Unable to Auto Unlock Mac with Apple Watch? Troubleshoot & Fix
Apple allows users to unlock their Macs using their Apple Watch, which is a super handy feature for users of both devices. As convenient as this may sound, the feature isn’t completely flawless though, and sometimes you may run into issues with the auto-unlocking Mac feature.
Since Apple Watch and your Mac relies on a wireless connection to get this done, you can run into connectivity problems that may prevent you from unlocking your Mac with it. Additionally, certain macOS settings can change the way your Mac unlocks and in some rare cases, software glitches can stop your Apple Watch from unlocking your Mac too. Regardless, it’s pretty easy to diagnose what’s causing this issue and get it fixed.
Interested in learning what you can do? Here, we’ll be going through the various troubleshooting methods that you can follow to fix and unlock your Mac with your Apple Watch normally again.
Apple Watch Not Unlocking Mac? Troubleshooting Automatic Mac Login with Apple Watch
Regardless of the Apple Watch model you own and the macOS version that’s running on your computer, you can utilize these steps to diagnose the problem and resolve it at the earliest.
1. Check if Apple Watch Unlock is Enabled
The first thing you want to check when your Apple Watch isn’t unlocking your Mac is to see if the feature is actually enabled on your Mac and you didn’t accidentally turn it off or reset your settings. This can be done from the System Preferences panel. Head over to System Preferences -> Security & Privacy on your Mac and check the box next to “Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac”.
If you don’t find this particular setting, make sure your Apple Watch is correctly paired with your iPhone and see if your Mac is supported. The feature only works on mid-2013 Mac models and later running at least macOS 10.13 High Sierra. You can learn in detail about enabling this feature on your Mac right here.
2. Check Automatic Login Setting
If the automatic login setting is enabled on your Mac, your Apple Watch cannot be used to unlock your Mac since you’ll be logged into it automatically anyway. Therefore, you should make sure it’s set to disabled.
To check this, go to System Preferences -> Users & Groups on your Mac and click on “Login Options” as shown below. Now, you’ll find the Automatic login setting on the right side of the window. Set it to “Off” and see if you’re now able to unlock your Mac with your Apple Watch.
3. Check the Apple Watch & Mac Connectivity
Your Apple Watch and Mac rely on Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to communicate and unlock your computer. So, it’s important to make sure that both of these features are enabled on your devices.
Starting with the Apple Watch, you can bring up the Control Center by swiping up on the screen to check your wireless connectivity settings.
Use the toggle to turn on Wi-Fi if it’s disabled and check if it’s connected to your paired iPhone as well.
On the other hand, you can check Bluetooth and Wi-Fi settings on your Mac from the menu bar. If you’re running macOS Big Sur, you can access it from the Control Center. Just bring up the Control Center as shown below and use the toggle to enable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Once you’re done, log out of your Mac and see if you’re able to unlock it with your Apple Watch again.
4. Re-Pair Your Apple Watch
If your Apple Watch isn’t paired properly with your iPhone, you won’t be able to use it for unlocking your Mac. Therefore, if your wearable is suffering from pairing or other connectivity issues despite having all necessary settings enabled, you’ll need to unpair and then re-pair your Apple Watch again. This can be done using the Watch app on your iPhone. Head over to the All Watches section, select your Apple Watch, and then tap on “Unpair Apple Watch” to begin the process.
If you’re confused, you can learn more about unpairing your Apple Watch here. Your iPhone will create a backup of your Apple Watch which can be used for restoration while you’re re-pairing it.
5. Check for Software Updates
Apart from your settings configuration and connectivity issues, problems with certain firmware can prevent you from unlocking your Mac with your Apple Watch. The culprit could either be watchOS or macOS, so check for any new updates on both of your devices.
Open the Watch app on your iPhone, head over to the My Watch section, and tap on General -> Software Update to check for watchOS updates.
To update your Mac, go to System Preferences -> Software Update and you’ll be able to see any available macOS updates right here.
6. Reboot your Mac and Apple Watch
If none of the above troubleshooting methods helped in your case, there’s a fair chance that the issue you’re facing is just a software glitch that can be resolved by simply rebooting your device. Since the culprit can be either your Apple Watch or Mac, it’s best to reboot both of your devices and see if you’re able to unlock your Mac on the next boot.
If you’re not sure how to restart your Apple Watch, just long-press the side button to bring up the shutdown menu and then use the Power Off slider. Once turned off, you can press and hold the side button to turn it back on again.
As for the Mac, you can click on the Apple menu at the top-left corner of your screen and choose “Restart” from the dropdown menu.
There you go. By now, you should’ve fixed the issues that were preventing you from unlocking your Mac with your Apple Watch.
Apart from everything that we just discussed, we’d like to point out that both your Apple Watch and Mac must be signed into the same Apple account to make use of this feature, but this goes without saying, right? Additionally, two-factor authentication must be enabled for your account.
However, if you’re still not able to unlock your Mac for some reason, we’re sorry to say that we’re out of ideas at this point. What you can do right now is contact Apple Support for further assistance. They’re usually extremely helpful in these cases and may even provide you with a replacement if the hardware is at fault and your device is still in warranty.
We hope you were able to resolve all the connectivity problems and use your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac as intended. Which of the troubleshooting methods that we covered here helped you the most? Do you have any additional tips to share that deserve a mention here? Feel free to let us know in the comments section down below. Don’t forget to leave your valuable feedback too.
I kept running into this exact problem and none of these tips helped. It was only when I realised I had my wifi on my Mac turned off bc I was using an ethernet connexion instead. Apple Watch unlock won’t work without wifi turned on.
There are a bunch of other troubleshooting ideas that apple provides that a quick search will turn up. Unfortunately they don’t really work for me, it’s too unreliable, I just turned the feature off.
Its funny that this article is published today because up until the 12.5 update of macOS I never had a single problem with unlocking my Apple silicon MacBooks.
As soon as that update applied trouble started, the only fix was to uncheck the box in preferences , reboot and then check the box and 2 weeks on its seems fine again……
Typical Apple to mess with things that dont need messing with….Just wish they would bring the massages app in for an overhaul now….
Anytime I’ve experienced this issue, #6 has always solved it for me. I would suggest trying that first.