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How can I unlock a Mac with an Apple Watch?

Unlock a Mac with an Apple Watch
Mac magic: you can unlock your computer with your Watch

If you like the idea of unlocking your Mac simply by wearing your Apple Watch within its vicinity, then this is a feature that’s available to you, albeit with a number of caveats. The idea is simple – if your Mac detects your Watch nearby and it’s secured with its own PIN then it’s safe to unlock itself. From a security standpoint, I’m sure this theory is full of holes but it is optional. And, let’s be honest, it looks very cool.

Unlock a Mac with an Apple Watch – requirements

Obviously, you need an Apple Watch and Mac. But you’ll also need (prepare yourself for this):

  • An Apple Watch using watchOS 3 or later
  • A mid-2013 or newer Mac using macOS Sierra or later (a Series 3 Apple Watch requires macOS High Sierra)
  • An Apple ID using two-factor authentication
  • Your Mac’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned on
  • Your Mac and Apple Watch to be signed into iCloud with the same Apple ID
  • Your Apple Watch secured with a passcode
  • Internet Sharing switched off on the Mac

Phew. Got all that? If you’re not sure if your Mac supports the feature you can quickly check by holding down the Option key and clicking on the Apple menu -> System Information. Select ‘Wi-Fi’ in the sidebar, then look for ”Auto Unlock: Supported” on the right.

Assuming you agree to the rather impressive set of T&Cs, you’re all ready to set it up.

Switching on the Unlock feature

On your Mac, head to the Apple menu -> System Preferences -> Security & Privacy and then select the ‘General’ tab. Part way down you should see an option named ‘Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac’. Once that’s ticked, you’re all set.

How to unlock the Mac

When you next approach your locked Mac, simply press a key on the keyboard or waggle your mouse to announce your presence and it will then bypass the password and unlock. Your Watch will make a clicking noise, vibrate and show a screen similar to this…

Obviously, the name of your Mac may (and probably will) vary.

The first time you use your Mac after a reboot, you’ll need to use the rather less impressive, 20th century method of entering a password. You can’t win them all.


Now read this: How can I silence the Mac startup sound?

About the author

David Artiss

Works for Automattic Inc., the company behind WordPress.com and Tumblr. Tech geek, international speaker and occasional PC Pro podcaster. Lover of Lego and video games.

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