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Use your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac with a quick settings change

how to unlock mac with apple watch macos sierra min
You’ve got an Apple Watch. You’ve got a Mac. Doesn’t it make sense to have them help each other out? One of the time-saving ways the two devices can coordinate is called Auto Unlock. It uses your Apple Watch to sign into your Mac computer, similar to the way a smart key fob can automatically unlock your car doors when you’re in close proximity. However, to make sure your Watch and Mac are best buds, you’ll have to review your settings and authorize the feature. Read on to find out how the pairing process is done, and the requirements for setting it up, as we explain how to unlock your Mac with your Apple Watch.

Check the requirements

The Auto Unlock feature does have some system requirements, which mostly involve newer operating system updates. On the smartwatch side, you will need to be using WatchOS 3 or later. If you’ve never tried to update your Apple Watch before, it’s easy to do so. Just put the Apple Watch on its charger, make sure your iPhone is connected to a reliable Wi-Fi network, and place your phone and Watch beside one another. Then, access the My Watch app and download any available software updates.

The requirements for your Mac are a little more demanding. You need a mid-2013 model or newer to use this feature, so older Macs simply don’t qualify. If you have a Mac that has the right hardware capabilities, it also needs to be running MacOS Sierra 10.12 or later. You can click on your Mac Notification sidebar to catch a look at any outstanding updates that have yet to be applied, just in case.

Configuring your settings

Your next job is to check your settings and make sure that everything is set up so that your Apple Watch and Mac can talk to one another, even when your Mac is just waking up. Check and double-check this list before you move on.

Your Bluetooth is turned on — This isn’t a problem for the Apple Watch, but make sure Bluetooth is enabled on your Mac — sometimes Bluetooth ends up disabled, especially if you’ve had past trouble with accessories. You can turn on the feature from within the Bluetooth section of System Preferences.

Your Wi-Fi is on and connected — If you need to configure your Wi-Fi settings on your Mac for whatever reason, you can do so within the Network section of System Preferences.

You have the passcode turned on for your Apple Watch — We know the Apple Watch passcode isn’t the easiest login option, but it’s necessary if you want to start using Auto Unlock. To enable the feature, open the Watch app on your iPhone, tap My Watch at the bottom, and select the Passcode option. Then, tap Turn passcode on and enter your desired code twice on your Apple Watch.

You are using two-factor authentication — This one is a little trickier, because the terms are confusing. Your Apple ID originally used “two-step verification” for security when signing in. There is also an updated method called “two-factor authentication” that sounds like the same thing, but is actually a different process. You can turn on the “authentication” version if you have MacOS El Capitan — which isn’t a problem, thanks to the previous update requirements — and an iCloud account that allows you to turn on Two-Factor Authentication in the Security section of the iCloud menu. You can find your iCloud menu in System Preferences panel on your Mac. Yes, this does mean that you need to use iCloud in order to use Auto Unlock.

Internet Sharing is turned off — Internet sharing is a feature that allows you to share your internet connection with someone else. You can find the setting in the Sharing section of System Preferences. Make sure the box beside Internet Sharing is not checked, otherwise Auto Unlock will not work.

Setting up Auto Unlock

Step 1: Check that your Apple Watch and the Mac you want to unlock both use the same ID to sign into iCloud. Otherwise, the whole plan falls to pieces.

Step 2: Once done, head over to System Preferences and select Security & Privacy.

Auto Unlock

Step 3: The first open tab should be General, which has your basic login and password settings. If all your updates and connections have been validated, look for an option below the traditional password settings that says, Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac. Make sure this option is checked, and enter your current password.

Step 4: Turn off your Mac and turn it back on again while wearing your Apple Watch. If everything works as intended, your Apple Watch will sign you in with a notification that says, Unlocking with Apple Watch. Sometimes, if you had to change some of your login or password settings in order to enable the feature, you may have to input your passcode one last time. If this happens, try logging out and logging back in again to see if Auto Unlock kicks into gear.


Throughout this entire process, keep in mind that your Apple Watch has to be fairly close to your Mac. Usually wearing it will enable Auto Unlock, but try holding your wrist closer when logging in to see if this solves any issues you may be facing.

If it still isn’t working correctly, head back to the Security & Privacy section of System Preferences and make sure that Disable automatic login is also checked, the option right above, Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac. This should automatically be disabled when you turn on Auto Unlock, but if for some reason this isn’t happening, your login process could get messy, so it’s worth checking.

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