How to unlock your Mac with the Apple Watch

Learn to use your smartwatch as a digital key
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Unlocking a Mac with the Apple Watch may seem like a simple thing, but it's one of the countless tricks the device has up its sleeve designed to make your life simpler. And whenever there's a way to forego entering a password, you have to take it.

Luckily, setting up Auto Unlock for Apple Watch is both quick and easy, no matter which Series you have on your wrist. It's also secure, with the authentication coming from both the Apple Watch's passcode and the heart rate monitor detecting your presence.

Follow the steps below to learn how to set up Auto Unlock, how to use it and also what to do if your Mac won't unlock with your Apple Watch.

Read this: Apple Watch tips and tricks


You are going to have to meet a few requirements to set it up and ensure it works consistently. The first one, unfortunately for some, is that the Mac is a Mid-2013 edition or later and that it's running on macOS Sierra or later.

Thankfully, all Apple Watch models can tap into the feature, provided they can run on watchOS 3 or later. 

The Mac and Apple Watch used here will both need to be signed in on the same Apple ID.

And two-factor authentication (note: not the same as two-step verification) will also need to be enabled on your Apple ID. That's something Apple itself can point you towards if you're having trouble.

Essential reading: How to set up your Apple Watch


How to unlock your Mac with Apple Watch


Check Apple Watch Unlock Preferences on Mac:

1. On your Mac, go to Apple menu > System Preferences > Security & Privacy.

2. Select the "General" tab.

4. Check the box next to "Use your Apple Watch to unlock apps and your Mac."

Apple Watch won't unlock Mac?

  • Turn Wi-Fi on the Mac on.
  • Turn Bluetooth on the Mac on.
  • Put a passcode on the Apple Watch.
  • Make sure your Mac has "Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac" selected in Security & Privacy preferences.
  • Both your Mac and Apple Watch are signed in to iCloud with the same Apple ID. To do so, hit the top left on your Mac, go to the Apple logo > System Preferences > iCloud. Then, on the iPhone, open the Apple Watch app, go to General > Apple ID.

How we test

Conor Allison


Conor moved to Wareable Media Group in 2017, initially covering all the latest developments in smartwatches, fitness trackers, and VR. He made a name for himself writing about trying out translation earbuds on a first date and cycling with a wearable airbag, as well as covering the industry’s latest releases.

Following a stint as Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint, Conor returned to Wareable Media Group in 2022 as Editor-at-Large. Conor has become a wearables expert, and helps people get more from their wearable tech, via Wareable's considerable how-to-based guides. 

He has also contributed to British GQ, Wired, Metro, The Independent, and The Mirror. 

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