple Watch, the process detailed below for resetting, erasing data, unpairing or pairing to a new iPhone is much the same.

However, with each of these avenues entailing different steps, make sure to skip ahead to your preferred route. Here's what we'll be talking through below:

  • How to unpair Apple Watch
  • How to erase Apple Watch data
  • How to pair Apple Watch
  • How to pair Apple Watch if you do have your old iPhone
  • How to pair Apple Watch if you don't have your old iPhone

How to reset the Apple Watch

How to reset Apple Watch

If you're having issues with the Apple Watch, sometimes the only way to get things working again is to give it a full reset.

However, there's not actually an option to factory reset the Apple Watch. Instead, the steps below will help you unpair from your Watch and erase its data, which is essentially the same as a factory reset.

Unpair from Apple Watch

Unfortunately, you can't simply unpair from the Watch itself – for that, you're going to need a connected iPhone present.

1. On the iPhone, go to the Watch app and open the My Watch tab.

2. Tap the Watch at the top of the screen.

3. Tap the 'I' icon and then hit Unpair Apple Watch.

4. Confirm your carrier settings so that you'll be free to pair you device to any new iPhone.

Erase data on Apple Watch

Erase any of your data on the Apple Watch by heading to Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings on the device itself.

Apple Watch pairing

How to pair Apple Watch

Pairing mode on the Apple Watch will be prompted automatically when an unassigned device is detected in close proximity to your iPhone.

However, if you're having trouble – there are steps you can take.

Of course, you'll need to make sure your Apple Watch is trying to pair with an iPhone running the latest software, and that it's actually compatible.

For example, the Series 7 requires iOS 15 to be installed on your iPhone – so make sure you update your smartphone in advance.

How to pair the Apple Watch

Once you've turned your Apple Watch on, make sure Bluetooth is enabled on the iPhone and the two are close together, and you'll be prompted to hold your iPhone camera over the animation moving on the watch face, as shown in the image above. From here, the setup process begins as follows:

1. Choose to set up as a new Apple Watch or restore from a backup.

2. Sign in with your Apple ID.

3. Choose your settings. Your Apple Watch will mirror the settings of your iPhone, such as Find my iPhone, Location Services, Wi-Fi Calling, Diagnostics and Siri.

4. Create or skip making a passcode.

5. Set up cellular (if available) and apps.

6. Wait for the the Apple Watch and iPhone to sync and complete pairing.

How to pair Apple Watch to a new iPhone

How to pair Apple Watch to a new iPhone

Maybe you lost your old iPhone, or maybe you've just upgraded – whatever the reason, it's fairly simple to pair Apple Watch to a new iPhone.

To do so, you'll need to make sure, again, you have your Apple ID at the ready, that both devices are able to connect to the same Wi-Fi network, both are at least 50% charged and that you remember any Apple Watch passcode previously assigned to it.

It's also important to note that the steps do differ depending on if you still have access to your old device or not.

If you do still have your old iPhone and want to pair the Apple Watch:

1. Update your old iPhone and the Apple Watch to the latest software.

2. Back up your old iPhone and go to the My Watch tab in the iPhone's Watch app to unpair your selected device.

3. Begin setting up the new iPhone.

4. Open the Apple Watch app on your new iPhone and follow the pairing steps outlined above – you'll likely want to restore from backup if picking up on a new iPhone.

5. To make sure your Health data syncs across to the Apple Watch, it'll have to be turned on in Settings > Your Name > iCloud > Health.

If you don't have your old iPhone and want to pair the Apple Watch to a new iPhone:

1. Erase data from the Apple Watch, as outlined in the section above.

2. Set up your iPhone and sign into iCloud, then open the Watch app and pair your device with the new iPhone.

3. Attempt to restore from backup, after you've updated the OS on both devices. You'll lose Activity, Workouts and settings changes on the watch that occurred between your backups.

4. Follow the on-screen setups and finish setting up the Apple Watch on the new iPhone. Apple states that you might have to wait a few days for all your iCloud data to appear.

Manual pairing

We have had isolated incidents pairing older Apple Watch devices where the iPhone didn't recognize the space animation on the Apple Watch, and thus, didn't pair.

In this instance, you can tap Pair Manually. This puts the Apple Watch into Bluetooth pairing mode, and the iPhone will search for its Bluetooth ID. You can then pair using a 6 digit security code, which is displayed on the Apple Watch.

Pairing an older Apple Watch to iOS 15

We have had some issues pairing older Apple Watch models to iOS 15. And part of the problem stemmed from updating to watchOS 8.1 during the install process.

First, make sure the Apple Watch isn't still paired to another Apple ID.

Next, try resetting your Apple Watch. Hold the side button and crown down for 10 seconds, until the Apple Watch resets. When you see the Apple logo, hold the side button only down for 20 seconds. Now choose to erase all settings and try again.

If you get the option to set up your Apple Watch without updating, try that too.