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How to factory reset an Apple Watch

Why would you want to reset your Apple Watch? After all, once it’s firmly strapped to your wrist, it should be there to stay, right?

There are several reasons why you’d want to factory reset your Apple Watch (maybe you’re shopping for an upgrade to the new Apple Watch Series 6). You might be upgrading to a more recent model and selling or giving away your old one. Maybe you’ve lost yours or had it stolen and want to make sure no one can access your data. Or maybe you’ve come up against an issue that’s affecting your watch’s performance, and a factory reset has been recommended. Whatever your motivation, it can be a daunting task if you’ve never done it before or don’t know what it means.

What is a factory reset of the Apple Watch?

Doing a factory reset on your Apple Watch simply means restoring it to its original state when it came out of the factory, when it was brand new. This involves wiping all the data and clearing all your personal settings so that it is returned to its standard operational settings.

Before factory resetting an Apple Watch

The most important thing to do before you carry out a factory reset is to back up your data. If you don’t do this, you will lose all your personal data.

If your Apple Watch is connected to an iPhone and the iPhone is backed up to iCloud, your Apple Watch should be automatically backed up too. However, if your backup lives on a Mac, make sure the iPhone backup is encrypted in order to preserve your Apple Watch data. Your data is most likely automatically backed up, but if it is not, do a manual backup before performing the factory reset.

Apple Watch Series 6 (left) and Apple Watch SE (right) Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

How to factory reset an Apple Watch

Factory resetting your Apple Watch is very simple and takes only a few short steps.

There are two ways to factory reset your Apple Watch. You can either unpair and reset via the Watch app on your iPhone, or you can reset it without your iPhone, directly on the Watch. However, if you opt for the second way, you may need to disable the Activation Lock feature before selling it or giving it away, so it can be set up for use on another person’s iCloud account. Hang on for that explanation.

The easiest way to do a factory reset is by using the Watch app on the iPhone that your Apple Watch is paired with. This involves unpairing the Watch from the phone, which will consequently remove all the data from the Watch.

Factory resetting your Apple Watch using the iPhone Watch app

  1. Open the Watch app on your iPhone. If you can’t find it, use the iPhone’s search feature.
  2. Once inside the Watch app, you should see your Watch listed. Choose General, then scroll down to find Reset.
  3. Tap Erase Apple Watch Content and Settings. A warning will appear asking if you are sure you wish to unpair and reset the Watch, as this cannot be undone.
  4. Wait for the Apple Watch to unpair and reset. This will take a few minutes as it deletes all the old data and reverts to factory settings.

If you don’t have access to the iPhone that is paired with your Apple Watch, you can reset it directly on the watch.

Apple-Watch-Series-5

Perform a factory reset by using your Apple Watch

  1. Swipe through the apps in your app cloud on your Watch until you find Settings — it has an icon that looks like a gear.
  2. Open Settings, and then tap General.
  3. Scroll down to the bottom of the list and then tap Reset.
  4. Tap Erase All Content and Settings. Here, you’ll see a message warning you that if you are not un-pairing the Watch from an iPhone first, you may have to remove the Activation Lock before the Watch can be paired with another iCloud account. We’ll look at this later.
  5. Scroll down and tap Erase All.
  6. The Apple Watch will then erase all your personal data and revert to factory settings.

Remove the Activation Lock from your Apple Watch

If you don’t have access to the iPhone your Apple Watch is paired with and must therefore reset the Apple Watch from the watch itself, you may need to disable the Activation Lock. This is used to link your Apple Watch to your iCloud account for security. It’s important to remove the Activation Lock if you’ll be selling or giving away your Watch so that it can be paired with a new iCloud account. To do it, follow these steps:

  1. Sign in to your iCloud account on iCloud.com
  2. Go to Find iPhone.
  3. Select All Devices at the top of the map, and choose your Apple Watch.
  4. Select Remove From Account and then confirm.

Following these easy steps allows you to quickly and easily restore your Apple Watch to factory settings, meaning you can sell it or give it away without problems, or just get it functioning like new again. And if you’re looking for other smartwatch options, check out the best Black Friday smartwatch deals for 2020.

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Erin Lawrence
Erin has over 20 years of experience as a journalist in the media and news industries, with time both on camera and behind…
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