How to enable Auto Unlock on your Mac and Apple Watch

Apple Watch isn't just useful for tracking fitness or using Apple Pay: If you have a compatible Mac, you can also use the auto-unlock feature: (which requires macOS Sierra or later and watchOS 3 or later) allows you to pair your screen with your Mac

How to enable Auto Unlock on your Mac
How to enable Auto Unlock on your Mac

Once you do that, you can automatically unlock your computer by simply sitting in front of it, without a password - if your Apple Watch is unlocked and on your wrist when you sit down. Here's how.

Before you start using "auto-unlock"

Before you start using Auto Unlock, you need to ensure that your Mac and Apple Watch are compatible and that you have set up two-factor authentication (not two-step) for your iCloud account.

Make sure you own the right Mac and Apple Watch

To use Auto Unlock, you'll need:

  • Any Mac manufactured mid-2013 and later (sorry, early 2013 Mac owners)
  • An Apple Watch Series 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and SE

Make sure you've updated your operating system

If you own an Apple Watch Series 0, 1, or 2, you'll need to be running watchOS 3 or later on your smartwatch; additionally, your compatible Mac needs to be running macOS Sierra or later. Newer Apple Watches need watchOS 4 or higher.

Note: Your Mac must have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned on.

Enable two-factor authentication for your iCloud account

Since you can use Auto Unlock to bypass your Mac's login password, Apple wants to make sure that your computer is as secure as possible by enabling two-factor authentication on your iCloud account.

Note that we said two factors, not two steps - the latter was Apple's oldest hardened security protocol, while the former was the company's most secure version. If you are already using two-step verification, you will need to turn it off to start using two-step authentication.

enable Auto Unlock on your Mac
enable Auto Unlock on your Mac

To enable two-factor authentication, your iPhone will also need to be running iOS 9 or higher.

Make sure your Apple Watch and Mac are signed in to the same iCloud account

To use Auto Unlock, your Apple Watch and Mac must be using the same iCloud account. Make sure you've signed in on both devices with the same Apple ID.

Make sure your Mac and Apple Watch both have a passcode

You might not have thought that it was necessary to use a password with your Apple Watch when you first set it up, but if you want to use Auto Unlock, you will need it.
You also need to set up a login password on your Mac.

Lastly: Put your Apple Watch on

If your Apple Watch is not unlocked and on your wrist, you will not be able to connect it to your Mac. If it's on your wrist and unlocks it, your Mac will register the device and allow you to enable automatic unlock.

How to enable Auto Unlock on your Mac

Once you've prepared your devices, enabling Auto Unlock is a breeze.

  1. Click on the Apple icon in the upper left corner of your screen.
  2. Select System Preferences from the drop-down menu.
  3. Click on Security & Privacy.
  4. Click on General.
  5. Tick the box to use your Apple Watch to unlock apps and your Mac.

Note: If you don't see the box for Apple Watch to unlock your Mac, there is a problem. Review your preparatory steps above; If the problem persists, see this troubleshooting guide.

Troubleshooting Auto Unlock: Why can't I see Auto Unlock on my Mac?

There are a few additional steps you may have to take if you can't enable Auto Unlock. We've got a full guide below:

What time is it?

Are you looking for a new Apple Watch? Check out our favorites for this year.

If any questions? Let us know in the comments!

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