How to use your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac

When Apple introduced the ability to unlock iPhones with an Apple Watch, it was a lifesaver for anyone wearing a mask during the pandemic. But the useful feature is not limited to your smartphone. You can also use your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac and securely approve app requests.

The feature is called Auto Unlock, and technically it came to Macs long before Apple decided to apply it to iPhones. That said, you may not have heard of it if you just bought a shiny new Apple Watch or are a recent convert to the Apple ecosystem.

Prepare your Mac

To get started, make sure all your devices are compatible. Your Mac must be a model from mid-2013 or later and running at least macOS Sierra. Here’s how to check to make sure:

  • Click on the apple icon in the top right corner of your screen
  • Select About this Mac to see what year your Mac is from
  • If you’re still not sure, select System Report in the About this Mac menu
  • From there click NetworkWi-Fi† look in the Interfaces category to see if Auto unlock is supported.

This is an alternative way to check if your Mac is compatible with the System Report menu

Once you’re sure your Mac is compatible, there’s one more thing to do:

  • know for sure Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are turned on† The feature won’t work if you only have one enabled and the other one isn’t.

Set up your watch

Don’t forget to add an access code
Photo by Victoria Song / The Verge

First, make sure you’re signed in to iCloud with the same Apple ID on both your watch and your Mac. If you don’t know how to do that, you can check out our guide here.

Then check which version of watchOS you are using. You can do this on your wrist:

  • Navigate to Settings > General > About
  • Make sure you have two-factor authentication turned on for your Apple ID

Okay, now you’re ready to set up your Watch. If you’re using watchOS 6 or earlier:

  • go to System Preferences on your Mac
  • Click Security and privacy
  • Navigate to the General menu
  • Select Let Apple Watch unlock your Mac

If you’re using watchOS 7 or later, the steps are the same, but there’s one additional requirement: make sure you’re using a passcode with your Apple Watch. You do this in the Watch app on your iPhone under Access codeor on your wrist under Institutions

Once this is all done, you should be able to wake up your computer by wearing your Apple Watch nearby. No passwords needed!

Approve App Requests

You’ll see a slightly different text if your gear supports app request approval.
Screenshot: Victoria Song / The Verge

Users with watchOS 6 or later also have the option to approve app requests. (The feature is automatically enabled when you turn on Auto Unlock, so you don’t need to do anything extra.) This means that whenever an app requires authentication, you just need to double-click the side button on your Apple Watch. This includes requests such as unlocking preferences, viewing passwords, and approving app installations.

Some Apple Watch apps also make use of this feature. For example, you can use this: in combination with 1Password

Any problems?

If you’re having trouble with the unlock feature, here are some additional troubleshooting tips:

  • Make sure both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are turned on. If so, try turning them on and off.
  • Restart your computer
  • Make sure not to share your screen or use internet sharing. You can check this on your Mac in System Preferences > Sharing
  • If you’ve restarted your computer, keep in mind that you’ll still need to re-enter your password the first time you log in

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